The Best of Bahia Ballena, Costa Rica

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The Best of Bahia Ballena, Costa Rica

Bahía Ballena is full of beauty, adventure and discovery

Cuna del Angel, literally ‘angel’s cradle’, is a heavenly sanctuary tucked away in the lush, verdant forest and overlooking the Pacific of Bahia Ballena. Luxury abounds and guests can expect the best from its lavish, full service spa and top class restaurant serving Spanish, Mediterranean and Italian—100% gluten free- cuisine. In addition to spacious rooms, the boutique hotel offers its guests a worldclass spa menu and a variety of wellness options in an immaculately groomed garden setting. The 22-room Art Deco hotel overlooks the clear waters of Bahía Ballena from its private and remote setting on Costa Ballena (Whale Coast).

Offering plenty of adventure and discovery, the hotel is just 9 miles from Parque Nacional Marino Ballena, where from August to November humpback whales come to mate and give birth, and Cuna del Angel is the ideal spot for whale watching. The first indication that a whale is nearby is a blow, which comes in the form of a heart-shaped cloud of water rising about 10 feet above the surface. Keep looking, and you’ll notice a stubby dorsal fin soon after the blow. The flukes will be clearly visible as the whale surfaces. If you spot one, you’re likely to see several whales: After the humpbacks arrive in Costa Rica, they congregate in pods of as many as a dozen whales.

In addition to the whales, you can see turtles, dolphins, fish and marine birds in their natural habitat.  Spinner, spotted and bottle-nosed dolphins, often in large pods, are quite common. You may also spot other whale species: Bryde’s and sei whales, orca (killer) whales, pseudo orca whales and short-finned pilot whales, usually found farther offshore.

The marine park includes one of the largest remaining coral reefs on the Pacific coast, where humpback whales (famous for their songs) gather just offshore. Punta Uvita connects with the mainland via a narrow land bridge. At low tide, the half-mile Tómbolo of Punta Uvita trail, which stretches out into the sea and resembles a whale’s tail, is accessible.

The best day trip option is an overview of the park’s noteworthy natural wonders. Departing from Punta Uvita Beach you’ll see Punta Uvita Whale Tale, Isla Ballena, Tres Hermanas Islets and the Ventanas sea caves. During the tour, you may spot humpback and pilot whales, as well as spinner, bottlenose, and spotted dolphins. You’ll also visit the coral and rock reefs to snorkel for a closer look at the colorful reef inhabitants. A trip to Caño Island is also a great choice for prime snorkeling and diving.

At low tide, you can walk along the Tómbolo of Punta Uvita trail (1 km) that extends out into the bay by a narrow land bridge. Between May and October, Olive Ridley and hawksbill turtles come ashore to nest. Check with the park rangers at Playa Tortuga about tours, accessibility and things to remember when turtle watching at night.

A boat trip down the Sierpe River will take you through the largest mangrove swamp conservation area in Central America. During the trip, you’ll get a good look at the crocodiles, snakes, monkeys and water birds that call the area home. For a more leisurely trip downriver, it’s possible to book a guided kayak tour down the river.

Sea kayaking tours will take you out to Ballena Island or along the coastline, with stops for snorkeling or a swim off one of many secluded beaches. Some tours will even take you into the Ventanas Caves at low tide. Or, at low tide, you can try your hand on a stand-up paddleboard.

A horseback ride to Nauyaca Waterfalls will give you a chance to enjoy the two falls. Once there, you can enjoy the stunning views and the warm waters of Rio Barucito. Nearby, there are other, smaller natural pools where you can also swim.

Hotel staff can recommend or book reliable tour operators, as well as give you all the information you’ll need to wander on your own; all you have to do is put yourself in the hands of the angels.