Activities around Hotel Cristal Ballena

Unique location

From our exclusive setting on a lushly forested hill overlooking the magnificent beach of Playa Ballena and the Ballena Marine National Park by the town of Uvita, Hotel Cristal Ballena is the ideal vacation destination to enjoy all of the attractions on the Bahia Ballena and the south Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.

At Hotel Cristal Ballena, we invite you to start each day immersed in the beauty of Costa Rica’s amazing nature. Go for a long beach walk in the Ballena Marine National Park and enjoy a dolphin and whale-watching tour in the park’s pristine blue-green waters. We invite you to explore beautiful beaches, lush rainforest trails with hidden waterfalls, or any number of the thrilling Costa Rica adventure tours the area offers.

Return to Cristal Ballena for a refreshing swim in our stunning 1,300-square-foot ocean view pool, and the healing touch of relaxing massage in our Spa Cristal. Whether you choose to stay close to the resort or venture outside, you will find the best Costa Rica vacation experience at Cristal Ballena.

The Beaches

Take a walk on the sandy Playa Bahía in Uvita

Take a walk on the sandy Playa Bahía in Uvita

Cristal Ballena is the closest luxury hotel to the Ballena Marine National Park and its beautiful south Pacific beaches by the town of Uvita.

Directly in front of our hotel, you will find the romantic Playa Ballena, which you can reach by walking or using our guest shuttle service. The Playa Bahía with its famous Whale’s Tail sand spit is just a few minutes away, closer to Uvita. Other quiet, secluded beaches nearby are Playa Arco, Playa Ventana and Playa Piñuela. All of these beaches are easy to reach by car.

Read more about the beaches

The beaches by Hotel Cristal Ballena

Playa Ballena

This quiet, palm-fringed beach is situated in front of our hotel and has a magnificent view of the Ballena and Tres Hermanas Islands. You can reach the beach by walking (about 15 min.) or by taking our hotel shuttle service.  

Playa Arco

North of Playa Ballena extends the magical Playa Arco. Pristine, isolated, with a small waterfall and a cave, this beach is accessible only at low tide from Playa Ballena

Playa Bahía Uvita

This long, pristine sandy beach at Uvita Bay is the main entrance to the Ballena Marine National Park, and the meeting and departure point for most whale-watching boat trips. 

At low tide, you can walk out on the famous narrow, sandy isthmus called the Whale’s Tail (Cola de Ballena) to natural volcanic rock formations that hold interesting tide pools. The protected, crystal-clear waters in the “whale’s tail” curve are excellent for swimming. It is important to be aware of tidal times because the isthmus is not accessible at high tide. 

On the access road to Playa Bahia, and in the village of Uvita, you will find many local shops, restaurants and bars.

Playa Piñuela

Set on a small and beautiful cove, Playa Piñuela is a quiet beach used by local fishermen. Waves are moderate and safe for swimming, especially at its southern end.

Playa Ventanas

A palm-lined natural bay, “Ventanas” Beach gets its name from a large rocky promontory at its north end that has caves and arched openings through which the sea passes like a window. There is a guarded parking lot here during high season.

Further north, you can find Playa Hermosa, which is directly accessible from the main road. Approximately 20km north of Uvita, you can visit the small beach town of Dominical, a surfer’s paradise with long, beautiful dark sand beaches

Palms, natural beach, Costa Ricaa

Palm-fringed Playa Ballena beach near the hotel

Whale watching

Whale Watching

Watch the Humpback Whales in the Marino Ballena National Park

The Ballena Marine National Park by Hotel Cristal Ballena is one of the world’s most important refuges for endangered humpback whales to reproduce and give birth. “Ballena” means whale in Spanish, and the park is named after the humpback whales that come from both the northern and southern hemispheres to these tropical waters.

The best time to see humpback whales is December to March (northern migration), and August to October (southern migration). Humpbacks are considered the “acrobats of the sea,” and since they swim slowly and live at the ocean’s surface, they are perfect stars for whale-watching tours. Besides humpback whales, year-round you can see large populations of Bottlenose and Spotted Dolphins and seabirds in the park’s rich jade waters.

Be sure not to miss a spectacular Costa Rica dolphin and whale-watching tour in the Ballena Marine National Park. Tours start at Playa Bahia Uvita near the famous “Whale’s Tail” (Cola de Ballena) reef where the humpbacks hang out.

National Parks

Costa Rica’s National ParksCosta Rica’s National Parks

Costa Rica’s National Parks

The national parks of Costa Rica, with their breathtaking natural beauty and biodiversity, are top attractions.

Hotel Cristal Ballena is positioned in the center of all of the most important attractions of the south Pacific of Costa Rica. The Corcovado National Park lies just to the south, and the Manuel Antonio National Park is to the north – both within driving distance for day trips. The Ballena Marine National Park, famous for whale-watching tours, is at our front doorstep.

Additionally, you can visit the Caño Island Biological Reserve, the Nauyaca Waterfalls, the Terraba-Sierpe National Wetlands, the Hacienda Barú National Wildlife Refuge, or enjoy one of the many outdoor activities available in one of the most biodiversity-rich areas of the world.

To experience this exotic nature and wildlife, we offer a variety of trips and tours.

Ocean and River Excursions

The beautiful Pacific Coast is perfect for water sport activities

The beautiful Pacific Coast is perfect for water sport activities

The south Pacific Coast of Costa Rica is full of water adventure tours – on the Pacific Ocean and in rivers and mangrove estuaries.

