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Ballena National Marine Park

Ballena National Marine Park

Quick Facts

  • Location : 11 miles south of Dominical
  • Area : 272 land acres & 13,276 maritime acres
  • Telephone : 2786-5392
  • Hours : 6 a.m.- 4 p.m., closed on Mondays
  • Entrance Fee : $6.00

Sightings off the coast of Ballena National Marine Park often include a young calf rising to the surface alongside its mother during their migration from July to November, and December through March to mate and give birth. Whale watching, kayaking, snorkeling and diving available throughout the year offer visitors a chance to see bottle-nosed dolphins, humpback whales, iguanas, sea turtles, tropical fish and nesting sea birds.

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The park’s rarely visited beaches are protected by a network of crescent-shaped reefs and a scattering of rocky islands called Las Tres Hermanas (The Three Sisters). Sea currents have swept aside portions of sand, forming shoals that shelter swimmers from large swells and dangerous surf. 

In this marine park, named after the humpback whales, visitors can explore pristine beaches, mangrove forests, rocky islands and coral reefs. Protecting more than 13,000 acres of ocean and 9 miles of coastline, the park also serves as a nesting site for endangered Olive Ridley and hawksbill sea turtles from May through November.

Crescent-shaped reefs and a pair of rocky islands called Las Tres Hermanas (The Three Sisters) and La Ballena (The Whale) protect the park’s beaches from large Pacific swells. South of Dominical on the Costa Ballena, the marine park has four entrances. At low tide, visitors to Uvita Beach can walk out to Whale's Tail, a famous rock and reef formation connected to the mainland by a sand bar making a shape that fittingly resembles a whale’s tail.


Average Temperature: 79 degrees
Annual Rainfall: 156 inches


Kayaking, surfing, swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling, scuba diving and whale watching are popular activities. Camping is free but all visitors must pay the $6 park fee. Showers and toilets, but no potable water, are available at the Ballena, Colonia, and Pinuelas ranger stations. Campfires are not permitted within the park, but gas or charcoal grills are allowed


The park encompasses roughly 9 miles of spectacular coastline. 

Playa Colonia sandy coastline is just one turn after Uvita beach inside the national park.  Palm trees fringe the beach, while the tide is suited for beginner/intermediate surfers. This beach has  showers and restrooms.

(Input links to all the beach attraction pages)


There are four beach entrances to the park: Uvita Beach, Playa Colonia, Ballena Beach and Pinuelas Beach. Bathrooms and picnic areas can be found at each ranger station.

Flora & Fauna:

Flora: off the coast you'll find coconut palms, tea mangrove, red mangrove and wild anona. Among the rock ocean floors you'll see 18 different species of coral.

Fauna: Bottle-nosed dolphins, humpback whales, green iguanas, sea-hare crabs, Olive Ridley sea turtles, hawksbill sea turtles, pale-billed woodpeckers, brown boobies, frigate birds, pelicans, white ibis, cormorants, great blue herons, and several species of terns, gulls and sandpipers. Spotted snapper, mackerel, black-fin sharks and yellow eels are among the most common fish.

Getting There

The quickest way to arrive is to take a domestic flight from San Jose to Quepos. From Quepos you may drive to the national park and go south on Route 34. The 45-minute drive from Quepos is scenic and on a well-paved road. You can also take a public bus from Quepos to Bahia Ballena, which takes about an hour and a half.

If driving from San Jose, follow signs toward Jaco on Route 34 and continue south on the Costanera Sur. The park and its beaches are approximately a three hour and a half hour drive from San Jose. A second, longer option takes you over the Cerro de la Muerte to San Isidro El General where you'll turn west toward Dominical. There, the road intersects with the Route 34 and you will continue south to Bahia Ballena.

Ballena National Marine Park in Pictures

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