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3 BEST Whale Watching Tours in Uvita: Which One to Book

3 BEST Whale Watching Tours in Uvita: Which One to Book

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So you’ve heard about the amazing whale watching in Uvita and want to get in on some of the action, do you? Well, we’ve got you covered!

We have been whale watching all over the world, and can easily say Uvita is the most impressive location (and that’s not just because we lived here for a while)! Its proximity to Marino Ballena National Park makes it an ideal spot to see humpback whales, Bryde’s whales, pilot whales, and more.

Since Uvita is so popular for whale watching, deciding which tour to take can be an overwhelming task. Luckily, we have done many whale watching tours here and created the guide below to ensure you book the best tour worth your time and money!

So get your cameras ready and let’s dive in!

Quick Pick: Our Favorite Tour

If you want to book a whale watching tour right away, then look no further! This half-day tour in Marino Ballena National Park is our absolute favorite whale-watching tour in Uvita. You’ll head to this magnificent protected area and spend 3 to 4 hours out on the water in search of whales, dolphins, sea turtles, and other marine creatures.

Your knowledgeable guide will take you to all of the best wildlife viewing spots, and depending on the day, you may also get to visit a hidden beach and sea cave. On top of all of that, you’ll also get to hop in the water to go snorkeling before enjoying some yummy included snacks!

What we love most about this tour is its small group size. With a maximum of 30 guests, this experience is much more intimate and makes it easier to get a good view of the whales. It only costs $99 USD per person, which we think is a great deal for the fantastic experience you get (check out all of the 5-star reviews here)!

The BEST Whale Watching Tours in Uvita

1. Marino Ballena National Park Whale Watching Combo Tour (most flexible tour)

A humpback whale tale off the coast of Uvita, Costa Rica
The tails can identify the whale!

The best whale watching in Uvita takes off from the coast of Marino Ballena National Park, a protected area of over 13,000 acres (5,260 hectares), home to spectacular marine life such as whales and dolphins!

This half-day tour is aptly called the “combo tour” because you get a little bit of everything. Not only do you get to head out on a boat and explore the beautiful national park in search of whales, dolphins, and other marine life, but if weather permits, you’ll get to snorkel as well!

The tour operates daily year-round, so if it’s a whale sighting that you’re after make sure to go during peak whale spotting season from either January to March or July to October. With that being said, there is still lots to see in the off-season such as bottlenose dolphins, turtles, and various exotic birds.

I was anticipating seeing wildlife on this tour, but I didn’t expect to see the variety of animals that we did! Obviously, the whales were the highlight, but I was also so pumped when some dolphins came swimming right next to our boat!

This wonderful experience includes entrance to the national park, snorkeling equipment, safety equipment on the boat, water, fruit, and your wonderful guides for $95 USD per person. What we love most is they offer two departure times throughout the day at 8:30 am and 1 pm, making it easy to fit this tour into your busy vacation schedule. This tour also includes free cancellation up to 24 hours before departure making it convenient in case your travel plans change!

Related Read: If you’re looking for more ways to splash around, check out our guide on visiting the Uvita Waterfall!

2. Whales and Dolphins Watching Tour From Uvita (best small group tour)

A hump back whale arm breaches the water off the coast of Uvita, Costa Rica
Say hi!

This whale watching tour out of Uvita is similar to the previous tour listed, but it only has a morning start time and a max capacity of 30 travelers. We personally love smaller tours because you usually get more of an intimate experience and can ask more questions. Plus you won’t have to fight a large crowd to see marine life which is especially convenient on a whale watching tour!

Commencing the tour at Marino Ballena National Park, you can start spotting wildlife even before you get on the boat! While we visited, we saw sloths, iguanas, and monkeys, which set a good tone for the day and made us even more hopeful to see the whales.

Our small group boarded the boat from the national park and took off into the ocean, where we spent time spotting whales, dolphins, and turtles! The tour also included a visit to a sea cave and some time to snorkel, which was a nice touch. One of the highlights of this tour was our incredible guides, they were not only experts on spotting wildlife but gave us so much information that I practically felt like a marine biologist by the end. 

The experience lasts 3 to 4 hours and is $99 USD per person. It operates daily year-round, and whale sightings are NOT guaranteed, so try to book during the peak whale season from January to March and July to October for your best chance of spotting them!

3. Private Uvita Whale Watching Tour (best private tour)

Humpback whale spine shows as it swims through the water of Uvita, Costa Rica
Humpback whale spine shows as it swims through the water near Uvita, Costa Rica

If you’re interested in whale watching, but the idea of a group tour doesn’t sound like your idea of fun, then this half-day private tour is the one for you!

Don’t get me wrong, I love group tours and meeting new people, but sometimes it’s nice to have a personalized experience. On group tours, a lot of time can be spent waiting for other guests and making sure everyone is accounted for, whereas on a private tour, you can do what you want when you want. Plus a private whale watching tour means you have a front-row seat to all of the action!

We had the best time on this tour when we went whale watching in Uvita. Not only was our guide friendly and hilarious, but he was also full of knowledge about the marine creatures and their habitat. He never got too close, making sure the whales were comfortable which was really important to us.

After hanging out with the humpbacks for a bit, we did some more sightseeing and a bit of snorkeling which was a nice touch. And on top of that, we were provided snacks and beverages – talk about a perfect day!

This eco-conscious private tour departs at 8:30 am daily and costs $110 USD per person, which we think is a fantastic deal considering you get the tour all to yourself. And what’s even better, is that when you book on Viator, you can reserve your spot and not have to pay until just before you go – does it get any better than that?!

