Isla Ballena, South Puntarenas

Costa Rica River
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Translated to mean "Whale Island," Isla Ballena in the province of South Puntarenas is one of the best places in the country to view marine wildlife, from bottlenose dolphins to the treasured humpback whale.

Many whales make yearly visits to the warm Pacific waters off the coast of this Costa Rican island to give birth, making the site an excellent place to relax and enjoy the natural beauty and abundantly diverse wildlife that makes the country so unique.

In addition to the whales, dolphins and other sea creatures that can be typically spotted during a visit to Isla Ballena, the island also features nesting colonies of seabirds, including the frigatebird and the blue-footed booby. Green iguanas and basilisks also make the island their home, adding even more diversity to the wildlife population.

Nearby Playa Ballena, which is just off the coast and spans 1.5 miles, is in pristine condition for travelers looking to take part in a variety of recreational activities during their tropical vacation. Swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving and a number of other water sports are popular favorites on the island. Visitors are encouraged to take a boat between the beach and Isla Ballena, where they can then snorkel at one of the largest coral reefs on Central America's Pacific Coast.

Situated partly on the island, Ballena National Marine Park is another must-see attraction for tourists who want to experience Costa Rica's renowned beauty. The park, which was established in 1990, is likewise named for the humpback whales that migrate to the island between December and April.

In addition to the whales, snorkeling around the island and the national park will offer tourists the chance to view Costa Rica's treasured turtle species, including the Olive Ridley and hawksbill. These turtles can be seen laying their eggs on the beach at night by visitors who make the trek to the region between May and November.

While there is no centralized park entrance to Ballena National Marine Park, a park ranger station can be located nearby, which is where boat tours can be arranged.

In all, Isla Ballena should be a top priority for any Costa Rica traveler looking to truly appreciate the marine wildlife diversity that can be found in the exotic country.