Spend a Day (Or More!) at the Marino Ballena National Park

Bodhi Surf + Yoga / Surf + Yoga Camp Blog / Spend a Day (Or More!) at the Marino Ballena National Park

The Parque Nacional Marino Ballena (PNMB), or “Whale Marine National Park” in English, is the treasured gem of the Costa Ballena region. This marine national park is home to the iconic “Whale Tail”, which is located at the footsteps of the community of Bahia Ballena – Uvita. Visitors from near and far journey to this relatively untouched region of Costa Rica’s Southern Pacific coast to walk the famous sandbar at Punta Uvita and experience a sunrise or sunset surrounded by the ocean, with the jungle as a backdrop.

Tropical sunset Costa Rica

Marino Ballena National Park details and & tips

  • Starting time: Anytime — the park ranger stations are open daily from 7am to 4pm (though operating times subject to change without notice from the park rangers)
  • Duration: Several hours to a full day (if you bring lunch!)
  • Recommended for: Anyone
  • What’s included: Entrance to the park & parking at the Chaman & Colonia entrances (though park officials are stating that eventually people will be unable to park inside)
  • Price: The entrance fee is USD $6.00/person/day is the for foreigners, and C2,000/person/day for Costa Rican residents (a valid identification must be presented); children 11 years and younger, as well as residents of the park’s neighboring communities are not required to pay an entry fee (valid entry tickets are accepted at any of the four official entrances)
  • Recommendations:
    • Bring sunscreen, plenty of water, a bathing suit, hat, towel, and wear a rashguard if you will be swimming, surfing, or snorkeling for a long period of time
    • Know the tides when walking to the “Whale Tail” as it will be completely covered during the high tide; to ensure that you don’t have to walk through the water, it is important that you be on the point only during the window of 2-3 hours before and after the low tide
    • It is preferable to leave any valuable items at your place of residence; if you do take valuable items to the beach (e.g. camera, phone, etc.), do not leave them unattended
    • If you must leave personal items (valuable or not) unattended in order to go in the ocean, leave them on the sand as close as possible to the water and in plain sight view (note: beware of an upcoming tide, another reason to know the tides) — do not leave personal items near the tree line
  • Important notes:
    • There are no lifeguards on duty, so exercise usual safety precautions when enjoying the ocean
    • There are bathrooms on the premises
    • Shade is limited
    • Do not swim in the river mouths as these are crocodile habitats
    • Beware of stingrays, it is recommended to enter and exit the ocean shuffling your feet
    • Know your basic ocean safety precautions including how to get out of rip tides, etc.
  • Address: The PNMB has four official entrances as well as several unofficial entrances that will at times be manned by park guards. Here are the official park entrances (from north to south):
    • Playa Uvita
    • Playa Colonia
    • Playa Ballena
    • Playa Piñuelas

Marino Ballena National Park

Marino Ballena National Park highlights

  • The park was created on February 6, 1989, making it not only the first marine national park in Costa Rica, but in all of Central America, and had with three main objectives:
    • to protect the largest coral reef found on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, along with the reef’s marine life
    • to guarantee a place of refuge for the humpback whales that migrate to the area to reproduce and give birth to their offspring
    • to conserve the fragile coastal ecosystem
  • The Marino Ballena National Park consists of a total of 5,546 hectares which extend from the Morete River to Punta Piñuelas, making it one of the smaller marine or terrestrial protected areas in Costa Rica
  • Most of the protected area of Marino Ballena is found in the ocean (5,375 hectares) with only a small portion of the coastline 171 hectares falling within the park limits
  • The extensive all-sand beaches make it a great place to enjoy beach games and relax on your own piece of paradise; for water-lovers, the gentle slope of the ocean floor makes for mostly softly breaking waves, which are great for beginner and intermediate surfers and stand-up paddle boarders, as well as swimmers

Surfing in Uvita Costa Rica

Park Rules & Regulations

As a protected area, the PNMB has rules and regulations aimed to help protect the natural resources found within the park. Please help in the protection and conservation of the park by observing the following guidelines:

  • Respect all living plants and animals when visiting the park
  • Do not extract any natural material from the park, including rocks, sea shells, plants, or any other living creature from the beach, ocean, or other park territory
  • Please deposit trash in designated containers, or take it with you
  • Only visit the “Whale Tail” around the low-tide
  • Camping is allowed in designated areas, please see the park rangers for specifics
  • Contained campfires for cooking are allowed
  • No bonfires/beach fires
  • Alcohol is prohibited
  • No glass containers
  • No firearms or knives
  • Do not feed the wildlife
  • Motorized vehicles are prohibited on the beach

National Park Costa Rica sunrise

Why it is “Bodhi Recommended”

The PNMB is a wonderful place to spend a day — or even a week if you have it — unwinding and enjoying the natural tropical beauty of Costa Rica’s South Pacific. Common activities within the park include walking along the beach, swimming, snorkeling, surfing, boogie boarding, stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, and enjoying the empty beaches that comprise the terrestrial portion of this marine park. However, the two most popular activities within the park are walking to the “Whale Tail” and taking a whale and dolphin watching tour. Whether you are looking to take a paid tour or want a low-cost activity, the Marino Ballena National Park offers numerous ways for visitors to experience the richness of its marine and terrestrial ecosystems.

At Bodhi Surf School, we hold all of our surf lessons at the PNMB, to learn why, read more. We depend on the park for our enjoyment and our livelihood. While we understand that paying admission to the park can seem like quite an expense for visitors, it does contributes to the conservation of marine and terrestrial areas of Costa Rica. For us, this is something we value and are proud to support.

Baby turtle Uvita

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About the author

Bodhi Surf + Yoga

A surf and yoga camp providing community-engaged travel experiences in beautiful Uvita, Costa Rica. Learn about what makes Bodhi Surf + Yoga different and don't hesitate to contact us.

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