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Every now and then, you stumble upon a destination that surprises you so much you consider buying a lot of land to call home. To me, that place was Uvita on the Southern coast of Costa Rica.
Although only a tiny town, home to local housing and boutique hotels, the surrounding landscape includes beautiful rivers, spectacular waterfalls, and sprawling beaches, making it a top destination in Costa Rica.
On top of that, there are so many amazing things to do in Uvita, Costa Rica. From exploring Marino Ballena National Park to watching epic sunsets from gorgeous bars – you won’t get bored in Uvita.
In this blog, I share the 15 best things to do in Uvita and some information about the town you need to know before you go.
Things to do in Uvita, Costa Rica
1. Visit Uvita Waterfall
Uvita might be on the beach, but it sits on the doorsteps of lush mountains with gorgeous rivers and waterfalls. Without a doubt, the most popular in Uvita is Uvita Waterfall.
Not only is Uvita Waterfall the perfect place to cool off for a swim, but you can also climb the waterfall via a ladder and slide down it. Although a little scary at first, it’s really fun.
Aside from the waterfall and the pool below it, there are some other pools with calmer water and some platforms you can jump off. It’s a great place to spend a few hours and relax.
You can reach Uvita Waterfall from town by walking (it’s 2.6 Kilometers or 1.6 miles from the center of town) or getting a taxi for around $3,000 Colones. If you’re staying near the beach, it might be too far to walk, but a taxi only costs $4,000 Colones.
Once you arrive, there are two entrances. The first entrance costs 2,000 Colonies, and you’ll also get admission to a small butterfly garden. There is parking at this entrance, and the path to the waterfall is flat.
The second entrance and the one we got dropped at is slightly further up the road and costs 1,500 Colones. It’s a steep walk from here down to the falls, and you can’t visit the butterfly garden. There was also no parking.
If you would like to visit Uvita Waterfall as well as a few other waterfalls in the area, you can also book this guided waterfall tour. You’ll get to visit waterfalls only the locals know about.
2. Wander the whale’s tail of Marino Ballena National Park
The most well-known attraction that put Uvita on the map is Marino Ballena National Park. As The name suggests, it’s a marine park that encompasses the coastline and ocean around Uvita. It’s also where you’ll find the famous “whale’s tail”. When it is low tide, a sandbar is revealed that from above, is shaped exactly like a whale’s tail – which is where this sandbar got its name. This is ironic considering near here is also one of the best places to spot whales in Costa Rica.
A visit to the national park is a must while in Uvita, and you can do so easily and cheaply. The entrance fee to the park is only $6 USD which is one of the cheapest park entrance fees in Costa Rica.
From the main entrance gate in Uvita, you can walk out onto the beach and onto the whale’s tail. For the best experience, you need to visit at low tide. At high tide, most of the whale’s tail sand bar is underwater, and you’ll need to wade through the water with crashing waves to reach it. However, at low tide, the sandbar is out of the water, so you can easily reach the tale.
As you walk the beach, be sure to keep an eye out for humpback whales. It’s one of the best places in Costa Rica to see them from the shore – even better than Puerto Jimenez. There’s also lots of other wildlife you can spot in the park such as rare birds and monkeys. Although hard to spot, you can join an organized tour of the park which make finding wildlife easier thanks to your experienced guide.
Of course, Marino Ballena National Park is a marine park, so read on for the best activities to do on the water.
3. Drink local craft beer
Craft breweries are popping up everywhere in Costa Rica, and to Bailey and me, that’s music to our ears.
There are a few places in Uvita you can try craft beer, but the best has to be at Whale Tail Brewery. This ultra-small craft brewery makes delicious locally made beer, and it’s a great place to visit for lunch or dinner. You can even see the head brewer at work from the bar.
A beer at Whale Tail Brewery costs around $3,000 colones, and they also serve up tasty meals and snacks to pair with your beer. I loved the sliders and the pizzas, which only cost $6,000 colones. The brewery is located a few blocks from the main part of Uvita and is conveniently located only a few hundred meters from Uvita Waterfall.
Even closer to Uvita Waterfall is Uvita Beer Garden. In fact, it’s across the road!. Pop in after your swim to try a range of craft beer from all over Costa Rica and enjoy the beautiful garden. Although you won’t taste the beer from its original birthplace, there’s much more selection on offer.
