South Pacific Coast Experience


Ballena National Marine Park

Great snorkeling, whale-watching, and beachcombing draw visitors and locals to Parque Nacional Marino Ballena (Whale Marine National Park), which protects four relatively tranquil beaches stretching for about 10 km (6 miles), as well as a mangrove estuary, a recovering coral reef, and a vast swath of ocean.

Playa Uvita, fronting the small town of Bahía Ballena, is the longest and most visited beach, and the embarkation point for snorkeling, fishing, and whale-watching tours. Restaurants line the nearby main street of the town. Playa Colonia, the most easily accessed beach by car, has a safe swimming beach with a view of rocky islands. Playa Ballena, south of Playa Colonia, is a lovely strand backed by lush vegetation. Finally, tiny Playa Piñuela is the prettiest of the park beaches, in a deep cove that serves as the local port. Along with the tropical fish you'll see while snorkeling, you may be lucky enough to see humpback whales and dolphins.

Best Time to Go

December to April is the best time for guaranteed sunny beach weather, as well as for sightings of humpback whales with their young. The whales also roam these waters in late July through late October. Bottlenose dolphins abound in March and April. Avoid weekends in December to February, and Easter Week, if you want the beach to yourself.

Fun Fact

Playa Uvita features a tombolo, a long swath of sand connecting a former island to the coast. At low tide, the exposed brown sandbar resembles a whale's tail, in keeping with the bay's name: Bahía Ballena (Whale Bay).

Best Ways to Explore

Top Reasons to Go

Alone Time

If solitude is what you're after, the park's beaches are relatively uncrowded, except on weekends and school holidays when locals come to relax. Neither Playa Colonia nor Playa Piñuela sees a lot of traffic, so you can have them virtually to yourself almost anytime.


Miles of wide, sandy beach backed by palm trees and distant green mountain ridges make this one of the most scenic and accessible coastlines in the country. Playa Uvita and Playa Ballena, with their warm, swimmable waters and soft sand, attract the most beachgoers.

Whales and Dolphins

Catching sight of a humpback whale with her youngster swimming alongside is a thrill you won't forget. And watching dolphins cavorting around your excursion boat is the best entertainment on water.

Updated: 11-2012

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