This stunner of a marine park, created in 1989, protects coral and rock reefs surrounding several offshore islands. Its name comes not only from the humpback whales that breed here but also because of the Punta Uvita 'Whale Tail,' a distinctive sandbar extending into a rocky reef that, at low tide, forms the shape of a whale's tail. Despite its small size, the importance of this area cannot be overstated, especially since it protects migrating humpback and pilot whales, three types of dolphin and nesting sea turtles, not to mention colonies of seabirds and several terrestrial reptiles.
Although Ballena was once off the radar of many coastal travelers, its rewards have recently lured an increasing number of beach-lovers and wildlife-watchers. Beat the crowds by arriving early – you might even see dolphins in the surf or a humpback breaching.