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Whales and Dolphins in Guanacaste and Papagayo

Dolphin and Whale Watching tours in Guanacaste and Papagayo

Humpback whale

The province of Guanacaste, and in general the entire Pacific Ocean coast of Costa Rica is an ideal area for whale watching.

Whale watching tours and dolphin tours depart from Guanacaste and Papagayo

  • Four Seasons Papagayo
  • Andaz Papapgayo
  • El Mangroove
  • Secrets Papagayo
  • Playa Hermosa
  • Hacienda Pinilla
  • JW Marriott  
  • and other Hotels in Guanacaste )

The humpback whales stand out for their large size, the number of groups in which they travel and the fantastic pirouettes they perform during their stay in the Pacific coast.

Whales in Papagayo and Guanacaste

When to see whales in Guanacaste

Between July and October, humpback whales come to the warm waters of Costa Rica from the southern hemisphere, especially the cold waters of the Antarctic, southern Chile and the Humboldt Current.

The main reason for the whales to travel to the warm waters of Costa Rica is to give birth to their calves and also to raise them during the first months.

Whales in Guanacaste

From December to March the same thing happens again, but this time it is the humpback whales that come from the northern hemisphere, specifically the Arctic, the Canadian stuff and the states of Washington and Oregon in the United States.

If you’re lucky, you might be able to hear the whales’ love songs, or see the huge whales leap out of the water like a torpedo, or pop their huge, powerful tails into the water. It is an unforgettable scene without a doubt.

Whale Species in Guanacaste

The most common species to see during the key months are humpback whales, however, there are also other species, such as pilot whales, false killer whales and orcas.

Whale Watching Tours

Whale watching and dolphin tours

Another species, which does reside permanently in the waters of Papagayo and Guanacaste is the Bottle-beaked dolphin, as well as other species. These fun and sociable animals often accompany the sailboats and boats during the tours, swimming swiftly in the front of the boat or sailboat. Ask us about the best time and the best catamaran or sailboat tour to see these magnificent marine mammals. Our private tours take you to the most extraordinary areas to have the maximum contact with the flora and fauna of Guanacaste and Papagayo.

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Costa Rica Travel Information

Costa Rica Whale Watching Tours: Best Places and Time of Year

July 1, 2023 By Sammi 39 Comments

If you’re interested in Costa Rica whale watching tours during your vacation, this post will help you plan your visit. You’ll read about the different whales you can see in Costa Rica, the best places and times to see them and the best whale watching tours in Costa Rica.

**If you’re ready to book a whale watching tour in Uvita, click here to jump down to the booking form to reserve your tour!*

What Whales in Costa Rica Can You See?

The most common whale to see in Costa Rica are the humpback whales as they pass by Costa Rica more than 6 months of the year. In fact, Costa Rica has the longest humpback whale watching season in the world thanks to both the Northern and Southern hemisphere whales passing by.

The other whales that pass by Costa Rica are deep ocean dwellers. Bryde’s Whales are also seen in Costa Rica. Orcas have been seen but are not common in Costa Rica.

Another whale you may see are pilot whales, which are actually the second largest oceanic dolphin.

Best Time to Go Humpback Whale Watching in Costa Rica

The humpback whale season in Costa Rica is December to mid March and mid/end July to mid October. Uvita , a small beach town in the South Pacific coast is the only place that has a great abundance of humpback whales during both of these times of the year. For this reason, Uvita is the best place in Costa Rica to see humpback whales.

The best months to see humpback whales in Costa Rica are January, February, August and September. This is when whales are very active and abundant as they come to breed and raise their young. However, for near daily sightings, August and September are the best months for humpback whale watching in Costa Rica. Those months are the best time to go on a Costa Rica whale watching tour.

February is also another good month to see humpback whales in Costa Rica. You can also see humpback whales in March, but activity starts going down after mid March.

April and July are right at the tail end/beginning of whale season so chances are not quite as high, but there are always possibilities.

Humpback Whales in Costa Rica

Two types of humpback whales pass through Costa Rica: Southern and Northern Hemisphere.

The Southern Hemisphere humpback whales travel from Antarctica to Costa Rica from late July through October.

Northern hemisphere whales head to Central America from Alaska from the months of December to March.

Because of this, Costa Rica has the longest humpback whale season in the world!

Best Places to See Whales in Costa Rica

Osa peninsula.

Drake Bay and Golfito (Golfo Dulce) are two other excellent places to see whales. There are also many dolphins.

Gulf of Papagayo (Guanacaste)

Humpback whales are commonly seen in the Gulf of Papagayo during the months of July – September. We have seen humpback whales multiple times in this area during the months of July and August.

humpback whale Costa Rica in Gulf of Papagayo - costa rica whale watching tours

It’s not as common to see humpback whales in this area December – March but they are around, especially in February. In February 2021, we saw a mom and baby on our way to Witch’s Rock in Santa Rosa National Park!

Gulf of Papagayo humpback whale

Although there aren’t dedicated Gulf of Papagayo/Guanacaste whale watching tours, you have a chance to see them on a snorkeling or beach hopping tour.

Tamarindo/Conchal/Flamingo

You can also see humpback whales on a boat tour out of Tamarindo and Flamingo . You must boat out of the bays to see them. In August and September, there are high possibilities to see whales and dolphins on catamaran, snorkeling and scuba diving tours.

I saw a humpback whale breaching coming back from a scuba diving excursion at the Las Catalinas Islands in August. It was amazing!

The national park in Uvita , Marino Ballena National Park was created specifically to protect the waters as this is considered the best place in Costa Rica to see humpback whales. This area offers the best whale watching in Costa Rica so you have the best chances of seeing humpback whales in Uvita in Costa Rica.

Humpback whales in Costa Rica - Mom and baby in uvita. Costa Rica whale watching tours

It’s common to see mom and baby whales together as this is the time where mothers nurse their young and teach them how to breach, dive and feed. The babies are very playful and sometimes when you see them they are splashing their fins around and eagerly jumping out to practice!

Gulf of Nicoya

Another good place to see whales are in the Gulf of Nicoya. If you take the Tortuga Island day cruise during the whale season, there’s a good chance you may see some in August and September!

Manuel Antonio

It is possible to see humpback whales from Manuel Antonio during August and September. You can book a Manuel Antonio catamaran cruise which offers opportunities to see whales in August and September. However, this is not guaranteed. If you want the best chances of seeing whales in Manuel Antonio, we highly recommend to go to Uvita for a whale watching tour which is a 1 hour drive south.

Costa Rica Whale Watching Tours

Whale Watching Tours Manuel Antonio: Visitors have a chance to see them during the season on a catamaran cruise (mostly August and September). Some companies may also offer to take you to Uvita for whale watching which has better opportunities.

Whale Watching Tours Tamarindo: There are no specific whale watching tours out of Tamarindo but you can go on a catamaran or sailing tour. On these sailing tours, it is possible to see whales during the season, particularly July – October. Check Antares, Dream Chaser, Marlin del Rey for open sailing tours.

Whale Watching Tours Flamingo: There are several private sailing companies in Flamingo that offer possibilities to see whales during July – September during their tours.

Whale Watching Tours Playas del Coco/Gulf of Papagayo: There aren’t any specific whale watching tours but if you go on a catamaran sailing tour or a private boating tour , you have a chance to see them in July – September, January and February.

A private boating tour is best because the boat captain usually has a radio to communicate with other captains and go look for the whales if spotted. This isn’t possible on an open tour as they have to stay on a set schedule and route.

Whale Watching Tours Uvita: There are several companies that operate specific whale watching tours during the season (January – mid March, July through September). We have gone twice and saw whales both times.

humpback whales in Uvita - Costa Rica Whale watching tours

Whale Watching Tours Drake Bay: Divine Dolphin runs dolphin and whale watching tours during the seasons.

What to Know About Costa Rica Whale Watching Tours

Uvita and drake bay are two places in costa rica that runs tours during both seasons.

Because of this, try to fit in a dedicated stay to Uvita in your itinerary if you really want to see humpback whales. A whale watching tour is one of the best things to do in Uvita. Click here to check out a 1 week itinerary that includes Uvita!

Take anti-nausea medicine

When we went whale watching in Uvita, I got extremely seasick because I was taking pictures with my camera and on a rocking boat. I highly recommend taking anti-nausea medicine if you are prone to seasickness or if you are planning to take pictures.

Costa Rica doesn’t allow swimming with dolphins or whales

No touching or swimming close to them.

Know that nature is unpredictable

Nature will do what it will and even if it’s the season, you may not see whales. If seeing humpback whales are on your bucket list, try to go on a whale watching tour in Uvita or Drake Bay during August and September to maximize your chances.

