Marino Ballena National Park in Uvita, Costa Rica, is named after the humpback whales that migrate to the area every year. The park gets its name from the Spanish word for whale, ballena. The park is located on the south pacific coast of Costa Rica around the communities of Uvita and Bahia Ballena in the province of Puntarenas.
The zone was officially declared as a National Park in 1989. This area was chosen for protection to ensure the survival of critical habitats of marine species reproduction. It also protects those species nesting along the beach to preserve the productivity of biological communities that inhabit the coastal areas.
Humpback whales migrate to the Uvita area from Antarctica in mid July and stay through October. In the first two weeks of September, the town of Uvita celebrates with the Whales and Dolphins Festival, where less expensive whale watching tours are organized on the weekend. Northern humbacks visit in smaller numbers between December and March.
Both northern and southern humpback whales choose this specific location for calving ideal location for the Thermal Convection Dome that occurs in the park’s waters. This area is characterized by shallow, oxygen-rich warm water layered over much colder water. The shallow upper layer is like a dinner party for whales and dolphins. It is rich in their food sources, which mainly include plankton and krill. This nutrient dense layer brings whales and dolphins closer to the surface making them easy to see.
The objective of the park is to conserve the rich marine ecosystems that are found inside the park boundaries. The Marino Ballena National Park comprises just one percent of Costa Rica’s protected marine territory yet it is vital to the southern humpback whales. Costa Rica as a whole has eleven times more marine territory than land and it is home to at least eighty-five native marine species, including hammerhead sharks and green turtles.
The Marino Ballena National Park is surrounded by beautiful scenery. Lush groves of palms and other jungle vegetation border the beautiful beaches that line the coast, one after the other.
From the park’s main entrance at Playa Uvita, you can walk a gentle 25 minutes along the pristine beach to the end of the infamous Whale’s Tail. This sandbar formation is a natural part of the National Park and a big draw for visitors who can walk out to the tip of the giant sand and stone tail formation during low tide. It is also one of the most sought after views in Dominical and Uvita real estate.
The Ballena National Marine Park contains a total of eighteen coral species getting one of the best snorkeling places to observe corals of the central-south pacific of Costa Rica and second to Cano Island Reserve. Together, Ballena National Marine Park and Caño Island Reserve make for the greatest Costa Rica snorkeling and diving destinations. Many boat tours originate from the park including; whale and dolphin watching, snorkeling and diving at Caño Island and hiking at Corcovado.
Olive Ridley and Hawksbill turtles may be seen laying their eggs on night visit to the beach between May and November. Colorful tropical birds like the scarlet macaw and seabirds like the frigate, pelicans and ibises are often seen in the area.