To some, it may not seem like the best time to travel to Costa Rica in 2021. But that’s not the case for everyone. Some spent 2020 constantly rebooking their holidays and they are ready to spring out! Costa Rica opened its borders to the world in November and is taking every precaution to make sure that businesses are practicing safe commerce. As a result, tourism is picking up again and people are ready to experience the many wonders of this tiny tropical nation that’s less than a 5 hour flight from almost anywhere in the US.
Uvita in the South Pacific is one of the places that has been whispered about for a few years amongst seasoned travelers looking for places that are a bit off the beaten path. It is a wild and wonderful community that has all of the things you might need to live a comfortable life… but it comes in a setting that is naturally fantastic and ripe to explore and enjoy! So, for those who are ready to indulge their senses, here are 21 powerful experiences that you can have as a tourist visiting Costa Rica in 2021.
1. Have an up close encounter with exotic wildlife
South Pacific Costa Rica is known for its vibrant wildlife. Home to Marino Ballena National Park and many more private nature preserves, Uvita is the place for coastal tours on SUP or kayak, floating past sea caves and reefs that are home to turtles, and sharks. Humpback whale and dolphin tours are popular in the second half of the year during calving season (August to November).
When searching for land animals, Uvita is at the gateway to the Osa Peninsula and a part of a long corridor of mountainside jungle that sees roaming animals like Baird’s Tapir, howler monkey troupes, and even big cats like jaguarundi and ocelots. Just 2 hours away, you can explore the pristine Corcovado National Park, where jaguars still roam in healthy numbers. And closer to home is Hacienda Baru, a National Wildlife Refuge that you can pay to visit the home of harpy eagles, scarlet macaws, white lipped peccaries, and even pumas!
2. Shock yourself with a local culture tour
If you want to get to know the culture in the Southern Zone of Costa Rica, there are the two indiginous tribes local to this region, the Boruca and the Bribri. About an hour’s drive south of Uvita is the Boruca settlement where you can buy fantastic carved masks that showcase the colorful wildlife, which are used during the Dance of the Devils. Or you can visit Finca 6 in Sierpe, where you can see the mysterious giant stone spheres that the Southern Zone is known for that are attributed to the pre-Colombian Diquis tribe.
The Costa Ballena region that includes Uvita, Dominical, Ojochal and a bit beyond also has a rich agrarian history, which can be experienced through fun activities like coffee, cacao and coconut tours. Try one of the tours booked through the Uvita Info Center and learn the many uses of these tropical staple foods in Costa Rica.
3. Experience powerful waterfalls
There are literally hundreds of magical waterfalls in Costa Ballena and dozens of waterfalls in Uvita alone. Some of these are located on private land with possible pay-for-entry access. Others are on public land that are free for anyone to visit. One of the most powerful and enchanting waterfalls in the South Pacific is Nauyaca, east of Uvita and Dominical. Take the off road trail through San Josecito or the paved road towards Perez Zeledon and sign up with Pacific Journeys Nauyaca Waterfall Tours for a guided rappelling tour to get a front-row seat experience with the powerful Nauyaca Falls. Hike to the largest waterfall in Costa Rica while getting an organic medicine garden tour along a private trail that leads to 4 different waterfalls. Swim in two natural pools, try an extreme cliff jump, and enjoy a home-made, organic lunch behind massive twin waterfalls.
4. Island hop on a boat tour
Did you think you were coming to Costa Rica to vacation on an island? Well, it can be the truth if you book a boat tour to Cano Island where you can encounter hundreds of species of tropical reef fish while snorkeling or diving at a gentle beach. Bahia Adventures will take you there on an exciting half-day or full-day experience. Enjoy lunch on the island and head home during sunset, with the gorgeous, green Costa Ballena shoreline welcoming you back.
5. Beach time all the time
A beach doesn’t have to have white sand to be beautiful. Our dark sand beaches are lined with coconut palms with the iconically green Talamanca mountains in the backdrop. See capuchins and scarlet macaws almost any day on the many nearly deserted beaches in the South Pacific. Uvita is a coastal paradise with warm water, great waves for surfing and boogie boardings, and a peaceful and sublime setting to spend a rewarding day doing nearly nothing. Refreshments can be purchased on or near the most popular beaches. Some are more private and serene, still located within a close drive of some of the best restaurants in the country.