Book Your Whale Watching Tour in Uvita Below!

If you’re interested in booking a whale watching tour in Uvita, please fill out the form below and we will be happy to help. See what the tour is like in our video below too!

Uvita Whale Watching Tours

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Whale Watching Private Tour

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Tour Guanacaste Whale Watching Private Tour

Discover the Majestic Humpback Whales! Welcome to Guanacaste, Costa Rica, a breathtaking destination known for its stunning landscapes and abundant marine life. If you're seeking an unforgettable experience, look no further than our thrilling whale watching tours. Get ready to embark on an adventure that will bring you up close and personal with the magnificent humpback whales in their natural habitat. We take pride in offering two convenient tour options to suit your schedule. Choose between the morning tour, departing at 8:30 AM and returning at 12:30 PM, or the afternoon tour, departing at 2:00 PM and returning at 6:00 PM. Whichever you choose, be prepared to witness awe-inspiring moments that will stay with you forever. Onboard our tours, we have a dedicated marine biologist who will provide captivating insights into the behavior and characteristics of the humpback whales. Learn about their migratory patterns, social structures, and unique communication methods. Our biologist's expertise will add a layer of depth to your experience, making it not only entertaining but also educational. As part of our commitment to offering the best experience possible, we are thrilled to announce that we will soon have a hydrophone on board. This remarkable device allows us to listen to the enchanting songs of these majestic cetaceans. As you sail through the crystal-clear waters, you can connect with the whales on a whole new level, immersing yourself in their mysterious world through sound. Our adventure begins at the new Marina Flamingo, ensuring a smooth and convenient departure point for our guests. Prepare to be surrounded by pristine ocean views as we venture into the Pacific waters of Costa Rica's west coast, a region renowned for its rich biodiversity and vibrant marine ecosystem. Guanacaste's whale watching season offers an excellent opportunity to witness these gentle giants in their natural environment. The humpback whales frequent the area between July and November, making this an ideal time to join our tours. The warm, calm waters provide the perfect backdrop for these magnificent creatures to engage in their captivating behaviors, including breaching, tail-slapping, and even singing. As you marvel at these incredible creatures, remember that responsible whale watching practices are at the core of our values. We adhere to strict guidelines to ensure the safety and well-being of the whales and their habitat, as well as the comfort and enjoyment of our guests. Whether you're a nature enthusiast, a photography enthusiast, or simply seeking an unforgettable experience, our whale watching tours in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, are the perfect choice. Immerse yourself in the wonders of the ocean, and let the charm of the humpback whales leave you with lasting memories that will stay with you long after you return home. Book your whale watching tour today and get ready to witness nature's grandeur in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. An adventure of a lifetime awaits you!

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We recommend our self transported option, guides will meet you on arrival. Enjoy the guaranteed lowest price. Tour at your own pace. To check availability and make a reservation please click on "Book Now" and enter your preferred date and time. No need to pay in full when booking, just a small deposit to confirm your reservation. Full cash payment accepted the day of the tour upon arrival and you have confirmed your choice of activities. Our system is set up to provide you with quick and efficient bookings. Enjoy the sunset!

  • Whale Watching
  • Open Bar and non alcoholic beverages 
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  • Family friendly tour
  • 4 or 7 hour tour
  • Floating Platform included
  • Flamingo Marina
  • Puerto Viejo
  • Sombrero Islands
  • Puerto Potrero

Guanacaste and Papagayo Whale Watching boat tours

From July until the end of October and again from December until the end of February you can see the humpback whales in the Pacific waters of Costa Rica.

This natural spectacle is quite impressive and of extreme pleasure for lovers of nature, the sea and especially cetaceans. Groups of whales come to the warm waters of the Pacific to give birth and let their calves grow while they energize and grow. From July to October it is the humpback whales from South America that visit us, and from December to February it is the North Pacific whales that come. It is quite common to see them in the Pacific waters, either far out to sea or, on several occasions, quite close to the coast. Watching them jump like torpedoes, or explode their huge tails over the water is a very impressive sight indeed.

When it is not whale season, it is also common to see dolphins. There are up to 8 species of dolphins in the Pacific waters of Costa Rica, although the most common are the Bottle-beaked dolphin, the spinner dolphin and the Pacific spotted dolphin. Our dolphin and whale tour can combine dolphin and whale watching with other activities, such as visiting remote beaches, snorkeling in a remote islet or simply touring the coast. Other species that can be seen are sea turtles, as well as different species of sea birds, some of which have the funny habit of landing on the boat or yacht in which you are traveling. The tour normally lasts 4 hours, in the morning or afternoon, although it can be extended to a full day tour including lunch at a remote beach.

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Discover the beauty of Guanacaste by renting a private boat, yacht, sailboat or catamaran charter with us !

Private boat and yacht charters in Papagayo and Guanacaste

Guanacaste Boat Charters available for: Four Seasons Papagayo, Andaz Papagayo, Casa Conde del Mar, Playa Panama, El Mangroove, Secrets Papagayo, Occidental Papagayo, Playa Hermosa, El Coco, Ocotal, Riu, Potrero, Flamingo, Conchal, Las Catalinas, JW Marriott, Hacienda Pinilla.

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Top Dolphin & Whale Watching in Province of Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Dolphin & whale watching in province of guanacaste.

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  • The ranking of tours, activities, and experiences available on Tripadvisor is determined by several factors including the revenue generated by Tripadvisor from these bookings, the frequency of user clicks, and the volume and quality of customer reviews. Occasionally, newly listed offerings may be prioritized and appear higher in the list. The specific placement of these new listings may vary.

guanacaste whale watching tours

1. Snorkeling and Cruises

guanacaste whale watching tours

2. Try Scuba Diving / Basic Diver

guanacaste whale watching tours

3. Half-Day Dolphin Watching and Snorkeling in Samara

guanacaste whale watching tours

4. Dolphin and Snorkeling trip with CostaRican Companys

guanacaste whale watching tours

5. Private Morning Sail & Snorkel Tour

guanacaste whale watching tours

6. 3 Hours Private Sunset Cruise at Dreams Las Mareas

guanacaste whale watching tours

7. Catalina Island Diving Tour From Tamarindo (CERTIFIED ONLY)

guanacaste whale watching tours

8. Private Yacht Experience with Snorkelling and Water Sports Half day

guanacaste whale watching tours

9. Fun at the Ocean at La Charanga

guanacaste whale watching tours

10. 5 Hour Private Luxury Catamaran Activity

guanacaste whale watching tours

11. Snorkeling at Catalina Islands

guanacaste whale watching tours

12. Private Sport Fishing Tours at Dreams Las Mareas

guanacaste whale watching tours

13. SSI Advanced Adventurer Diver Course

guanacaste whale watching tours

14. Refresher Scuba Diving Course Costa Rica

guanacaste whale watching tours

15. 4-Hour Private Sunset Tour from Del Coco Beach

guanacaste whale watching tours

16. Snorkeling Adventure in Guanacaste

guanacaste whale watching tours

17. Fishing and Snorkeling Combo

Keep the fun going with other experiences in the area.

guanacaste whale watching tours

Bioluminescence Tour by Boat

guanacaste whale watching tours

Eddy's Bioluminescence Reserve in Punta Cuchillos

guanacaste whale watching tours

Double Kayak Bioluminescence Tour in Costa Rica

guanacaste whale watching tours

Puntarenas Shore Excursion: Rainforest Skywalk & Tarcoles River Eco Cruise

guanacaste whale watching tours

Isla Tortuga boat tour - from Paquera

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Full Day Tour to Tortuga Island from San José

guanacaste whale watching tours

Puntarenas Zipline Canopy & Crocodile Boat Tour. Shore Excursion from Puntarenas

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One day Tour Isla Tortuga with Lunch from Puntarenas

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Pure Nature Safari Float

guanacaste whale watching tours

Small Group Twilight Wildlife Boat Tour in La Fortuna

guanacaste whale watching tours

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Jungle & Rivers Buggy Exploration & Crocodile tour. Shore Excursion Puntarenas

guanacaste whale watching tours

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What travellers are saying.

David N

  • Dolphin and Snorkeling trip with CostaRican Companys
  • Try Scuba Diving / Basic Diver
  • Half-Day Dolphin Watching and Snorkeling in Samara
  • Fun at the Ocean at La Charanga
  • Snorkeling and Cruises
  • Pacific Coast Discovery
  • Agua Tibia Surf School
  • Jacamar Naturalist Tours
  • Pura Samara
  • El Cadejo Marino
  • Vibert's Secret Spot - Surf & Fishing Charter
  • Marvin's Tours
  • Costa Rica Wet and Wild
  • Sailing Guanacaste
  • Lazy Lizard Sailing
  • Manta Ray Sailing
  • Rockdivers Costa Rica
  • Freedive Costa Rica
  • Marea Alta Ocean Adventures
  • Tamarindo Tours Discovery

Top Dolphin & Whale Watching in Province of Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Dolphin & whale watching in province of guanacaste.

