Chilled-out, relatively undeveloped, and welcoming, Uvita is a blissful beach destination on Costa Rica's Pacific coast. It's also a world-class whale watching spot, drawing nature lovers from every part of the world.
Just off the coast of Uvita's Parque Nacional Marino Ballena, thousands of 49-foot-long humpback whales arrive in two groups every year to socialize. Seeing them in action is an awe-inspiring sight.
Uvita's beaches are as alluring as its natural riches. Those in the Ballena national park are particularly gorgeous. Ideal for snorkeling and swimming, they are also hardly ever packed - a big bonus.
Held in February, Envision is one of the world's biggest hippie get-togethers. Attend workshops, take part in group yoga, watch spectacular fire handling performances, and chill out to music.
Along with its beaches, Uvita also boasts some stunning waterfalls in the nearby area. Watching them is relaxing, but you can - and should - also swim in the plunge pools beneath their cascades.
Uvita's restaurants are up there with any resort on the Pacific coast. Spanish expats serve magnificent tapas. Fresh seafood is fried straight from the sea, and locally grown fruit and vegetables is always being turned into traditional tico dishes.
The gem of the Marino Bellena National Park, Playa Uvita is famously shaped like a whale's tail (an amazing coincidence, as the waters offshore are one of the world's great humpback whale sighting locations). There's a small entrance fee to get into the national park, but when you're there, the coast is idyllic, and relatively uncrowded. At low tide, you can snorkel over massive expanses of coral reef, or just spread out a blanket and soak up the Pacific sunshine.
When you venture into the interior of Puntarenas province, stunning waterfalls seem to be everywhere, and Cascada Verde is one of the most beautiful of all. Known as "Mother Nature's waterslide" to locals, it's also one of the most enjoyable spots to splash around and enjoy the scenery. It's not far from central Uvita, but you might also want to head north to the more remote and picturesque Nauyacas Falls, where the swimming opportunities are more tranquil.
Head north along the coast from Uvita and you'll hit the Rancho La Merced National Wildlife Refuge. If you are inspired by nature, you'll be very glad that you did. Occupying 506 hectares of coastal terrain, it used to be a cattle ranch, as the name suggests, but is now being put to better use. The mangroves are prime birdwatching locations, while trails weave through the forest, which can be traversed by foot or on horseback. And there's even the "Cowboy Experience", which lets visitors join in the fun on the portion of the reserve still dedicated to beef production.
You'll need to drive around 70 miles south of Uvita to reach Corcovado, but the natural wonders here are so varied and rich that biology fans will find the journey a breeze. Its importance lies in the fact that Corcovado is the only remaining patch of virgin lowland rainforest in Central America, so what happens there really matters. And there's plenty going on, with spiders and howler monkeys, poison dart frogs, and scarlet macaws all competing for the attention of hikers. You can see the park by boat, but it's really best explored on foot, and over a few days.
If you want to get away from the backpackers and general crowds of Uvita, Playa Arco isn't far away and tends to be much less frequented. Located a few miles north of Uvita itself, Arco also lies inside the Ballena National Park, so a very modest entrance fee is required. And it's well worth it. To get there, you'll have to hike a mile or two from the trailhead at the Park Ranger's Station, which helps to keep the sands free of tourists. Coastal bliss awaits.
The best whale watching is probably in September and October. However, with great weather and Envision taking place in February, that's also a fine time to visit.
Juan Santamaría International Airport in San Jose (SJO) is the most common place for visitors to touch down. From there, buses take around six hours and cost ₡20,000.
From San Jose, take Highway 2 to San Isidro de El General, then switch to Highway 243 to Uvita.
TRACOPA run a public bus link between Uvita and San Jose - around six hours from the resort. You can also catch buses from Quepos if your plane lands there.
Upscale accommodation options in Uvita include the Rancho Pacifico and the Vista Celestial Boutique Hotel where, as the name suggests, the views are out of this world.
Downtown Uvita - set back from the coast, downtown Uvita is full of places to eat, like Roadshack Deli and Sushi Green.
Playa Uvita - the resort's major beach is absolutely stunning. Two miles long, with pure blue waters, plenty of wildlife, and even fine surfing conditions, it's hard to tear yourself away from the water.
Playa Hermosa - just around the cape from Playa Uvita, Playa Hermosa faces northwest and it's also a peach, with great surf and endless sands.
There's no public bus network in Uvita, but you can rent bikes (or scooters) if you need to get around.
Taxis are available to help out if needed. Expect them to charge around ₡600 for the meter drop, followed by ₡1,000 per mile.
You can rent a car from Hertz or Solid Car Rental, and prices can be as little as ₡7,500 per day.
Downtown Uvita has its share of stores and markets, with surf shops like Costa Verde and apparel stores like Zoe Boutique.
Grocery stores in town include Orca Mini Super and BM Uvita. To give an idea of prices, 12 eggs should be around ₡1,500.
Try the Spanish fare at Sabor Espanol, enjoy Japanese food at Sushi Green, fill up on gourmet coffee and cakes at Sibu, or discover the wraps and huge sandwiches at the down-to-earth Roadshack Deli. Meals should cost around ₡10,000 per head, tops.