Attracting wildlife enthusiast from around the globe, the small town of Tortuguero on Costa Rica’s northern Caribbean Coast is named for the famed sea turtles that come to the area to nest. Tortuguero’s dense jungle maze of winding canals is evocative of the wild Amazon. A float down these ominous brown waters is an adventure in itself as you’re sure to hear the howling of monkeys and screeching of exotic birds along the way.
Explore Tortuguero National Park by Boat, Kayak, or Canoe.
Home to the celebrated Tortuguero National Park, the network of canals, rivers, lagoons, beaches, and dense rainforest here are interlinked. This is one of the rainiest parts of Costa Rica, which contributes to its rich biodiversity. Exploring these canals and observing the wildlife by boat, kayak or canoe is a wonderfully relaxing and peaceful way to experience nature.
Local expert guides will assist you in spotting wildlife. Within this labyrinth of jungle rivers lies the area’s main attractions of Tortuguero National Park and the Barra de Colorado Wildlife Refuge. These parks protect a long list of exotic plants and animals, including endangered species such as green macaws, jaguars, and several species of sea turtles.
Related Article: 9 Best Costa Rica National Parks & Reserves
Don’t Miss a Tortuguero Turtle Tour.
The northern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica is home to mass turtle nestings. Four different species of sea turtles come to Tortuguero annually for the “arribada” or mass sea turtle nesting. Visit Tortuguero to see the Green, Leatherback, Hawksbill, and Loggerhead sea turtles return home to where they hatched in order to lay the next generation of eggs. You’ll be amazed by these creatures – the Leatherback, the largest living turtle species, averages 6 to 7 feet long and can weight up to 1500 pounds!
Visit During 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 June to the middle of October. Turtle nesting walks can be arranged with a licensed guide from your lodge. The tours are led at night and 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.
Tortuguero Village is a little town situated on a rainforest-backed sandbar where sea turtles come to nest. At one point the town was a remote fishing village among coconut and cocoa plantations. Today, the town is a central station for conservation and research in the area.
Tortuguero makes a fantastic location for both migratory and resident bird species because of its variety of habitations: beach, forest, fresh water, aerial, and clearings. There are over 300 different bird species found here. Because there are no roads in Tortuguero, birding excursions are experienced by boat along the jungle canals. A wide variety of birds can be seen within a small area. Hawks, Falcons, Sunbitterns, Gulls, Cuckoos, Owls, and Nighthawks are just some of the bird species that can be found within the park.
Fishing is popular from Tortuguero as the destination offers both salt and freshwater fishing. The legendary “Silver King” or tarpon can be found from Tortuguero also from January to June. Bass are common from September to December. Fishing guides are encouraged to practice “catch and release” to protect fish populations.
Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge
Just north of Tortuguero, Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge is part of the Tortuguero Conservation Area. Like Tortuguero, there are wetlands, tropical forests, canals, and fluvial islands. Barra del Colorado has over 31 miles of waterways. One of the most popular activities in Barra del Colorado is fishing.
Skip Swimming from Tortuguero Beach.
The primitive beaches in the area are good for walking or watching the sea turtles nest but stick to the pool for swimming. Connected to the national park, Tortuguero Beach has very strong waves and is not suitable for swimming as sharks patrol the brackish waters while caimans and crocodiles inhabit the inland waters.
Tortuguero Travel Information:
Climate: It rains year round but less so January – April and September – October.
Temperature: Average high of 88°
Bring: Binoculars for spotting wildlife; Definitely pack a light poncho as this is one of the damper regions of Costa Rica. Tortuguero can be very warm and humid. Make sure to have light clothing, sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, and insect repellent!
Don’t Miss: The friendly locals and traditions in the village of Tortuguero
Money Exchange: Due to its remote location, there are no banks or ATMs in Tortuguero. Be sure to bring along some cash or colones before you arrive.