  • Nature & Wildlife Tours
  • Fishing Charters & Tours
  • Surfing, Windsurfing & Kitesurfing
  • Dolphin & Whale Watching
  • Up to 1 hour
  • 1 to 4 hours
  • 4 hours to 1 day
  • 5.0 of 5 bubbles
  • 4.0 of 5 bubbles & up
  • 3.0 of 5 bubbles & up
  • 2.0 of 5 bubbles & up
  • Sea Bird Sailing Excursions
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  • Puerto Carrillo
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  • Likely to Sell Out
  • The ranking of tours, activities, and experiences available on Tripadvisor is determined by several factors including the revenue generated by Tripadvisor from these bookings, the frequency of user clicks, and the volume and quality of customer reviews. Occasionally, newly listed offerings may be prioritized and appear higher in the list. The specific placement of these new listings may vary.

guanacaste whale watching tours

1. Snorkeling and Cruises

guanacaste whale watching tours

2. Try Scuba Diving / Basic Diver

guanacaste whale watching tours

3. Half-Day Dolphin Watching and Snorkeling in Samara

guanacaste whale watching tours

4. Dolphin and Snorkeling trip with CostaRican Companys

guanacaste whale watching tours

5. Private Morning Sail & Snorkel Tour

guanacaste whale watching tours

6. 3 Hours Private Sunset Cruise at Dreams Las Mareas

guanacaste whale watching tours

7. Catalina Island Diving Tour From Tamarindo (CERTIFIED ONLY)

guanacaste whale watching tours

8. Private Yacht Experience with Snorkelling and Water Sports Half day

guanacaste whale watching tours

9. Fun at the Ocean at La Charanga

guanacaste whale watching tours

10. 5 Hour Private Luxury Catamaran Activity

guanacaste whale watching tours

11. Snorkeling at Catalina Islands

guanacaste whale watching tours

12. Private Sport Fishing Tours at Dreams Las Mareas

guanacaste whale watching tours

13. SSI Advanced Adventurer Diver Course

guanacaste whale watching tours

14. Refresher Scuba Diving Course Costa Rica

guanacaste whale watching tours

15. 4-Hour Private Sunset Tour from Del Coco Beach

guanacaste whale watching tours

16. Snorkeling Adventure in Guanacaste

guanacaste whale watching tours

17. Fishing and Snorkeling Combo

Keep the fun going with other experiences in the area.

guanacaste whale watching tours

Bioluminescence Tour by Boat

guanacaste whale watching tours

Eddy's Bioluminescence Reserve in Punta Cuchillos

guanacaste whale watching tours

Double Kayak Bioluminescence Tour in Costa Rica

guanacaste whale watching tours

Puntarenas Shore Excursion: Rainforest Skywalk & Tarcoles River Eco Cruise

guanacaste whale watching tours

Isla Tortuga boat tour - from Paquera

guanacaste whale watching tours

Full Day Tour to Tortuga Island from San José

guanacaste whale watching tours

Puntarenas Zipline Canopy & Crocodile Boat Tour. Shore Excursion from Puntarenas

guanacaste whale watching tours

One day Tour Isla Tortuga with Lunch from Puntarenas

guanacaste whale watching tours

Pure Nature Safari Float

guanacaste whale watching tours

Small Group Twilight Wildlife Boat Tour in La Fortuna

guanacaste whale watching tours

Puntarenas Highlights 6 in 1 Shore Excursion

guanacaste whale watching tours

Jungle & Rivers Buggy Exploration & Crocodile tour. Shore Excursion Puntarenas

guanacaste whale watching tours

Water Bike Tours Water bikes

What travellers are saying.

David N

  • Dolphin and Snorkeling trip with CostaRican Companys
  • Try Scuba Diving / Basic Diver
  • Half-Day Dolphin Watching and Snorkeling in Samara
  • Fun at the Ocean at La Charanga
  • Snorkeling and Cruises
  • Pacific Coast Discovery
  • Agua Tibia Surf School
  • Jacamar Naturalist Tours
  • Pura Samara
  • El Cadejo Marino
  • Vibert's Secret Spot - Surf & Fishing Charter
  • Marvin's Tours
  • Costa Rica Wet and Wild
  • Sailing Guanacaste
  • Lazy Lizard Sailing
  • Manta Ray Sailing
  • Rockdivers Costa Rica
  • Freedive Costa Rica
  • Marea Alta Ocean Adventures
  • Tamarindo Tours Discovery

guanacaste whale watching tours

Costa Rica Guide

Travel information and maps, whale & dolphin watching, costa rica is one of the best places in the world to spot humpback whales.

Costa Rican waters are home to dozens of marine mammal species and spotted, or bottle nose dolphins commonly escort small craft on any offshore excursion. If you take fishing or snorkeling trips you’ll most likely spot the smaller cetaceans but if you want to see the star of the show you should make sure you travel when they’re “wintering” in the warm tropical waters and take specialized humpback whale watching tour. (see tips below on when and where to whale watch in Costa Rica)

Costa Rica has the enviable distinction of more months with humpbacks in residence than anywhere else in the world.

Humpback whale near the surface

The thousand or so whales that spend their summers off the coast of California and the northwestern United States head south in December to warmer waters off of the Pacific coast of Central America. At the same time these snowbirds are fleeing the North American winter their cousins 8,000 kilometers to the south are enjoying the southern hemisphere summer – slashing through clouds of plankton and krill near Antarctica opening their immense mouths to strain the food out of the water with 300 or more baleen plates.

Humpback Soaring into the air - Spy Hopping

When winter comes to the south in June the Antarctic whales have built their blubber reserves in preparation for the longest migration in the animal kingdom and head north along the coasts of Chile and Ecuador to the tropical waters of Central America that their cousins from the north vacated a few weeks earlier.

Each group arrives in Costa Rica at the beginning of their respective winter and stays until spring comes to their home. Females who mated twelve months earlier give birth to a single calf who grows to at least 8 meters (26 feet) feeding on rich milk over the first year. The adults don’t feed and nursing females can loose up to a third of their body weight. The prevailing theories about why humpbacks migrate to the tropics are that the warmth allows the calves to grow more quickly, or that the waters are safer because of lower numbers of predators like orcas.

Whatever the motivation for wintering in the tropics it means you can watch Humpback whales in Costa Rica nearly year round because the seasons are reversed in the two hemispheres and both populations head to the tropics when it gets cold at home.

Dolphins are Year Round

There are a number of species in Costa Rican waters year round including Spotted Dolphin ( Stenella attenuata ), Bottlenose Dolphin ( Tursiops truncatus – flipper is a bottlenose!), Spinner Dolphin ( Stenella longirostris ), Rough-Toothed Dolphin ( Steno bredanensis ), Common Dolphin ( Delphinus delphis ).  There are a couple of breeding seasons in July through October and December through March.

When and Where to Watch Whales in Costa Rica

The very best time and place is August through October along the Southern Pacific Coast from about Jacó or Manuel Antonio to the warm waters around the Osa Peninsula but as detailed below there are lots of possibilities.

Southern Pacific

Whale Watching in Costa Rica - Calendar and Locations

The table shows the best times and places to add a humpback whale watching expedition to your Costa Rica vacation. Of course the whales are wild and there is never any guarantee that you’ll see them, but your captain and guides will be in constant contact by radio with other boats all using gps and knowledge of the recent movements of the animals in the area.

Because they spend so much time above the surface spy hopping, fin slapping, breaching and fluke flipping Humpback whales are by far the most popular subjects for whale watching tours in Costa Rica. Spy hopping is self-explanatory. The whales are popping above the surface to take a look around.

Scientists believe that the other behaviors may be forms of communication because of the incredible sound volumes produced when whale flesh meets water. Others state confidently that the whales leap clear of the water because they are trying to rid themselves of parasites like sea lice and irritating freeloaders like barnacles.

When you see these giants burst completely free of the water it’s hard to believe it can be the result of anything but sheer exuberance and joy.

From December to April there are humpbacks in residence on both coasts. While the California humpbacks move down the Central American coastline singly or in groups of two to four the majority of the Pacific whales are headed across the open ocean to Hawaii from their feeding grounds in Canadian and Alaskan waters.

