The Spectacular Humpback Show in Guanacaste

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Whether you chalk it up to luck or patience, seeing humpback whales in the ocean, with their calves and hopefully jumping and doing acrobatics, is a spectacle that we should all witness at some point in life.

These giants arrive in Costa Rica twice a year and make appearances for a total of eight months: the longest humpback whale watching season in the world. In the province, they come to Santa Elena Bay, the Gulf of Papagayo and the outskirts of Samara and Camaronal beach (see infographic).

David Palacios, a marine biologist and specialist in whales and dolphins with Keto Foundation, explained that since 2005, the country has a regulation for the operation of activities related to Cetaceans in Costa Rica, which provides guidelines on how tourists and tour operators can be respectful.


First, keep in mind that your boat should not be less than 200 meters away from the whales or spend more than 30 minutes near the same pod of whales.

Do not feed, touch or swim with them. Also do not make noise during the tour. For example, listening to music on the boat while it is near hinders communication between the whales.

“In Guanacaste’s case, there is no certification that you can ask a tour operator to show you to verify if they respect the law,” Palacios said. “But I recommend looking for companies that have some other type of certification with the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT), at a minimum,” Palacios said.

Illustration by Harley Dunkan