Bahia Ballena is a small town on the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica, within the canton of Osa, in the region known as Costa Ballena. Commonly referred to as part of Uvita, Bahia Ballena is located just 15 minutes south of the popular surf town of Dominical. Bahia Ballena is a breath of fresh air for travelers looking to enjoy the natural beauty of the southern Pacific region, as well as the laid-back charm of a small, authentic Tico town.
Whether you are looking to enjoy the solitude of a pristine beach, take a surfing lesson, snorkel the clear waters of Cano Island, or hike through the jungle, Bahia Ballena is the perfect place to spend inordinate amounts of relax-time and/or use as a jumping base for nearby attractions.
Bahia Ballena, which literally means “Whale Bay”, has its name for two reasons:
- At low tide the sandbar on the north end of the Ballena Marine National Park beach forms into what from above looks like a giant whale’s tail.
- Bahia Ballena’s location on the Pacific Ocean gives it a fairly stable water temperature year round, providing the perfect place for whales from both the north and south to give birth. For this reason, there is not one but two whale watching seasons in this lucky town, the major tourist attractions of the area.
Though certain parts of the South Pacific region can be difficult to access during the rainy season, Bahia Ballena is reachable year-round. The weather is typically hot and sunny most of the day and most of the year, though bear in mind that Costa Rica is a tropical country with lots of rainfall and high levels of humidity.The rainy season starts in late June and can last through parts of November, with the rainiest months being September and October. During the dry season, Bahia Ballena, like the rest of the south Pacific, is ideal for family-friendly vacations and outdoor adventures.
Tourist Attractions & Activities in Bahia Ballena
The Marino Ballena National Park, which borders Bahia Ballena, is the greatest tourist attraction in the area and an iconic landmark for the communities that surround it. Caño Island is another attraction that is popular among visitors — a one hour 15-minute boat trip from Bahia Ballena.
In terms of activities and tours available in and around Bahia Ballena, it is possible to find:
- Surf Lessons
- Surf Tours
- Yoga Classes
- Stand-up Paddle Board Lesssons
- Stand-up Paddle Board Tours
- Snorkeling Tours
- Whale and Dolphin Watching Tours
- Nature Hikes
- Canopy Tours
- Diving Tours
- Horseback Riding
- Sport Fishing Tours
Those looking for more relaxing activities can walk to the famous “Whale’s Tail” at Uvita Point, drive to a local waterfall and enjoy a swim in the freshwater pools, or sunbath at any of the local palm-lined beaches.
Hotels in Bahia Ballena
Within the town of Bahia Ballena there are a number of reasonably priced lodging options. Most are locally-owned cabinas but travelers will also find an affordable, cooperative-run eco-lodge.
Here’s a list of accommodation options located in Bahia Ballena:
- Hotel Bahia Azul
- Bungalows Ballena
- Luz de Luna
- Hotel Canto de Ballenas
- Cabinas Esmo
- La Fiore De Bahia
Travelers can also find lodging options in nearby Uvita and Ballena. It is also possible to find more luxurious accommodations outside of proper Bahia Ballena, as well as house rentals which can be a great setup for families or groups of four or more people.
Restaurants in Bahia Ballena
Bahia Ballena has a number of “Sodas”, typical Costa Rican restaurants, as well as restaurants that serve American dishes.
List of sodas and restaurants:
- Restaurante Los Delfines
- Restaurante Bahia Azul
- La Fogata
- Restaurante Marino Ballena
- La Fiore De Bahia Restaurant
- The Dome
The hours of operation for these eateries vary. If you find them closed you may want to check out places to eat in Uvita or Dominical.
How To Get To Bahia Ballena
It is possible to get to Bahia Ballena (from San Jose) by bus, car, or a combination of flying and driving/taking a bus.
The quickest way to arrive to Bahia Ballena is to take a domestic flight from San Jose to Quepos. Once in Quepos it is possible to rent a car and drive yourself to Bahia Ballena by taking the Costanera Highway south. It is approximately a 45-minute drive from Quepos to Bahia Ballena. Another option is to take a bus from Quepos to Bahia Ballena, approximately a 90 minute bus ride.
Depending on your travel plans, another option is to rent a car in San Jose and drive yourself all the way to Bahia Ballena. The quickest route is to head from San Jose towards Jaco and then continue southward on the Costanera Highway. Bahia Ballena is approximately a three hour drive from San Jose by car. Another option is to head over the mountains towards San Isidro El General (also known as “Perez Zeledon”) and from there head west towards Dominical, where the road will intersect with the Costanera Highway and you will continue south.
To arrive by bus, take a bus from San Jose to Dominical (approximately a six hour bus ride) and then a bus from Dominical to Bahia Ballena.
Other Tourist Services in Bahia Ballena
Tourists can find all the services they need in or around Bahia Ballena. Restaurants, grocery stores, internet cafes, banks, ATMs, and car rental services are all available. Hospital services and a police station are available in Uvita, a 3 minute drive from Bahia Ballena.
Other popular activities near Bahia Ballena include: