Whales & Dolphins Observations

Guests often ask us if we are likely to see dolphins and whales while paddling on one of our Sea Kayaking Trips in the Golfo Dulce.

Costa Rica is home to dozens of marine mammal species and certainly one of the best places in the world to spot dolphins and whales.

Although many guests have their sight set on seeing whales; they are seasonal residents while dolphins are permanent residents of the Golfo Dulce. Nevertheless, dolphins can be very exciting to watch. The pantropical spotted dolphin (Stenella attenuate) and the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) are with us year round and often seen in the Golfo Dulce.

whales and dolphins observations

“To this date we have not had a trip where we’ve not spotted Dolphins”

whales and dolphins observations

While kayaking the serine tropical waters of the gulf, dolphin spotting is not at all uncommon, and actually to this date, we have not had a 6-Day Full Experience Trip or 8-Day Signature Trip where we have not spotted both or one of the species. Naturally from a yak, sometimes proves difficult to determine which of the dolphin species we are observing but more often it’s the bottlenose dolphin, the larger of the two, gently arching above the water’s surface.

10-second dolphin video clip
whales and dolphins observations

We usually see them swimming along in pairs or pods of 4 to 10 individuals, totally displaying the dorsal fin as they arch out to breath, yet on some trips we will spot them making large, splashy leaps from the sea, even with proximity to the kayaks. In some occassions we’ll be able to follow a slow moving pod up close for quite some time, without disturbing their natural behavior.

whales and dolphins observations

The river mouths near the Rincon and Esquinas Rivers have been particularly successful viewing points, as has been the deep waters directly in front of Saladero Ecolodge. Early morning and late afternoon sighting are the most common. Often we’ve seen pods of dolphins straight from the breakfast table in the beach house, or while observing the sunset from the seawall at Saladero! Bow-riding and other play with motorized boats is also common.

The holy grail of Costa Rican sea kayak wildlife spotting is indeed the Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae). Ecologically the Golfo Dulce is a key wintering area for southeast Pacific humpback whales, coming from the Antarctic migrating 8000 km primarily to give birth, nurse and reproduce. The Southern Hemisphere Antarctic Humpback Whales can be spotted late July – November, and sighting include spectacular breaches, tail slap, fluke sighting, and spouts. Although it might not occur in front of you while paddling a km or 2 from shore. Whales can still be appreciated well from up to half a kilometer.

The sound of this magnificent creature’s 12–16 m/36,000 kg body hitting the water surface as return from its aerial jump will catch your attention, even from a distance.

whales and dolphins observations