Mother humpback whale and baby

Even though the whales along the Pacific Coast represent only a few percent of the world population they’re relatively easy to spot because they congregate close to shore. Pacific Humpbacks swim in pods of about a dozen in the known calving areas along the outer shore of the Osa Peninsula and in the protected waters of Marino Ballena National Park near Uvita.

More recently data has accumulated that there are also breeding groups that frequent the Golfo Dulce inside the Osa Peninsula and possibly even the Papagayo Bay in Guanacaste.

Isla del Caño

Most whale watching tours depart Drake or Carate on the seaward shores of the Osa peninsula or from the central Pacific coast along the beaches of Ballena Park near Uvita. The best dates are from December through April for the California Humpbacks and starting again in July when the Antarctic whales arrive to stay until about November.

Starting in about 2010 fishermen and divers headed to the Bat islands have reported more whales off the northern Pacific coast of Guanacaste but it’s not clear whether they are wintering there or just passing through to the known nurseries farther south. When their habits are better described and viewing more reliable, whale watching tours will follow quickly.

Whale spotting is done from small outboard motor skiffs or larger inboard fishing boats. Tour prices range from around $50 per person for a bare bones half-day trip to $100 or $150 per person for an all day guided excursion that might include a stop at Caño Island to snorkel or Corcovado park to hike and eat lunch on the beach. It is illegal for anyone but scientific researchers to swim with whales or dolphins in protected Costa Rican waters. Reliable tour operators understand and respect this law and visitors should too.

Humpbacks definitely steal the show on any whale watching trip but keep your camera ready because Costa Rican waters are home to Orcas, Pseudo Orcas, Sei, Beaked, Brydes and Pilot whales and while you’re out you could also encounter their smaller cousins the Risso’s, Common, Spinner and Roughtooth dolphins.

The Caribbean

Large numbers of whales from the north Atlantic and St. Lawrence Seaway also take up residence on the east coast of Costa Rica.

In fact there are more whales in the Caribbean sea during the northern migration but they are spread over a huge area from the outer islands to the Gulf of Mexico. Probably because of the shape of the ocean floor they don’t commonly approach Costa Rica closely and are much harder to spot reliably.

It’s also quite difficult to launch small boats though the rough surf of most of the norther Caribbean coast and there are many fewer tourists in the region.  Whale watching tours have yet to catch on but fishermen in the gulf sometimes see the behemoths surfacing.

THE 5 BEST Dolphin & Whale Watching in Gulf of Papagayo, Costa Rica

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Costa Rica Whale Watching Tour Guide: Where To Go When

What is it about whales? Is it their massive size? Their incredible intelligence? Their social personalities that seem remarkably similar to ours? Whatever it is, they intrigue us. We are drawn to them. And there is no place like Costa Rica for whale watching. Costa Rica has the longest humpback whale season in the world. So if you are looking for an encounter with the ocean’s gentle giants, your odds are pretty good here.

Costa Rica Whale Species

The endangered  humpback whale  is the must-see species among whale watchers. There are three species of humpback whales that frequent the shores of Costa Rica: California Humpback Whales, Antarctic Humpback Whales, and North Atlantic St Lawrence Humpback Whales. Pilot whales, blue whales , and Pseudo-Orca whales have also been known to frequent the Pacific Coast.

When To Visit

Costa Rica has the longest humpback whale season in the world! This gives whale watchers a lot of flexibility as humpback whales can be seen nearly year-round on the Pacific side. The Northern Hemisphere California Humpback Whales come to the Pacific coast  December – early April . Southern Hemisphere Antarctic Humpback Whales come late July – November . The Southern Hemisphere Antarctic Humpbacks migrate in groups of about twelve for nearly 5,000 miles to mate and return to give birth in the warm, tropical waters of Costa Rica. If you’d like to see whales on the Caribbean side, head to Tortuguero where the North Atlantic St. Lawrence Humpback whales come from December – March.

Costa Rica Whale Watching Tour Destinations

While it is possible to see whales all along the Pacific coast and northern Caribbean Coast near Tortuguero , they appear in the largest concentrations along the South Pacific coast and the Osa Peninsula . Whale watching tours and snorkeling excursions are your best bets to see them.

Ballena Marine National Park, South Pacific Coast

Costa Rica Whale Watching Tour Guide: Where To Go When

The Whale’s Tail sandbar within Marino Ballena National Park from Kura Design Villas

Situated on the South Pacific coast of Costa Rica, Ballena Marine National Park is the destination that comes to mind first for many Costa Rican whale watchers. The park is named for the Pacific humpback whales that return to these warm coastal waters annually to breed. Perhaps the most puzzling natural phenomenon of the park is the Whale’s Tail sandbar. Yes, it’s crazy but true. At low tide, the water retreats to reveal a sandbar in the shape of a whale’s tail. Coincidence? Whale never know. Whale watching tours can be booked from Uvita. Whale watching season in Marino Ballena National Park is during the winter months from August to April. Although, it is said that the best time to see whales is from August to October. You are likely to see plenty of other marine life such as sea turtles and dolphins here as well.

Don’t Miss: The Annual Whale & Dolphin Festival in September

Drake Bay, Osa Peninsula

Costa Rica Whale Watching Tour Guide: Where To Go When

Humpback whale from Copa de Arbol Lodge

Whales and dolphins are commonly seen in the calm waters of Drake Bay on the northern side of the Osa Peninsula . This shallow, protected bay is the perfect place for mother whales to raise their young calf after a twelve month gestation period before introducing them to the rest of the ocean world. If you are lucky enough to see a whale, look closely to see if it is a mother with her young. Many whale and dolphin tours leave from the Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula. Nearly all the hotels in the area can arrange day tours.

Golfo Dulce, Osa Peninsula

Costa Rica Whale Watching Tour Guide: Where To Go When

Golfo Dulce Whale Watching from Playa Nicuesa Lodge

The Golfo Dulce is a tropical fjord stretching out between the Osa Peninsula and Piedras Blancas National Park. The Gulf is another popular whale breeding destination for its shallow, protected waters. These warm tropical waters are an especially whalecome retreat for Antarctic whales. The Southern Antarctic Humpback Whales are the most frequently seen species on the Gulfo Dulce. Nearly all of the hotels in the area can arrange whale and dolphin tours here.

Papagayo Bay, Guanacaste

Located on the North Pacific coast of Costa Rica in the Guanacaste province, the protected Papagayo Bay seems to be an up and coming destination for whales. They have been spotted in Papagayo Bay more frequently in recent years. The two main hotels on the Papagayo Peninsula are the Four Seasons Resort and Andaz Papagayo Resort . Boat excursion can be arranged from both.

Manuel Antonio, Central Pacific

Manuel Antonio National Park is a popular destination on the Central Pacific coast of Costa Rica where the dense rainforest meets golden sand beaches. For many, Manuel Antonio conjures up images of monkeys, but let’s not forget the park’s underwater inhabitants. These are whale waters! Whale and dolphin tours can be booked from the Manuel Antonio and Quepos region. Not to mention, it’s a great way to explore the park from a unique vantage point.

Did you know?

A whale’s tail is their fingerprint. Each whale has a unique display of markings unique to them.

P.S. Sorry about the whale puns. Whale stop now. 😉

Ready to go whale watching in Costa Rica? Plan your trip or shop our  Nature & Wildlife Vacation Packages .

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6 Best Costa Rica Whale-Watching Tours

Home | Travel | Central America | Costa Rica | 6 Best Costa Rica Whale-Watching Tours

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Whale-watching in Costa Rica  is, without a doubt, one of the best activities you can do in Central America. Thanks to its tropical climate and perfect water temperature, Costa Rica is one of the best places to see cetaceans.

Trust me when I say that  spotting whales in Costa Rica , or anywhere else in the world for that matter, is an incredible experience. Whales and dolphins are magnificent creatures and seeing them in the wild really takes your breath away.

Costa Rica whale-watching

Best Costa Rica Whale-Watching Tours

There are many whale watching tours in Costa Rica , so I’ll share the best options in this guide, as well as all the information you need to know about when to go and how to identify them.

Best Costa Rica whale watching tours

Since Costa Rica is one of the best places in the world to see dolphins and whales, there are numerous tours that you could book. To make it easier for you, I’ve chosen the best  dolphin tours in Costa Rica :

  • Whale-Watching Tour in Uvita, Costa Rica
  • Whale and Dolphin-Watching in Costa Rica (Drake Bay)
  • Whale-Watching Tour in Costa Rica from San José
  • See Dolphins in Costa Rica (Guanacaste – Playa Sámara)
  • Whale-Watching in Costa Rica (Golfo Dulce – Puerto Jiménez)
  • All-inclusive Whale-Watching Catamaran from Manuel Antonio (Costa Rica)

1. Whale-Watching Tour in Uvita, Costa Rica

If you’re looking for one of the best tours to enjoy  whale-watching in Costa Rica , I definitely recommend  this one . It’s the excursion we took, and the experience was truly incredible because we traveled through the Marino Ballena National Park in the South Pacific. This is the most popular spot for dolphin-watching in Costa Rica  and the country’s first national marine park. Here, you can see humpback whales, dolphins, and sea turtles, among other sea creatures.

