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Uvita, Costa Rica

The view from Bejuco, a small neighborhood located in the mountains of Uvita, overlooks Playa Uvita, one of the most impressive coastlines in southwestern Costa Rica.  Although the dark turquoise water, the white sand, the endless seascape, and the vast green fields neighboring palm and coconut trees are breathtaking, it is the ballena cola, a rock formation that outlines the undeniable shape of a whale’s tail, that imparts a fairy tale impression of this Costa Rican landscape.

Due to the recent construction of Highway 34, it’s consistent wave, and proximity to Dominical, a popular surf spot, development in Uvita is exploding, but Playa Uvita will retain it’s natural beauty since it is located in Marino Ballena National Park.  Ironically, the park is famous for it’s whale watching, for Humpback Whales migrate to Playa Uvita’s warm waters from December to April.

I was fortunate to attend the first annual Whale Watching Festival at Marino Ballena National Park, which was held September 4-6 this year.  The festival, which was attended by thousands of locals and tourists, intends to entice tourism, in addition to raise awareness about the visiting whales and their environment.  Multiple motorboats packed with people slowly rocked against the waves as they departed for their tour, which were offered at a discounted price of 12,000 colones (about $20 USD), to encourage attendance.

Uvita is a small town, but the past couple years has brought substantial changes.  New restaurants, grocery stores, and paved roads are popping up, which in turn brings new residents.  Tourists can choose from a variety of accommodations, which range from eco-lodges to budget hostels.  A farmer’s market sells local edibles and crafts (which is surprisingly overrun by expats), and rustic restaurants offer comida rapida, ceviche, or international plates.

Despite Uvita’s growth, it resumes it’s role as a quaint coastal town, enticing most tourists and residents with it’s outdoor activities: the consistent surf, countless waterfalls, tropical trails, mountain paths, and, of course, the beautiful ballena cola.  Many of Uvita’s residents live tucked away in the mountains, which require steep climbs in four-wheel drive, yet deliver breathtaking ocean and rainforest vistas at the top.  The panoramic views and bountiful wildlife offer residents and tourists the quintessential Costa Rican experience.

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Recommended Accommodations for Budget-Minded Backpackers
The Toucan Hotel is a funky hostel/hotel located in central Uvita, offering affordable rooms in a unique treehouse-esque atmosphere.  Dorm rooms average at $10 USD per person per night, and private rooms are available as well.  There are also options to camp, sleep in a treehouse, or spend the night in a hammock for $6 USD a night.  The hotel offers a restaurant, bar, secured parking, wi-fi (for a fee), and hot showers, in addition to numerous means of entertainment, which include daily movies and a pool table.  It’s laid-back vibe and ecclectic furnishings make the Toucan Hotel a perfect backpacker rest, or, if you plan to stay elsewhere, a great place to grab a drink in the evening.

For more information, visit www.tucanhotel.com.

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