Located just 17 km south of Dominical, Playa Uvita is a small town with a laid-back vibe that’s growing in popularity. Located along Costa Ballena, Playa Uvita has plenty to offer as a travel destination. It’s home to a marine reserve, Marino Ballena National Park, is located in close proximity to Manuel Antonio National Park, as well as coastal mountains, beautiful beaches and nearby waterfalls.
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Uvita is known for its rich biodiversity, encompassing diverse ecosystems such as rainforests, mangroves, and beaches. The area is home to variety of wildlife, including numerous bird species, such as broad-wing hawks, tropical mockingbirds, scarlet macaws, yellow-throated toucans, parrots and more. The beaches and surrounding waters also support abundant marine life, including sea turtles, dolphins, and various fish species.
Utiva is a nature lover’s paradise, and a little hidden gem adding unique character to the region. It is definitely worth a spot on your South Pacific Costa Rica itinerary.
Our Vlog Exploring Punta Uvita, Costa Rica
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How to Get to Uvita, Costa Rica?
Uvita is located along Costa Ballena (literally translated as Whale Coast) – a region in Southern Costa Rica, along Coastal Highway 34 (Costanera Sur), about an hour south of the popular Manuel Antonio National Park. The rugged shoreline stretches from Playa Dominical to Ojochal and features miles of unspoiled nature.
By Bus: Public transportation to Uvita is limited, but it is possible to get to the area without a car if you do not plan on driving in Costa Rica.
Head over to Bookaway, our recommended transportation aggregator, to search for buses, shuttles, and other transportation options to and from Uvita.
By Car: The easiest way to get to Uvita is by driving. The town is about 3.5 hours south of San Jose on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Having your own vehicle will allow you to easily get around Uvita and see many of the area’s top attractions.
First time driving in Costa Rica? Be sure to read our post to learn all about the challenging of driving here!
Book the Best Car Rental in Costa Rica
Renting a car in Costa Rica can be one of the most challenging parts of your visit! Unfortunately, car rentals in Costa Rica often come with significan thidden insurance fees, result in many frustrations at pick-up. The experience has ruined many trips and ballooned trip budgets for friends, family and followers. After years of not having a good solution, we finally found an honest car rental company that we proudly recommend to our readers.
We recommend booking with Vamos Costa Rica – a local car rental company that offers fantastic service and NO HIDDEN FEES and get 10% of your rental rate plus FREE additional driver, FREE child seat and other perks and benefits when booking through our link below!
Book early as rental car availability all across Costa Rica is currently lower than demand!
Best Things to do in Uvita, Costa Rica
1. Stroll Through the Quiet Town of Uvita, Costa Rica
Playa Uvita is an ideal destination for a less crowded experience. This quiet little town is not overrun with tourism; it’s unspoilt, very tranquil, and representative of many other small towns in Costa Rica.
The town centre comprises of only a few streets with a few shops, a few eating establishments, and souvenir shops.
A short distance from the entrance to Playa Uvita, you’ll find a small farmers’ market. It’s a great spot to soak up the atmosphere, meet the locals, and can buy local produce such as honey, fruit and vegetables, and home-cooked foods.
2. Visit Marina Ballena National Park
The Marina Ballena National Park is definitely one of the top things to do while staying in Punta Uvita, Costa Rica. This marine reserve protects over 13,000 acres of ocean and 9 miles of coastline. With mangrove forests, coral reefs, and wild beaches, it’s the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle.
The park is named after the humpback whales that migrate through the area between May and October. The park also contains several beaches, including Playa Uvita, which is known for its natural rock formations that form the shape of a whale’s tail during low tide.
Thanks to its coral reefs and diverse marine life, Marina Ballena National Park is also a popular destination for snorkeling and scuba diving. The park is home to over 18 species of marine animals, including dolphins, sea turtles, stingrays, and various species of tropical fish.
There are also several hiking trails in the park, including one that leads to a lookout point with views of the surrounding coastline.
3. Take a Walk to the Whale’s Tail
As mentioned before, the “Whale’s Tail” is a natural rock and sand formation located at the southern end of Playa Uvita, a beach within the Marina Ballena National Park in Costa Rica.