6. Join a rewarding boating excursion
Deep-sea diving, deep water fishing, and whale watching tours are all a big part of tourism coming into Costa Rica’s Southern Zone. This is a marine-centric environment that depends on coastal tourism to survive. Incredibly fruitful and fun sport fishing trips with Ballena Tours out of Uvita will reward passengers with some of the best sport fishing in the world and delicious prize catches to take home are almost guaranteed.
7. Hike in exotic environments from your doorstep
Imagine taking yourself for a walk just outside of your “home” (maybe temporary, but still) in perfect weather with incredible, natural surroundings with fascinating wildlife going about their business, and gentle sounds of bird and bug life coming from inside the tree line. There are so many quiet, dirt roads in the settlements around Costa Ballena. Especially in the mountainside communities above Dominical, Uvita and Ojochal, you will find yourself wandering our safe and tranquil roads in the shade. Want some different surroundings, try a walk through the Bamboo Forest in Uvita, which is absolutely breathtaking in not only the sights of the massive bunches of yellow and green bamboo that line the carved paths, but also the sounds that they make as the wind sweeps through and stirs the bamboo bushes like a wind-chime.
8. Shop for made in Costa Rica treasures
You may want to consider traveling to the big city for this, or maybe even staying there an extra night before traveling home. Costa Rican designers are so up-and-coming, creating high-yet-wearable fashion with bold colors, natural fabrics, and loose, elegant fits. Check our Octavia Design in Plaza Maynard, Escazu, which sells one of a kind Mari Nava bags, elegant gowns and everyday wear from BG Costa Rica, and superbly delightful jewelry from Mar Fashion Jewelry. Purchase some classic and truly precious items you will cherish for decades to come. For unique, international picks right here in Uvita, Fabrik is a new home and fashion tienda that opened up in the up and coming plaza. And in nearby Ojochal, you will find Casa Home near the entrance with sparkling summer dresses, stylish shade hats, and funky kitsch items to bring home as souvenirs.
9. Upgrade your appearance
It may not be every traveler’s first inclination to think about getting procedures when traveling but Costa Rica is well known for its private medical facilities, especially when it comes to cosmetic procedures. At Clinica Aqua in Perez Zeledon, for instance, Dr. Tabush offers very well priced world class treatments, like Emsculpt or Venus Legacy (check out OTP agent Marcia Oro’s video about services at Clinica Aqua). Dr. Monica Alfaro in Uvita is our local dermatologist who offers botox, fillers, dermabrasion and more at Cuna del Angel Medical spa.
Do you have some dental work that you’ve been putting off? Costa Rica’s dentists are typically at least ⅓ of the price you will pay in the U.S., if not more. Spend an afternoon getting that crown replaced and feel like a king for the rest of your holiday and beyond.
10. Relax at your rental
The amazing rental properties of the Costa Ballena have got to be some of the most ultimate places in the world to relax. Surrounded by quiet forests on small acreages, some of the best rental homes are not necessarily super-luxury in aesthetic (although many of them are), they are luscious in ambiance and tranquility. Pick a vacation rental with ample, comfortable seating in view of the Pacific Ocean in the horizon. Or choose a more refreshing option by renting a cabin with a private riverfront and hammocks hanging peacefully nearby. The soothing sounds of rushing spring water are a sure way to reach the height of relax.
11. Spruce up at a day spa
Rejuvenate your body, mind and spirit with a refreshing trip to a local spa. Mud and clay treatments, local tinctures made from the jungle, sea salt, cacao, and thermal water from volcanic hot springs are all available indulgent treatments. Visit Eco Termales near Quepos for a dip in natural hot springs, which are waist-deep pools in the mountainside forest that are filled naturally with geothermally-heated, mineral rich spring water. Uvita is also home to a number of eco-friendly spas like Cinnamon Spa at La Cusinga or the super-luxe Kura Spa.
12. Spend a Sunday poolside at a boutique resort
Maybe you have a gorgeous rental somewhere in the mountains with a tranquil ocean and sunset view. But after a morning at the beach, it is nice to be waited on while sitting at a resort pool like at Hotel Cristal Ballena. 5-star ocean views, sumptuous cocktails and a seafood menu to rave about that features daily fresh catches — how else would you want to spend a Sunday in the South Pacific?
