There are so many great tours in Costa Ballena, Costa Rica in 2020! And since our real estate clients are often asking us what to do in the area, we thought we’d compile this up-to-date list for everyone to enjoy. Check out the different categories of great tourist activities in and around the Costa Ballena, including nature tours, adventure tours, and culture tours. Get to know the different waterfalls in Dominical, Uvita, and Ojochal, as well as the beaches and other remarkable natural sites. And read about the many tour companies that organize full-package adventures, which capture the many wonders of this stunning, ecologically-diverse region of South Pacific Costa Rica.
Want to see the amazing wildlife that the Costa Ballena is known for? Try some of these tours to get close and personal with the flora and fauna in our sea-to-sky landscape.
Guided Wildlife Tours
Sierpe Outfitters – This Sierpe company offers a number of private tours that leave from Sierpe and head to destinations like Corcovado National Park, Caño Island and the Sierpe mangroves (either full or half-day tours are available). A great option for families and groups and the guides are bilingual certified naturalists.
Kokopelli Sierpe – An amazing mangrove wildlife boat tour that is rated number 1 on TripAdvisor. A local favorite for people who want to see animals in their natural habitat, like squirrel monkeys, capuchins, howler monkeys, crocodiles, caymans, and more. This tour offers great birding opportunities for pelagic birds like pelicans, brown boobies, herons, and kingfishers. The tour is different every time.
Hacienda Baru – This private nature reserve north of Dominical has many activities on offer, including a zipline trail, hiking, tree climbing, and overnight stays in the jungle. Many say they have the best local naturalist guide and wildlife spotter. Bilingual guides are all extremely educated about the flora and fauna. The property is home to trees that are over 250 years old, 90m high, and 5 meters wide.
La Perla del Sur – Boating trips around the Costa Ballena coast, including Sierpe mangrove tours, traveling through Corcovado National Park in the Osa Peninsula, or trips to Caño Island to see marine life.
Doc Frog Expeditions – Animated guide, Cesar, takes you on an incredible adventure at night looking for reptiles and amphibians. His love and knowledge for all creatures is profound and very entertaining.
Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary – An awesome tour of this rescue and rehabilitation sanctuary where you can get up close with sloths, monkeys, toucans and more. This is an educational tour that is great for the whole family, with minimal walking, and you are supporting the sanctuary’s important work with the price of admission.
Reserva Playa Tortuga – A wildlife reserve and educational center that features tours through some of the only coastal secondary rainforests in Costa Ballena. Educational guides share their passion for local flora and fauna along the beach and in the forest. This is also the place to visit for baby turtle releases.
Whale’s and Dolphin’s Tours
Bahia Adventures – A combination of whale and dolphin watching, snorkeling, and a visit to natural water caves.
Dolphin Tour Costa Rica – Depending on the time of year, you can see humpback whales, spotted dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, turtles, and sea birds while boating and snorkeling around Isla Ballena.
Ballena Infocenter – Whale watching tours starting at Marino Ballena National Park or snorkeling at Caño Island.
Horseback Riding Tours
Mindful Horse Connection – Jungle and beach horseback riding tour with well rested and well cared for horses. Spend time connecting with the horses first by brushing them, getting to know their personalities and communicating our intentions for our ride. This tour is designed to elevate awareness of mind, body, and soul by being present in surroundings and in partnership with the horse.
Rancho La Merced – Locate approximately 2km north of the main intersection in Uvita, this large nature preserve has plenty of trails along the beach, jungle, and river terrain. Enjoy a dip in a waterfall or watch the sunset while riding.
Lalo Tours – Ojochal’s famous Lalo Tours have been offering horseback tours of the picturesque Ojochal mountain trails for over 20 years. Join the knowledgeable Don Lalo on this tranquil tour of pristine jungle terrain.
Birding in Costa Ballena
Oro Verde – Trek along a private 155-hectare reserve in San Josecito of primary and secondary forest with a bilingual naturalist guide. Includes a typical Costa Rican breakfast.
Hacienda Baru – Located in Dominical, enjoy sightings of more elusive birds like trogons, motmots, manakins, curassows, and others on a short or long-form guided hike.
