Located on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, Costa Ballena is the region of Ojochal, Uvita, and Dominical. Costa Ballena is well-known for its good living life, great and wild beaches, and wildlife. We had the chance to spend a week around there and we couldn’t start our trip to Costa Rica in a better way. That is why I share my Costa Ballena travel guide that gathers all you need to know to enjoy the area to the fullest!
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How to get to Costa Ballena?
Costa Ballena is in the South Western part of Costa Rica. One big advantage of the area is that it is easily accessible either by car or by public transportation. For instance, Tracopa buses go directly from San Jose to Uvita in a little more than 4 hours. Then, you can reach either Dominical or Ojochal by a local bus by adding 20 to 30 minutes more.
“Keep in mind that in Costa Rica, the bus schedule is not that accurate. You will need to wait a lot before getting the right bus. Moreover, I noticed that each bus company has its price for the same journey. Pura Vida!”
From San José (Calle 5 - Tracopa bus station) to Uvita Info Center
6025 colons per person
From Uvita Info Center to Ojochal
900 colons per person
Where to stay in Costa Ballena?
Coast Ballena is home to three main towns, which gives you enough choice for all types of accommodation.
- Dominical: is the surf town of Costa Ballena with many artisanal shops and restaurants.
- Uvita: is located in the middle of Costa Ballena with a lot of tours starting from there and main buses coming from/to.
- Ojochal: is the perfect location to escape from the crowd and be surrounded by intense jungle. This is more an ex-pat village than a tourist town.
“We didn’t have a car and did all of our trips by public bus. It’s ok to do so, but if you have the budget, I highly recommend renting a car. Indeed, sometimes we weren’t able to do what we wanted because of the bus schedule.”
How long to stay in Costa Ballena?
Costa Ballena is packed with lots of unspoiled beaches and intense jungle. Therefore, there are many things to do from beach hopping to trekking in the rainforest. To enjoy the area to the fullest and take time, I strongly advise you to stay at least one week in the region.
How to move around Costa Ballena?
As budget travelers, we always get around by public transportation. Some buses go from one town to the other. From our experience, if you can and have the budget to do so, we highly recommend renting a car. Indeed, the bus schedule in Costa Rica is not very accurate and the journey can take much more time than announce before. Moreover, the bus stops are mostly located on the main road. Consequently, in case you want to go to a remote place, far away from the main road, you will need to grab a taxi. This is why, in my opinion, a car could be a great option if possible to go freely from any place you want at any time.
“During the dry season (from November to April), you don’t need a 4×4 car to move around.”
What to do in Costa Ballena?
Costa Ballena offers a beautiful coastline and a lush jungle and mountain scenery. Therefore, you will have lots of things to do around the area from beach hopping to trekking into the rainforest.
Ballena MarinE National Park
Ballena Marino National Park is a great mix of wild beaches, lush jungles, and mountains in the backdrop. As a national park, the place is protected by rangers and an entrance fee of 6 dollars per person (+ tax) has to be paid.
- From Uvita Info Center to the park is 35 minutes on foot.
- From Uvita Town Center to the park is 20 minutes on foot.
“Don’t do the same mistake as us and take enough water and food with you because there is no restaurant or shop close by. “
Whale watching tour
We didn’t do any whale-watching tours during our stay in Costa Ballena but the attraction is the most popular in the area. Indeed, the coastline is famous for its whales living (almost) all year around. More specifically, two whale migrations come here, one from the North and one from the South. So, you must get a great chance to see some humpback whales during your stay in Costa Ballena!
“As per my research, all tour operators offer a tours with a small boat of dozens of people and they all deliver sustainable tours, which is amazing!”
“To spot wildlife and take all chances on your side, you should visit the reserve early in the morning.”
Nauyaca falls are the most impressive waterfalls of Costa Ballena! Indeed, the waterfalls are a combination of two streams of a total of 60 meters approximately.
From Dominical, you need to take the bus that goes to San Isidro de El General airport. There is a bus stop just in front of the entrance of the park.
There are different ways to reach Nauyaca falls.
- The first and cheapest option is by foot with a 6-kilometer hike through the primary forest. The hike can be very steep at some point so, I recommend putting on hiking shoes or sneakers at least. No flip-flop. This option is only feasible if you don’t have a car to park in.
- The second option is to come by car and let it 2-kilometer down the reception. In this case, you will skip the steepest part of the hike (which is great). However, this option is more expensive than the first one.
- The third option is to be dropped off by a trolley ride if you don’t want or cannot hike down the 6-kilometer hike. This is the most expensive option to reach Nauyaca falls.
“The water in the natural pool is very refreshing. I then advise you to take a change of clothes and towel for after your swim!”
Enjoy the coastline
- Playa Dominical: great for surfing
- Playa Uvita: great for relaxing at the beach
- Playa Tortuga: great for long walks and sunset
Volunteer at Reserva Playa Tortuga
If you have time, you should volunteer a day at Reserva Playa Tortuga, a non-profit research and educational center. We had the chance to spend 2 days at this center and we learned a lot! On top of that, we lived a once-in-a-lifetime experience by releasing baby sea turtles into the ocean.
“Be prepared to have your hands dirty and be under the sun. So, I strongly advise you to take appropriate clothes such as sport short, a long sleeve shirt, and water shoes (if you need to cross rivers to release turtles into the ocean or during your walk in the jungle).”
To sum up, Costa Ballena is a great spot to enjoy a mix of unspoiled beaches, intense jungle, and wildlife encounters. Moreover, renowned for its biodiversity, Costa Ballena is the ideal place for nature and adventure lovers!
Check out all my posts related to Costa Rica here to get more tips and travel guides.
Sending you lots of love,