Located on Costa Rica’s northern Caribbean coast, and only accessible by water or air, Tortuguero National Park offers visitors the chance to see an incredible array of plants and wildlife. The reserve’s black sand beaches are important breeding and nesting grounds for sea turtles, including endangered green turtles. Freshwater creeks and lagoons, which can be navigated by boat or canoe, shelter caimans and otters, while the surrounding dense rainforest resonates with the calls of monkeys and many bird species.
Tortuguero National Park’s vast network of waterways, canals and swamps are perfect for spotting monkeys, caiman, iguanas, butterflies and over 300 bird species.
Turtle Nesting Season
Turtle nesting times vary depending on the turtle species, but are mainly between early March and mid-October. The most common of the four turtle species is the Green Turtle, which is famous for its massive annual nesting from July to the middle of October. From November to January, baby turtles can be seen scrambling towards the shore for the first time.
You will need a licensed guide to visit the beaches at night (no one is allowed on the beach unaccompanied after 6:00 pm). This can be arranged through the kiosk in the middle of Tortuguero village or through your lodge. The tours are about 2 hours in duration. Cameras and lights are not permitted on the beach and guests should wear dark clothing to avoid disrupting the turtles as they struggle up the beach, dig their nests and lay their eggs.
Read more about the wonderful work of the Tortuguero Turtle Conservancy over here.
Travel Log and Tips
I travelled to Costa Rica in August 2017 with Exodus Travels, on their 16-day Discover Costa Rica trip, flying direct from London Gatwick to San Jose on British Airways.
We stayed at the Laguna Lodge on a full board basis – a fantastic location, budget but comfortable accommodation, good food, two lovely swimming pools, beautiful gardens…highly recommended!
Bring: Binoculars for spotting wildlife and pack light clothing, sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, and insect repellent as Tortuguero can be very warm and humid. A light poncho or rain jacket is essential as this is one of the damper regions of Costa Rica!
The beaches in the area are good for walking or watching the sea turtles nest, but stick to the pool at your lodge for swimming. Connected to the national park, Playa Tortuguero has very strong waves and is not suitable for swimming as tiger sharks patrol the brackish waters while caimans and crocodiles inhabit the inland waters.