La Cusinga Lodge – Offering a number of tours, this hotel is best known for its birdwatching tours on its 600 acres of private reserve land in Uvita that borders Marino Ballena National Park. See capped manakins, hawks, owls, and more.
Pelagic Bird Watching Tour – search for seabirds on a guided tour in Marino Ballena National Park.
Pineapple Kayak Tours – A mellow river tour by kayak or standup paddleboard takes you through the enchanting Matapalo Mangroves for a great way to learn about the plants and animals that live there. Rio Baru is a very calm river is good for amateur paddlers with lush estuaries that are well shaded and great for birdwatching.
Reserva Playa Tortuga – Early morning tours through this private nature reserve with lush secondary rainforest in Ojochal that is home to a number of tropical birds, and coastal terrain where you can see pelagic birds.
Waterfalls in Costa Ballena
Eco Chontales Waterfall – Hike to one of the most beautiful and least known waterfalls in the country, located in Platanillo, east of Dominical. Still new to the tourist circuit, the popularity of this waterfall increased when Community Carbon Trees worked with surrounding landowners to reforest the old cattle grazing ground to plant native trees. Their actions helped to improve water quality by reducing soil erosion.
Nauyaca Waterfall – also known as Baru Waterfalls, you can visit this waterfall near Dominical on horseback or take a ride on the back of a pickup truck to the 100ft multi-tiered falls. The horseback tour includes a light breakfast and a stop on the way back for an authentic Costa Rican lunch. You can also reach the falls by foot in around an hour.
Bamboo Forest in Uvita with Villa Celestial Tours – The bamboo forest in Uvita is approximately 1km long and dense with sky-high bamboo. It has completely shaded paths that are a great location to take in wildlife sightings, like monkeys. Walking a few km past the bamboo forest takes you to the beautiful Uvita Waterfall, which is a great place to swim and have a picnic. The waterfall features a natural water slide along the waterfall that adventurous types seem to enjoy!
Pacific Journeys – These tour guides will take you on a climb up Diamante Falls near Tinamastes where you can sleep behind a waterfall for an experience of a lifetime.
Cascada de Ojochal – Private tours of this local family estate take you to a 20ft waterfall with a large swimming hole. Pre-order a homemade typical Costa Rican lunch for after your waterfall adventure.
Cascada El Pavon – Located 3km south of Ojochal, this picturesque waterfall is near a Tilapia Farm that serves delicious typical casados that feature freshly-caught, pan-fried, whole Tilapia.
Beaches in Costa Ballena
Playa Linda – Located in Matapalo, this beautiful, secluded, and massive beach is picture perfect and yet known by very few people. Great restaurants can be found around the entrance to this beach.
Playa Guapil – Just north of Dominical, turn past the gas station and park at Hacienda Baru and walk down. This is a long, palm-lined beach that is totally uncrowded. Some refer to this as Baru Beach.
Playa Dominical – Pass through the town of Dominical to reach this long, picturesque beach that is popular with surfers and good for boogie boarding. Not good for swimming because of the strong riptides. Find various restaurants, accommodations, and vendors along the road parallel to the beach.
Playa Roca Verde – Turn at Roca Verde Restaurant for a lovely, less-visited beach that is probably the most rugged and wild-looking, with big rocks scattered along the beach and tree-lined cliffs all around.
Playa Dominicalito – Turn at La Parcela restaurant for a nice beach around low tide that’s a great sunset spot. It is a natural harbor that is great for beginner surf lessons and a more gentle ocean swim.
Playa San Martin – At the entrance to San Martin, park near the highway and walk down to a beach with lots of rocks and intertidal pools where you can see ocean life around low tide in a secluded environment.
Puerto Nuevo – Around 4km north of Uvita with a bumpy entrance. This beach has pretty rock features in the water.
Playa Hermosa – Lifeguards, vendors on the beach, fairly popular for its safety and amenities and a great beach for intermediate surfing
Playa Uvita – This is the main access point to Marino Ballena National Park and the infamous Whale’s Tail. Enter this beach through the town of Bahia. You will be charged a $6 entrance fee, as per every National Park in Costa Rica.
