Best Time For Whale Watching In Costa Rica
Whale Watching In Costa Rica

Whale watching is on many peoples bucket list and it is easy to understand why. Often we go our entire lives without ever encountering one of these majestic mammals that roam every ocean on this blue planet. It can be such a thrill to see these animals in their natural habitat as many are larger than the majority of animals found on earth. The sheer size of the whale can fully dwarf the spectators and even the boat as it cruises through the water. Seeing natural behaviors as well such as breaching, spy hopping and blowing spouts of water from its blowholes can bring excitement and awe to those lucky enough to see it. There are only a handful of places in the world where you can regularly see baleen whales, and fortunately Costa Rica is one of them! But that may leave many people wondering, when is the opportune time to see them? That is why in this blog, we discuss the best time for whale watching in Costa Rica and explain the two distinct seasons for observing Humpback Whales.

Whale Watching Uvita
Whale Watching in Uvita

Which Species Of Whales Can I See In Costa Rica?

First, we must discuss which species of whales are most prevelent in Costa Rica. It is important to note that Costa Rica does not have a resident pod of whales that can be seen at all times of the year – the vast majority are visitors! These include whales such as blue whales, fin whales, pilot whales, false killer whales, orcas, and many more species. The majority are found along the pacific coastline. However, the most prevelent and semi-resident whales to be found in Costa Rica are the Humpback Whales. These whales are regular visitors to our shores and often found throughout the year in either to the northern or southern part of the pacific coast.

Marino Ballena National Park
Marino Ballena National Park

Where Can I See Humpback Whales In Costa Rica?

Humpback Whales can be found all along the pacific coastline, but they are most prevelent and concentrated in the southern end just off the coast of Uvita in the Puntarenas province. They are also found off the coast of the Osa Peninsula and as far north as Guanacaste. That is because a population of Antarctic Humpback Whales come to these shores every year to breed and give birth to their calves. During the breeding season, males and females can be found exhibiting all sorts of incredible mating behaviour including breaching, chasing, spy-hoping, whale songs, tail slapping and blowing bubbles. Females will also give birth to their calves and use the coastlines as a sanctuary that protects their young against predators. They feed their calves on very rich high-fat milk to help build its strength for the long journey back to their feeding grounds in Antarctica. Remarkably, females will not feed during this time as their usual prey of krill and fish are not found in tropical waters.

As mentioned, Antarctic Humpback Whales are most concentrated off the coast of Uvita and the Marino Ballena National Park, but they can also be found along the coastlines of the Osa Peninsula and occasionally Manuel Antonio. There is also a distinct population of Alaskan Humpback Whales that migrate to these waters to breed and give birth, but these are more prevelent in the northern pacific coast along the shorelines of the Gulf of Papagayo, the Gulf of Nicoya, and offshore from Tamarindo and Flamingo.

Humpback Whale Uvita
Humpback Whale Spy-hopping

When Is The Best Time To See Whales In Costa Rica

There are two distinct seasons for Humpback Whales in Costa Rica. Humpback Whales are most prevelent during our “winter months” with the season starting from the end of July all the way through to mid-October. The best months to see them during this season are August and September as there are near daily sightings on whale watch tours. As mentioned, they are found up and down the pacific coast but the best place to see them is in Uvita as they gather here in great abundance. The second season is our summer months from the beginning of December to around the middle of March. Once again, they are concentrated more in the south around Uvita and Osa Peninsula, but can occasionally be found further north. Early March is the best time to see them during this period but sightings begin to drop off later in the month. Being that there are two fairly long seasons for migrating whales, Costa Rica actually holds the title of the longest Humpback Whale season in the world, making it one of the best countries to view these magnificent animals.

Whale Watch Tour Embark
Ballena Aventura Whale Watch Tour

How To See Whales In Costa Rica

Your best chance to see Humpback Whales, no matter the season, is with a dedicated whale watch tour, and the best whale watch tours are found in Uvita. Uvita is only a one hour drive south from Manuel Antonio and about a 3 hour and 45 minute drive from downtown San Jose. You can also find tours in Drakes Bay, close to the the Osa Peninsula, as well. With regards to other locations along the pacific coastline, such as Manuel Antonio, Gulf of Papagayo, Gulf of Nicoya, and Tamarindo or Flamingo, there are no dedicated whale watch tours in these areas however they can often be seen on cruises and ferry crossings during the peak months of August and September. Our recommendation would be to do a morning or sunset cruise either in Manuel Antonio, Tamarindo or Playas del Coco. They are also often spotted on ferries and catamarans during day trips to Isla Tortuga in the Gulf of Nicoya. Often captains of catamarans and boats will be relayed information when there are whales in the area and will be happy to look for them enroute.

Best Time For Whale Watching In Costa Rica
Mother And Calf Humpback Whales

As mentioned though, your best bet to see whales in Costa Rica are with whale watch tours found in Uvita as they come to this area in great numbers. In fact, the Marino Ballena National Park is a protected area for migratory Humpback Whales, which ensures they can breed and raise their young without interference and outside influences. If you would like to book your Uvita Whale Watch Tour which includes an optional swim and/or snorkel, entrance fee to the national park, and light snacks and water, then be sure to click here.

If looking to embark on another tour in Costa Rica, then sure to check out our other activities right here!

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