Take a walking tour of Bahía Ballena, a community that went from being a small fishing village to one that borders a marine national park and relies heavily on tourism. Walk about the town with knowledgeable local guides and see places of archaeological and historical significance, learn about major developments from the 1960s up to present day, and see the local flora and fauna — and get some exercise while you learn!
Community Walk Tour details & tips
- Tour provider: Costa Rica Culture Tours
- Starting time: 8:00am or 3:00pm (depending on season and weather)
- Duration: Approximately 2 hours
- Recommended for: All ages. The walk takes place over mostly flat, paved roads with some dirt road portions.
- What’s included:
- Tour with knowledgeable, bilingual guides
- Light snack and drink
- Price: $35.00 per person / minimum 2 people (note: this trip is included with Bodhi’s 7-day standard surf and yoga camps)
- Departs from: At the lodge if you are vacationing at Bodhi Surf + Yoga, otherwise TBD
- What to bring:
- Required: sunscreen, refillable water bottle, and close-toed shoes
- Recommended: hat, sunglasses
- Important notes:
- Guide may ask you to leave camera behind and enjoy the tour using your five senses
- If you desire more shade (or if it’s raining) take an umbrella
- Drink lots of water beforehand and take a full bottle
- Though the walk is not very difficult, it’s best to wear comfortable, close-toed shoes
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions — the guides are full of knowledge and enjoy your interest!
Community Walk Tour highlights
- Get to know the community, get your bearings (see where things are), and see important community landmarks
- See the daily activities of community members with the possibility to interact with them
- Learn about the local flora and fauna
- Find out about the local challenges that the community faces as a result of being a tourist destination, and what its members are doing to solve the issues
Why it is “Bodhi Recommended”
This is an opportunity to engage directly with the community of Bahia Ballena which you will be part of during your stay here in Costa Rica. This is a special chance to experience the general area surrounding Bodhi Surf + Yoga. Learn interesting facts, interact with people, and take in the natural environment!
Something that sets Bodhi Surf + Yoga apart from the others is their commitment to community involvement. They are not an all-inclusive resort, nor do they want to be. In fact, Bodhi wants its guests to wander outside the natural fences that surround the lodge, experiencing the culturally rich and naturally beautiful area using their five senses. One way they facilitate this involvement is through the Community Walking Tour, which is led by a small, local tour company.
Our group was small — just two Bodhi guests from New York and me — and was led by Noilyn, a friendly, down-to-earth Tica guide. She introduced herself in English, and encouraged us to bring water and sunscreen, while also stressing the importance of comfortable, closed-toed shoes. I quickly noticed two things: how clearly she spoke English and how slowly she spoke Spanish. The tour was given completely in English, but when I made small-talk in order to practice Spanish, she would answer very slowly and clearly. As anyone learning to speak a language knows, this is a true gift and a rarity! She wore a pack around her hips, equipped with water, a map, and a local bird guide.
It was a hot morning, and we walked slowly, stopping to rest and drink water when we came upon shade. In these moments, Noilyn would direct our attention to a particular flower or tree and ask, “Do you know what that is?” We would all guess, and then she would explain: “The green coconuts are young. They are used for drinking coconut water. The brown are older, and those are broken open to eat the flesh.” She was very knowledgeable in the local flowers, trees, and animals, and never missed an opportunity to inform us. She even imitated me of the bird’s songs for us, so we could listen for their calls.
We passed the “community hall”, which Noilyn said can be used for everything from quinceañera parties to a town meeting-place to a makeshift roller skating rink and much more. Surrounding the community center was a fútbol field, a school, a small grocery store, a park, and a couple of other tiny stores.
Noilyn shared some intriguing local history with us by showing us the famed and controversial “Casa Blanca,” or “White House,” as well as the mysterious, ancient stone spheres that surround it. After we passed these local monuments, we came upon a small creek, where several turtles were sunbathing along with other wildlife.
The tour is full of surprises. You may even have the opportunity to meet the area’s oldest fisherman! When we passed by his house, he wasn’t home, but I was told he is the only man who is allowed to fish with a motorboat in Marino Ballena National Park — the reasons behind that was revealed through an interesting historical story. Noilyn also laughed, telling us that sometimes he says, “I love you!” to the group as it passes — the only phrase that he knows in English.
Noilyn volunteers with local organization, Geoporter, and is involved in several other projects aimed at local, environmental sustainability. She pointed out various signs of these projects, such as a newly-provided recycling receptacles… which were overflowing with trash and recyclables. However, Noilyn was positive about creating change. She told us that the government providing these receptacles was a huge step, as was the fact that people were using them. She discussed the next steps that would further the effectiveness of this project.
The tour also touches on the theme of traditional development versus sustainable development, (with a collection of old photographs of the area that are shown to offer a comparative perspective), as the overall community has a strong interest in maintaining their destination manageable.
We finished the walk at the entrance to Marino Ballena National Park, which seemed like the perfect ending. Overall, the tour lasted about two and a half hours, but much of that time was spent standing and taking in the surroundings through your five senses. As someone who is new to the community of Bahía Ballena, I was grateful for how much I learned within that small timeframe — both about history, culture, and the location of various points of interest. At the very end, you will receive a welcome treat after walking in the heat! And, if you are doing a week-long surf and yoga camp at Bodhi, this tour will be included in your package.
Written by Sam Rose