Animals and Adventure in Costa Rica: Tortuguero

In order to maximize our time in Costa Rica, Shelley and I spent only about 1 1/2 days in each city we visited. We made sure to do everything we really wanted before heading on our way to the next destination. From La Fortuna, we traveled to Tortuguero, most notable for the sea turtles (tortugas) that lay eggs there a few months out of the year. The town is flanked by water – the canals on one side and the Caribbean on the other – which gives it a very laid-back lifestyle.

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Sightseeing

Sea Turtle Night Tour

“The town’s beaches are considered one of the world’s most important nesting sites for green sea turtles, which weigh up to 400 pounds and can lay up to 700 eggs per season. Nightly turtle tours depart several times daily during nesting season [July-October].”*

This was hands-down one of the coolest things I’ve seen! A guide takes you onto the beaches of the Tortuguero National Park where spotters are looking for giant turtles to lay their eggs. The mamas swim up onto the shore, dig a hole, and as soon as they’re ready to lay the eggs, they go into a trance-like state. That’s when you’re able to watch. We saw one mama lay a few eggs, which was pretty magical.

The cost is $25 per person. Tours leave at either 8 or 10pm, and the time is chosen by the National Park. Notes: you have to wear dark clothes and long pants. I also suggest bringing bug spray and a raincoat. For the turtles’ sake you can’t take any photos.

Our hostel set this up for us with Roots Costa Rica Tours (more info below), though there are a few other companies you could set it up with located in the town.

Canal Tour

With a nice early wake-up time (you have to get there at 5:40am!), this tour gives you the option to see all sorts of wildlife. Depending on the company you use (again, I used Roots Costa Rica, through our hostel), you may or may not have to come ready to paddle! To be more eco-friendly, you should choose a company that has canoes without an engine.

On our tour, we saw many different species of birds, including some beautiful green macaws and toucans! We also saw two-toed sloths, various monkeys, caymans, and an emerald basilisk (this iguana is also known as Moses since it runs on water). Obviously, what you see will depend on the morning you’re there and how dedicated your guide is.

Binoculars and a guide are provided. Bring your own flip flops, sunscreen, and a hat as it can get quite toasty by the time you’re finished. Price is $25 for the tour and $15 for the National Park entrance fee; the park ticket lets you go into the park at any time throughout the day, too.

 

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Restaurants

Budda Cafe

The yummy food and fresh-squeezed juices complement the beautiful views of the channel.

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Pick a Soda, any Soda

What is a Soda? It’s a traditional Costa Rican restaurant that offers the standard Casado meal. What’s a Casado? You choose your meat/protein, which is served with rice, beans, fried sweet plantains, sometimes cheese, and salad. You really could pick any soda for an inexpensive Costa Rican meal..and we did many times all over the country.

Also, you’re on the beach, so a fresh-cut coconut water or coco loco (add in some rum!) is always in order.

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Accommodation

La Casona Tortuguero

Sarah, the owner, is really great. She helped us to set up our tours at Roots Costa Rica (which her brother owns, but is also really great). Hot breakfast is included every day.

Price: $25/night/room

Room: private room with two beds, shared bathroom

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Transportation

To get to Tortuguero, we took a mini-bus for a couple hours to a boat terminal. From there, we took a small motorized boat through some canals for about an hour-and-a-half. Because there are really no other ways to get to the town, but we really wanted to see the sea turtles, we paid $60 a person to get there.

Tortuguero is very small and no cars are allowed, so everyone walks everywhere.

Day 1 – Fly to San Jose

Day 2 – San Jose, Travel to Monteverde

Day 3 – Monteverde

Day 4 – Travel to La Fortuna

Day 5 – La Fortuna

Day 6 – Travel to Tortuguero

Day 7 – Tortuguero

Day 8 – Travel to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

Day 9 – Puerto Viejo

Day 10 – Puerto Viejo

Day 11 – Travel to San Jose

Day 12 – Fly home

*Costa Rican Vacations

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