Last updated on January 27th, 2021 at 09:01 am EST
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Playa Uvita photos
Playa Uvita fast facts
- English name: Uvita Beach
- Distance from San Jose: 225km (approximately 3.5 hours)
- Closest town: Uvita/Bahia (small town), San Isidro de El General (large town)
- Beach status: Public beach (access is granted with payment of a fee; see below for details)
Playa Uvita beach details
Sand, shade, scenery, and unique features
Playa Uvita is the curved beach that forms the southern arc of Uvita’s tombolo (a sandy isthmus), nicknamed the whale-tail sandbar. It has compact light-brown sand that is sometimes decorated with shells and sand dollars. The beach has a photogenic backdrop; vegetation-covered mountains that parallel the central Pacific coast back the beach and stay dark green and lush throughout the year. The view is particularly beautiful from Punta Uvita, the tombolo’s tip.
Crowds and noise
Playa Uvita is part of Parque Nacional Marino Ballena (the Marino Ballena National Park). Several people set foot on the beach each day, from individuals who depart from the beach on boats that conduct snorkeling, scuba diving, and whale-watching tours, to visitors who walk the whale-tail sandbar to Punta Uvita. The beach tends to be the busiest during low tide when the whale-tail sandbar is visible and accessible.
Cleanliness and Ecological Blue Flag rating
Costa Rica’s Programa Bandera Azul Ecológica (Ecological Blue Flag Program) promotes sustainability and public health (to learn more about the program, see our related blog post: Costa Rica’s Ecological Blue Flag Program: Safe and Sustainable Beaches). Every year, several beaches in Costa Rica compete for top honors, which are bestowed annually according to strict criteria that span the topics of water quality, beach sanitation and garbage disposal, the treatment of industrial waste, beach security, and environmental education. Beaches that participate in the program and meet 90-100% of the eligibility criteria achieve a 1-star rating. Additional efforts invite beaches to achieve 2-star, 3-star, 4-star, or 5-star ratings (5 stars is the highest rating).
In 2019, Playa Uvita participated in the Programa Bandera Azul Ecológica and received a 3-star rating. You may see the achievement displayed at Playa Uvita on a sign that reads Playa Galardonada (Award-Winning Beach).
Development at Playa Uvita
Hotels, restaurants, tours, bathrooms, etc.
There are bathrooms at the entrance to Parque Nacional Marino Ballena, which roughly marks the central section of Playa Uvita. Tour operator offices and restaurants are just up the road from the park entrance and within walking distance of the beach. Because Parque Nacional Marino Ballena is a protected land area, Playa Uvita, which falls within the boundaries of the park, is void of commercial development.
Playa Uvita safety
Swimming and water safety
Swimming is allowed at Playa Uvita; however, as a protected land area, your dip mustn’t cause harm to the Pacific Ocean or its inhabitants. Please be careful where you kick your feet, don’t allow garbage to enter the water (or stay at the beach beyond your visit), and use reef-friendly sunscreen. Be mindful of tour boats coming and going from the shore, and the waves they create. As always, exercise caution in and around the water, especially if you plan to visit with children or inexperienced swimmers.
Never bring items of value with you to the beach and always keep an eye on your belongings. Remember to lock your rental car if you have one. Do not visit the beach before sunrise or after sunset.
Playa Uvita location and road conditions
Access to Playa Uvita and 4×4 requirement
Playa Uvita is located on Costa Rica’s central Pacific coast. It sits between the communities of Dominical and Ojochal, and falls within the boundary of Parque Nacional Marino Ballena.
Because Playa Uvita is part of a protected land area, beach access is limited to individuals who pay the Parque Nacional Marino Ballena entrance fee (for more information about the Parque Nacional Marino Ballena entrance fee, see our related blog post: A List Of 50+ Costa Rica Entrance Fees: How Much It Costs To Enter National Parks, Reserves, And Refuges).
Playa Uvita is located at the end of the access road that leads to the main entrance of Parque Nacional Marino Ballena; an approximate 2-kilometer, 5-minute drive from the cutoff to the national park on Highway 36. A 4×4 vehicle is not required to reach Playa Uvita.
Map of Playa Uvita Costa Rica
Parking at Playa Uvita
Parque Nacional Marino Ballena can be a busy attraction; during busy periods, parking space may be limited. Individuals in the area offer small parking lots with parking spaces to park visitors for a fee, typically around $10 USD. Regardless of where you park, you’ll need to enter the national park and follow a short, flat path to reach the beach.
Best reason(s) to visit Playa Uvita
Playa Uvita is worth visiting if you wish to walk the whale-tail sandbar. This sandbar, which runs perpendicular to the coast, welcomes beachgoers (at low tide) to walk safely into the Pacific Ocean, to stand atop the rocky Punta Uvita, and to capture a unique view of the central Pacific coast. It’s a long trek (roughly a half-hour walk each way) over hot sand from the entrance to Parque Nacional Marino Ballena to the end of the sandbar, though, so pack a hat, sunscreen, and bottled water for the trip. You can also enjoy Playa Uvita for a short while before or after you participate in locally run boat tours (i.e., snorkeling tours, scuba diving tours, and whale-watching tours) that depart from the beach.
Beach hopping from Playa Uvita (or alternative beach options in the region)
Recommended day trips from Playa Uvita include visits to Playa Ventanas, Playa Dominical, and/or beaches in the Manuel Antonio vicinity such as Playa Manuel Antonio, Playa Espadilla Sur, and Playa Espadilla Norte.
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