When you think of Costa Rica and wildlife watching, you most likely think of monkeys and sloths, toucans and jaguars. It’s easy to forget that Costa Rica is also home to two oceans – okay, technically one ocean and one sea – teeming with wildlife. And you don’t need to be a snorkeler or scuba diver to enjoy it, either.
Did you know that Costa Rica is home to the longest humpback whale-watching season in the world? ‘Tis true: Over two appearances and eight awe-inspiring months, these gentle giants make their home in Costa Rica waters. In Guanacaste waters. Which brings us to the subject of whale watching near Tamarindo: where, when and how?
Humpback Whale Migration in Costa Rica
Here’s the deal: You may think humpback whales like the cold – after all, aren’t they a staple experience on any Alaskan cruise? – but the truth is, even humpback whales prefer to be cozy.
To be clear, we’re talking about two whale populations – whales that summer in the north and whales the summer in the south – that both winter in Costa Rica. Of course, the northern winter (December-March) is the opposite of the southern winter (June-August). Thus, two populations here at slightly different times, for a total eight months per year.
And so, as northern OR southern waters begin to cool at the onslaught of winter, humpbacks head south or north – head toward the equator – for warmth. In fact, they travel up to 5,200 miles (8,300 kilometers) on their migration journey!
As Costa Rica is just 10º north of the equator, we’re one of the humpbacks’ favorite over-winter spots. While they’re here, it’s not all vacation fun and games: During their total eight-month stead here, humpback whales mate, birth and raise their young, until they’re strong enough to make the return journey north or south.
Humpback Whale Watching near Tamarindo
Costa Rica’s temperate Pacific waters are a favorite among humpbacks, most likely as an ideal environment for raising their young.
When it comes to whale watching near Tamarindo, you may just get lucky: Look out toward the horizon, and see what you can see! For more formal whale watching, there are three general destinations: the Santa Elena Bay, the Gulf of Papagayo, and the waters off Samara/Camaronal (officially, the closest and most convenient whale watching near Tamarindo).
While whale season officially runs December through March and July to December – in other words, July through March – the best time to spot humpbacks near Tamarindo is in August and September.
When you book a whale-watching tour, we encourage you to choose a responsible tour operator. Here are a few tip and things to look for:
- Give the whales some space: Specifically, stay at least 200 meters (about 220 yards) away from the whales at all times.
- Stay awhile: To promote minimal disturbance, spend at least 30 minutes with the same pod of whales.
- Never interact with the whales: It is strictly prohibited to feed, touch or swim with the whales. (It could also be very dangerous to you.) Don’t do it, no matter how tempted!
- Silence, please: Whale song is communication. Any loud noises from your boat – raised voices, background music, etc. – can disturb their communications.
In other words, be a steward of the seas. Observe, don’t interact. Protect these gentle giants!
Book a Whale Watching Tour
If you’d like to book responsible whale watching near Tamarindo, please get in touch with our concierge, Cris! Her services are free and we promise, she’ll hook you up with the best option to match your whale-watching style.