The beach at Bahia Ballena lies within the limits of the Ballena Marine National Park, stretching from Playa Uvita, also referred to as Punta Uvita (or “the whale tail”), all the way to the river mouth on the south end. Located just 15 minutes South of Dominical, Bahia Ballena is a little-known gem that offers visitors a much more relaxed environment where one can enjoy the outdoors without all the hustle and bustle of the popular tourist destinations.
The surf at Bahia Ballena is quite consistent with soft-breaking waves averaging about three to five feet in height (chest to head-high) and offering length of rides up to 150 yards long. In addition, the crowds are pretty much non-existent and safety risks are minimal. All these factors make Bahia Ballena a well-suited surf break for beginner and intermediate surfers.
Playa Colonia is a beach break wave, which means that one can find waves along the entire stretch of beach, although the southern end, known to locals as “Playa Chaman”, is the more consistent and frequented by surfers. At the north end of the beach there is a small river mouth which occasionally will produce a sand bar with some waves, but this is not very consistent. The southern end has a larger river mouth which makes for good waves, as well as for some rip currents, so be cautious if you are a beginner. It is possible to find waves between these two river mouths, it just depends on the presence of sand bars.
Bahia Ballena Wave Information
- Best Swell Size: Chest to Overhead
- Best Swell direction: SW
- Best Wind direction: E
- Best Season: June to September is the biggest due to tropical storms
- Type of break: Beach break with river mouth
- Bottom: Sand
- Consistency: Consistent, though not as consistent as Dominical.
- Best tide: Medium to High
- Best Suited for: Beginner and Intermediate
- Access: There are multiple entry points to the beach, two of which have vehicle access up to the palm tree line. The Southern-most entry is closest to the surf break. There is a $6/person entry fee because the beach sits within the Ballena Marine National Park.
- Crowd factor: None
- Potential Dangers: Stingrays, rip currents, jellyfish
Bahia Ballena is one of the safest places to learn how to surf in the South Pacific of Costa Rica. The natural land formations that are present create a small bay (hence the name “Bahia Ballena” or “Whale’s Bay”) which help protect the beach from being completely exposed to the open ocean swells and currents. On the north end the famous Whale’s Tail acts as a barrier and on the southern end there are a series of islands which prevent South swells from rolling through unobstructed. As a result of these natural obstacles, less experienced surfers will find favorable conditions that will be conducive to the improvement of their surfing ability.
Despite conditions being much safer than at other beaches, it is important that surfers remain aware of their surroundings and of potential threats. As with other beaches, potential hazards at Playa Bahia Ballena include stingrays, jellyfish, and rip currents. It’s also worth pointing out that one very significant danger exists on land, and that is a falling coconut. This is particularly true during the rainy season when rain, wind, and lightning are more likely to cause the fall of coconuts from palm trees.
Like at most Costa Rican beaches, there are no lifeguards on duty at Bahia Ballena beach. In case of an emergency you may get some assistance from the park rangers that are on duty, but keep in mind that for the most part these individuals are without vehicles and only count with a walkie talkie or cell phone for communication.
Things To Do in Bahia Ballena
Bahia Ballena is not the typical bustling tourist town. It has a very laid back vibe where visitors can truly experience the concept of “Tico time” and opportunities to experience nature abound. Here’s a list of some of the more popular activities around Bahia Ballena:
- Whale watching
- Surf lessons
- Boat tours
- Kayaking tours
- Hike to waterfalls
- Bird watching
- Visit Cano Island and the Ballena Marine National Park