Lastly is Sibu Café, a great place to eat that also has a few craft beers on tap, including beers Whale Tail Brewery. The food here is also amazing, and they are the top-rated place to eat in Uvita according to TripAdvisor.
Related Read: Another great brewery in Costa Rica is PuddleFish located in Jaco. If you’re visiting Jaco, be sure to check it out along with the other fun things to do.
4. Day trip to Arco Beach
Arco Beach is an exceptional beach located within Marino Ballena National Park, a short drive from Uvita. Although the beach is within the park, a daily pass is not required.
At high tide, no beech exists here as the water crashes against the dense forest. But as the tide recedes, a huge beach opens up sandwiched between cliffs. It’s a spectacular place to relax, and during our visit, there were only two other people around. We even saw monkeys in the trees!
As I mentioned above, you should access Arco Beach around low tide, and you’ll need to get a taxi there from Uvita. One way the taxi is 4,000 to 5,000 colones, and they’ll drop you at La Cusinga Lodge. The trail begins in the parking lot of the hotel and restaurant.
It takes around 20 minutes to walk down to the beach, and it can be slippery, especially on the steeper parts of the trail. Once on the beach, be careful of your belongings and don’t leave them on the beach alone when you swim. Although we had no problems, we read about petty thefts at Arco Beach.
Afterward, be sure to enjoy a meal or watch the sunset at the restaurant, which is next on our list of the best things to do in Uvita.
5. Watch the sunset with an epic view
The most spectacular place I watched the sunset I Uvita was at the La Cusinga Lodge restaurant just above Arco Beach. The bar here overlooks Marino Ballena National Park, and you can even see the whale’s tail in the distance.
Head up here an hour or so before sunset and grab yourself a craft beer or cocktail. They have lots of delicious drinks available, and they are priced at $6 USD and $8 USD, respectively. Although more expensive than most places, you’re paying for the view and fantastic service.
If you can, visit Arco Beach beforehand (depending on the tides) and then spend sunset at the restaurant. This is what we did, and we had a fantastic day. There is even a small waterfall on the property you can swim in and showers (perfect after an ocean swim.)
6. Go whale watching and dolphin watching
As I mentioned above, Marino Ballena National Park is a marine park. So, one of the best things to do within the park is whale and dolphin watching. Although you can see them from the beach, the best chance of seeing multiple whales and even babies is on a boat tour.
This popular whale watching tour takes you right from Uvita Beach out into the bay in search of whales, dolphins, and even sea turtles. The guide is one of the highlights, and the information provided makes the tour even more impressive. On top of that, you’ll get served fresh fruit, get to go snorkeling, and explore some unique sea caves.
Overall it’s a fantastic tour for those wanting to spot whales or dolphins and also get a great tour of Marino Ballena National Park.
The best chance to see whales is from July to November, but a second season from December to April also provides good chances. Regardless, you can spot dolphins all year round, and they can be very playful.
7. Go snorkeling or diving at Caño Island
You can’t miss a visit to Caño Island Biological Reserve while in Uvita. Although the island is off-limits to visitors, the gorgeous marine reserve surrounding it is the perfect place to snorkel or scuba dive.
I did a snorkeling tour with my hotel, Rancho Corcovado in Drake Bay, and loved it. Our day started with a 1-hour boat ride out to the island before we got to jump in and explore the coral reefs around the island.
We visited two snorkel sites and got to see a ton of marine life, such a colorful fish (the entire cast of Nemo was there), and even turtles. Lucky visitors can also spot blacktip reef sharks (don’t worry, they are not aggressive sharks.) Although our tour was from Drake Bay, the tours from Uvita are the same, except the boat ride is a little longer at 90 minutes.
Snorkeling tours to the island cost around $140 USD, depending on inclusions for adults. Although expensive, it’s the best place I have snorkeled in Costa Rica and one of the best things to do in Uvita.
Related read: Visiting Caño Island is also one of the best things to do in Drake Bay.
8. Head to Dominical
If you’re in the mood for some real-life Pura Vida, then pop over to the nearby town of Dominical. This small surf town is home to a mix of locals and ex-pats who have moved here to enjoy, well, Pura Vida.
Interesting fact: Pura Vida is a term used in Costa Rica that translates to pure life.
You’ll notice the laid-back vibe as soon as you arrive, so waste no time getting amongst it. One of my favorite things to do in Dominical is to surf. There are plenty of places to rent a board along the beach, and rentals are cheap. In fact, a 24-hour rental costs only $10 USD. If you need a lesson, ask one of the locals, but they start at $40 USD for 2 hours.