In addition to providing the best odds of seeing cetaceans, the tour also includes a snorkeling session and a visit to some local caverns.

Whale-Watching Tour in Uvita, best whale-watching in Costa Rica

  • Highlights :  Marino Ballena National Park, snorkeling, and caverns
  • Starting point : Uvita, Costa Rica
  • Duration : 3-4 hours
  • Price from : $82
  • Description : This tour goes through one of the most popular places to see whales in Costa Rica , the Marino Ballena National Park, where the chances of seeing cetaceans and sea turtles are very high. It also includes snorkeling and a visit to several caverns .

2. Whale and Dolphin-Watching in Costa Rica (Drake Bay)

Another top  dolphin tour in Costa Rica  is  this one , which travels through Drake Bay. This area is one of the best places to enjoy whale-watching in Costa Rica , as several species of dolphins live here permanently. Besides, humpback whales come here every year to mate and give birth, so depending on when you go, you could see them.

During the tour, an expert guide will tell you all about the cetaceans, and you can use a hydrophone to listen to the whale sounds. You’ll also get the chance to go snorkeling and see more marine life.

Whale and Dolphin-Watching in Costa Rica, Costa Rica whale-watching season

  • Highlights : Humpback whales, dolphins, and snorkeling
  • Starting point : Aerodrome road – Drake Bay
  • Duration : 6 hours
  • Price from : $127
  • Description : Take a cruise through Drake Bay to see dolphins and humpback whales. During the tour, an expert guide will share interesting facts and let you listen to the whales on a hydrophone. This excursion includes snorkeling equipment for those who want to explore the seabed .

3. Whale-Watching Tour in Costa Rica from San José

Another one of the best Costa Rica whale-watching tours is this one , which departs from San José. From there, it travels to Dominicalito beach and goes through the Marino Ballena National Park, one of the best places to see whales and dolphins in Costa Rica . During the cruise, you’ll also get to see other marine creatures like sea turtles and manta rays.

This excursion includes some free time to enjoy the beach, as well as breakfast and transportation to and from your San José hotel. Without a doubt, it’s an excellent choice if you’re staying in the Costa Rican capital and don’t feel like driving to the coast.

Whale-Watching Tour in Costa Rica, dolphin-watching Costa Rica

  • Highlights : Dolphin and whale-watching in the Marino Ballena National Park, breakfast, and transportation from/to San José
  • Starting point : Your accommodation in San José
  • Duration : 14 hours
  • Price from : $165
  • Description : See whales in Costa Rica , as well as dolphins and other marine species as you travel through the Marino Ballena National Park. This tour also includes breakfast and transportation from and to your San José hotel .

4. See Dolphins in Costa Rica (Guanacaste – Playa Sámara)

This excursion  along Sámara beach is one of the best ways to see dolphins in Costa Rica . Here, you can spot bottlenose dolphins, pantropical spotted dolphins, and, depending on the time you go, migratory humpback whales. The tour also includes a snorkeling session and drinks, as well as hotel pick-up and drop-off.

See Dolphins in Costa Rica, orcas in Costa Rica

  • Highlights : Dolphin and whale-watching near Sámara Beach, snorkeling
  • Starting point : Your hotel
  • Duration : 3.5 hours
  • Price from : $56
  • Description : Enjoy this Costa Rica dolphin tour and spot other marine creatures while enjoying a snorkel and drinks .

5. Whale-Watching in Costa Rica (Golfo Dulce – Puerto Jiménez)

Golfo Dulce is rich in marine life, so it’s another place with some of the best dolphin-watching in Costa Rica. During this tour , you can see dolphins and other creatures, as well as travel through nearby mangroves, rivers, and dive in the reefs.

Whale-Watching in Costa Rica, best time for whale-watching in Costa Rica

  • Highlights : Dolphin-watching and diving among the reefs of the Golfo Dulce
  • Duration : 4-5 hours
  • Price from : $230
  • Description : This dolphin and whale-watching tour in Costa Rica takes you to impressive areas around Golfo Dulce, including several mangroves and reefs .

6. All-inclusive Whale-Watching Catamaran from Manuel Antonio (Costa Rica)

Finally, this catamaran tour is an excellent excursion through Manuel Antonio National Park, one of the most beautiful places to  spot whales in Costa Rica . During the tour, you’ll be able to see whales and dolphins, and you’ll also get the chance to snorkel. This cruise also includes lunch and transportation from and to your hotel.

All-inclusive Whale-Watching Catamaran, dolphin tours Costa Rica

  • Highlights : Dolphin and whale-watching, snorkeling, and lunch
  • Duration : 3-4 hours
  • Price from : $250
  • Description : Take a catamaran ride to enjoy dolphin-watching in Costa Rica with lunch and hotel pick-up/drop-off included. You’ll also get the chance to snorkel and explore the deep sea.

Best time to see whales in Costa Rica

One of the most frequently asked questions is about the best time for whale-watching in Costa Rica . This makes sense because some times of the year are better than others for booking a dolphin tour.

There are two prime times of the year for dolphin-watching in Costa Rica . One is from the end of December to the beginning of April, while the other is from the end of July to the beginning of November . While tours operate year-round, these two seasons coincide with the humpback whales’ annual migration south.

If you travel outside of these two seasons, don’t worry because dolphins live in these waters permanently, so you’ll still be able to see a variety of marine life.

Where to see whales in Costa Rica

If you’re wondering  where to see whales in Costa Rica , the answer is very simple. The Pacific Coast is the best place to spot whales and dolphins, and all Costa Rica whale-watching tours go through this area.

Dolphin-watching Costa Rica

That said, there are several specific areas to see whales and dolphins in Costa Rica . Some of the most popular ones are the Marino Ballena National Park , the Osa Peninsula, and Drake Bay. Many Costa Rica dolphin tours also go to the Manual Antonio National Park , particularly those that operate during the humpbacks’ migration period.

While there are many places and opportunities to see whales in Costa Rica , keep in mind that these are wild animals, and predicting their movements is not guaranteed. Of course, the tours that operate in this area have years of experience, so they have a good idea of where to go in Costa Rica to spot whales . Every time we’ve taken one of these tours, we’ve had an unforgettable experience.

Types of whales in Costa Rica

Now that you know when and where to see whales in Costa Rica and which are the best tours, I’ll share some information about the types of cetaceans you can see here, as well as how to easily identify them.

Humpback whales in Costa Rica

The  humpback whale  is one of the most common whales that you’ll see while whale-watching in Costa Rica. While they don’t live in the waters of Costa Rica, they spend a few months here, particularly during mating and breeding season.

Whale migration in Costa Rica

These whales belong to the family of fin whales and can measure 39 to 52 feet in length and weigh up to 35 tons, which makes them one of the largest baleen whales. You can easily recognize them by their robust bodies.

Dolphins in Costa Rica

It’s also common to see dolphins in Costa Rica , and some of them live permanently in some areas off the coast. The most common species are the bottlenose dolphin and the pantropical spotted dolphin.

The bottlenose dolphin lives in groups of over 10 and usually measures 8 to 10 feet long. It has a dark gray body that gets lighter towards the back.

The pantropical spotted dolphin is smaller, sometimes not even reaching 6 feet. Its most distinctive feature is its spotted body, particularly its back, which gets covered in more spots as it ages.

Other cetaceans in Costa Rica

In addition to the species I mentioned, there are other cetaceans you can see in Costa Rica, although they’re not as common. One of these is the false killer whale, also known as the black killer whale. It ranges from 12 to 18 feet long and can weigh up to 2 tons. Unlike actual killer whales, this one is completely gray or black.

You may also see pilot whales in Costa Rica , which can measure up to 16 feet long and weigh between 1 and 2 tons.

A species of common dolphin, this one with yellow stripes on its side, has also been spotted in Costa Rica. You may also see the acrobatic spinner dolphin  and the sperm whale , which is one of the largest toothed animals in the world. Moreover, keep an eye out for sea turtles, manta rays, and other marine species while whale-watching in Costa Rica .

Costa Rica whale-watching

Now you have all the information you need to enjoy the best whale-watching tours in Costa Rica . If you have any questions or you’d like to share your experience, leave me a comment. I know that no matter which excursion you choose, you’ll enjoy your Costa Rica dolphin tour !

Happy sailing!