Playa Chaman – Drive down Calle Chaman and hit a beautiful beach that’s great for surfing.
Playa Colonial – Great beach for body surfing and still a part of the National Park so may be charged the $6 per person fee if there is someone at the gate.
Playa Ballena – A beautiful long beach with a view of Isla Ballena. Nice soft sand and gentle surf.
Playa Arco – A hidden jewel that is accessed by La Cusinga hotel property. Head down to this beach via a jungle trail that can be wet during high tide. Playa Arco has a fun cave and is a beautiful secluded beach where you are likely to see no one else.
Playa Pinuelas – This is the southernmost sector of the Marino Ballena National Park. Part of the beach at Playa Pinuelas is lined with large, round stones that lap in the surf and make amazingly soothing sounds as the tide rolls away.
Playa Ventanas – This Ojochal beach is famous for its caves and very popular with tourists for having lifeguards and numerous vendors.
Playa Tortuga – A long and dynamic beach that features two entrances that lead to two very different parts of the beach. The north end features giant caves and a very large sand area. The southern portion is great for walks during low tide. Both are fairly remote. This is the southernmost beach in the South Pacific until you reach the Osa Peninsula.
Are you interested in getting to know the history of the South Pacific? Or perhaps you want to have a more intimate experience getting to know the local farming culture by visiting a sustainable, self-sufficient farm? Then this section is for you.
Farm Tours in Costa Ballena
Cafe Don Emilio – Coffee farm tours with Deiner Fallas. Learn about the coffee process, from growing to harvesting to roasting
Don Guelo’s Farm Tour – Authentic Costa Rican farmer and his family will tell you their story and show you how they run their self-sufficient family farm. The tour is 2.5 hours and can start in the morning or afternoon. Located 500 meters from the Marino Ballena National Park. The large property contains the only secondary forest in the community. The family made efforts to reforest their farm and to make a sanctuary for local wildlife. Includes a snack of seasonal fruit and typical dishes and a bilingual guide. The family also offers a guided walk to the Whale’s Tail that is accompanied by a lesson in the history of the region. Their Community Walking Tour is a bio-cultural walk around Bahia Ballena, where you can learn about the people, history, and natural wonders that make up this community during a 2-hour walk. Important archaeological sites dating to the 1960s.
Coconut Tour – visit a coconut farm that you will see how coconut products are made. Learn about the beneficial properties of the coconut in the traditional uses in daily life.
Playa Lagarto Coconut Tour – Learn from a local family how to harvest and process coconut and see how the amazing local delicacies are created from this versatile fruit.
Sugar Cane Tour – Visit an organic sugar cane plantation. This traditional artisanal process for making products from sugar cane, learn Don Ademar’s story
Gallo’s Integral Farm Tour – Savor this amazing coffee and cacao integral farm tour. 1.5 hour’s drive from Uvita near San Isidro is where you can immerse yourself in pristine nature. This plantation has a variety of fruit trees and you can explore the natural habitat of an integral farm that is self-sustainable. Don Gallo has worked this land with his family for more than 50 years.
Rancho Cielo Alto – Jazmin Godinez and her mother, Dona Aida, own this farm-to-table restaurant that offers the occasional private or group medicinal plant tours around their ranch.
Art and History Tours
Dolce Uvita – This small resort located in Bahia Ballena hosts the monthly Arte y Artesania art market on the last Sunday of each month. Visit them to see local and hand-made crafts.
Site Museum Finca 6 – The UNESCO World Heritage Site that features the mysterious stone spheres attributed to the Diquis people. Located in Sierpe, this is an interesting walking tour that goes through much ancient history of Central America and Costa Rica. Not a lot of shade on this tour!
Boruca Indigenous Community – This remote location is a great destination to visit from the Costa Ballena if you are interested in local indigenous culture. The Boruca people create the beautifully carved devil masks that represent their struggle with the Spanish Conquistadors. They wear these traditionally at their annual Fiesta de los Diablitos.
