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Costa Rica Whale Watching Tours: Best Places & Time of Year

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

Adventure tours in Costa Rica give you a chance to encounter some of the most majestic creatures on Earth—humpback whales. Every year, these gentle giants migrate along Costa Rica's Pacific coast, just offshore from popular tourist spots like Papagayo Bay and Playa Samara. Taking a boat out into the open water for whale watching is an unforgettable experience that will stay with you forever.

Whether you’re looking for humpbacks or other species of cetaceans, there are plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal with these fascinating ocean beasts while vacationing in this Central American paradise. Keep reading to find out where and when to plan your perfect whale-watching tour in Costa Rica!

Introduction to Whale Watching in Costa Rica

Whale watching in Costa Rica is an incredibly unique and exhilarating experience. With year-round opportunities to witness the majestic creatures of the sea, whale watching has quickly become one of the country’s most popular activities for tourists. It’s estimated that over 10,000 whales migrate through Costa Rican waters each year, making it one of the best places in the world for whale watching.

The most common species found in the country’s waters include humpback whales, pilot whales, sperm whales, and occasionally orcas. Every season brings with it new opportunities to spot these magnificent creatures.

Costa Rica is home to two main whale-watching seasons: a winter/spring season from January through March and a summer/fall season from July through October. During these times, visitors can book excursions to go out on boats in order to see the whales up close.

While out on the boat, you’ll be able to spot dolphins, manta rays, sea turtles, and other wildlife too! Many companies like Samara Adventures also offer educational information during the tour about whale behavior and conservation efforts in order to promote awareness amongst visitors.

The tours typically last between 3-4 hours and depart from various ports around Costa Rica, such as Playa Samara, Papagayo, or further away in Manuel Antonio. Boats are fully equipped with knowledgeable guides who will help you identify different species while telling you interesting facts about them too. These trips are designed for all ages, so even if you don’t have any knowledge about whale behavior or ocean life in general – you’ll still be able to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Best Places for Whale Watching in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is one of the most popular places in the world for whale watching. The country has a thriving whale-watching tourism industry, with boat tours operating along its Pacific and Caribbean coasts. Some of the top places for whale watching include the Osa Peninsula, the Gulf of Papagayo (Guanacaste), the Gulf of Nicoya, and Manuel Antonio.

Best Time for Whale Watching in Costa Rica

The best time for whale watching in Costa Rica is between December and April when the humpback whales migrate through the region en route to their calving grounds off the coast of Nicaragua and Panama. During this period, visitors can expect to spot pods of these majestic creatures breaching out of the water and performing spectacular acrobatic displays. Along with humpbacks, Orcas can rarely be seen in deeper waters away from shore during this time as well.

Whale-watching boat tours usually depart from port towns like Golfito on the Pacific coast or Manzanillo on the Caribbean coast, where experienced guides will take you to prime whale-watching spots. Depending on the weather and sea conditions, you may even get a chance to observe some other exciting marine life, such as manta rays and turtles, along the way.

Boats tend to be either small open vessels or larger covered vessels complete with restrooms. Some companies also provide fruits and beverages so passengers can get an up-close view of these amazing animals.

Overall, Costa Rica offers many fantastic opportunities for whale-watching enthusiasts looking for an unforgettable experience in some of nature’s most stunning surroundings. Whether you are visiting during peak season or just want a casual afternoon adventure out in open waters, there is sure to be an excursion that fits your needs perfectly!

Types of Whales You Can See While Vacationing in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is home to some of the most amazing marine life in the world, and if you have the chance to go on vacation there, you won't want to miss out on seeing some of the incredible whales that can be found swimming in its waters. Several different types of whales can be spotted around Costa Rican shores, all of which offer a unique opportunity for vacationers to get up close and personal with these majestic creatures. From orcas and humpbacks to bottle-nosed dolphins and pilot whales, visitors can find many different types of cetaceans in Costa Rican waters.

Humpback Whales

Humpback Whales are another species of whale that can be seen while visiting Costa Rica’s waters. These gentle giants have long flippers and a distinct hump on their backs, giving them their name. Humpback Whales migrate thousands of miles each year from their breeding grounds off the coast of Costa Rica to feed in colder waters further north. These migrations offer incredible opportunities for tourists who want to witness these animals in action as they jump out of the water or slap their tails against the surface.

