Did you know Tortuga is Turtle in Spanish- this national park stands for the turtles! If you are planning on dedicating a portion of your Costa Rica trip to the Caribbean coast, read on for all you need to know on our Tortuguero National Park guide.
Table of Contents
Location: Tortuguero National Park is located on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica accessible via boat or airplane.
How many days: One and a half or two. Longer if you want more time to relax and lounge around.
Parking: You must take a boat or airplane to Tortuguero. If you choose a boat, park at La Pavona Parking Lot. This is located at the boat dock (with a restaurant) where you will be picked up to ride to the park. It is $10 a night to leave your car parked.
Accommodation: Some of the absolute most friendly hospitality staff EVER are at Acari Garden Hostel!
Things to Do
Canoe or Kayak Tour
Spot wildlife in the region through the careful eye of a trained guide. You can opt to rent kayaks or canoes on your own if you prefer. While larger, motorized boats are available for tour as well, they are not able to get into as small of areas as the canoes or kayaks so there may not be as many opportunities to see or learn about the animals.
This tour enters the national park, therefore it requires a $15 entrance fee in addition to the cost of your ticket. Tickets can be purchased on the SINAC website.
Sea Turtle Tour
Nesting season begins in July. With a tour taking very high safety precautions to protect the turtles, you may be lucky to see some lay eggs and return into the sea after building a nest in the sand.
Important to note:
- Turtle nesting season begins in July and turtles typically begin to hatch in the fall.
- There are strict measures in place in order to protect the wild life on this national park. Taking pictures of turtles on the beach after 6:00pm on the beach is strictly prohibited. Entering the beach after 6:00pm is strictly prohibited. The people of this village and wildlife protection care deeply for the native species.
- Years ago, scientists in the area noticed a steep decline in the sea turtle population. Through research, they concluded tourism was significantly inhibiting this area due to tourists flashing cameras at the nesting sea turtles ready to lay eggs. Frightened, the sea turtles would return to the ocean without laying eggs.
About the turtles:
- A nesting turtle may lay between 100-200 eggs
- The nesting turtle arrives at the beach when she is carrying all of her eggs. Then she is ready
- The nesting mother may arrive and not find a suitable area to lay her eggs, and she will then return to the ocean. She may or may not return again later.
This was not a favorite as it was very buggy and we mostly saw insects- I also just am terrified of bugs! We had also seen most of the wildlife we encountered on this tour in other parts of Costa Rica so maybe we are just a bit jaded. While this was not totally my jam, it may be yours.
Something neat to note is that some places (like Acari) offer a combined night/sea turtle tour at the very start of sea turtle season, as there is not guarantee you will see any sea turtles so the nature portion ensures you still safely see some wildlife.
Hike Tortuguero Hill
In addition to breathtaking aerial views from the top, explore this lush jungle and use your animal spotting skills from a canoe tour to discover even more species. You may just see howler monkeys, red frogs, lizards, and more.
You must catch a boat from the Tortuguero Hill dock that will drop you off at the San Francisco stop, about a 10-15 minute journey. Check with your accommodation front desk to confirm the times you can catch your boat to and from the San Francisco Dock. The cost is approximately 2 dollars per way. *Fun fact: on the way back from our boat, we spotted dolphins! Not common in the area, but possible to see as they enjoy the warm water mixed with salt water for a relaxing atmosphere.
Hike Jaguar Trail
While no scenic views at the top unlike Tortuguero Hill, scope another lush jungle walk and see animals such as howler monkeys, lizards, and turtles. This is currently the only open trail located within Tortuguero itself. This park requires a $15 entrance fee to enter per day.
You are on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica- how fun! Explore Caribbean food. We truly enjoy El Patio. We learned that the primary difference between Caribbean Costa Rican food, and Costa Rican food, is the way in which the food items are cooked. Caribbean food tends to be cooked in coconut milk and uses different spices, and Costa Rican food tends to be cooked in water. For Costa Rican food, we loved El Nino. The owners and staff were so kind here we even became friends with the family!
Explore the Village
Tortuguero National Park is located on the side of Tortuguero village. Walk around, make some friends, support local businesses through shopping and grabbing a bite to eat.
Enjoy the Beach!
The turtles love it, and you may too! The black sand on this beach comes from the formation of volcanic sediment. Swimming is not always advised due to barracudas possibly in the water- check in with your accommodation staff or local guide for up to date information!