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On my most recent trip to Costa Rica, I wanted to explore a part of the country that was completely new to me. Uvita immediately caught my eye, with its opportunities for diving, whale watching, and spotting wildlife in Corcovado National Park. As soon as I saw the lush mountain jungle as we approached Uvita, I knew I had made the right choice.
Uvita quickly became one of my favorite places in Costa Rica. It’s the perfect place to visit if you’re looking for an escape into nature that’s not as touristic as the North Pacific. This guide covers all the best things to do in Uvita plus tips on getting there, where to eat, and where to stay.
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Top Things to do in Uvita Costa Rica
The main hub of Uvita tours is centered around Marina Ballena National Park, a protected marine reserve with over 13,000 acres of ocean and 9 miles of coastline.
There are four beaches in the park, including Playa Uvita. It costs $6 to enter the park and the pass is only valid for that day. In my experience after 4pm, you can usually get in for free as the staff have gone home.
Whale Watching in Uvita
Uvita is one of the best places to go whale watching in the Northern Hemisphere. Unfortunately, we were there in January which isn’t the right season to see the whales, so we didn’t bother with a tour. They run all year because there is always the possibility to see them and you can see dolphins all year.
The best time to see the humpback whales is from July into early November. Uvita even has a whale festival during September where you can get discounted rates on whale watching tours.
Diving & Snorkelling in Uvita Costa Rica
Diving was one of the main reasons I wanted to visit Uvita. I’m so grateful I had the chance to partner with Mad About Diving while I was there to explore the underwater world surrounding Uvita.
I spent two days diving with them in Marino Ballena National Park which is in Uvita, and Caño island which about an hour and a half boat ride away. Cano Island is a biological reserve with some of the best diving in Costa Rica.
However you don’t have to go all the way to Cano island for an amazing diving experience. Marino Ballena Marine National Park has awesome dive sites just 15 minutes away from Playa Uvita.
I joined Mad About Diving on a half-day tour to the park. I met them at the office in the morning and then it’s just a quick walk over to Playa Uvita where to took the boat just 15 minutes out to the water.
We dived at two sites, ‘the box’ and ‘the pinnacles’ which lasted about 45 minutes each. During the dives at Marino Ballena National Park, we saw puffer fish, scorpion fish, spiny lobsters, white tipped reef shark, hermit crabs. The dive sites are beautiful, with underwater pinnacles covered in beautiful sea fans and huge corals. Visibility was around 60 feet.
Mad About Diving are an amazing company to go diving with in Costa Rica. Our dive instructor, Pablo, is incredibly knowledgeable about marine life in Costa Rica, and also very good at finding it while diving! Not only are their services amazing, but they are also incredibly passionate about marine conservation. They have even started a coral reef restoration project which you can learn more about in this post.
If you aren’t a diver yet, they also offer PADI certification They are the only PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Centre in Osa Peninsula, and offer training in English or Spanish.
You can also just join them on a snorkelling tours to Cano island which I highly recommend. It’s a lush tropical island with some of the clearest water I saw in all of Central America! If you’re lucky, you may even see dolphins and whales on the boat ride over.
Surfing in Uvita
Uvita is also a great surf town, as the waves are consistent and perfect for beginners. I hadn’t been surfing since attempting to learn in Sri Lanka, but while staying at Karandi hostel one of the workers offered to take me and a few other of the guests out. I was so shocked that I actually managed to catch a few waves! You can book surf lessons online here.
If you’re already a surfer you can rent boards from Surfing Uvita.
Visit The Whale Tail
Uvita Beach is famous for the whale tail, a section where two beaches come together. During low ride, the rocks appear, creating the shape of a whale tail. Low tide changes each day, but your hostel or hotel should have a schedule out letting you know when it is.
During this time, you can go out on the whale tail and sunbathe, snorkel in the water, or simply swim. The water is SO warm and relaxing – I loved spending a couple of hours here. Just be mindful of the tide, it comes back quickly and the beach will be gone.
I spent most of my month in Costa Rica chasing waterfalls so of course, I had to visit the Uvita Waterfall while I was there. It’s a small waterfall but such a fun place to spend the afternoon. You can slide down it like a waterslide! It only costs a few dollars to enter Uvita waterfall (yes, every waterfall is monetized in Costa Rica).
You can also join this waterfall day tour which will take you to Uvita Waterfall and another that I didn’t get the chance to visit.
These waterfalls are actually about half an hour away from Uvita towards Manual Antonio, closer to Dominica. We stopped on the way driving there and they did not disappoint. In fact, there were my favorite waterfall in all of Costa Rica so if you get the chance do visit here.
The entrance fee is $10 and it’s an hour walk unless you want to pay for a horseback ride or truck ($30). We opted to walk and it was not that bad. it’s just a dirt road and halfway through there is a place to stop and rest.
Once at the falls you can take a swim, lay in the rocks, or jump off the side of the falls. They are quite powerful so it was a workout to swim up to the waterfall!
Playa Uvita Sunset
One of my favorite things to do in Uvita was simply hanging out on the beach and watching the sunset. The Pacific Coast of Costa Rica has amazing sunsets, every night in Uvita it was a beautiful show of colors.
Corcovado National Park
If you’re looking for a natural alternative to Manual Antonio national park then check out Corcovado National Park. It’s the largest national park in Costa Rica at over 55000 hectares with 6 ranger stations. It’s one of the most bio-diverse places in the world!
