Tortuguero National Park, known as the Amazon of Costa Rica for its abundant biodiversity and vegetation, is the third most visited national park in the country. Located in the Limon Province in the Northern Caribbean coast the small Tortuguero town, which lies right next to the national park, consists on a 400m main strip with small hotels, hostels, cabins, restaurants, and souvenir shops.
Its quite an odyssey to get to this area in the Caribbean, nevertheless it’s totally worth it!
You can only access this town by plane or boat. There’s a local airline that flies from San Jose to the airport in the Caribbean close to the dock, but you have to take a boat to get to your hotel or to the main village. You can also drive to La Pavona, where the dock is, and leave your car in a private parking that charges you a daily fee. From La Pavona you will take a boat ride about 1.5 hours to get to the village.
Since we are talking of the Caribbean, precisely Tortuguero which is immersed in the Tropical Rain Forest, you must be aware of the hot and VERY humid climate. It is known as one of the wettest parts of Costa Rica. This region does not attach to the country’s dry-rainy season, it has its own calendar. Thus, the best months to visit the area is during September to November and February. It can rain at any time of the year, most of the times during these months, it’s sunny in the mornings and rainy in the late afternoon and the whole night. Nevertheless, climate does not stop the Caribbean of being one of the most beautiful regions.
Tortuguero is one of the leading ecotourism regions in Costa Rica. The National Park is about 77,032 acres with three trails of 700-3500 meters opened to visitors. Inside the park, there’s plenty of biodiversity and different ecosystems: swamps, mangroves, rainforest, rivers, lagoons, beaches… There are plenty of animals and different types of plants that can be admired and studied. The park is so big and diverse that there are some parts that can only be accessed by canoes or kayak, being a unique and peaceful experience. There are also hiking trails where you could go by yourself or with a guide, you can also walk through the park at the night – we do recommend a guide for the night walk! Inside the Park, you will be able to watch monkeys, sloths, butterflies, iguanas of all kinds and sizes, snakes, birds, crocodiles, raccoons, frogs (some are venous), dantas and plenty more… It is suggested to always stay on the trail, some animals and plants can be harmful, and trails are marked specifically for the protection of tourists.
Tortuguero: the place of turtles. Turtles are one of the main attractions in this park, and 2018 was a great year for these animals and for the Conservation Team of the National Park. The shore was totally covered with turtles that arrived to lay their eggs. It was one of the best years to watch the “arribada” as we experienced a larger population of turtles. There are four different species that come to Tortuguero to lay eggs. The best season to watch this spectacle is from March to October. November is a great month to watch how the little turtles hatch from their eggs and make their arduous way to the ocean. Tourists can watch the arribada ONLY by booking a tour, you have to go with a guide that will instruct you on how to behave during the process. The goal is for tourists to have a great experience without altering the natural process.
Recently, National Geographic launched a documentary about increasing turtles populations and how they are helping the ecosystem. They explained that Tortuguero is a paradise for animals, there is an abundance of food, and it was proven by filming three different jaguars sharing their food. The documentary also showed the parallels relationship between jaguars and turtles, as one population increases the other one does too. These felines tend to inhabit the place that is only a conservation area, not opened to the public, but it is known that they do approach the beach or the canals where people can access.
If you are traveling to Tortuguero be prepared to live a surrealistic experience. It is beautiful to see the way the small village is merged within the Tropical Rain Forest. There are some hotels have their own rivers right next to them and you wake up to the sound of the monkeys in your balcony. The key to having abundant biodiversity and being one of the most visited national parks in the country is due to the conservation of the area.
- Always remember to check the boat schedules! There is a tight schedule that varies depending on the tide to get from La Pavona to Tortuguero. *You can buy the tickets at the moment in the restaurant next to the dock.
- Don’t forget your sunblock and mosquitos repellent.
- Impermeable clothing, it’s a humid area!
- Stay within the trails marked in the National Park.
- If you are going on a budget, you can stay in the small hotels in the village.
- Near the National Park, you will find more upscale hotels.