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Living the Pura Vida on the Costa Ballena in Costa Rica

When you hear the word “paradise”, you may picture lush forests, aquamarine waterfalls, beaches with picturesque sunsets or even a rolling green countryside. Whatever landscape paradise is for you, it can be found in the magical country of Costa Rica!

Costa-Rica---From-Above

The beautiful canopy of Costa Rica

Costa Rica (“Rich Coast” in Spanish) is the most visited country in Central American and is known for its sustainability, biodiversity and lush landscapes. The currency used is the Costa Rican Colón. One Euro is equal to about 675 Colónes.

Here’s a Pro-Tip: There are many different microclimates throughout the country, so be sure to pack for rain and shine!

One of my favourite places to visit along the Pacific Coast is the up and coming Costa Ballena. From beach activities and a thriving yoga scene to gourmet restaurants featuring locally sourced ingredients, this is a brilliant place to slow down and reconnect with the natural world. The name “Costa Ballena” means “Whale Coast” and comes from the many migratory whales that come to calf as well as the remarkable whale tail sandbar, the regions famous landmark. Tourist numbers here are lower than many of Costa Rica’s other beach towns which keep the natural charm alive.

Costa-Rica---Whale-Tail-

The Whale Tail sand bar, where the whales come to enjoy a drink!

This long stretch of pristine coastline consists of three main beach towns:

  • Dominical – The Northernmost town in the trio, this is a relaxed surf town with plenty of yoga, waterfalls and fun beach bars to explore. You can also find handmade jewellery and other goods from the local merchants along the beach path.
  • Uvita – More of a beach “downtown” than a beach town, this is where you will find larger food markets, banks and other convenience stores. Climb the nearby mountains for sweeping views or explore up close to the beauty in Marino Ballena, one of the only marine national parks in Costa Rica.
  • Ojochal – A common destination for expats, this town is known for its many gourmet restaurants, lush jungle and the pristine Playa Ventanas.
Costa-Rica---Playa-Hermosa

This looks like a job for sandals!

There are two international airports in Costa Rica; Juan Santamaria (SJO) in San Jose and Daniel Oduber (LIR) in Liberia. Both airports are about the same distance from the Costa Ballena Region. Domestic flights and buses are available to transport you, although I would recommend renting a car so that you can explore the towns that make up this area at your own pace. Car rental is also a great option for traveling around to different areas of Costa Rica.

Here are some amazing experiences that Costa Ballena has to offer:

Whale WatchingBallena Marine National Park is a safe area for humpback whales to migrate. From December to April, you can witness the magic of these humpback whales and their calves. While the humpback is the most notable in the area, different species can be seen at different times throughout the year.

Surfing – Costa Ballena has some wonderful surf beaches with plenty of surf schools and learning opportunities available. The beaches of Dominical offer the biggest waves while Playa Colonia in Uvita is great for beginners.

Yoga – Enjoy daily yoga classes, retreats and workshops at some beautiful studios in the lush jungle or on the breezy beach. Some of my favourites include:

  • Bhodi Surf + Yoga in Uvita
  • Danyasa Yoga in Dominical
  • Bali Rica in Ojochal
Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary – This animal rescue and rehab centre in Uvita allows you to see some of Costa Rica’s exotic wildlife such as sloths, monkeys and ocelots up close and personal! You can learn about their environments and the conservation efforts being made towards them.

wild life sloth

He could probably use some Costa Rican ‘sloffee’!

Cost Rica cuisine is known for being very fresh and nutritionally balanced. Not only do an abundance of fruits and vegetables grow on the land, but with almost 1300 km (800mi) of coastline plus plenty of farms inland, the fish and meat are local as well. Gallo Pinto is the national dish consisting of black beans and fried rice. It is often prepared for breakfast with plantains, meat or fish. With the town Ojochal often referred to as the “Culinary Centre of Costa Rica”, here are some great places to have a meal in the area:

  • Citrus – An atmospheric restaurant featuring beautifully presented New World cuisine with seating both inside and outside. Come early to enjoy a drink in the lounge area.
Costa-Rica---Gally-Pinto

The freshest gallo pinto around!

  • Castillo’s Kitchen – Specializing in seafood, this Chef’s Table concept restaurant offers great views, fresh produce from local markets and uniquely delicious flavours. It is located in the El Castillo Boutique Hotel.
  • Exotica – Colourful worldly dishes prepared with passion; this cosy restaurant sits in a romantic jungle setting. Ingredients are locally sourced and always fresh!

After a long day of climbing waterfalls, hiking through the jungle or simply soaking up the sun on the beach, enjoying a cold drink while the sun retires for the day is a must. If you prefer to dance into the evening, the party scene is alive and well in Costa Ballena as well! Here are my suggestions of great places to party:

  • Mosaic Wine Bar – A comfortable and modern space in Uvita to enjoy a class of wine and feel good! While also offering fresh sushi, Mosaic is dedicated to supporting small, local businesses and offering eco-friendly straws and napkins.
  • Bamboo Room – An Ojochal favourite, this whimsical hilltop cocktail bar has live music and incredible sunset views; the perfect recipe for a fun filled evening!
  • Fuego Brew Co. – As Dominical’s first craft brewery and coffee roastery, this beach-style bar offers games, delicious beer, great food and wine!

While there are many communities, retreats and hostels available throughout Costa Rica, here are some wonderful hotels to call home while visiting:

  • Oxygen Jungle Villas – With an infinity pool overlooking ocean views, this group of 12 villas in Uvita is a bright and beautiful place retreat.
  • Uvita Bali Bosque – This luxury stay offers a true escape from the hustle and bustle. This jungle oasis is nearby the beach and has fabulous views all around.
  • Hotel Cristal Ballena – This boutique hotel is the full package with spa services, ocean and mountain views and plenty of tour options.
Costa-Rica---Palm-Sunset

Keep palm and carry on!

With a jungle covered mountain backdrop and pristine beaches, Costa Ballena is teeming with natural beauty awakening all of my senses at every turn!

Love,

 

Isabella

Isabella’s Checklist

What to see: Whales, Yoga, Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary (https://www.visitcostarica.com/en)

Where to eat: Citrus, Castillo’s Kitchen, Exotica (https://citrusrestaurante.com/, https://elcastillocr.com/dining/, https://restoexotica.wordpress.com/)

Where to stay: Oxygen Jungle Villas, Uvita Bali Bosque, Hotel Cristal Ballena (https://www.oxygenjunglevillas.com/, https://goldenpineapplevillas.com/, https://www.cristal-ballena.com/)

Where to party: Mosaic Wine Bar, Bamboo Room, Fuego Brew Co. (https://mosaiccr.com/, https://the-bamboo-room.business.site/, https://www.fuegobrew.com/)

What to buy: Handmade goods from local artists

Enrich your senses on the “Rich Coast”!
Isabella’s Checklist

What to see: Whales, Yoga, Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary (https://www.visitcostarica.com/en)

Where to eat: Citrus, Castillo’s Kitchen, Exotica (https://citrusrestaurante.com/, https://elcastillocr.com/dining/, https://restoexotica.wordpress.com/)

Where to stay: Oxygen Jungle Villas, Uvita Bali Bosque, Hotel Cristal Ballena (https://www.oxygenjunglevillas.com/, https://goldenpineapplevillas.com/, https://www.cristal-ballena.com/)

Where to party: Mosaic Wine Bar, Bamboo Room, Fuego Brew Co. (https://mosaiccr.com/, https://the-bamboo-room.business.site/, https://www.fuegobrew.com/)

What to buy: Handmade goods from local artists

Enrich your senses on the “Rich Coast”!

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