We did a day tour from Uvita which included the bus, boat ride, and two guided hikes through part of the park. On the tour, we saw howler monkeys, squirrel monkeys, scarlet macaws, herrings, crocodiles, and more. I really wanted to see a tapir but sadly that’s pretty rare. I guess I’ll just have to settle for my time with Tappy the Tapir at La Senda Verde!
There are also overnight tours where you stay at one of the park’s stations which I’m sure would be an amazing experience!
The weather is very hot there so the hikes were sweaty. Luckily the second one involved a dip in a waterfall inside the park which was so refreshing. The tour also included lunch which we had on one of the park’s beautiful beaches. It’s a true tropical paradise!
Mangrove Kayaking in Sierpe
One activity that I regret not doing in Costa Rica was going Mangrove Kayaking in Sierpe, which is at the mouth of the river near Corcovado park. It’s one of the richest marine environments, so during a kayaking tour, you can see a vast amount of wildlife including tropical birds, crocodiles, snakes, and mammals. It’s similar to what you see in Corcovado National park which is why we didn’t do it, but I love the idea of being in the mangroves.
If you are visiting Uvita in February you can join Envision Festival. It’s a 4-day festival of art, spirituality, yoga, music, and dance. I didn’t get the chance to attend as I was leaving before this, but I’ve heard great things from locals and other travelers who attended in years past. I went to the BPM Festival in Tamarindo this year in Costa Rica and it was an incredible experience!
Getting to Uvita Costa Rica
Uvita is in the South Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. It’s in an area called Costa Ballena which is made up of Dominical, Uvita, and Ojochal.
Uvita is just an hour south of Manual Antonio which is where we came from. The highway to Uvita from Manual Antonio is well paved and easy to drive on, which is more then I can say for most of the country. If you’re driving from Manuel Antonio to Uvita, you can stop along the way at Nauyaca Waterfall.
If you are flying into Costa Rica then the best airport to arrive is San Jose International. From there, you can rent a car, take a shuttle, or public bus. A shuttle will take around 4 hours whereas the public bus will take about 7.
If you are driving from San Jose, you can take route 34 (the coastal route) or route 2. Although route 2 appears shorter, it’s actually better to take route 34 because the road is all a flat, paved highway whereas the other road is very windy. Route 34 is a beautiful coastal route, passing right by several beach towns including Jaco.
Getting Around Uvita
I expected Uvita to be easier to get around, but I actually found it somewhat difficult once my friend left with the rental car left. If you are staying in town and only plan to do activities around the beach, then you will be okay without a car. You can also rent pedal bikes which is a nice way to get around.
However, getting to any of the attractions outside of Uvita will be difficult without a car. If you plan to do day tours out of Uvita to the nearby attractions it main actually be cheaper to rent a car and drive to them, especially if you’re splitting the cost with someone.
Where to Stay in Uvita
Budget: I stayed at Karandi Hostel which I really enjoyed. It has a beautiful outdoor garden with herbs that guests are welcome to use for cooking. It’s low-key but there are lots of friendly people here. They only have dorm rooms, but they are kept small to four-person bunks. It’s about a 15-minute walk from the beach.
Another popular hostel in Uvita is Cascada Verde, which is where we booked initially. However we didn’t realize it was up on a hill away from town, so one of my friends didn’t want to stay. The location itself is beautiful, it’s got a jungle vibe with gorgeous views and places to do yoga. It’s a nice place, you just have to either walk or taxi into town if you stay there.
Flutterby House is another budget option. It’s in a great location, just 10 minutes away from the beach. We came here for a drink at the bar one night and it had a nice vibe.
Mid-range: Manoas is a really cute glamping option in Uvita where you’ll have adorable wildlife nearby with the comfort of a hot shower.
If you’ve got the budget, Uvita also has some amazing luxury options. We met some friends and got to visit their villa with an infinity pool one night, and I have to say I was a little bit jealous returning to my shared dorm afterward.
Luxury: If you’re looking for a bit of luxury while in Uvita, then definitely check out Oxygen Jungle Villas. This highly-rated adults-only villa has an infinity pool overlooking the jungle – it looks dreamy.
Kura Designs Villas is another gorgeous highly rated villa to stay in Uvita.
Eating out and Nightlife in Uvita
While small, there are some great places to eat in Uvita.
- For a nice meal out, try Sabor Espanol which is right next to the beach. It’s an excellent Spanish style restaurant with locally sourced seafood.
- For a quick option after the beach, try El Hornito for delicious Argentinan style empanadas.
- Carlitos is a delicious restaurant with Mexican style food.
- Pizza Time for you guessed it – pizza! Good pizza can be hard to come by in Costa Rica but this place does a great job.
- Burrito Hub – The logo for this place may make you laugh. You’ll see it as soon as you come into town, directly across from the supermarket. A good place for a quick and affordable bite, the burritos are delicious!
Uvita is not known for it’s nightlife and the town gets pretty quiet after sunset. If you want to grab a drink your best bet is one of the restaurants or stopping in Flutterby hostel. They have an open bar area, you don’t need to be staying there.
While small, Uvita has all the basics such as a pharmacy, supermarkets, banks, and gas stations.
Best Time to Visit Uvita
Generally speaking, the best time to visit Costa Rica is during the dry season which runs from December to April. However, the South Pacific coast is very humid and it is still common for it to rain even during the dry season. I was visiting in early February and we still had periods of rain, although most days it was sunny. It is warm year-round, with an average temperature of 29 degrees celcius.
I loved my time in Uvita, relaxing on the beach and discovering the incredible marine animals there. If you’re looking for a lush paradise to relax on your Costa Rica itinerary, look no further then Uvita!
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