Your Base for Exploring Costa Rica National Parks
Costa Rica National Parks are known world-wide for their incredible beauty and biodiversity. Three of the best parks are located in the Central and South Pacific region of the country. Corcovado National Park, Marino Ballena National Park, and Manuel Antonio National Park represent a wide variety of habitats and offer many activities for visitors to enjoy. The beach town of Uvita is centrally located among these three national parks and makes a perfect base for your explorations. Below you will find our brief guide to these jewels of the Pacific.
Corcovado National Park
Highlights: The crown jewel of Costa Rica’s National Park system, National Geographic called Corcovado “the most biologically intense place on Earth”. It is also the largest park in Costa Rica. Corcovado is known for its incredible biodiversity including the endangered Baird’s tapir, crocodiles and caimans, jaguars, sloths, all four Costa Rican monkey species and an astounding 370 species of birds.
How to Visit: If Uvita is your base for exploration, the easiest way to visit Corcovado is by boat. Tours leave from Uvita each morning and include a 75 minute boat ride during which you might spot whales, dolphins or sea turtles. These all-day tours include two guided hikes and lunch in the park followed by the boat ride back to Uvita. Tours can be booked by your Rancho Pacifico concierge in advance or during your stay with us. A professional guide is required for all visitors to Corcovado National Park.
Marino Ballena National Park
Highlights: Costa Rica’s first marine park, Marino Ballena protects 15 km of pristine coastline, over 5,000 hectares of Pacific Ocean waters, and Caño Island – a snorkeling and diving hot spot. The coastline within the park includes multiple unspoiled beaches where surfing and swimming are available. Whale watching is also very popular as South American humpback whales (July – October) and North American humpback whales (December – March) come to the warm waters of the park to give birth.
How to Visit: The official entrances to the park are located in or near the town of Uvita. Private parking is available near the entrances for ¢2,000 Costa Rica colones (about $3.50). Entrance to the park costs $6 per person for foreign visitors, and a guide is not necessary. The park allows chairs, umbrellas, beach toys and coolers (but no alcohol). There are bathroom and shower facilities at each of the official entrances. For those interested in snorkeling, diving, sea kayaking, whale watching or other tours, there are several highly qualified tour operators in Uvita. Contact us for recommendations.
Manuel Antonio National Park
Highlights: Manuel Antonio is Costa Rica’s smallest park, and it may be the most popular. Beautiful beaches and numerous monkeys and sloths are the main attractions. Entrance to the park is regulated to control crowds so be sure to arrive early to be sure you can get in. The mornings usually offer the best weather too. For nature lovers, the park offers two hiking trails. The main trail is a flat 1.3 km path suited for all ages. The more challenging 1.2 km Punta Catedral trail includes some difficult climbs.
How to Visit: Manuel Antonio is an hour drive from Uvita along the scenic coastal highway. Visitors can travel by taxi or their own vehicle. If you drive yourself, be aware that there will be aggressive people along the way selling parking, tours, and entry tickets. Ignore them and drive all the way to the park entrance. Parking is available near the entrance for about $5. We recommend purchasing tickets in advance using the online ticketing platform. The entry fee is $18 per person, and a guide is not required. The park allows coolers (no alcohol) and beach chairs, but we recommend packing light. It is a long walk from the park entrance to the beach.