Bahia Ballena is a small town on the Southern Pacific coast of Central America’s most visited country — Costa Rica. Bahia Ballena translates to “whale bay”, and the town is thus named for two reasons: one, because of its infamous landmark, a whale-tail shaped sandbar that extends into the ocean; and two, because it has has two seasons in which visiting humpback whales give birth to their offspring off the coast. Bahia Ballena is a natural gem and sees far fewer tourists than other beach towns in Costa Rica. It is an enjoyable destination for those who want to spend time in the great outdoors and don’t want to contend with crowds. Whether you’re just passing through Bahia Ballena or are spending a longer amount of time here, here are seven popular and enjoyable activities that you can participate in!
1. Surf in the Pacific Ocean
There are few activities that rival the feeling of catching a wave, especially if it is in the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean! While surfing can feel like a difficult sport to master, having the combination of a good coach who can offer you helpful instruction, as well as an appropriate surf break where you can practice, expedites this process significantly. Playa Chaman, Bahia Ballena’s main surfing beach, is a great place for both beginner and intermediate surfers to master their skills. The beach features a sandy bottom and its underwater topography makes for softer and slower-breaking waves. Even better, it is rarely crowded, so you can master your pop-ups and turns without worrying about hitting anyone (or getting hit!). Bahia Ballena is also a unique spot to learn to surf simply because of how beautiful it is — the clean blue-green water, the view of the jungle and the mountains from in the ocean, and the long sprawling beach make for a one-of-a-kind backdrop to your experience.
2. Find your inner balance with yoga
Yoga anywhere is awesome, but yoga in balmy Bahia Ballena is extra nice because the warm weather helps the muscles be more lithe, and any residual tension you may have is likely to melt away while you’re on vacation. Furthermore, yoga is complementary to any other physical activity that you may do while in the area, such as surfing, kayaking, hiking, and swimming. It also helps keep muscles and joints hydrated and supple, and after long travel days, will allow you to feel great during your trip. Yoga in Bahia Ballena is especially lovely because you get practice outdoors, feel the air on your skin, and hear the sounds of the community, including the tropical birds singing, the ocean in the distance, and the leaves rustling in the tropical breeze.
3. Go on a whale watching tour
As previously mentioned, Bahia Ballena is a great place to go on a whale watching tour, and you have the opportunity to see humpback whales, pilot whales, any of the three resident species of dolphins (spotted, spinner, and bottlenose), sea turtles, manta rays, jellyfish, and much more. There are two separate seasons where the humpbacks are in the area: the whales from the North Pacific which visit between December-March, and the whales from the South Pacific which visit between July-October. There are also several tours to cool, different places (such as the snorkel tour to Caño Island or the nature tour to Corcovado National park), which give you the opportunity to see whales on the way to and back from visiting some of the region’s most spectacular natural wonders.
4. Experience the diversity within the local national park
Bahia Ballena borders the Marino Ballena National Park, one of two marine national parks in Costa Rica. Every beach within Bahia Ballena (Playa Uvita, Playa Chaman, and Playa Colonia) are within the park, and while many beach towns feature large-scale development along the coastline, Bahia Ballena does not have that problem because of this fact! Within the park you will frequently see howler monkeys, capuchin monkeys, sloths, toucans, parrots, scarlet macaws, dolphins, whales, sea turtles, fish, and whales. The best part is that the park entrance fee ($2 usd for Costa Rica nationals and $6 usd for international tourists) not only goes to conservation in Costa Rica, but also keeps crowds within the park to a minimum. The Marino Ballena National Park is a beautiful and peaceful place to spend time and experience nature at its best.
5. Enjoy one of the most beautiful sunsets
Bahia Ballena is a wonderful spot to spend the day, and conclude with the stunning natural phenomenon of the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean. With your feet in the sand and your face towards the sun, watch nature’s original and best entertainment! One of the most magical aspects of this activity is that no two sunsets are ever the same, so it’s something that you can do everyday, and everyday it will be different! Whether you are chilling on the beach and reading a book, walking the whale tail, taking a magical evening swim, or catching that last wave on your surfboard, the sunset in Bahia Ballena is a special occurrence and is not to be missed during your stay.
6. Dive into Tico culture in the local community
Travel is one of the greatest learning opportunities that can be afforded to you, so when you visit a new place, it’s nice to learn about its history, culture, and way of life from local experts. There are several opportunities in Bahia Ballena to do just this — a guided community walking tour, cooking classes, a local sustenance farm tour, a whale tail walking tour, and a small-scale coconut oil production tour — to name a few. The community walking tour in particular is an excellent way to kick off your stay, as you will learn about local haunts, eateries, and flora and fauna, all while getting your bearings and learning where the most important landmarks are located.
7. Visit the local waterfall in the jungle
Since Bahia Ballena is located at the cusp of the rainforest, there are plenty of rivers, streams, pools, and waterfalls to enjoy and cool off — especially delightful when the day is at its hottest. Swimming in the ocean is a novelty because of the warm water, and swimming in the pool at your lodge or hotel is convenient because of location. Yet there’s just something so special about swimming in fresh, moving water — especially when it’s located amidst a verdant tropical jungle. The Uvita waterfall is a great local spot that is very accessible: only a five-minute drive from Bahia Ballena, and only a five-minute walk from where you park to where you jump in. It has a large waterfall that, when the water level is high enough, you can jump off of or slide down, and several pools to swim in or sunbathe beside.
Bahia Ballena is a special spot, and through these seven activities, you can have a well-rounded experience that is equal parts physical recreation, time in the great outdoors, rest and relaxation, and sightseeing.
We hope to see you down here!