During low tide, the formation resembles the shape of a whale’s tail, hence the name. Although you can only see the full extent of the whale’s tail from above, the point, also known as Punta Uvita, has become a popular attraction in Uvita. It offers a unique and beautiful viewpoint of the surrounding coastline.
Punta Uvita is only accessible at low tide and for only about 3 hours a day. Be sure to check the tide chart before you go and double-check with a local for advice. It’s really easy to lose track of time while enjoying the gentle waves of Punta Uvita and find yourself waddling through knee-deep waters as the tide raises on your way back.
4. Go Whale Watching Tour
The best time to spot humpback whales in Uvita and the surrounding area is from mid-July to October for the Southern Hemisphere whales, and from late December to February for the Northern Hemisphere whales.
During these times, several companies in Uvita run Whale Watching Tours. The tours typically depart from Uvita Beach and take you out to catch a glimpse of whales in their natural habitat. Whale sightings are not guaranteed but are frequent during the migration season. One of the best rated whale watching tour operators in the area is Bahia Adventures, that offers Dolphin and Whale Watching tours for around $80/pp.
5. Go Beach Hopping
Playa Uvita is arguably the most beautiful beach in the region, but it’s not just Playa Uvita that attracts visitors to this area. There are 5 other beaches worth checking out, including Playa Ventanas, Playa Pinuela, and Playa Hermosa.
Playa Ventanas was our favourite, thanks to the unique caves that surround its shores. The beach wasn’t suitable for swimming when we visited due to bad rip tides, but it offered a perfect setting for a day of hanging out in a hammock.
READ NEXT: Best Beaches in Costa Rica
6. Check out the Hidden Arco Beach
Arco Beach, or Playa Arco, is technically one of the many beaches located inside Marino Ballena National Park, but unlike the other beaches, this one is a bit more challenging to access.
The beach can be accessed through La Cusinga Lodge and Restaurant, where a steep and often slippery path offers access to Arco Beach. Note that the beach can only be accessed at low tie, when the beach is visible.
If you time the visit well, you’ll find yourself on a completely secluded beach, away from the masses. Check out the unique caves, the beautiful photo spots and enjoy the natural beauty of the area.
It’s important to note that there have been reports of theft in the area, so be sure to take necessary precautions, lock your vehicle, remove any valuable from sight, and do not leave valuables unattended while on the beach.
7. Visit Uvita Waterfall
Uvita Waterfall is a local gem found on a private property, about 5 mins from Uvita town centre.
It takes less than 5 mins to descend to the waterfall from the restaurant’s parking lot, and the next thing you know, you are sliding into the refreshing pool at the base of a gushing waterfall.
The trail is well-maintained and relatively easy to navigate, but it can be slippery and steep in some areas. The waterfall’s surrounding is lush tropical vegetation and is a popular attraction for tourists and locals alike.
Go mid-week, and you’ll likely have the waterfall all to yourself!
8. Swim at the El Pavon Waterfall
El Pavon Waterfall, also known as Cascada El Pavón, is a picturesque waterfall located about 20 min drive from Uvita just outside of the town of Ojochal.
The road leading to the waterfall is unpaved and full of potholes, so if you don’t have a 4×4, we recommend that you drive slowly. You can park at Tilapia Restaurant and take a short hike to the waterfall. There is no entry fee, and the water is very refreshing, with a nice pool to jump into. There are cool caves to explore at the base of the falls and some adventurers like to climb up and around the waterfall to jump off into the cool waters below.
Be careful when visiting, as water levels change throughout the year and jumping into the waterfall or accessing the caves may not always be safe. When in doubt, hire a local guide to show you the area and help you access the safety of the waterfall.
8. Take Part in the Envision Festival
Envision Festival an art, spirituality, yoga, music, and dance festival that has been drawing in crowds to Uvita for many years. The an annual four-day music and arts festival usually takes place in late February or early March and is held at Rancho La Merced
Envision is a great place to immerse yourself in the Costa Rican culture and experience music, art, and dance from all over the world. The festival is also famous for its focus on sustainability, yoga, and holistic well-being. There are many workshops, gatherings, talks and events that take place before or after the big event, so be sure to give yourself enough time to experience it all!