13. Dine on delectable dishes in the finest environments
When it comes to fine dining, what makes it fine for you? Is it white tablecloths, silverware, and a pricey wine menu? Or is it environment, flavor, and a warm ambiance? Tropical dining in the coastal jungles of Costa Ballena is a one of a kind experience. Surrounded by lush, tropical gardens, in a quiet, tranquil setting, you can experience a series of gastronomic adventures that are each one of a kind in their offerings and the atmosphere in which they are provided. Seafood restaurants abound by the seashore, with splashing waves hitting the nearby coastline as you indulge in hand-caught lobster, like at La Parcela north of Uvita.
14. Refresh with mid-year rains
For half the year, Costa Rica’s tropical region of the South Pacific receives exceptional afternoon rains that are warm, pleasant, and revitalizing to the local flora and fauna. Spend your days visiting local attractions, enjoy an early afternoon meal at a delightful indoor/outdoor location and watch the rains come in, smelling and hearing the drops before you even feel them. Enjoy the rest of your afternoon in a hammock under a roof with a book in hand and a tea by your side as the heaviest rain showers happen. Evenings at this time of year are magical, with tropical storms over the sea flashing seemingly endless pulses of high-voltage bolts into the darkness of the waves.
15. Volunteer for a worthy cause
Believe it or not, there are many environmentally and socially conscious tourists visiting Costa Rica. Not only do they want to see the animals native to this region. These helpful tourist types want to assist in rehabilitating monkeys and sloths who have been endangered by human interactions or releasing baby turtles saved from poachers back into the marine wild. Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary is a great local rehabilitation center where the cost of admission goes entirely towards their animal rescue mission.
16. Easily entertain the little ones
More green time and less screen time is an ethic that is burgeoning in new-age families who care about the development of environmental ethics in their young ones. Costa Rica is an ideal destination for families looking for a holiday that allows them all to step away from their screens and enjoy each others’ company in an engaging environment. Rivers with rope swings, beachside playgrounds, and adventure activities are just some of the many things that can be enjoyed as a family that’s not movie time. Reserva Playa Tortuga in Ojochal offers summer camp for kids who can learn about reptiles from this region.
17. Participate in a regenerative retreat
Visiting a place that is nature-centric, Costa Rica’s South Pacific forests are home to a number of regenerative retreat centers where you can go to study yoga, meditation, qi gong, and other ancient practices in the therapeutic, tree-filled settings of this region. Selva Armonia in Uvita, Danyasa Yoga Retreats in Dominical, and Solfeggio Retreat Center in Platanillo are three of the oldest and most reputed retreat centers in the region that host hundreds of guests in their tranquil and embracing environments for multi-day experiences.
18. Photo like a pro
What does it take to capture great images for your Instagram feed? Other than you and your tribe as models, you want some epic backgrounds that are unique in your friend groups. All of us gravitate to the best settings for our selfies and being in Costa Rica takes your game up a bunch of notches. Large, bushy ferns, bright, green palm fronds, multi-colored bougainvillea, and sepia rainbow colored sunsets are going to wow your followers and make them ask, “where is this amazing looking place?”
19. Admire the amazing bug life
Many humans consider themselves to be averse to pretty much all bug life. We might occasionally admire the butterfly passing by but anything else is pretty much “ick.” In Costa Rica, bug life is larger than elsewhere. Grasshoppers come in sizes as big as your hand and in a rainbow of colors. Different species of cicadas pop out of the earth every number of years all at once and fill the skies with an amazing whistling buzz and delightful colors. And we can’t forget the majestic blue Morpho butterfly that you are likely to see on a morning walk almost anywhere in this region.
20. Make friends with a street dog
Dogs are everywhere in Costa Rica, although we are lucky in the Southern Zone to have so many animal rescue centers that take in those malnourished, wounded, and/or in need of spaying or neutering. But there are a number that go unhomed for elongated periods of time, possibly because they are being fed here and there and possibly because they do not want to be caught. But these dogs tend to make great friends, even if you’re only here for a while. More than likely, though, your heart won’t let you leave without one as your Tico buddy.
21. Take a property tour with Osa Tropical Properties
After visiting Uvita and its surrounding areas, you are likely to fall in love with the Costa Ballena. We’ve seen it happen thousands of times and it’s likely to continue happening. This part of the world is special and there’s a certain magic that draws people back time and again. Eventually, you’ll want to make your stay permanent. We all know it, so why not take a no pressure tour of properties that might be in your hypothetical budget. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have and we guarantee that we won’t push you to buy. We know that the right people will find their way to that conclusion in the end. We’re just here to help with the logistics.