Don’t leave before sunset, either. Go for a walk along the beach and experience mirror-like reflections from the shallow tidal waters. Head left along the beach for around 20 minutes for the best view. That’s where the photo above was taken!
You can get to Dominical from Uvita by bus. There are many direct buses from Uvita that stop in Dominical. Otherwise, a taxi is $12,000 colones each way.
9. Visit Manuel Antonio National Park
I’ve been to many national parks in Costa Rica, and although I’ve enjoyed them all, a few stand out from the rest. One of those is Manuel Antonio National Park.
Located around one hour from Uvita, Manuel Antonio National Park is a coastal park home to spectacular views, sprawling jungle, and tons of wildlife. The best part about the park is its size. Manuel Antonio is small compared to others, which means less walking and densely populated wildlife. You can see many different bird species, monkeys, and sloths.
On this tour from Uvita, you’ll be guided around the park walking trails such as the sloth walk. Your expert guide will spot animals you would never see on your own and show you the best beaches to swim and enjoy.
If you aren’t making a trip to Quepos or Manuel Antonio town, then a trip to the national park is one of the best things to do in Uvita.
10. Cool down at Nauyaca Waterfalls
There’s certainly no shortage of waterfalls in Costa Rica. So if you’ve already traveled a lot here before, you may be thinking, “really, another waterfall.”
I get it, but Nauyaca Waterfalls is, without a doubt, one of the most spectacular in Costa Rica. It’s up there with Rio Celeste Waterfall and La Fortuna Waterfall – two of the best things to do in La Fortuna.
Nauyaca Waterfalls is made up of two huge waterfalls. This upper waterfall is 40 meters tall (131 feet), and the lower waterfall is 20 meters tall (65 feet.) You can visit both the top and bottom waterfall, but it’s only safe to swim in the lower falls. There is a lifeguard on duty and toilets but no other facilities.
A visit to the falls is relatively easy from Uvita and is reached via bus, car, taxi, or tour. If you drive, take a taxi or join a tour, you’ll need to walk 4 kilometers (1 hour) from the parking lot to the waterfalls via a poorly maintained road. It’s a relatively easy walk, but you certainly earn that swim at the end.
If you really don’t want to walk, there are options to take a horse ($80 USD) or tour in a 4wd ($32 USD) that can be booked at the gate or online on their website. These drop you right at the waterfall and take you back to the parking lot.
If you’re taking the bus as I did, then you need to walk from the main road, which is an extra 2 kilometers. It takes around 30 minutes to reach the parking lot from the highway, and then you need to walk 4 kilometers to the waterfall, like everyone else. The steep hill from the highway to the parking lot is a challenging hike. Try to hitchhike this part on the way back if you can.
Entry to the falls is $12 USD (although it says $10 USD online, so book it there to save $2 USD), and tickets are purchased from the office on the main highway (not the parking lot) or online. If you forget, there is a cafe a kilometer before the waterfall that also sells tickets.
The ticket office is open from 7 am, with the last people allowed to begin the hike at 2 pm. If you can, start the trail at 7 am. We enjoyed the waterfall to ourselves for the first 30 minutes.
11. Visit Corcovado National Park
One of the most important national parks in Costa Rica is Corcovado National Park. The park is famous for being home to 2.5 to 3% of the world’s biodiversity, and to nature lovers like me, visiting is a dream come true.
From Uvita, you need to visit the park on a guided tour. This is because the park is considered too important to let tourists visit on their own. This Corcovado National Park tour leaves from Uvita at 7 am by boat and takes you to San Pedrillo Ranger Station to walk some trails and spot wildlife. It’s a great expereince, and you’re guaranteed to see lots.
Only 150 people are allowed in Corcovado National Park per day, so it’s essential you book your tour in advance (especially in the busy season from December to April.) Visiting Corcovado National Park is also one of the best things to do in Puerto Jimenez, so tickets go even quicker.
Regardless of how you choose to explore Corcovado National Park, it’s a must-do in Uvita, so be sure to book it so you don’t miss out!
12. Go birdwatching
Bird lovers will love Uvita! Thanks to its remote location and lack of residents, it’s one of the best places to see unique birdlife in Costa Rica. Although you can see birds everywhere, on a guided tour, you’ll have the added bonus of an expert guide who is trained to spot birds.
