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Located on Costa Rica’s northern Caribbean coast, Tortuguero is a beautiful national park that can only be reached by boat or plane, thriving with all kinds of wildlife. Named after the sea turtles that come to the area to nest each year, Tortuguero attracts wildlife lovers from around the world.
Tortuguero National Park stretches north along the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, 50 kilometres northwest of Puerto Limon. The village of Tortuguero has a population of around 500, with no cars, and is located on a narrow spit of land between the beach and a canal. The canal runs parallel to the beach, fed by a maze of streams and channels evocative of the Amazon Jungle. The land and boat journey from San Jose to Tortuguero National Park takes about five hours, starting with a beautiful three-hour coach journey through the Braulio Carillo National Park and seeing the banana plantations en route. You then take a two-hour boat ride to your jungle lodge in Tortuguero, which is a great introduction to the wildlife of the area. Alternatively, the light aircraft flight takes approximately 30 minutes.
Tortuguero National Park is one of the most important nesting sites for sea turtles in the Caribbean, with four of the eight species in the world laying their eggs on the black sand beach. The park was created in 1975 to protected endangered turtles, and today it is the most important hatchery in the western Caribbean for green sea turtles, with three other species also nesting here - hawksbill, loggerhead and giant leatherback. It is possible to arrange night time turtle tours to the beach to see the turtles laying eggs or hatching, although this must be done in a guided group and the numbers of visitors are controlled. These can be booked from your jungle lodge. The busiest months for turtle activity are July and August, although you may also see turtles from March to November. The village of Tortuguero itself is a good place to find out about the conservation of the turtles.
Tortuguero Flora & Fauna
Tortuguero National Park offers some of the best wildlife watching in Costa Rica, including 57 species of amphibians, 111 species of reptiles and 60 mammal species. Apart from the nesting turtles, the rainforest inland from the coast is home to caimans, monkeys, river otters and sloths. The edges of the forest along the waterways are a good place to see howler monkeys, white-faced monkeys and spider monkeys. Jaguars and ocelots inhabit the park, but are rarely seen. Birdwatching in Tortuguero is a popular activity, with over 300 species including toucans, trogons, parrots, herons, egrets, kingfishers, jacanas, hawks and kites.
There are many things to do at Tortuguero National Park. Aside from doing a turtle tour, you can take a boat trip through the canals or hike through the rainforest to spot wildlife with the help of an experienced naturalist guide. Kayaks are available to hire, providing a relaxing and peaceful way to explore the canals and experience the diverse wildlife of Costa Rica. There is also a sea turtle conservancy museum where you can learn more about the turtles and why it is so important to protect them. You can also spend your time browsing the village of Tortuguero or walking along the beach, although please note that the beach is not safe for swimming.
Staying in a lodge is a good way to experience the natural beauty of Tortuguero Lodge, with all meals and excursions included.
Located close to the Tortuguero National Park main entrance, the Aninga Lodge is surrounded by lush tropical jungle and waterways, with facilities including a pool, spa and restaurants. Kayaks are available to use for free, and excursions are taken in groups with a maximum of 18 people.
For a more intimate and superior option, the Manatus Hotel is a 12-room lodge close to Tortuguero National Park, with a nature trail around the hotel grounds so you can explore the lush vegetation. There is a restaurant, bar, art gallery, private forest reserve, pool, sun terrace, spa and gym. The Manatus Hotel is the best lodge in the Tortuguero region, and the small groups on excursions give a better chance to interact with the guide.
If you would like to see turtles hatching on the beach and navigate the wildlife-filled jungle waterways of Tortuguero, call us on 020 7263 3000 to plan your Costa Rica holiday.
- Population: 800
- Altitude: Sea level
- Climate: Tortuguero is one the wettest regions of Costa Rica, with rain almost all year around. The drier season months are February, March and September; however, even at this time rain is still to be expected. The climate is hot and humid all year round, with average day temperatures of 25 - 30°C.