Are you excited about the amazing Costa Rica Whale Watching tours to really spice up your vacation? This handy guide will help you plan your next excursion. You’ll learn about different types of whales and the best places to visit in the best times of year to see them. I’ll also tell you about the top whale-watching tours in the beautiful country of Costa Rica.
Which Whales Are Viewable during Costa Rica Whale Watching Tours?
More commonly than any other whale, the humpback whale is the most visible because it passes through Costa Rica during six months of the year. As a matter of fact, the longest whale-watching season in the world takes place in Costa Rica. Why? Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere whales regularly pass by.
There are other whales that you’ll get to see during a whale-watching excursion. These ocean-dwellers include orcas (which unfortunately aren’t common) and Bryde’s Whales are commonly spotted in Costa Rica. The other possibility is Pilot Whales, which aren’t technically wells but the second largest oceanic dolphin.
The Best Times to Go Whale Watching for Humpback Whales in Costa Rica
Humpback whale season in Costa Rica is actually split up into two different parts. It starts in December and lasts all the way to the middle of March. Then it starts in the middle or end of July and lasts all the way to the middle of October. There’s a small beach on the South Pacific Coast named Uvita best known for its tremendous abundance of humpback whales, which can be seen during both parts of the whale watching season. For this reason alone, we consider Uvita the best place in all of Costa Rica to view humpback whales.
But what are the best months of the year to view these majestic creatures? In Costa Rica, it’s best to view humpback whales in January, February, August, and September. During these months of the year, these wells are a lot more active, and they’re much more abundantly available for sightseeing. They focus on breathing and caring for their young during this time. Nevertheless, August and September are their most active months and perfect for daily sightings. So if you plan on visiting Costa Rica for a whale watching tour, I highly recommend choosing either August or September to get the best bang for your buck.
Although I’d like to point out that there is lots of humpback whale activity in the month of March, so this is also a good month to see them if the summer months are impossible. Their activity tends to start around mid-March.
The months to avoid include April and July. Why? They are the tail end and beginning months of whale watching season. The opportunities to view humpback whales are few and far between during this time.
Costa Rica Humpback Whales
There are two types of humpback whales that pass through Costa Rica. There are the humpbacks from the northern hemisphere and the ones from the southern hemisphere as well.
From the southern hemisphere, these humpback whales travel all the way from Antarctica to Costa Rica and do so from late July to October.
From the northern hemisphere, humpback whales make their way from Alaska to Central America during the months of December to March.
Because these whales come from both hemispheres, they make it possible for Costa Rica to have the humpback whale season that’s the longest in the world!
Costa Rica Whales & The Best Places to See Them
Two fantastic places to see whales and many dolphins at Osa Peninsula are Golfito (Golfo Dulce) and Drake Bay.
Gulf of Papagayo (Guanacaste)
In the Gulf of Papagayo, it’s common to see humpback whales between the months of July to September. I’ve been here personally and visited in July and August and was lucky enough to see multiple whales in the area while I was staying here.
You can find humpback whales here between December and March, but it isn’t very common most of the time, although you’ll have a better chance of seeing them in February. I visited in February 2021 and was lucky enough to spot a mom and baby on their way to Santa Rosa National Park.
There aren’t any dedicated Gulf of Papaguyo/Guanacaste whale watching tours at the moment, which is unfortunate. But if you were to go on a snorkeling or beach hopping tour, you’re bound to see them during the months mentioned above.
Suggested Reading: The Best list of Things to Pack for Costa Rica
There are boat tours that happen out of Flamingo and Tamarindo, which are great ways to see humpback whales. Sailing tours in August and September specifically take tourists to look for the whales.
Last year in August, I was visiting Las Catalinas Islands and I was lucky enough to see a humpback whale breaching during this trip, which was truly amazing!
Marino Ballena National Park is located in Uvita. This area was created specifically to keep the waters here safe and protected. It’s also one of the best places in Costa Rica to get a good look at humpback whales up close and personal. You’ll have the best chance possible to see humpback whales when visiting here.
In fact, you’ll have a great chance at seeing mom and baby whales together because mothers are nursing their young and teaching them how to feed, dive, and breach. The babies are playful and it’s often possible to see them splashing around in the water while practicing jumping.
Gulf of Nicoya
This is another excellent place to see whales. They are around in August and September. The Tortuga Island day cruise is a great way to spot them.
The Manuel Antonio catamaran cruise provides opportunities to see humpback whales during August and September, but there is no guarantee.
Whale Watching Tours in Costa Rica
- Manuel Antonio Whale Watching Tours – go on a catamaran cruise in August or September or any time during whale watching season. Some companies even go to Uvita for better whale watching opportunities.
- Tamarindo Whale Watching Tours – there aren’t tours specifically focused on whale watching. But they have catamaran and sailing tours including Dream Chaser, Antares, and Marlin del Rey, which have excellent tours between July and October.
- Flamingo Whale Watching Tours – boating companies in Flamingo offer tours between July and September that make it possible to see whales.
- Playas del Coco/Gulf of Papaguyo Whale Watching Tours – there aren’t specific tours dedicated to whale watching, but there are opportunities to get involved with catamaran sailing tours or private boat tours. The best months are July, August, September, January, and February. In truth, your best bet at seeing whales is to take a private boating tour while visiting the area. The boat captain is usually in communication with other boat captains, which means they share information when whales are spotted. This isn’t going to happen on an open tour because they have a set schedule and set route that they must follow. A private tour can take you directly to the whales after they are spotted.
- Uvita Whale Watching Tours – humpback whales are everywhere in Uvita, so you’ll have no trouble finding companies providing specific whale-watching tours during the season. I took a trip here twice and I can happily report that I saw whales both times.
- Drake Bay whale Watching Tours – there is a whale watching and dolphin watching tour company called Divine Dolphin that operates in this area.
Important Information about Costa Rica Whale Watching Tours
Discover Costa Rica Whale Watching Tours in Drake Bay and Uvita during Both Seasons
While visiting Costa Rica, you should make it a point to stay in Uvita for a dedicated period of time and add it to your itinerary if you’re coming here to see humpback whales. In fact, they have some of the best whale-watching tours in the world in Uvita, so you won’t be disappointed!
Anti-Nausea Medication Is a Must
It’s very easy for people to get seasick on a rocking boat. Instead of leaving this to chance and potentially ruining your trip, you should take anti-nausea medication to keep seasickness at bay.
No Swimming with Whales or Dolphins in Costa Rica
You are not allowed to get close to them, touch them, or swim with them.
Nature Is Incredibly Unpredictable
I know that I’ve talked about the dry season and rainy season in Costa Rica, but you never know what’s going to happen with nature. It’s completely unpredictable, which means you may not see whales even if it happens to be whale watching season. Your best bet is to take a whale watching tour in Uvita or Drake Bay during August or September. This will maximize your chances of knocking this experience off of your bucket list once and for all.
Uvita Whale Watching Tour Information
There is a whale watching tour that departs directly from Marino Ballena National Park. These tours are shared, so you aren’t going to get a private tour. Each boat holds as many as 20 guests per trip. For adults, it costs $80 per person and $52 per child. Taxes and fees apply. These rates are only valid until November 30, 2023. The tour company will update their rates at this time.
The tour includes a boat, captain, insurance, fruit, water, lifejackets, snorkel gear, a guide, and entrance fees.