Tortuguero is one of the wildest and most remote destinations in Costa Rica. The town is located along the Caribbean coast north of the city of Limon in the Limon province. This area is best known for being a primary nesting spot for the Green Sea Turtle between mid-July and mid-October. Though many visitors come for the turtles, the area is home many species of wildlife such as jaguars, manatees, monkeys, sloths and many crocodiles.
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Tortuguero National Park is the main draw for this region. The park is comprised of 47,000 terrestrial acres and 129,000 maritime acres making it one of the largest and most important habitats in the country. Three species of Costa Rica sea turtles nest here, the Green Turtles, Leatherback and Hawksbills.
To access Tortuguero you either have to go by boat or plane as there are no roads due to the canals and mangroves. This adds to the overall experience as visitors are able to observe wildlife in their true, undisturbed environment. Once in the area, most Tortuguero lodges are located along the canals and require boat access. The majority of them include tours, transportation from and to San Jose and meals.
When arriving to town you will notice the eco-friendly environment. The primary goal of the village is to protect the environment that in turn employs the majority of inhabitants. Tortuguero offers a museum for visitors but the main activities are wildlife observation boat rides and hiking various trails.
Reasons to visit
This is one of the best destinations in Costa Rica for wildlife observation.
This is the land of true ecolodges.
Tortuguero can only be accessed by boat or plane, so it remains in a natural state.
Though rarely spotted, there is a healthy population of jaguars in this area.
Several species of sea turtles nest here.
If you are visiting between mid-July through Mid-October, you will have a good chance of seeing a nesting turtle.
The idea of a jungle boat safari intrigues you.
You would like to learn about the Costa Rica Caribbean culture.
You enjoy photographing unique locations and exotic wildlife.
You do not mind roughing it a little in order to experience the real Costa Rica.
Reason not to visit
If you opt for the land and boat transfer, it is going to take 5+ hours from most destinations.
All but one lodge in Tortuguero are very rustic and do not have televisions or air conditioning.
It is hot and humid. Daytime temps usually reach the low 90s.
You would prefer a catamaran cruise to a jungle boat safari.
Though it is located on the coast, you cannot swim on the beaches due to dangerous riptides and a large bull shark population.
Bugs bother you.
Most lodges include meals. These meals are normally served buffet style.
Your idea of a vacation is relaxing in a lounge chair on the beach.
Weather and packing list
The Caribbean is a region of vast contrasts in weather. Temperatures remain the same nearly year round with average day time highs in the low 90s and night time lows in the upper 70s. Precipitation varies by month with the months of February, March, September and October being the driest.
Visitors should pack a bathing suit, towel, shorts, tee shirts, appropriate shoes, rain gear, sun block, and insect repellent. Visit our packing suggestion page for a more cmprehensive list.
Fun Fact: Tortuguero was named a national park in 1970 with the primary purpose of protecting the turtle nesting grounds in an effort led by biologist Archie Carr.