Tour Spotlight: Whale Watching in Costa Rica’s Southern Zone

What travels thousands of kilometers to Costa Rica every year, weighs between 25 and 40 tons and measures up to 1 meter in length? This month, some of our most welcomed visitors will be arriving to nearby shores: the Pacific Humpback Whales. Beginning in December and running until April, some of the best opportunities to see the migrating whales are in the Southern Zone, in the waters surrounding the Marino Ballena National Park. A second season from mid-July to mid-November means that the opportunity to see these massive creatures is almost a year-round opportunity.

For guests hoping to check two items off their bucket list at once, they can stay in a treehouse and go whalewatching for the day. Our office staff (who are happy to share their own tales of whale encounters!) can help organize the tours, located an easy 40min drive away. Here are a few highlights and tips on how to make the most out of this aquatic tour:

Keep Your Eyes Peeled

The tour operator we love and work with brings guest through the mangroves before reaching open ocean, providing a kind of “mini tour” where it’s likely to see bird life, monkeys, crocodiles and more….on the way to search for whales! Once past the wave break, keep an eye on the horizon for sprays of mist, or groups of birds; both telltale signs of whales coming up to breathe and feed. (Tip: don’t always look ahead – several species of dolphins live in the area and it’s not uncommon to spot them playing in the wake!)

Prepare for Whatever Mother Nature may Bring

Sun protection and rain gear are worth putting in your day bag. A full day on the water means that conditions may vary, and whales still swim rain or shine. Most of the boats provide cover, but your experience will be far more enjoyable if prepared for the hot mid-day sun or a surprise rain shower. Like everything in nature, weather – or whale sightings for that matter – are never guaranteed but you’ll maximize your chances of seeing animals by going during the peak season. Along with the whales, potential sightings include marine life such as sea turtles, manta rays and the always playful dolphins.

Consider a Combo

While you can choose a tour dedicated exclusively to whale watching (for the best chance of sightings!), there are also combo tours that bring you out to the pristine marine reserve and uninhabited island “Isla de Cano” which includes snorkeling and beach time. Our office staff can call to see how whale sightings have been; when the chances of sightings are high, many of the combo tours will pull over to do a mini whale-watching session on their way out to the islands, providing a seriously action-packed day on the water.

If you’re an animal lover hoping to experience life in the jungle and also have an aquatic experience, this tour is a fantastic opportunity and one we love to help organize. Our favorite part? When guests arrive back just in time for a finca fresh mojito or margarita and we get to hear about the day’s adventures.