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Turtles in Tortuguero National Park

  • Limon Province, Costa Rica

  • Bucket List Experience

Last updated: 05 April, 2024

Tortuguero National Park, on Costa Rica’s northeastern Caribbean coast, is the best place in the northern Atlantic to see nesting and hatching sea turtles; four species can be seen including giant leatherbacks.

The dominant species is the Green Turtle – Tortuguero’s black sand beach is the most important nesting site for the species in the Western Hemisphere, thanks to half a century of conservation. Visit in the right months and sightings are virtually guaranteed.

There’s much more besides – some 160 species of reptiles and amphibians, 60 species of mammals and 300+ species of birds. Shoreside lagoons, filled with crocodiles stretch back from the beaches; gallery forests are busy with capuchin monkeys, toucans, spider monkeys, iguanas and three-toed sloths.

Lush hills rise above the whole landscape – offering stunning viewpoints that look as wild and primeval as the Jurassic World.

See it all on short hikes, boat excursions on the long lagoons or by kayak.

But this is wilderness with ease and comfort – there are accommodation options for adults of all ages and families with even the youngest kids.

Logistics

Price: Free
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 8+
When: All year around

Getting there & doing it

Tortuguero is remote and reachable only by taxi boat (from La Pavona or Moín) or air. The best way to visit is to book into one of the jungle lodges in the park. The accommodation will include turtle nesting tours (guides are compulsory), boat excursions, all food and pick-up from Tortuguero’s domestic airport.

There are cheaper guesthouses in Tortuguero village and a handful of local agencies there who offer tours. Kayaks can also be rented to explore the lagoons.

There are two essential tours in the region – a trip to the long, dark-sand heavily-protected turtle nesting and hatching beach, and a creek and lagoon wildlife-spotting boat tour. Turtle beach visits can only be done with a local wildlife guide. Stays at Tortuga Lodge and other of the more upmarket places include turtle-beach visits. They also generally include creek and lagoon wildlife tours by boat; together with other options like jungle hikes to look-out points and night safaris.

However, both these tours (and others besides) can be organised with independent local operators like Daryl Loth in Tortuguero village; where the cheaper accommodation is located.

When to do it

Tortuguero is wonderful at any time of year but to see turtles nesting you need to visit between February and October (with July and August peak season for sightings). Hatchlings can be seen through until December.

Green turtles nest from July to October, leatherbacks from February to July, and loggerhead and hawksbill turtles from March to October. Hatchlings emerge 60 days after nesting.

Who to go with: organised tours

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Our selection of the best Viator tours of this attraction or activity

Canoe Tour in Tortuguero National Park

  • Tortuguero

On this tour, you will put aside your worries, you will relax and enjoy the immensity of the very humid tropical forest of Costa Rica. Some important aspects to take into account: Canoes are small boats. Maximum 8 people per canoe (typical canoe with paddles). It is worth mentioning that it is not necessary to row if you wish, the guide will do it. We offer 3 different schedules to make the tour, however, we recommend doing the 6:00 am, since at this time the animals are more active and the temperature is the best. If you carry your camera, do not forget to take something to protect it against water, since the weather conditions are quite unpredictable and it can rain at any time.

Price $32

Min age 1

Rating 4.87 / 5 [180 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Tortuguero: All-inclusive Package 2 nights 3 days from San José

  • San Jose

Enjoy one of the best packages in Costa Rica, Tortuguero is one of the most sought after destinations in the world and this tour is designed for people without much time but who want to enjoy this wonderful experience from San José. Departing daily from the city of San José, you can enjoy this package any day, starting your experience you can enjoy the wonders of the rain forest and also the Caribbean flavor of the area.

Price $437

Min age 0

Rating 4.29 / 5 [51 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Turtle Nesting night Tour in Tortuguero

  • Tortuguero

Admiring the effort of one of the longest living species on the planet to ensure its survival. This tour is to observe the nesting process of sea turtles, accompanied by a local guide who will explain you the process or actions that are taking place in the world of sea turtles during their nesting season (July 1 to October 31 ) One of the most special experiences in liven time.

Price $40

Min age 0

Rating 4.59 / 5 [49 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Zipline Canopy Tour & Tortuguero Canal Boat tour. Shore Excursion from Limon

  • Limon

Enjoy the marvelous experience of taking the tour that will give you the opportunity of crossing the “jungle” like a monkey in its habitat. You will cross the forest from tree to tree with first class equipment. If you want an adrenaline rush, then this is the tour for you! Glide through the treetops with this exhilarating adventure: 11 cables and 11 platforms stretched across the length of the rain forest. The longest cable is 270 meters long and you will experience heights up to 80 meters. After the zipline canopy experience, a short drive will take you to Moin Town for a Tortuguero Canal Boat Ride. Your guide explains the rain forest ecosystem and points out sights of interest. Keep an eye out for wildlife including howler monkeys, sloths, toucans, bats, aquatic birds, iguanas and crocodiles as well as exotic flora.

Price $145

Min age 1

Rating 4.40 / 5 [44 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Tortuguero National Park and Canals Day Trip from San Jose

  • San Jose

This enchanted and secluded park is the save heaven of many different species of while life not only native of Costa Rica, but to the Americas. Travelling through the waters of the hidden lagoons and canals as the flowering vine covered trees blend in with their own water reflection we will have the unique experience of observing as close as possible several species of flora and fauna. It is easy to observe several species of crocodiles, toucan, monkeys, slots, macaws, iguanas and some others. Among such species we find the majestic green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) which has in Tortuguero 21 miles of beach to nest in (July to October); the largest nesting site of the western hemisphere. Tortuguero is considered the most important nesting site on the western half of the caribbean for the green turtle that comes to the beach to nest every year. . Please note that the nesting tour only takes place at night and you will not see turtles nesting on the beach during this one day tour.

Price $209

Min age 0

Rating 4.7 / 5 [40 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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