Destination Spotlight: Tortuguero

  • If you’re the type to spend an entire day Netflix-ing your way through National Geographic specials, Tortuguero might be for you.
  • If you’ve accrued a large collection of glass turtle figurines and collectibles at any point in your life, Tortuguero might be for you.
  • If you’ve ever owned a “Save the Manatees!” t-shirt, Tortuguero might be for you.
  • If you aspire to be the next Rick Steves, Samantha Brown, or even Bear Grylls, Tortuguero might be for you.

Tortuguero sounds pretty fantastic. So what is it?

Destination Spotlight: Tortuguero

One of Central America’s most biologically diverse regions, Tortuguero National Park is a labyrinth of rainforest, mangroves, lagoons, rivers, swamps, and beaches. This multitude of habitats concentrated into one location means that the wildlife is diverse, abundant, and constant. Though it is in the top 3 most popular destinations in Costa Rica, Tortuguero is still considered one of the country’s most unique and remote highlights.

Why would I want to go to Tortuguero?

If nature is a priority on your trip, then Tortuguero should be at the top of your destination list. It’s an Amazon-esque environment with Costa Rican charm. By visiting the lesser-travelled Caribbean side of the country you will leave with an experience that most resort-dwellers don’t get: The real deal.

Destination Spotlight: Tortuguero

Heron, toucans, macaws, monkeys, jaguars, caimans and crocs, snakes, frogs, and the occasional elusive manatee all patrol the marshes, rivers, and swamps of Tortuguero. The substantial rainfall and considerable humidity produce lush, vibrant flora and fauna, creating a nuanced natural experience for visitors.

Tortuguero For Families

The area is also very family-friendly. Little ones can get an up-close experience with nature all from the comfort of a boat. Additionally, meals and transportation are provided by most hotels so the hassle of family travel is virtually cut in half!

Turtles in Tortuguero

Destination Spotlight: Tortuguero

If a place is named after turtles, we’re pretty much obligated to spotlight them. Tortuguero (literally “Turtle Place” in English) is a hot spot for turtle enthusiasts looking to experience something similar to what they would see on a TV nature special. From July to September, Tortuguero National Park offers exclusive night tours to various nesting hot spots along the beach. While 4 different types of turtles visit annually, the Green Sea Turtle is the most observed; Thousands of people visit each year just to witness the spectacle of their nesting. Tortuguero National Park is serious about preserving these nesting grounds and protecting the turtles, so guests better be serious too! The park implements strict limits on visitor activity and monitors all tourist traffic in an effort to maintain an unharmed environment for the turtles. To witness this natural wonder is a very special experience, so be sure to leave room for a visit in your travel itinerary!

Where do I stay in Tortuguero?

Ok, so you’re sold on Tortuguero and now you’re wondering about a few things. Where do I stay? How the heck do I get there? What will I eat? At least, that’s what I would want to know…

Tortuguero Hotel Recommendations

We have a few favorites in the area that we highly recommend. For an authentic, rustic experience try Mawamba Lodge. It is moderately priced with clean and simple amenities, allowing you to focus on the fantastic nature around you without the frills of some higher-end accommodations.

Destination Spotlight: Tortuguero

Mawamba Lodge

For those looking for a combination of style and nature, Manatus Lodge and Tortuga Lodge & Gardens deliver a happy marriage of top-notch amenities with authentic Tortuguero flare.

Destination Spotlight: Tortuguero

Manatus Lodge: standard room

Each hotel serves a variety of Costa Rican staple dishes, as well as some Caribbean-influenced fare that you won’t find as easily in other parts of the country. Of course, more familiar options are also available for younger guests and pickier eaters. Meals are fresh and often local, with emphasis on sustainability.

Tortuguero Canals & Transportation

Destination Spotlight: Tortuguero

Getting to Tortuguero is an experience on its own and adds to the remote allure of this wild destination. While it is accessible by plane, most visitors opt for the more adventurous route and pursue Tortuguero by way of river taxi. After staying overnight in San Jose, guests rise with the sun to head out for a day of exploration by bus and boat. After a scenic river ride, visitors reach their hotel and are encouraged to relax and take in their surroundings. The next day is wide open for adventure and usually includes a guided boat tour of the Tortuguero jungle canals. Other tours are available through the hotel, including various hikes, museum visits, kayaking, canopy zip-lining, and more.

So just do it…

Tortuguero is simply a destination not to be missed. While it is especially appealing to nature and adventure enthusiasts, it is a magical destination that will intrigue and inspire any type of traveler. If your travel plans tend to swing in favor of large resorts and luxury cruises, I challenge you to take on Tortuguero and have the vacation experience that you didn’t even know you were missing!

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