Things to do in Uvita
1. Marino Ballena (Whale tail) – Great to do in Uvita
Marino Ballena National Park is a protected reserve located right in the heart of Uvita. During low tide, a natural phenomenon happens where two beaches meet and form a 600-meter wide sand passage in the shape of a whale tail. You’re able to walk along the tail during low tide (check today’s tide here). And, as a beautiful coincidence, if you pick the right season, Uvita is the best place for spotting whales – more on that later in this travel blog.
Unfortunately, due to the tail’s enormous size, you won’t be able to see it properly without a drone. But luckily, there’s so much more to admire in the national park. Marino Ballena National Park is filled with wildlife like iguanas, beautiful birds, and occasionally even sloths. This is not only here but also inside Uvita town.
Additionally, the beaches inside Uvita’s national park are some of the best in Costa Rica! You could spend an entire day here relaxing on the beach and swimming.
We recommend visiting as early as possible as the park is completely empty in the early mornings. It’s one of the popular things to do in Uvita and, therefore, the busiest. They open daily at 8 AM, and the walk to the tail is about 20 minutes. The entrance fee is 6 USD per person.
2. El Pavon Waterfall (Cascade El Pavon)
El Pavon is a unique and serene waterfall about 25 minutes’ driving from Uvita. The beautiful waterfall gains its character from a giant rock stuck at the top of the waterfall. It is surrounded by lush jungle and has natural swimming pools in front of the waterfall and down the river. There’s even a natural water slide! Everything is easily accessible, and there’s no hike required. There is no entrance fee or maintenance for this waterfall, so please leave it cleaner than you found it.
El Pavon Waterfall is tucked away and not that well known. To get there, take Route 34 towards Coronado. After a 20-minute drive from Uvita, exit the highway on the left just before crossing a small bridge. There will be a sign ‘El Pavon Talapia farm & restaurant’. Follow the road for about 4 kilometers until you see a sign on your left hand saying ‘Cascade el Pavon’ (just past the restaurant). You don’t need a 4×4 car for this road, but it’s definitely bumpy.
3. Go Whale Watching
One of the best things to do in Uvita is whale watching. Humpback whales from both the North and South migrate to this area for breeding. They alternate with each other, and for that reason, Uvita has two whale watching seasons. The best time to go whale watching in Uvita is from January to March or July to October. In the months of November, December, and May, June, you might have little to no encounter.
Many tour operators offer whale-watching tours in Uvita. There are signs all over town that read: ‘Ballena’ (Spanish for whale). You can either book in advance online or at one of the offices in town. It’s good to book your trip in advance during the whale season. Book your whale watching tour online here.
If there’s one thing to do in Uvita, it’s to visit the Nauyaca Waterfall! It’s named multiple times as the most beautiful waterfall in Costa Rica. There are two enormously powerful waterfalls on different levels with natural swimming pools at the foot. It’s one of those places that looks as if it has come straight out of a movie scene.
With a relaxing 3-hour boat cruise through the mangroves and rivers, there’s a high chance of seeing monkeys, tropical birds (like Macaws and Hornbills), sloths, crocodiles, snakes, turtles, and so much more. Kokopelli is a popular and well-known tour operator for mangrove tours, and we highly recommend booking your trip with Kokopelli.
Sierpe and the dock to the mangrove are about 50 minutes driving from Uvita on a very straightforward paved road that’s accessible for any car.
Good to know: We once learned in Langkawi, Malaysia, that mangroves protect our shorelines as wave breakers, to prevent erosion, and as a natural shelter for many animals in need. Malaysians are now planting back what they took to let mother nature do her work.
6. Horseback-Riding on the Beach
Another beautiful thing to do in Uvita is a horseback-riding tour. Walk the peaceful trails through the river and over the beach, and your guide explains more about the Costa Rican plants and animals. Before riding horses always look at the horse’s body, the condition of their hooves, and the way the guide treats the horses. So far, we have found that Rancho La Merced is the best one in Uvita.
Top to do in Uvita: Rocas de Amancio
Apart from the fantastic surfing, we highly recommend visiting this hidden spot: Rocas de Amancio. It is a stunning spot covered by palm trees and small beaches. At low tide, you can climb up the large rock that is located there. Alternatively, watch during high tide the waves crash violently onto the rocks. It’s one of the best things to do in Uvita because you’ll likely be one of the only foreigners there.
Rocas de Amancio is only accessible via the highway (Dominical to Uvita), turning into this steep street down.
8. Uvita Waterfall
Another waterfall much closer to Uvita is the Uvita Waterfall. This small waterfall is similar to El Pavon, with slides and natural pools to relax in. It is located on private property, and there’s a small entrance fee of 1000 – 1500 colones.
9. Playa Hermosa
Dark sand and a backdrop of palm trees; Playa Hermosa is a beautiful 2-kilometer dark sand strip where both locals and visitors come for their afternoon surf. Most of the time, someone is selling fresh coconuts. Playa Hermosa is a short drive from Uvita, and the large parking is accessible for any kind of car. Have a serene beach to yourself by visiting in the mornings.
