Costa Rica Whale Watching August 2016 at Crocodile Bay

Costa Rica Whale Watching-An Unexpected Pleasure 

Costa Rica whale watching is somewhat of a secret.  Many whale species pass through Costa Rican waters but the humpbacks are the ones that put on the greatest shows.  Since Costa Rica is near the middle of the northern and southern hemispheres, the weather patterns make humpback whale watching possible nearly all year.  Whales from Antarctica come to Costa Rica during the South Pole winter (July to November) and their cousins in Alaska come to these warm waters during the Alaskan winter from December to April.  Experts believe the whales mix with each other in the fall.   Most people don’t think about it, but the Costa Rica whale watching season is one of the longest in the world

Humpback Whales At Play


All intelligent species play.  We headed out for some inshore fishing this morning.  A few minutes underway, we saw spray in the distance and went over to take a look.  Two humpbacks were slapping the water with their pectoral fins.  Like breaching, pec slapping is another form of social communication and may also be one method for whales to attract the attention of the opposite sex.  Slapping may just also be an invitation for other whales to join up.    The Osa Peninsula is one the best Costa Rica whale watching locations.  

Seeing whales is a special experience for us every single time.  Locals treasure the whales too.  Guides always make comments and get excited as if this is the first time they have ever seen whales.  Some things just never get old.


Now this is my definition of synchronized swimming.  Nearly in unison, both whales slapped the water.  Humpback whales have a ball and socket joint which is like our shoulder.  The pectoral fins have a full range of motion like your arm.  Ever notice that children like to slap the water too when playing in the pool?   They swim on their back or side when slapping.  Sometimes it is a lazy, smooth motion with a small slap on the top of the water and other times it is very powerful. 

Baby In Training

Seeing a calf is always special.  As we watched, suddenly a third little fin appeared in the water.  A calf was swimming with the two adults and they were teaching it how to slap the water. We didn’t realize that school was in session! 


The humpback pectoral fin can be fifteen feet long and is the largest fin of any whale.   The baby swam around with its little fin in the air but is still too small to make much of a splash.   We have seen Orcas in Alaska playing with their calves.  Once we saw adults putting a calf on their nose and surfing it through the wake of a cruise ship.

Below, you can see the baby still swimming with one adult and a small tap on the water from the other whale on the left. 


Baleen whales like humpbacks and blue whales have two blow holes on the tops of their heads like we have two nostrils on our nose.  When a whale gets ready to dive, it opens the holes and takes a big gulp of air just like you.  Then when it surfaces, it exhales the used up air and takes another gulp.  Whales don’t blow water.  Toothed whales like sperm, pilot, and belugas and also dolphins have only one blowhole.


Whales seem very relaxed when they are pec slapping.  The show is nearly over as the two adults turn and start to swim away.  Pretty easy to see where the “humpback” name comes from in this view.

Costa Rica Whale Watching

The deep water whales which include the blue and sperm whales migrate through Costa Rican waters but are difficult to see.  In addition to humpbacks, Costa Rica whale watching includes pilot whales, several species of dolphins, and Orca or killer whales.  Orcas from both the northern and southern hemispheres migrate and mix similarly to humpbacks in Costa Rica.


I always think they know we are watching.   Just to be sure we see them, one adult rolls onto its side and waves one last time.  You can see the size of the fin versus its body.  Humpbacks grow to about forty-two feet in length and weigh about 66,000 pounds.  They live for 45 to 50 years and their gestation period is eleven months.  Right after the final wave, the whale dives.


Each tail or fluke is thought to be as unique as a fingerprint.  They are so much like us.  When we snorkel, the motion is the same, right?  Your head comes up for a deep breath, then you arch your back, put you head down to dive and your feet break out of the water.   Before we went to Crocodile Bay, I didn’t really think about Costa Rica whale watching but this was one of the best whale shows we have ever seen.  After this great start to our day we got underway for our great day of inshore fishing.

Come With Us This Winter

There is only one way to see your first whale or hear a howler monkey or walk through the rain forest.  This is a trip people talk about all their lives and now is your time to go. 


Come with us next year and start adding to your list of “firsts” in life.  Choose from a world-class bill fishing experience in February with Rob Endsley.  Click here and complete the request form for more information. 

Or, you can have a combination of inshore and offshore fishing the first week of April with Lisa and Bill at Luxurious Fishing Vacations.   To get more information about our trip in April, click here and complete the request form.

Next up is a little taste of the eco tours at Crocodile Bay.  We hope to see you with us on the water this winter in Costa Rica.

  1. I found just what I was needed, and it was entertaining!

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