The most popular excursion is whale-watching tours in the Ballena Marine National Park, next to Hotel Cristal Ballena. The tours always include a stop for snorkeling and swimming.

Other top adventure tours are scuba diving at the Caño Island Biological Reserve, sea kayaking and snorkeling tours in the Ballena Marine National Park, a leisurely boat trip through the Terraba-Sierpe National Wetlands and mangroves to see wildlife, whitewater rafting on the Savegre River, surfing and sport-fishing.

Land Excursions

Unforgettable beach rides, ziplining and Nauyaca Waterfalls

Unforgettable beach rides, ziplining and Nauyaca Waterfalls

Dense rainforest and coastal mountains along the Costa Rica south Pacific Coast create an extraordinary wonderland for nature and adventure tours.

Canopy Zip-line Tours

Fly through the rainforest tree canopy on a thrilling zip-line tour. You will enjoy unforgettable bird’s-eye views of where most life lives in a rainforest – at the tops of the trees.

Costa Rica canopy zip-line tours recommended by Hotel Cristal Ballena follow all safety regulations. Try the tour at Hacienda Barú Wildlife Refuge or at Osa Canopy Tour.

Horseback Riding

Horseback riding on the beach or in the mountain forest is an exhilarating experience for both expert riders as well as beginners. Visit one of the region’s most impressive natural highlights – the Nauyaca Waterfalls – on horseback.

Reptilandia Reptile Exhibition

Visit the only reptile park in the south Pacific of Costa Rica. You will tour more than 70 different terrariums to see exotic snakes, frogs, iguanas, caimans and turtles.

Costa Rica Bird-Watching

Exotic tropical birds

Exotic tropical birds are everywhere around Hotel Cristal Ballena

Avid bird-watchers will find an interesting range of Costa Rica bird-watching tours on the south Pacific Coast with experienced local guides in nature parks and reserves, such as Rancho La Merced, Oro Verde or Hacienda Barú.

On Hotel Cristal Ballena’s own jungle trail, more than 200 bird species have been sighted.

Very popular with bird-watchers and nature lovers are our two simple and charming Adventure Lodges, situated in the hotel’s colorful gardens, a short distance away from the main hotel building

Insect World of Costa Rica

Insect World of Costa Rica

Experience the amazing natural life in Costa Rica

Not only birds, but also butterflies and insects in an overwhelming variety, can be observed at Hotel Cristal Ballena and in the surrounding rainforest.

Bird-watching at Hotel Cristal Ballena


Rainforest paths and tropical gardens are full of natural life at Cristal Ballena

The 30 acres of Hotel Cristal Ballena are designed as a nature park. Abundant trees, rainforest, and coastal ecosystem bless us with a bountiful diversity of bird species.  At certain times of the year, families of local toucans come to our area. Thousands of yellow, white and black butterflies flutter across our grounds, and big flocks of parrots fly over the hotel in the mornings and evenings.

Bird lovers have been able to identify more than 70 different species of birds at the hotel alone.

Near the hotel entrance is a small park – an outstanding energy spot –which together with the paths that wind through our grounds, invite you to take a stroll, watch the birds and let your soul soar free

Cristal Ballena Bird List/Lista des Aves

Reference books:

  • “A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica” by Stiles, Skutch & Gardner
  • “The Birds of Costa Rica” by Garrigues & Dean

Cristal Ballena Rainforest Trail

Rainforest Trail

Things seen on the Rainforest Trail

The Cristal Ballena Rainforest Trail takes you through a private reserve located behind the hotel. The trail is an approximately 1¼-mile walk through the jungle, during which you will have an opportunity to observe howler and capuchin monkeys, Leafcutter ants, coatimundis, and many other jungle animals.

If you wish to take a walk with a naturalist guide on the Cristal Ballena Rainforest Trail, please register one day in advance at reception


Explore the area by ATV

Explore the area by ATV

ATV Tours

Explore the south Pacific area of Costa Rica on a guided ATV tour, or rent one to explore on your own.


Fantastic golfing awaits you in Costa Rica’s south Pacific

Fantastic golfing awaits you in Costa Rica’s south Pacific

Play a relaxing round of golf on the 9-hole course of the San Buenas Golf Resort in the Costa Rica rainforest. This course offers a beautiful location, challenging fairways and plenty of time to enjoy the game

Culture & History

Costa Rica’s Stone spheres and the Dance of the Little Devils

Costa Rica’s Stone spheres and the Dance of the Little Devils

The mysterious stone spheres of Costa Rica

The mysterious stone spheres discovered in southern Costa Rica are impressive relics of pre-Columbian times. Their origin, age and exact history are still not clearly understood.

You can visit these perfectly-formed spheres of granite-like rock, dating from 400 – 1500 A.D., measuring up to 2.5 meters wide and weighing up to 16-tons, at the new Museum of the Stone Spheres and archaeological site at Finca 6 in Palmar Sur, a short drive south of Hotel Cristal Ballena.

> More about the Stone Spheres of Costa Rica

The Festival of the Little Devils

The Boruca (also called Brunca/Brunka) are an indigenous people living on a reservation in the southern region of Costa Rica. They are known for their art and craftwork, especially their distinctive carved and painted balsa wood masks and weavings.

Every year at the end of December, they celebrate the Baile de los Diablitos (Little Devils Dance) festival, representing their ancestors’ resistance against the Spanish conquistadors.

> More about the Borucas and the Festival