Whale watching in Golfo Dulce Costa Rica

Southern and Northern humpbacks in Costa Rica’s Golfo Dulce nutrient-rich waters

Costa Rica’s coastal waters support many marine mammals, including spotted, bottlenose and spinner dolphins, whale sharks, rays, and the real star of the Southern Pacific coast: humpback whales. Because humpbacks from the northern and southern hemispheres migrate to the waters around the Osa Peninsula and Golfo Dulce, you’ll have a good chance of spotting these gentle giants nearly year-round.

The northern hemisphere’s whales migrate south along the Northwest and California coastline to the warm waters of southern Costa Rica’s Pacific coastline. While most of the northern whales make for Hawaii, about 1,000, in ones and twos, begin to show up around Domincal, Uvita, and Golfo Dulce in December to calve and begin rearing their youngsters. Come April, they begin the long trek north, leaving Costa Rica behind to summer in the north.

Antarctic whales begin the longest migration of the animal world, heading north in June along the Chilean and Ecuadorian coastline, arriving along the Osa Peninsula about July. While only a small portion of the world’s humpback population, they congregate in pods of 12 or so along the outer shore of the peninsula and in Marino Ballena National Park, close to Uvita. Come October, when it’s spring in Antarctica they head south once again.

Golfo Dulce is one of four tropical fiords around the world and home to a variety of marine animals and mammals. The gulf’s warm waters are fed by rivers flowing from the rainforest into the gulf; the mangrove estuaries provide vital minerals and nutrients.

Whale watching tours are mostly aboard pangas, a skiff with an outboard motor, or larger fishing boats, such as sportfishing charters, as well as the occasional catamaran. If you’re out on a standup paddleboard or kayak on Golfo Dulce, you might just have a chance at a private whale spotting. Do remember that the whales are protected, and you should keep your distance anyway, to be safe.

Budget-minded tour prices start at about $50/person for a half-day trip. Fruit drinks and water are usually available. A full day trip runs from $100 – $150/person and includes a few more frills, such as time to snorkel or hike at one of the peninsula’s national parks.

If you’re staying at Playa Cativa, a 5-star boutique luxury lodge accessible only by boat, we offer a 3-hour tour on Golfo Dulce. The gulf is one of only 4 tropical fjords and teems with marine life, as well as being a haven for humpbacks. Contact us for more information about our facilities and tours or simply click on the following link Tours & Activities.