Bottle-nosed Dolphins

Bottle-nosed Dolphins are also common sights around Costa Rican shores, where they often swim close together in large schools before diving deep down into the depths below. With their distinctive gray bodies and long curved fins, Bottle-nosed Dolphins are quite easy to identify when on vacation here. Visitors may even get lucky enough to see them leaping out of the water or playing tag with other members of their school!


Perhaps one of the most awe-inspiring whale species to be found in Costa Rica is the Orca or Killer Whale. They are easily recognizable due to their black-and-white coloration and large size, reaching lengths up to 30 feet. Orcas are highly intelligent animals with complex language structures and often travel in pods with others of their kind. Swimming alongside an Orca pod is an experience that will stay with visitors for a lifetime.

Pilot Whales

Pilot Whales are another type of whale that can be seen while vacationing in Costa Rica’s waters. They usually travel alone or in small groups but can sometimes be seen swimming alongside larger pods consisting of dozens or even hundreds more Pilot Whales! While not as acrobatic as Bottle-nosed Dolphins or Humpback Whales, they still impress visitors with their sleek black bodies and curious behavior near boats or ships passing by offshore.

Visitors looking for a truly unforgettable experience while vacationing in Costa Rica should look no further than these amazing cetaceans! Whether it’s witnessing an Orca pod majestically swimming through crystal blue waters, watching Humpbacks leaping out of the sea spray or spotting playful Bottle-nosed Dolphins entertaining each other—there’s something magical about seeing these incredible creatures up close!

Steps to Take Before Going on a Whale-Watching Tour in Costa Rica

For those looking to have an unforgettable experience on the oceans of Costa Rica, going on a whale-watching tour is a must. But before you embark on your journey, there are a few things that should be taken into consideration.

  1. The first step is to do your research and find a reputable whale-watching tour operator in the area. Make sure that they have experience leading tours and that their boats meet safety standards and any other requirements set by local or national regulations. You should also check to see if there are any restrictions on how close you can get to the whales or other wildlife before booking your tour.

  2. Once you’ve chosen a tour operator, it’s important to make sure that you understand what is included in the package and if there are any additional costs associated with the trip (such as food or drinks). Samara Adventures provides complimentary water, fruits, and beverages so that you can have a great time amidst whale watching. Moreover, you should also read up on some basic rules for whale watching, such as staying at least 100 feet away from a whale and avoiding sudden loud noises that can startle them.

  3. It’s important to pack appropriately for your whale-watching tour. Ensure you bring sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, and water to stay hydrated during your adventure. Depending on where you're going, binoculars can also be helpful in spotting whales from afar. If you plan on taking pictures or videos, bring a waterproof camera or GoPro as well!

  4. Additionally, if you love snorkeling, you should carry a camera, as Samara Adventures offers Seaquest snorkeling after the tour. You wouldn’t want to miss out on capturing these lifelong memories now, would you?

Following these tips will ensure you have a safe and enjoyable excursion while whale watching in Costa Rica. Take all the precautions before setting out, and don’t forget – you may be rewarded with an unforgettable experience!

With these steps taken care of, all that's left is to enjoy this amazing experience - buen vaije!

About Samara Adventures

Whale watching in Costa Rica is an experience unlike any other. In addition to seeing these animals up close, you'll also get a chance to explore Costa Rica's lush marine life, where you may encounter schools of tropical fish, manta rays, lobsters, and even stingrays gliding through the water beneath you. One thing is for sure - this is truly an unforgettable experience that will stay with you for years to come!

Samara Adventures is the perfect place to book your next vacation. We have experienced and knowledgeable staff that can help you plan the perfect trip. Most importantly, we are dedicated to customer satisfaction and will do everything possible to ensure you have a great time. So what are you waiting for? Contact us today, and let us help you plan an amazing vacation. For more information about our adventure tours in Costa Rica, call us at +506 2656-0920 email at, or fill out our contact form.

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