‘Ballena’ means whale in Spanish, and Marino Ballena National Park is aptly named because this is a great place to see migrating humpback whales.
Saskia, Original Traveller
The strip of Costa Rican coastline sandwiched between the Osa and Nicoya Peninsulas on the central Pacific coast is proving increasingly popular, thanks in no small part to the opening of some truly excellent hotels in the region.
Why we think you’ll love it
'Ballena' means whale in Spanish, and Marino Ballena National Park is aptly named because this is a great place to see migrating humpback whales.
From the gallery
More on Holidays to Manuel Antonio & the Central Pacific Coast
Aside from the accommodation, the main attraction here is the small (like, three square miles) but perfectly formed Manuel Antonio National Park, which is home to an extraordinary 100-plus species of mammal (from white nosed coatis to capuchin monkeys) and nearly 200 bird types. Unfortunately, that density and diversity of birds and beasties attracts a host of another species - us humans - with Manuel Antonio receiving the second most visitors of any of the country's national parks. Still, a place this beautiful and bounteous has to be worth a squiz, and the beaches, bays and walking trails here are outstanding. Offshore, visitors can kayak, snorkel or dive to see even more species, this time of the aquatic variety. This is also another cracking surfing spot on a coastline awash with them.
Elsewhere, places to take in on this stretch of coastline are Uvita, a throwback to life before tourism, and the nearby Marino Ballena National Park. This marine reserve tends to attract far fewer visitors than Manuel Antonio but the beaches are beautiful and if your luck's in this is a wonderful place to see humpback whales and dolphins frolicking.