Farmer’s Markets in Uvita and Dominical – Clicl the link to read our article about farmer’s markets in the Costa Ballena and all of the great offerings, dates, and times.
Ecotourism with Life Planet Project – Water adventure tours that focus on conservation and awareness.
Community Carbon Trees – Join one of their tree nursery service action day, cacao tours, farm tours with farm-to-table lunches in Platanillo.
Adopting or fostering dogs and cats – DAWG and El Refugio are two domestic animal rescue centers located in Uvita. They both offer volunteer programs, as well as long-term fostering opportunities that help out a lot.
Water-Based Adventure Tours
Got a thirst for a wet and wild adventure. Check out these exhilarating aquatic adventures that range from ocean to river terrain.
Snorkeling and Diving
Ballena Infocenter – This Uvita based company offers snorkeling trips to Caño Island, among a number of other water-based tours like whale watching and kayaking.
Bahia Adventures – Try snorkeling at Caño Island or at Marino Ballena National Park with this Bahia based company.
Mystic Dive Center – This great company is based in Ojochal. Try snorkeling and scuba diving at Cano Island, 40 miles from Dominical shore. This island is home to 70 species of marine organisms. The massive Pacific Ocean current around the island attracts migrating species like Humpback Whales and sea turtles.
La Perla del Sur – Snorkeling and diving trips around the Costa Ballena coast, the Osa Peninsula, or Caño Island.
Rafting and Kayaking
Dominical Adventures – Based in Dominical, this company organizes private and group kayaking tours all over the Costa Ballena, including at the famous Ventanas sea caves. They also offer fun tubing tours of the Baru River.
Costa Rica Explorer – Rafting tours organized out of Domi Plaza in Dominical. Try either the Savegre Class II-III rapids or the Chorro Rapids Class III-IV tours.
Ballena Infocenter – Offering kayaking tours from Marino Ballena that are guided half-day adventures. Full-day rafting tours are available with this company at either Rio Coto Brus, Rio Guabo, or Savegre.
Bahia Adventures – Sea kayaking tours starting in Marino Ballena at low tide. See the Whale’s Tail, surf the waves, and visit the mangroves in this marine reserve.
Pineapple Kayak Tours – Kayak and stand up paddleboarding tours for all levels in the Baru mangroves around Dominical or in the ocean to the Whale’s Tail in Uvita. Also offering tours of the Ventanas ocean caves, La Parcela island and Tres Hermanas islands in Ballena.
Rafiki Safari Lodge – A highly rated company offering Class II-III rafting tours of Rio Savegre north of Dominical.
Bellezas Terraba Tours – Brainer on Terraba River offers kayaking tours of the mangroves and along the coast, led by a bilingual Costa Rican guide.
Aventuras Tropicales Golfo Dulce – Kayak where you can see bioluminescence in a marine nature reserve on the Golfo Dulce, near Golfito, about an hour south of Ojochal.
Costa Rica Autentico Adventures – Rafting the Savegre river with a knowledgeable local naturalist guide, Felipe, who is also the owner of the company.
Uvita 360 – Surfboard rental company in Bahia that also offers kayak rentals and tours out of Marino Ballena National Park.
Jet Ski Around Manuel Antonio National Park
Jet Ski Boys – Circling the pristine bays of Manuel Antonio. Cover the whole coastline on easy to drive jet skis, even for first-timers. Follow the guide past giant coastal rock formations.
Deep-Sea Fishing and In-Land Fishing
Big Marine Fish – Fish for the deep-sea giants that this coastal region is known for: Mahi Mahi, sailfish, marlin and more.
Rocas de Amancio Fishing Tour – South Pacific Costa Rica has some of the best deep-sea fishing in the world. This company also offers inshore fishing for mackerel, roosterfish, snapper, tuna.
La Perla del Sur – Half day or full day fishing expeditions that go a few miles off the coast from Sierpe. This tour often sees catches of sailfish, mackerel, dolphin fish, Mahi Mahi, marlin, wahoos, snapper, roosterfish, tuna, and snook.