9. Take a Surf Lesson at Bodhi Surf + Yoga Camp
Bodhi Surf + Yoga is the world’s first B Corp Certified surf and yoga camp, located in Uvita, Osa, Costa Rica. The camp focuses on week-long, community-based surf and yoga programs where participants can learn, improve physically, emotionally, and spiritually through five sessions of surfing and five sessions of yoga.
Bodhi Surf + Yoga’s mission is to educate, inspire, and empowe visitors to live more sustainably through surfing, yoga, nature immersion, and community engagement.
While we haven’t personally experienced their camp or their classes, we’ve read lots of reviews about the peopel running the program at Bondhi as well as their surf lessons and yoga programs. This could be a great option for someone looking for a more meaninful stay in Uvita.
10. Visit the Oro Verde Reserve
Oro Bird Reserve is located just a few kilometres from Uvita, on the farm of the Duarte family, who have lived in the area for more than 30 years. The final stretch of road to Oro Verde is a 3.5 km rough dirt road (4WD only), but the adventure to get there is definitely worth it.
The rainforest covers two-thirds of the 155-hectare property at Oro Bird Reserve. You can go on a guided birdwatching walk through the jungle, explore nature areas along the coast and foothills of El Oro and observe more than one hundred species of birds, such as toucans, parrots, roseate geese, raptors, hummingbirds, horned screamers, umbrella birds, and manakins. Tour are guided and start at $40/pp
11. Visit Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary
Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary is a non-profit organization and animal rescue center located in Dominical, Costa Rica. The sanctuary is dedicated to the rehabilitation and release of injured, sick, and orphaned animals.
We love that some animals at Alturas are actually released into the wild. While those that cannot be released are taken care of and live out a good life in the sanctuary.
Alturas offers daily tours to meet the sanctuary residents running at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., or 3 p.m.. Each tour lasts 1.5-hours. A guided tour at the Sanctuary costs $25 for adults, while children under 12 pay $15.
It is possible to see many different animals up close, including anteaters, sloths, monkeys, toucans, parakeets, and others. The knowledgeable guides explain everything about each animal, and they are very passionate about the sanctuary’s mission and philosophy. In line with good ethical wildife practices, there is a strict hands-off policy on site which means that you can watch the animals but not touch or feed them.
There is an easy hike so you can explore the area on your own or with a guide. The wooden walkways over the muddy sections and the lookout points are great additions to the tour. You can see the beautiful plants and enjoy the peace and quiet of the place.
12. Take a Day Trip to Corcovado National Park
Visiting Corcovado National Park is arguably one of the best things to do in Costa Rica. It is one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth. It comprises the only old-growth wet forest still present along the Pacific coast of Central America, as well as 13 major ecosystems, such as lowland rain forests, highland cloud forests, jolillo palm forests, and mangrove swamps, in addition to coastal marine and beach habitats.
While it’s hard to get to, it is a destination you can visit on a (long) day trip from Uvita.
The gateway to Corcovado National Park, Drake Bay, is located about 3 hours drive from Uvita. From there, it’s another 1-1.5 hour boat ride to reach the San Pedrillo Ranger Station inside the park. En route to the park, you might see whales, dolphins, and other wildlife.
But the real adventure starts when you arrive inside the park. There are 2 different trails around San Pedrillo Ranger Station and a few other trails in other parts of the park.
During your hike in the park, you’ll see the different ecosystems of the Osa Peninsula, from lush rainforests to beautiful beaches. With the help of local guide, you’ll learn about the unique plants and animals of the area and have the chance to see some of Costa Rica’s most shy and endangered animals, like Baird’s tapirs, scarlet macaws, harpy eagles, red-backed squirrel monkeys, and even white-lipped peccaries.
Entrance to the park is $15 per person, but unfortunately, it’s not possible to visit the park on your own. For the best experience, we recommend booking a day tour from Uvita that includes all transportation (shuttle + boat), guide, meals and snacks for the day.
READ NEXT: Visiting Corcovado National Park
Best Hotels in Uvita, Costa Rica
There are lots of hotels in Uvita, Costa Rica ranging from hostels for those on a budget, to luxury hotels for the big spenders. There are also a variety of eco-lodges for the environmentally-conscious travelers. Here are just a few we recommend.
