Costa Rica has long been known as a destination to see wildlife such as birds, sloths, frogs and monkeys. But in recent years, a new attraction has emerged: whale watching. According to the Costa Rican Institute for Tourism (ICT), whale watching is one of the fastest-growing segments of tourist activities in the country, with the number recorded going from fewer than 30,000 a year in 2008 to now well over 150,000 a year.
It is a surprise it took so long.
Costa Rica is blessed with being the only place in the world where you can find two different populations of humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) migrating to the same location. One group, native to the Pacific coast from Baja California, Mexico, up to Alaska, reaches Costa Rica between December and March. The second group, in one of the longest of any animal migration, comes here all the way from Antarctica during July through October. Both whale species head to the warmer, nutrient-rich waters of protected bays around Golfito in the Golfo Dulce, and the Gulf of Papagayo, but mostly the Bahía Ballena area to the north of the Osa Peninsula. This extends from Dominical down to Sierpe and Drake Bay, centered in Uvita and the Parque Nacional Marino Ballena.