National Parks

Ballena National Marine Park

Ballena National Marine Park is located on the Southern Pacific coast in an area of incomparable beauty, in the Ballena Bay district between the mouth of Higuerón or Morete River and Piñuelas Point. And it is also one of the most famous of Costa Rica national parks.

Created on Feb. 6, 1989, Ballena National Marine Park became the first marine reserve in Latin America whose sole purpose was to protect important natural marine habitats. Among the protected habitats are sandy and rocky beaches, estuaries, mangroves, cliffs, rocky reefs, coral reefs and the odd geological formation known as the Tombolo de Punta Uvita. Each of these habitats is important for the reproduction of the diverse species of the Osa Peninsula. The total protected area consists of 5,375 marine acres and 110 acres of land, all possessing tremendous biological importance. Humpback whales have been visiting Costa Rica’s Pacific coast for thousands of years. During the months of August, September and October, whales arrive from the southern hemisphere. From December through April, they arrive from the northern hemisphere.

Ballena Bay’s warm, gentle and shallow waters, protected by islands and reefs, create perfect conditions for whales to reproduce and nurture their little ones before returning to colder waters. The humpback whale (megaptea noveangleae) is on the International List of Endangered Species. Costa Rica actively protects this impressive species, and that is one of the main reasons for the creation of the Ballena National Marine Park. Because of its great scientific value and extensive scenic beauty, the marine park is a valuable resource for environmental education and ecological tourism development.

Organic reefs, commonly known as coral reefs, are one of the region’s most important marine resources. The reefs’ structure is porous and half empty inside. As the reef grows larger, cavities and canals begin to join one reef to the next, permitting a great variety of species to interact with each other
within the marine ecosystem.

Coral reefs are tropical communities that grow in an atmosphere of 18 to 23 degrees Celsius, which makes them sensitive to temperature changes, exposure and sediment deposits, in particular.

Other protected marine life systems within the park are inhabited by species such as dolphins, turtles, manta rays, crabs, worms, lobsters, algae, various types of fish, sponges and mollusks such as cambute. Bird species found within the protected area include frigates, white ibises, pelicans, mot-mot and striped birds.

Additionally, researchers and visitors can marvel at a curious geologic formation found in the park, the “Tómbolo de Punta Uvita.” Earth and sand deposited at the base of the rocky island peak over centuries of tides have connected the tombolo’s head to the coast, creating this rare tombolo phenomenon.

Ballena National Marine Park offers numerous tours.

Manuel Antonio National Park

One of the most visited and beautiful tourist destinations of all Costa Rica National Park and Reserve System. The Manuel Antonio National Park is a small biological peninsula. Park habitat consists of primary and secondary forest, and abundant fauna including the raccoon, coatamundi, agouti, two-toed sloth, the white-faced and squirrel monkey. The beaches are world class with white sand and crystal clear water. A few miles away are great restaurants and activities to keep you busy after your visit the park.