Caño Island Biological Reserve & Marino Ballena National Park

Marino Ballena National Park || Caño Island Biological Reserve |

Our Area

Whether you are coming to Costa Rica to explore the wide expanses of unspoiled nature, the lush tropical forests teeming with wildlife, or the innumerable pristine stretches of coastline, Costa Ballena is definitely a place you will want to visit.

This area is recognized, the world over, as one of the most biologically diverse areas on the Planet!

We are located in Bahia Ballena just meters from the entrance to Playa Uvita, ranked by Frommers as one of the 6 most beautiful beaches of Costa Rica. This is home to the famous Whale Tale land formation. The town is bordered by the beach to one side and mountains covered with lush tropical rainforests to the other.

Situated between the 2 major hotspots of the area, Dominical, known for its nightlife, and Ojochal, for the quality of its many restaurants, makes us a number one choice for an unforgettable vacation.

Life moves at a different pace here. Families take the time to go to the beach and picnic Sunday afternoons; children swim and jump off rocks in the nearby rivers and horses still roam the streets. Life doesn’t get much better than this!

We are strategically located between 4 of Costa Rica’s most famous parks:

Marino Ballena National Park

This marine park was named after its most famous visitor, the humpback whale. Adult females come to Bahia Ballena to give birth and care for their “calves” which is one of the reasons for creating this park. We are known for having the longest whale watching season anywhere on Earth. In season, Olive Ridley and Hawksbill turtles come to lay their eggs and 5 different species of dolphins can be seen. The protected area extends some 9 miles out to sea. This is an amazing underwater world and makes for good snorkeling, skin diving and scuba diving.

The number of species of tropical fish that can be seen on any given day is astounding! Whether you want to snorkel or scuba dive, you will be amazed by the incredible biodiversity of marine life that calls this marine park home.

Volcanic activity formed our landscape both above and below the surface and gave each site its own distinct topography making each of your snorkel tours or dive excursions a unique experience. The Southern Pacific coast is dotted with numerous coral reefs and small islands and those located in and around Marino Ballena National Park are particularly rich in marine life.

In Playa Uvita, the famous Whale Tale is a unique land formation that protects the corals and the marine animals that live there making this a popular snorkel site.

Beneath the waves, there are impressive lava rock formations covered in beautiful sea fans that sway in the current, gardens of huge massive corals and tons of reef fish. You can encounter octopuses, several species of damselfish, a variety of sea stars, sea urchins, wrasses, jacks, grunts, angel fishes, Moorish idols, large parrot fish, porcupine fish, trumpet fish and much, much more.

Visibility is more often than not around 30 to 60 feet and there are sites for snorkelers and all levels of divers. Islands such as Ballena Island and Tres Hermanas are picturesque islands that offer a home to a kaleidoscope of underwater marine life as well as being important nesting grounds for pelagic sea birds.

Caño Island Biological Reserve

This island is a tropical paradise with a gorgeous beach and trails that wind up the mountain through lush vegetation to a lookout that offers spectacular ocean views. Cano is known for having the best dive sites in Costa Rica second only to Cocos Island. Visibility can reach over 100 feet. There are over 100 species of fish that can be seen including the Whitetip reef shark. This biological reserve is also a national heritage site.

This is world class snorkeling and scuba diving! Skin Diver Magazine rated Caño Island as among the best in the world and dubbed it ‘one of the newest hot spots for adventure scuba diving’.

Snorkelers and skin divers alike appreciate that sites are close to shore with several reefs so shallow they almost break the surface. This makes for some very exciting and close encounters with the marine environment. You may even see white tip reef sharks, octopuses and rays from above.

Caño Island is all about abundance of tropical marine life and the presence of pelagic fish. Scuba divers can almost always see white tip reef sharks measuring up to 6 feet in length and schools of Devil rays are not rare. On almost all dives large schools of fish can be seen, sometimes so large they block the sun as if they were a cloud.

The topography varies greatly from site to site giving each its own unique beauty. You can dive along ledges and peek into a shallow cave to see sharks that come to rest; drift where the currents are a little stronger and wind your way in a swim-through where large schools of brightly colored reef fish usually greet you.

All sites are bustling with beautiful tropical marine life: Moorish idols, eels, barracuda, huge snapper, porcupine fish, rays, several species angel fish and damselfish, hawkfish, rockfish, blennies, Golden rays as well as schools of snapper and jacks. If you are very lucky, you can spot giant bull sharks or a whale shark. In all, there are over 100 species of fish. Coral coverage is made of an array of delicate sea fans, cup coral and head coral, some endemic to the Central Pacific Ocean. There are some 15 species of stony corals.

Visibility ranges from 30 to 100 feet depending on the time of year.

Important Caño Island is a protected marine reserve as such the number of persons allowed in the water at any one time and the number of people allowed in per day is limited so book early to reserve your space.


From San Jose take the Trans-America Highway south. Once in San Isidro, turn right at McDonald’s, go straight two short blocks, at the end of the park located in front of the church, turn left at the traffic light. Continue straight through town until you get to a small “S” (you will see Restaurant Bar El Uno Mas) continue straight (do not turn right) all the way to Dominical where the road ends in a “T”. Turn left, drive to Uvita and follow the road signs to Punta Uvita Beach. We are located on the left hand side, 300 mts before the park entrance. This is a beautiful 3 1/2 to 4-hour drive.

This is probably one of the most scenic routes of Costa Rica and offers spectacular valley views. You’ll pass through picturesque towns and villages, cross over lovely shallow streams and drive above the clouds where there are numerous flower growers. There are many opportunities to take some great photos and buy fresh fruit and handcrafted souvenirs at roadside stalls.

From Manuel Antonio take the road leading out of Quepos to the airport, drive past the airport and continue straight to Uvita then follow the road signs to Uvita Beach. Our offices are located 100 mts before the park entrance. We are a mere 45-minute car ride away.
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