Pacific Expeditions CR – Deep sea or inland fishing offered on full or half-day tours. Catch tuna fish, trevally, Mahi Mahi and bill-fish.
Surfing Classes and Rental Companies in Costa Ballena
Monkey Surf School – Operating out of the Diuwak Hotel in Dominical by the super friendly and knowledgeable local guide, Junior Montoya.
Dominical Wave Rider – Their office is next to Tortilla Flats restaurant in Dominical and run by naturalized local, Jeaninne Haddad.
Sunset Surf School – Operating from the Mavi Surf Hotel with a certified lifeguard, Dylan Park, as head instructor and owner.
Dominical Surf School – Classes organized by women’s National Surf Tour veteran, Debbie Zec, at Playa Dominical.
Dominical Surf Adventures – Henry Aguilera at Cabinas Posada del Sol in Dominical teaches with certified instructors for all levels of surfer.
Costa Rica Surf Camp – Cesar and Kaitlyn have a surf shop and board rental business next to Restaurante Coco.
Uvita 360 – Learn to surf with Tito Azofeifa located near the entrance to Marino Ballena National Park and the instructors are certified lifeguards. Also offer standup paddleboard lessons and rentals.
Costa Rica Dive and Surf – Take a lesson with Roberto Vargas. This long-time company has locations in Dominical and Uvita and they also offer diving tours.
El Tubo Surf – Justin Hague based in Playa Hermosa offers private lessons on this intermediate beach, as well as rentals and surf camps for continuous lessons and accommodations.
Rama Surf – Rama Antonio has a perfect 5-star rating on Trip Advisor for his fun and educational surf lessons based in Uvita.
Lapa Surf School – Teaching beginners how to surf on quality Esneyder boards and almost guarantee that you will be riding by the end of your first lesson.
Todo Sano Surf School – Learn to surf with Ricardo Fernandez and Samila Rodriguez who share their passion for surfing in Dominical.
Bodhi Surf and Yoga – A Costa Rica surf camp where you can live, surf, and do yoga in Uvita. They give great introductory surf lessons.
Land-Based Adventure Tours
It’s a jungle out there! Find your wild side deep in the lush forests of Costa Ballena with these exciting tour opportunities.
ATV Tours in Dominical and Uvita
Jungle ATV Number 1 on TripAdvisor and located in Uvita. Ride for hours with elevation changes, stops at waterfalls, a coffee farm, and other hidden gems. Great activity for teens.
ATV Monkey Ride will take you to the best waterfall in the area, Eco-Chontales, by the backroads above Dominical.
Rappelling and Ziplining in Costa Ballena
Jungle Base CR – Offering private rappelling tours leaving from Dominical with transportation included. Be educated by naturalist guides about the local flora and fauna while rappelling, bouldering, and climbing across two canyons.
Costa Canyoning – Rappelling tours down waterfalls in the Uvita area. Their thrill therapy will take you out of your comfort zone for an adventure of a lifetime.
Osa Canopy Tour – All ages love this eco-friendly zipline tour that’s a 20-minute drive south of Ojochal. Their local, bilingual guides are experienced, well-trained, and they make the half-day adventure very fun! This is the more challenging zipline tour in the area.
Hacienda Baru – This great Dominical nature reserve offers easy zipline trails that start with a small hike up to the jungle’s canopy and traveling downhill from there.
Zion Paragliding – Tandem paragliding with Alex Badilla is an awesome experience with a great pilot.
Airborne Arts – Two hours of high flying trapeze fun that is a mind-blowing adventure. This activity is both challenging and fun. The flying trapeze team will guide you to accomplish more than you know you can do like jumps and flips while safely in a harness. This beautiful location overlooks the Diamante Valley and its iconic 1200ft falls.
Mountain Biking Tours in Uvita
Bamboo Forest Mountain Biking Tour – Ride their excellent mountain bike rentals through Uvita’s bamboo forest and primary rainforest and stop for a swim in the Uvita Waterfall.
Golfing in Costa Ballena
San Buenas Golf Course – A 9-hole track that is beautifully tucked in across 350 acres between Coronado and Cortez mountainsides