Oxygen Jungle Villas
We can personally recommend the Oxygen Jungle Villas, one of the most unique eco-hotels Uvita, Costa Rica. The resort features just 12 private villas, each with ocean view, King size bed, en suite bathroom, AC and an outdoor verandahs. The secluded all-glass villas are designed to blend seamlessly with the natural environment and offer a tranquil retreat for guests.
We loved spending our mornings on our verandah with tea in hand. The views were unbelievables and we really felt like we were the only guests at the hotel!
There was plenty here to keep us busy too. The hotel offers a private waterfall and hiking trails, an infinity pool with an on site restaurant, where we spent many hours hanging out and enjoying the views.
Bungalow Ballena is a family-friendly 3-star hotel located just a 10-minute walk from Punta Uvita, with easy access to other popular spots like Marina Ballena National Park.
The accommodation consists of 5 rooms and 2 outdoor pools, with free WiFi available in the rooms and public areas, as well as free parking. Each room features a coffee maker, air conditioning, and a flat-screen TV, with several rooms offering a view of the pool and a private bathroom with a bathtub and blow dryer.
Bungalows Ballena participates in the Travel Sustainable program, ensuring a reduced environmental impact during your stay.
Seren Glamping is a mid-range glamping resort located 300 meters from Uvita Beach, that featurs an outdoor pool, garden, and air-conditioned tents with a patio and free WiFi.
The hotel consists of cute glamping tents set on a wooden platform. Each tent has an enclosed covered en suite with a bathtub and outdoor shower.
There is a pool on-site and while they aren’t serving meals on the property, daily fruit is available to all guests.
La Cusinga Eco Lodge
La Cusinga Eco Lodge is an environmentally-friendly hotel located in Uvita, Costa Rica. The lodge is situated within a 250-acre private reserve that borders the Marina Ballena National Park, providing guests with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and the surrounding tropical rainforest.
The lodge offers rustic cabins constructed with sustainably harvested wood and local materials, combining both luxury and sustainability perfectly. Additionally, the lodge features the Acari Restaurant, which provides locally sourced, fresh, and gourmet meals with a fusion twist.
Best Restaurants in Uvita, Costa Rica
Indómitos Cafe is a charming coffee shop in Uvita that offers an exceptional coffee and food experience. The cafe has a cozy and relaxed atmosphere, with great coffee, fresh food options and plenty of vegan and vegetarian options.
Bar Restaurant Los Laureles
The bar Restaurant Los Laureles is a fantastic spot for delicious food and cocktails. The relaxed atmosphere and large menu means that the restaurant offers something for everyone. The vegan options are varied, making it a perfect choice for those exploring plant-based eating. The cocktails are exquisite.
Rancho Cielo Alto, Uvita
Rancho Cielo Alto is a restaurant in Uvita, Costa Rica with a high rating, and it’s frequently touted as the best dining experience in the Southern Pacific region. Set in an outdoor seating area on a bluff above the Pacific Ocean, the restaurant provides a beautiful setting for the meal.
Dining is by reservation only with a set four-course menu, twice per day. The four-course menu features a soup, an appetizer plate, a main course with several options, and a dessert, all made from fine and organic ingredients, including herbs and medicinal foods.
Soda Ranchito Dona Maria
Soda Ranchito Dona Maria is a true gem in Uvita, offering an authentic Costa Rican dining experience. It’s a simple restaurant, but the food is delicious, and the prices are great. The ingredients are locally sourced, and they have vegetarian options. A great spot to come for a typical gallo pinto, ceviche or arroz con pollo.
Uvita Beer Garden
Uvita Beer Garden is a great spot walking distance to Uvita town. As the name suggests, the restaurant specializes in local craft beer and offers a wide selection of local and imported brews, as well as a variety of cocktails and other drinks.
The food menu at Uvita Beer Garden features a mix of international and local cuisine, with typical options like burgers, salads, tacos, and ceviche, in addition to a few pleasant surprises like fresh sushi and bowls. The restaurant prides itself on using fresh and locally sourced ingredients, including seafood caught by local fishermen.