When is the best time to go whale watching in Uvita? 

A humpback whale breaches head first in Uvita, Costa Rica
So cool!

Whale watching is one of the best things to do in Uvita because it has such a long season. While it seems like it’s almost a year-round activity, there are two distinct seasons to spot the whales: December to March and July to November.

Visiting from December to March is when you will see the Northern Hemisphere whales. This is also Costa Rica’s dry season, which might make it an overall more enjoyable experience. The best months to spot whales during this time are January and February.

July to November is when the Southern Hemisphere whales arrive, with the most active months for Humpbacks being August and September. Uvita actually holds a whale festival during this time of year because there is so much whale traffic! Even though it is the rainy season, it’s still a nice time to go because there will be fewer tourists, which means a more intimate tour for you!

Most of the tour providers run their tours year-round and don’t always guarantee whale sightings. So, if seeing a whale is super important to you, I suggest only booking these tours during peak season. Luckily that is about nine months of the year in Uvita so you have a good shot of spotting one!

Related Read: While you’re visiting, check out some of our favorite restaurants in Uvita!

Do you need to book a Uvita whale watching tour in advance?

Humpback whale crashes to the surface of the ocean after breaching in Uvita, Costa Rica
This humpback came right up to our boat!

This depends on the time of year that you are going. If you are visiting during the peak tourist season from December to March, we definitely recommend booking your tour in advance as tours fill up quickly. If you are visiting during the July to November whale season, there usually aren’t as many tourists so you can get away with booking closer to the date.

No matter the time of year, booking in advance will make sure that there will be space for your group and help you to better plan your time. This is why we always book with Viator because you can reserve your spot and then cancel for free up to 24 hours before departure in case your plans change. They also have a “buy now, pay later” option and a lowest price guarantee, so you know you’re getting the best deal possible!

Is whale watching in Uvita worth it?

Humpback whale blows from its hole in Costa Rica on a whale watching tour from Uvita

Whale watching in Uvita is 100% worth it! This is one of the best whale watching spots in the world, so it is a no-brainer to book a tour while visiting Costa Rica.

We went on our tour in mid-January, which is probably one of the best times of year to go. The bay was literally filled with whales, to the point that we saw multiple whales at the same time! It was incredible and I hope every traveler can have this epic experience as well!

Getting Around Costa Rica

Bailey with our rental car near Rio Celeste Costa Rica
Our rental car!

How you choose to get around Costa Rica is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make when planning your holiday here! How you do it depends on your budget, travel style, and comfort level. 

Renting a Car

Without a doubt, the number one way to explore Costa Rica is in a rental car. We book rental cars on the Discover Cars website as we have had good experiences with them in the past.

One of the things you need to watch for when renting a car in Costa Rica is the mandatory insurance that the government requires you to have. There are a lot of very cheap rentals that don’t include this mandatory insurance (TPL) in the original booking price, but there are also ones that do. To avoid additional surprise charges when you pick up your rental car, be sure to rent a car that includes the mandatory insurance when you book.

Thankfully, on Discover Cars it’s easy to tell apart the companies that include the mandatory insurance and those that don’t. The trick is you can’t pick any car on their website. In the picture below, you can see this rental car, with pick up in Jaco, includes the TPL. That means the mandatory insurance is included in the price. Any cover you get above that is extra.

Of course, I still suggest getting the full coverage offered by Discover Cars, which covers you even more.

You can browse cars on Discover Cars here.

TPL Cover Costa Rica
TPL Cover Costa Rica

Book Shuttles

If renting a car isn’t in your budget, you don’t feel comfortable driving in Costa Rica, or you just don’t like driving, shuttles are the next best option. There are hundreds of shuttle routes available all over the country, and they are very affordable.

Shuttles in Costa Rica are specifically for tourists and often include pick up and drop off at your selected hotels and airports. The drivers also speak some English, and the vehicles have air conditioning. You’ll also be guaranteed a seat when you book a shuttle (which isn’t the case with the public bus system.)

To get the best price, use the website Bookaway. They compare all the offers and prices of shuttle companies in Costa Rica so you get the best price! Honestly, we have saved so much money using Bookaway! 

You can search for shuttles online on Bookaway here.

Public Bus

Lastly, you can use the public bus system. On short journeys, such as from San Jose to La Fortuna or Uvita to Manuel Antonio, this system is great. However, the longer the journey the more hassle and time spent on a bus. It’s undoubtedly best to save the public bus in Costa Rica for short and straightforward trips!  

The public buses are definitely the cheapest way to get around Costa Rica, but they are not always very reliable and schedules often change without notice and delays are to be expected. The buses can also be very crowded and hot – so just be prepared!

It’s also good to speak some Spanish if you plan on riding the public bus since most drivers and ticket booth operators don’t speak English.

Pura Vida!

Daniel and Bailey on a whale watching boat with life jackets on in Uvita, Costa Rica
Thanks for reading!

Going whale watching in Uvita is a true treat for nature lovers. You’ll get to see these majestic creatures up close all while exploring the gorgeous Marino Ballena National Park. We hope you’ll love this amazing experience as much as we do!

If this article has been helpful, we’d love for you to read our other Costa Rica blogs. We have traveled around this beautiful country and even lived here, so we have recommendations for the best tours and even our favorite places to eat. We travel back to Costa Rica frequently, so if you’re looking for more suggestions, check out some of our other blogs below.

9 BEST Tours of Costa Rica (Multi-Day Guided Tours) & How to Pick One!

16 BEST National Parks in Costa Rica + Nature Reserves

15 BEST Beach Towns in Costa Rica that you should Visit