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Whale Watching in Costa Rica

  • Jenn and Matt
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Costa Rica is probably best known for its wildlife on land. Monkeys, sloths, birds, and butterflies often steal the show and for good reason. But what some forget is that the waters right offshore are full of life too. Sea turtles, tropical fish, dolphins, and whales all frequent the waters of Costa Rica’s two coasts. In this post, we’ll focus on whales, specifically humpback whales, and let you know when and where you can spot these gigantic, mystical mammals. 

Whale Watching in Costa Rica

Whale Migration

Costa Rica is a prime whale watching destination. This is all thanks to the spectacular annual migration of two groups of humpback whales.

This long journey starts when temperatures in both North and South America start to cool during their respective winters. Humpbacks quickly head toward the equator where waters are warmer—and Costa Rica is one of their favorite spots.

An amazing fact is that this migration is the longest of any mammal in the world, spanning a distance of up to 5,160 miles (8,300 km). These whales can go fast too, and one was recently recorded by NOAA making a 3,000 mile (4,830 km) trip in only 36 days!

Once the whales get to Costa Rica, it’s not just about vacationing in the sun. Humpbacks congregate together and use the months that they are here to find suitable mates, breed, and rear young. The temperate waters are thought to be ideal for the growth of baby whales, even though they can already be 13-16 feet (4-5 m) long and weigh up to 1 ton (907 kg) at birth.

Whale Watching in Costa Rica | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

When You Can See Whales in Costa Rica

As we mentioned, there are two different migrations for humpback whales: one from areas to the north like Alaska and California and another from the Antarctic zone to the south. These migrations happen at different times of year but don’t overlap.

Northern humpbacks typically start to arrive in Costa Rica in December and can be seen until around April. Southern ones don’t show up until later in July and stay until the beginning of November.

This means that in Costa Rica there is a chance of seeing humpback whales for nine months out of the year!

These two migrations don’t draw the same number of whales, though, so read on to find out the best time of year to see these amazing creatures.

Costa Rica Whale Migration Chart | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

  • The Antarctic migration has the most whales and peak season is between August and October. During this time of year, your odds of seeing a humpback whale are good.
  • Some of the Alaska/California whales winter in Hawaii and other places to the north so their numbers are fewer in Costa Rica. This means that it is harder to see humpback whales during the December to April season, but not impossible. Whales are sometimes spotted on tours, especially in late December to early February, but it is more likely to see dolphins, turtles, and sea birds. 
  • There typically aren’t any humpbacks to see from April to mid-July.
  • Humpbacks in the northern Atlantic Ocean also migrate near Costa Rica (on the Caribbean Coast) but are not found in great numbers so whale watching isn’t as popular as on the Pacific.

Where to See Humpback Whales in Costa Rica

Although it is possible to see humpback whales along many parts of Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast, they tend to congregate in the Southern Pacific.

The Osa Peninsula and Gulf of Dulce have high numbers of whales as well as the beach towns of Uvita and Dominical on the Costa Ballena (Whale Coast).

Uvita is probably the town best known for whale watching. In Bahia Uvita, boats launch right from the beaches of Marino Ballena National Park (the National Whale Marine Park). This is a protected area of both land and ocean, which is known for attracting whales close to shore.

Whale Watching Tour in Costa Rica | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

Whale watching tours out of Uvita are done on smaller boats, holding about 15-25 passengers, and cost around $80-100. The focus of these tours is on whales, but you’re likely to spot dolphins, sea turtles, rays, and other marine life while out on the water as well. These tours also typically include some time for snorkeling.

While tours devoted to whale watching are most common in the Southern Zone, if you’re visiting areas in northern Costa Rica, like Guanacaste, you might still be able to witness these giants passing through. Humpbacks or other types of whales are sometimes spotted on catamaran, snorkel, or dive tours.

Whale Watching in Costa Rica | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

  • Humpbacks make spectacular displays with their fins and tails and are known to jump out of the water on occasion. Have your camera ready!
  • Males compete for females by singing songs, making elaborate bubble displays, and physically fending off one another.
  • A baby arrives about 11 months after mating and calves stay by their mother’s side for up to a year. They can often be seen touching fins to show affection.

Annual Whale and Dolphin Festival

One of the best times to take a whale watching tour is during the Annual Whale and Dolphin Festival in Uvita. This festival occurs every year during peak season, typically in early September, so your chances of spotting whales is almost guaranteed.

Abbreviated two hour whale and dolphin watching tours are given by local tour operators during the festival and there are other events like dancing and music, a beach run, mountain bike race, and lots of activities for kids too.

We attended recently and saw several whales, including a mother and calf, as well as some dolphins and a sea turtle. With the beautiful green coastline, the view from the boat alone was worth the price for admission (around $40 pp).

Whale Watching in Uvita, Costa Rica | Two Weeks in Costa Rica

Have you been whale watching in Costa Rica? Leave us a comment below. Where did you go and what did you see?

Planning a trip to the southern zone of costa rica these posts might help you out:.

  • The Costa Ballena: Dominical, Uvita, and Ojochal – Costa Ballena translates to Whale Coast so if you are looking to get out on the water to see marine life, this is your destination.
  • The Beautiful Nauyuca Waterfall – Among the Southern Zone’s best attractions. This two-tiered waterfall is one of the most impressive in Costa Rica. And you can jump in to cool off.
  • Drake Bay: Costa Rica Unplugged – Another great place to explore both land and sea. Drake Bay is a remote destination but completely worth the effort. Here you can unplug and recharge.
  • Hacienda Baru Wildlife Refuge – A little-known wildlife reserve in Dominical. One of our favorite hiking spots to see monkeys, toucans, caimen, and more.

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Whale Watching in Costa Rica

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If you hope to go whale watching in Costa Rica — you are in for an incredible experience! Costa Rica boasts the longest humpback whale season worldwide, so you have a spectacular chance at seeing humpback whales during your trip to Costa Rica — and potentially other marine life too.

Before heading to Costa Rica, read through this guide to learn everything you need to know about spotting whales in Costa Rica, including the country’s whale-watching season, where to see whales, and the best whale-watching tours in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica Whale and Dolphin Species

During your vacation, you will have the opportunity to see three species of migrating humpback whales in Costa Rica:  California Humpback Whales ,  Antarctic Whales , and  North Atlantic St. Lawrence Whales .

As we mentioned earlier, Costa Rica has the longest humpback whale season in the entire world. You will be able to see the Northern and Southern Hemisphere humpback whales passing through the waters of Costa Rica for more than ten months of the year.

It’s also common to see bottlenose dolphins, spotted dolphins, common dolphins, sea turtles, and pseudo orca whales — a species of dolphin that shares similar characteristics to killer whales — in Costa Rica. Though they aren’t as common as humpback whales,  pilot whales ,  orca whales , and  blue whales  have all been spotted off the coast of Costa Rica.

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Costa Rica Whale-Watching Season

You can see Northern Hemisphere California Humpback Whales off Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast from  December  to  March . The Southern Hemisphere Antarctic Whales migrate north from late  July  to  November . If you stay along the Caribbean Sea, you can see the North Atlantic St. Lawrence Humpback Whales trading in the cold waters of Eastern Canada for these warm waters from  December  –  March. The only place with an abundance of  both  types of whales at  both  times of year is Uvita — a town on the Osa Peninsula on the South Pacific Coast. That is why famous whale-watching destinations in this region,like Marino Ballena National Park, are widely considered the best places for whale-watching in Costa Rica.

You can see Northern Hemisphere California Humpback Whales off Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast from  December to March . The Southern Hemisphere Antarctic Whales migrate north from late  July to November .

If you stay along the Caribbean Sea, you can see the North Atlantic St. Lawrence Humpback Whales trading in the cold waters of Eastern Canada for these warm waters from December to March.

The only place with an abundance of both types of whales at both times of year is Uvita — a town on the Osa Peninsula on the South Pacific Coast. That is why famous whale-watching destinations in this region, like Marino Ballena National Park, are widely considered the best places for whale-watching in Costa Rica.

Best Months for Whale Watching in Costa Rica

The best months for seeing humpback whales in Costa Rica are  January ,  February ,  August , and  September . During these months, the humpback whales are most active because this is when they breed and raise their young. So, if you want to see baby whales, these months are the best times to visit.

If you wish to attend the Annual Whale and Dolphin Festival in Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula, plan your trip in early September, during the peak season. It’s almost guaranteed you will see a humpback whale, and you will likely see bottlenose dolphins, common dolphins, spotted dolphins, sea turtles, and sea birds during your whale-watching tour.

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Best places for costa rica whale watching.