The best place to do bird-watching tours in Uvita is at Oro Verde Reserve, around 8 kilometers from town. Bird watching tours on the reserve cost $40 USD per person and include an English-speaking guide.
You’ll set off bright at early with the tour beginning at 6 am. This is when the birds are most active as they feed on insects and bugs.
Breakfast is also included on the tour, and you’ll have it surrounded by nature on the 155 hectares reserve. It’s a great way to spend an early morning in Uvita.
13. Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary
Spotting wildlife in the wild can be hard, and those on a short vacation in Costa Rica may not spot every animal on their bucket list. So, why not support a great cause and visit Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary – one of the best things to do in Uvita.
Alturas is a non for profit organization with the mission of rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing wild animals in Costa Rica. On site, they have a well-equipped veterinary clinic as well as facilities to rehabilitate and, if necessary, care for animals for life. On top of all that, they use the facility to educate people on the animals in the facility in hopes of bringing more awareness to conservation in Costa Rica.
Choosing to visit the facility on a guided tour gives you the chance to learn and see native animals and support a great cause. The center relies entirely on donations and raising money through tours to operate.
Tours through Alturas cost $25 USD for adults and $15 FOR children (non-residents) and last for 1.5 hours. They run Tuesday to Sunday at 9 am, 11 am, and 1 pm.
While walking the center, you can see animals such as jaguars, macaws, sloths, monkeys, crocodiles, and more. It’s an incredible experience!
Getting to Alturas from Uvita can be done with a taxi for around $15 USD. You can also take the bus. Just let the driver know where you are going so they can stop in the right place.
14. Relax or surf at Playa Hermosa
The best beach for a relaxing day of surf, sand, and sun near Uvita is Playa Hermosa.
From Uvita, you can get to Playa Hermosa via taxi for $10 USD or a local bus. Once at the beach, there are plenty of places to relax and enjoy the cool atmosphere.
If you already know how to surf, rent a surfboard from one of the local vendors. Surfboard rental at Playa Hermosa costs around $10 USD for the day, which is super cheap. If you’re a beginer, join a surf lesson instead. This organized surf lesson includes 2 hours with your coach as well as your surfboard rental. Even if you just want to try surfing for yourself without a tour, Playa Hermosa has waves for all abilities, and there is a lifeguard on duty too.
The sunsets are also amazing at Playa Hermosa, and because the beach is so long, you can enjoy lovely walks. If you have a car, there is free parking at the beach as well as a few vendors, showers, and toilets.
15. Farm to table dinner experience
If you’ve fallen in love with the great food on offer in Costa Rica, why not take your dining experience to the next level. In Uvita, the farm-to-table dining experience at Oasis Uvita. It’s the best way to taste delicious food made with love from the freshest ingredients.
The restaurant offers three and four-course meals, and it’s located around 10 minutes from Uvita up in the mountains. You’ll literally be surrounded by nature which is an experience on its own. The chef, a young but talented Canadian, changes the menu every night to suit what’s available, so you always get fresh locally sourced ingredients.
The three-course meal costs 35,000 colones and the four-course is 45,000 colones. Although more expensive than your typical meal, this is arguably the best place to eat in Uvita.
Where to Stay in Uvita, Costa Rica
Uvita is only a small town, but you’d be surprised just how spread out it is. For that reason, choosing a hotel in the right location is very important. And believe it or not, there are lots of hotels in Uvita to choose from!
Bailey and I love being close to the main attractions in towns, so we just had to stay close to the beach and the entrance to the national park. This made exploring easy!
The hotel we chose was called Bungalows Ballena. The small two-bedroom cabins with fully equipped kitchens were perfect for us, and we really enjoyed the space and being able to save some money by cooking a few meals. The pool is also a nice touch, and there are even outdoor BBQs for guests to use.
If you’re a luxury traveler coming to Costa Rica to pamper yourself, then a great option is Oxygen Jungle Villas & Spa. It is best to have a rental car if you stay here as the hotel is a few kilometers out of town. However, you’ll be surrounded by nature in a luxury hotel with jungle and ocean views.
Thanks for reading!
Uvita really is one of the best up-and-coming tourist destinations in Costa Rica. As you can see from the awesome list of things to do in Uvita above, you’ll have a fantastic time exploring the area.
If you found this blog on Uvita helpful, be sure to check out some of our other blogs on Costa Rica. Some of our favorites include: