Moses’ Pass: Stay dry walking between ocean waters

Susan Wesley-Vega | Live the World

November 23, 2022

The ocean separates

Remember the incredible moment in the Biblical story when Moses commanded the Red Sea to part?  The people walked between the waters, dry and safely, to the other shore. You can experience this amazing natural phenomenon at Moses’ Pass (known locally as “Whale Tail” beach) in the Ballena National Marine Park. As the name implies, Moses’ Pass is a tombolo formation where you can walk from the shore, between ocean waters, out to an island without getting wet!

© iStock/MatiasEnElMundo

A natural phenomenon of nature: Tombolos

Although Moses’s Pass is magical, there is a scientific explanationMoses’ Pass is a natural occurrence of a tombolo formation which is a special kind of landform.  To put it simply, it’s when a sand bar forms between an island offshore and the mainland.  The sand bar results from sediment deposited by the refracting of waves around the island and the converging of natural ocean currents.  A natural tombolo can take hundreds of years to form as sand and sediment are deposited, washed away and deposited again.  The fascinating thing about some tombolos is that they magically appear at low tide and disappear at high tide.

© iStock/pilesasmiles

Find it in Ballena (Whale) National Marine Park!

Take a picnic, lots of drinks and sun block when you go to Ballena (Whale) National Marine Park and enjoy a day of tropical bliss.  Ballena National Marine Park spans 110 hectares of land and 5,375 hectares of sea. There are approximately 85 species endemic to the waters of this area. Adventure out into the ocean by walking across the sand bridge. It appears rapidly as the ocean recedes to create a sand boulevard that leads you out to explore the rocks on the island. Take your snorkeling mask! 

© iStock/Joeksuey

Check the daily tide schedule!

By the way, check the tide times for the day before heading out.  You can check with the ranger station at the Ballena park entrance or online.  The important thing is to be sure to head back to shore before the tides roll back in. As the tides rise, they submerge the island and the land bridge to get back to shore.  If you are traveling with children or just like to meander, give yourself plenty of time to get back.  On average, the stroll takes about 15-20 minutes, but it can take longer if you’re sunburned and tired.

© iStock/Simon Dannhauer

Mysterious or miraculous?

Nature is a curious and mysterious thing sometimes.  As if the separation of ocean waters isn’t enough, there’s more to marvel about at Ballena (Whale) National Park.  First, when Moses’ Pass and its island appear in full view, they have a very distinct shape.  This giant rock and sand formation has the distinct shape of a whale’s tail which is why it’s called Playa Cola de Ballena (Whale Tail Beach) locally. 

Second, as it happens, this specific location is where hundreds of migrating humpback whales congregate each year to breed and feed. Typically, whales are passing through from August to November (heading north from Antarctica) and December to April (heading south from Alaska). Ballena (Whale) National Park is named after the humpback whales as much as the amazing Moses’ Pass and Whale Tail beach. In fact, this coast is called Costa Ballena (Whale Coast).

© iStock/Steven Francois

Uvita town, passing Manuel Antonio beach

Costa Rica’s famous whale tail beach is located in the small town of Uvita, about an hour south of Manuel Antonio and about 2 hours from San Jose.  The park has three other entrances, on three different beaches, so be sure to start out from the right place at Playa Uvita (Uvita Beach). Surprisingly, it is one of those ecotourism treasures that are not overflowing with tourists.  Comprised of mangrove forests, coral reefs and untouched beaches, this is a beach to visit if you want to view fragile wildlife while relaxing and enjoying life

© Flickr/Cesar Yen

To enjoy your day, go prepared!

Be forewarned, it can be extremely hot at this beach. There is absolutely no shade, so make sure to have plenty of water. Use protective sun block; hats and SPF clothing are a good idea for sun protection. Beach shoes or sandals are best for climbing on and between the slippery, uneven island rocks. Uvita’s Moses’ Pass or Whale Tail Beach is a remarkable natural phenomenon. You can actually watch the waters recede at low tides and stay dry while walking between ocean waters! As a tombolo, it’s a unique place that you won’t want to miss when visiting the Costa Ballena (Whale Coast) region of Costa Rica

© iStock/gydyt0jas

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