Whether you’re searching for humpback whales, pilot whales, or bottlenose dolphins — there are plenty of opportunities to see majestic whales in Costa Rica. From the warm tropical waters of Golfo Dulce to Papagayo Bay — here are the best places to embark on a whale-watching tour in Costa Rica (moving north to south on the Pacific Coast).

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Guanacaste & North Pacific Coast

If you’re looking for somewhere to spot whales in the Guanacaste Province of Costa Rica, the  Gulf of Papagayo  (or Papagayo Bay) is your best bet. This gulf stretches from  Santa Rosa National Park  to other beaches in the south, like  Playas del Coco  and  Playa Hermosa . It is most common to see humpback whales here in July and August.

While it may be less common, you can also see humpback whales off the coast of other beaches in Guanacaste, like  Playa Flamingo  or Tamarindo, as the humpbacks migrate from the cold northern or southern waters to the warmer waters of Central America.

Central Pacific Coast

guanacaste whale watching tours

Manuel Antonio National Park , located at the center of Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast, is a beloved tourist destination for its golden-sand beaches, excellent surfing, and exotic wildlife, like monkeys and sloths. However, it’s not unusual to see humpback whales or dolphins off the coast of this popular national park during June, July, and August.

South Pacific Coast

The further you move down the Pacific Coast — the better chance you’ll have at seeing whales. That is why Uvita, a town between Manuel Antonio National Park and the Osa Peninsula, is one of the best places for spotting whales and dolphins.

The national park in Uvita —  Marino Ballena National Park  — was created to protect the waters around this town since it’s a popular spot for humpback whales to come to breed, nurse their young, and teach them how to dive, feed, and play. For the best chance of seeing whales at  Marino Ballena National Park , visit from August to October. However, the official whale-watching season lasts from August to April.

Fun Fact:  At low tide, the ocean waters in Marino Ballena National Park retreat to reveal a sandbar in the shape of a whale’s tail, nicknamed the “Whale’s Tail Sandbar.”

Osa Peninsula

Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula, located on the Southern Pacific Coast, is one of the best locations in the entire country to embark on a whale-watching tour.

Popular places to see whales on the Osa Peninsula include  Drake Bay  and  Golfo Dulce . Drake Bay is located on the northwestern side of the peninsula, whereas Golfo Dulce stretches between the Osa Peninsula and  Piedras Blancas National Park . The shallow, protected, calm waters in both locations provide the perfect place for humpback whales (usually Southern Antarctic Humpback Whales) to raise their calves. Hotels on the Osa Peninsula can typically arrange whale or dolphin tours in these two popular whale-watching locations.

Top Costa Rica Whale-Watching Tours

While there are plenty of opportunities to see whales and dolphins on the Northern or Central Coast of the Pacific Ocean, most official whale-watching tours in Costa Rica will depart from the Osa Peninsula or Southern Pacific Coast.

guanacaste whale watching tours

  • Whale-Watching Tours in Guanacaste:  There aren’t many (if any) whale-watching tours offered in Guanacaste. However, you can book a snorkeling excursion, sunset sailing adventure, or fishing tour for the chance of a whale and dolphin sighting while you’re on the high seas.
  • Whale-Watching Tours in Manuel Antonio:  Similarly to Guanacaste, there are no specific whale-watching tours on the Central Pacific Coast. However, consider booking a catamaran or sunset sailing excursion in August or September if you want to see a whale or dolphin.
  • Whale-Watching Tours in Uvita:  Uvita is located on the Costa Ballena (Whale Coast) of Costa Rica. Here, you can find plenty of tour providers offering whale or dolphin tours. Popular providers are  Dolphin Tours ,  Bahia Adventures ,  Ballena Tour Costa Rica , and  Ballena Aventura .
  • Whale-Watching Tours in Drake Bay:  There are plenty of whale and dolphin-watching tours that depart from Drake Bay. Popular tour providers include  The Divine Dolphin  and  Pelagic Boat Tours, Scuba, and Sport Fishing .

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Whale watching costa rica: longest season in the world.

There is no place like Costa Rica for watching wales as it has the longest humpback whale season in the world. So, if you are looking for an encounter with the ocean’s gentle giants, your odds are pretty good here.

The spectacular jumps of the humpback whales

Do you want to see the spectacular jumps of the humpback whales? For many people this is a big dream. And now you have the possibility to make that dream come true! Seeing a jump of these giants is an unforgettable moment that will give you goosebumps.  

Whale watching Costa Rica. Where to see them in Costa Rica?

The best chance to see whales in Costa Rica is in Uvita, in the Marina Ballena National Park. Other places, next to Uvita, where you can find them in Costa Rica are Drake Bay, Guanacaste or Golfo Dulce. However, Uvita is the number 1 whale watching destination in Costa Rica.

Where can I book a whale watching tour in Costa Rica?

You have come to the right place for booking a whale tour when in Costa Rica! We offer whale tours in Uvita that you will love. Our tour offers the best and most memorable experience you can have. You can either choose to depart in the morning or in the afternoon. Our experienced guides will take you to the open sea to spot whales and other marine life such as dolphins and turtles. Also, there will be a stop for some snorkeling! You will learn so much about the giants of the ocean.

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Costa Rica, with its stunning coastline and rich marine biodiversity, offers an exceptional opportunity for whale watching enthusiasts. Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, this tropical paradise provides a unique setting to witness the awe-inspiring presence of whales. Let’s explore the enchanting world of whale watching in Costa Rica, highlighting the unusual whale species that frequent its waters and the best locations to embark on this unforgettable coastal adventure.

Humpback Whales in Costa Rica

Whale watching season in Costa Rica spans from July to November, offering the prime opportunity to witness these magnificent creatures in their natural environment. While whales adhere to their own schedules, they may adjust their patterns if necessary. Therefore, it is recommended to select an experienced captain who can anticipate their behavior when planning a whale tour. Undeniably, the most favorable location for whale sightings is Uvita , situated on the Pacific coast. This area has become a preferred habitat for these majestic animals, increasing the likelihood of encountering both adult whales and their offspring. Our whale watching tours provide an enjoyable day at sea, allowing you to create lasting memories in the company of these incredible creatures.

Whale Watching Tour from Uvita

Uvita is renowned as the ultimate destination for whale watching in Costa Rica. This coastal gem serves as a vital birthing and nurturing ground, where these magnificent creatures migrate to give birth and impart essential knowledge to their young. It’s important to note that this remarkable phenomenon is not year-round, making it advisable to visit Costa Rica during the migration season to witness the whales in action. Our whale watching tours in Uvita commence from the beach, providing you with a remarkable opportunity to explore Marino Ballena National Park and witness the awe-inspiring presence of these majestic creatures up close.

Whale Watching with Costa Rica Divers

At our company, we take pride in organizing our whale watching tours with meticulous planning and a focus on providing an exceptional experience. Our utmost priority is ensuring the comfort and satisfaction of our clients, as we believe that every moment spent with us should be memorable. As the only authorized PADI dive center in Uvita, we offer top-quality services, complete with our own training pool and fully equipped dive center. It is our commitment to transparency that sets us apart – we do not impose any additional fees, ensuring a hassle-free and enjoyable experience for all our valued customers.

Whale Watching Tour with Costa Rica Divers

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guanacaste whale watching tours

Embarking on a whale watching excursion in their natural habitat is an extraordinary way to witness the grandeur of these magnificent creatures. We invite you to join us on a thrilling adventure where you will have the incredible opportunity to observe the awe-inspiring humpback whales. During this expedition, you will marvel at their annual migration journey, a remarkable spectacle to behold.

Whale Watching in Uvita

If you are eager to delve deeper into the world of whales and their seasonal patterns, we recommend reading the comprehensive study titled “ Whale Watching in Costa Rica – Identifying the Best Locations .” This study provides valuable insights into the optimal places for encountering these majestic beings.

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What does the price include?

The price of our whale tour encompasses all the necessary elements to ensure your comfortable experience while observing whales in their natural environment. It is important to note that our price is final and already includes all applicable local taxes. We are committed to transparency, and therefore, we do not impose any additional fees . Rest assured that everything you need for a seamless and enjoyable whale watching adventure is included in the tour price.

With us, you’ll receive the dedicated guidance of a skilled instructor and a professional approach throughout your dive. Additionally, all the necessary scuba diving equipment will be provided as part of the package. It’s worth mentioning that our price is all-inclusive, and it already covers any applicable local taxes. Rest assured, we have a transparent pricing policy and do not impose any additional fees . Your focus can solely be on enjoying the incredible underwater adventure that awaits you.

What does the experience look like?

Your exciting whale watching journey will commence at our office, where you will receive a warm welcome and a refreshing bottle of water. Once all the necessary formalities are completed, we will transport you to the designated location where our boat eagerly awaits. Under the guidance of our experienced captain, we will navigate to the finest spots where we have the highest chances of encountering magnificent whales.

It is important to bear in mind that these are wild animals, and while we make every effort to maximize the likelihood of sightings, there may be occasions when external factors prevent us from encountering them. Nonetheless, rest assured that your chances of witnessing these majestic creatures are truly remarkable! In addition to whales, we may also have the privilege of observing dolphins, various fish, and a diverse array of avian species. It promises to be a day filled with awe and wonder!

Rules during whale watching

During the tour, snacks and beverages will be available on the boat, ensuring you stay refreshed and energized throughout the experience. Please note that swimming with whales is strictly prohibited in Costa Rica. You will not be able to enter the water in close proximity to these magnificent creatures.

However, you will have the opportunity to observe them up close, marveling at their grandeur and beauty. After the tour, we will return to our office, providing an opportunity to reflect on the captivating impressions and moments shared during this unforgettable adventure.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What whales in costa rica can you see.

Humpback whales are the most commonly observed whale species in Costa Rica, as they migrate through its waters for over six months of the year. Remarkably, Costa Rica boasts the longest humpback whale watching season globally, as it serves as a transit route for both Northern and Southern Hemisphere whales. In addition to humpback whales, Costa Rica is occasionally visited by other whale species that reside in the deep ocean. Bryde’s Whales, for instance, can also be spotted off the coast of Costa Rica. While not as frequent, sightings of orcas have been reported, although they are considered uncommon in these waters.

When can you see whales in Costa Rica?

Whales can be observed in Costa Rica during specific periods of the year. The whale watching season in Costa Rica typically runs from July to November, providing the best opportunities for encountering these majestic creatures. This timeframe coincides with the annual migration of humpback whales, making it the prime season to witness their impressive displays. It’s important to note that the exact timing of whale sightings may vary, as it is influenced by natural factors and the behavior of the whales themselves. However, planning a visit to Costa Rica within the designated whale watching season increases the chances of experiencing these incredible marine encounters.

Can you swim with whales in Costa Rica?

Swimming with whales is prohibited in Costa Rica. It is important to respect the natural habitat of these magnificent creatures and maintain a safe distance to ensure their well-being and your own safety. While you won’t be able to swim in close proximity to the whales, you will still have the opportunity to observe them up close and appreciate their beauty and grace during a whale watching tour. Admiring these incredible animals from a respectful distance allows for a memorable and responsible experience while preserving their natural behaviors and habitat.

What is the minimum age for whale watching?

Even the smallest children can be taken on a whale watching tour, as it is a unique attraction for everyone. Pregnant women can also take part in our tours. Children under the age of 4 do not have to pay!

What is the duration of the tour?

The whale watching tour begins at 8am at our office and lasts about three hours. Depending on the season, we can also start the tour at 12 noon.

What is the best place to see whales?

Uvita , located on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, is widely regarded as the best place to see whales in the country. This scenic coastal region has become a favored destination for whale sightings, particularly humpback whales. Uvita offers a unique combination of favorable environmental conditions and abundant marine resources, making it an ideal habitat for these magnificent creatures. The waters around Uvita provide excellent opportunities for whale watching, with a higher likelihood of encountering both adult whales and their young. If you are seeking the best place to witness the awe-inspiring presence of whales in Costa Rica, Uvita should be at the top of your list.

What is the cancellation policy?

We acknowledge that unforeseen circumstances may arise, leading to the need for reservation cancellations. However, kindly bear in mind that our operations take place within a national park, necessitating meticulous organization for each tour for whale watching in Costa Rica. As a result, we kindly request you to review our comprehensive cancellation policy, which can be found here: Cancellation Policy .

What language is the tour in?

Whale watching tours in Costa Rica are mainly conducted in English and Spanish. However, we also have the option of providing guides who speak other languages, such as French or Polish. We encourage you to contact us about this.

How experienced are the guides?

Our guides are both highly experienced and certified as licensed guides, making them highly qualified to lead tour groups. Their in-depth experience and knowledge allows them to provide an exceptional whale watching experience in Ksotaryka for every participant.

What if I have more questions?

If you have any questions or need additional information about the PADI Search and Recovery course in Costa Rica, we encourage you to contact us without hesitation. Our main goal is to help you and provide answers to all your questions. Our team is fully committed to providing comprehensive information to make your diving experience truly exceptional. Contact us at your convenience and we will be happy to provide you with prompt assistance.

Or maybe you fancy going on Isla del Cano?

Whale watching is a great attraction but Costa Rica has more to offer. Go snorkeling on Isla del Cano!

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Whale watching is an amazing experience that you will remember for ever

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    Half-Day Dolphin Watching and Snorkeling in Samara. 11. On the Water. 4 hours. Join us on this half-day Dolphin Watching and Snorkeling. Relax and explore the Samara Beach area. You will have the chance…. Free cancellation. Recommended by 90% of travelers.

  13. Costa Rica Whale Watching Tour Guide: Where To Go When

    Whale watching tours and snorkeling excursions are your best bets to see them. ... Nearly all of the hotels in the area can arrange whale and dolphin tours here. Papagayo Bay, Guanacaste. Located on the North Pacific coast of Costa Rica in the Guanacaste province, the protected Papagayo Bay seems to be an up and coming destination for whales ...

  14. 6 Best Costa Rica Whale-Watching Tours

    3. Whale-Watching Tour in Costa Rica from San José. Another one of the best Costa Rica whale-watching tours is this one, which departs from San José.From there, it travels to Dominicalito beach and goes through the Marino Ballena National Park, one of the best places to see whales and dolphins in Costa Rica.During the cruise, you'll also get to see other marine creatures like sea turtles ...

  15. Marino Ballena National Park Whale-Watching Tour 2024

    Go whale watching in the waters of Costa Rica's Marino Ballena National Park with this tour. You'll take a morning boat tour out to sea, where you'll have a good chance of spotting whales, dolphins, and even turtles. You'll also have time to snorkel and visit sea caves during your expedition. Go whale-watching and visit caves and snorkel ...

  16. Whale Watching in Costa Rica

    Whale watching tours out of Uvita are done on smaller boats, holding about 15-25 passengers, and cost around $80-100. The focus of these tours is on whales, but you're likely to spot dolphins, sea turtles, rays, and other marine life while out on the water as well. These tours also typically include some time for snorkeling.

  17. Whale Watching in Uvita

    whale watching essentials. Where / Uvita, a town on the southern Pacific coast, is the best place in Costa Rica to see whales. When / Two distinct whale-watching seasons in the year. How / Only possible with a tour in a boat. Cost / Average tour price is $60-80 USD per person. Book / A tour in advance - this one has great reviews.

  18. Ultimate Whale-Watching Guide to Costa Rica

    On a whale and dolphin watching trip, you'll see a myriad of other beautiful wildlife, including turtles and pelicans diving for fish in the sea. This NP is found about 180kms (111 miles) south west of the capital, San Jose, and trips can be booked through one of the many reputable agencies in Uvita, Bahai Ballena.

  19. Whale Watching in Costa Rica

    Whale-Watching Tours in Manuel Antonio: Similarly to Guanacaste, there are no specific whale-watching tours on the Central Pacific Coast. However, consider booking a catamaran or sunset sailing excursion in August or September if you want to see a whale or dolphin.

  20. THE TOP 10 Costa Rica Whale Watching Tours (w/Prices)

    3 Hours Private Sunset Cruise at Dreams Las Mareas. 22. Nothing more magical than a beautiful Costa Rica sunset onboard. Book our Sunset Private Tour and From 3:00 PM - to 6:00 PM This is a boat Sunset trip with, Snorkeling, Fishing and Whales and Dolphins Watching.

  21. Whale watching Costa Rica

    Special Offer. We are offering a temporarily 10% discount on our Whale watching tour. Book this memorable experience now online and save 10%. Info & Tickets. Whale watching Costa Rica? Costa Rica has the longest season in the world. In Uvita you have the biggest chance to spot whales.

  22. Go whale and dolphin watching

    The best place to go whale watching in Costa Rica is the country's Pacific coast, as humpback whales migrate through the region between late July and November and again between December and March. Perhaps the best place to see these majestic creatures is the Osa Peninsula, located in the southern portion of Puntarenas Province.

  23. Whale Watching in Costa Rica

    Our whale watching tours provide an enjoyable day at sea, allowing you to create lasting memories in the company of these incredible creatures. Whale Watching Tour from Uvita. Uvita is renowned as the ultimate destination for whale watching in Costa Rica. This coastal gem serves as a vital birthing and nurturing ground, where these magnificent ...