10. Sunset at Uvita Beach (Playa Uvita)
See the sun disappear on the horizon and the sky turning orange/pink at Playa Uvita. Every day many people with their dogs hang out at Uvita Beach to experience the amazing sunsets it has to offer.
11. Unique to do in Uvita: A Sunset Dinner at Gusto Italian
For a unique sunset experience and dinner, make a reservation at Gusto Italian. This Italian-owned restaurant is located on top of a hill overlooking Playa Hermosa. Set your reservation about an hour before sundown so you can have a delicious Italian glass of wine watching the sunset.
The pasta and pizzas are absolutely delicious. It’s on the pricier side, but that’s 100% worth the experience and lovely staff! Our review is completely unbiased; we just loved the spot! Make a booking by calling them on this number: +50684483571
Getting here is the hardest part: after about 8 minutes from Uvita, turn right up a steep paved hill. To access their unpaved property, we would recommend having an SUV-type car instead of a regular one that’s lower to the ground.
Both locals and visitors surf at Uvita. It is an excellent place for beginner and intermediate surfers to work on their skills. Surfing can be done at many beaches around Uvita; Playa Uvita, Playa Hermosa, Playa Chaman and Playa Colonia. If you’re planning to take surf lessons, look at popular lessons of South Surf Costa Rica (book in advance when visiting in high season).
13. Envision Festival – Popular to do in Uvita
If you’re visiting Uvita in February, you might be able to experience the Envision Festival. This 7-day experience to reconnect with nature, named Envision Festival, was inspired by Burning Man. You can expect a lot of music, a community feeling, educational workshops, and yoga. The festival is immensely popular so definitely plan this in advance.
Best restaurants in Uvita
Uvita is quite pleasing for foodies with great restaurants all over the town. Below we’ve noted down our favorite places and what kind of food they offer.
- Indómitos Cafe (Healthy, Bowls, Burgers)
- Gusto Italian (Pasta & Pizza)
- Kinsu Restaurant (fair prices)
- House of Ginger (Asian)
- Chirincoco café (Lovely coffee)
- Pizza Time & Bagel Time
- El Hornito (Empanadas & Pizzas)
- Le French Cafe (French Bakery)
Where to stay in Uvita
We recommend spending 3 or 4 nights in Uvita with all the things to do mentioned above. Uvita town is basically split up into two parts: the main town near the beach and the upper town across the highway towards Uvita Waterfall. When staying in the main town, hotels are more expensive, but you’re always walking distance from the beach and mostly surrounded by lush green.
Both parts of the village offer good restaurants so that shouldn’t really affect your final decision. It’s just that across the highway is much more affordable and about 45 minutes walking from the beach.
For half of our time in Uvita, we stayed at Seren Glamping. It’s a beautiful glamping site with large tents, very comfy beds, and a lovely outside bathroom with a bath and shower. Best of all, it’s just three minutes away from Playa Chaman.
Campsites in Uvita
If you’re planning to go camping in Costa Rica with a tent or camper, these are the best campsites in town:
- El Tecal (Hotel + Campsite)
- Camping El Chaman
How to visit Uvita
Uvita is about 4 hours driving from San Jose and 1 hour from Manuel Antonio by car. The highway towards Uvita is perfectly paved, and you will not need a 4×4 vehicle to visit Uvita. Do check with your hotel if it’s necessary since they could be located up a steep hill. We recommend using Waze instead of Google Maps because it leads you along easier roads (even though the other road seems shorter, it isn’t).
By Public Transport / Shuttle Bus:
The best way to get to Uvita from San Jose is to take a direct Tracopa bus or shuttle to Sierpe and get off at Uvita. The buses run every hour on the half-hour from San Jose.
However, if you’re planning to visit Nauyaca Waterfall or do a mangrove tour at Sierpe, having a rental car is recommended. Alternatively, hitch-hiking is a common thing done by travelers in Costa Rica and considered safe to do. We took multiple hitch-hikers on our trip.
Your Budget for Uvita
The price in Uvita depends on the season you’re visiting. Expect to pay anywhere from 30 – 200 USD a night for a room and 10 – 40 USD for a meal. On top of that, most things to do in Uvita have an entrance fee as well. For example, the national park and waterfalls. Know that tap water is safe to drink in Uvita like most places in Costa Rica.
Best Time to Visit Uvita
Uvita is a destination with many things to do year-round, but what is the best time? It depends on your preference!
The green (rain) season is perfect for whale watching, and it’s far less crowded than the dry season. Waterfalls are also much more powerful, and the climate is more comfortable. This season usually means dry mornings and an afternoon shower. The season runs from mid-April to late November, with most rain in October.
The dry season (December to April) is for beautiful sunsets, sunny beach days, and activities on the water. If you’re lucky, there is still a bit of whale watching, but it’s not guaranteed.