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  • Writer's picturePamela Brusa

Eco-Tourism... Tortuguero Costa Rica

Updated: May 14, 2019

Tortuguero the “place of the turtles” in Costa Rica is enchanting and one of the most unique places I have visited in the world. It is in the Northern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica in the Limon province. In the 1950’s an American sea turtle researcher discovered that it was the single most important nesting site for green turtles on the Western Hemisphere. Since then, eco-tourists from all over the world travel to see the turtles, and visit the Tortuguero National Park making it one of the leading ecotourism destinations in the country.

With long and sometimes wide canals, lush and dense rain forest, and vast beaches, Tortuguero appropriately earns the nickname of the “Amazon of Costa Rica”.

Tortuguero National Park is right next to Tortuguero village. It was originally created in 1959 as a tagging program to protect sea turtles from hunting and poaching of their eggs. Currently, Tortuguero protects hundreds of turtles including species like the green sea turtles, leatherback and hawksbill turtles.

After weeks of research my family and I finally gathered some courage to take this trip… Well, getting to Tortuguero is not an easy task guys, but it’s certainly worth it! There are no roads leading to this National Park, the only access is by boat.

At 5 a.m. we left San Jose towards Limon… two hours later we made our first stop at Cariari for a quick coffee break. Then proceeded for another 30 minutes to La Pavona dock. At La Pavona we parked the car for 5,000 Colones per night and purchased boat tickets from the restaurant. We opted for a private boat for 3,000 Colones per person.

Tortuguero village gives you a unique tourist experience. The river on one side and beach on the other surround it. Although Playa Tortuguero is not a very photogenic beach, it is what put Tortuguero on the map as one of the leading eco-destinations in Costa Rica.

The village is very small. The main strip runs around 1.2 kilometers with a population of around 2,000 people; here tourism is the backbone with locals working at hotels and restaurants, renting small cabins or as naturalist guides. Before tourism, fishing was the main industry due to the rich ocean and river waters.

And the food is good! The whole Caribbean food experience and we loved it!

We paid 1,000 Colones for a full day access to the National Park and an additional $15 for a night tour. Then hired a canoe and a guide to take us through the beautiful, calm and out of this world Tortuguero canals. You experience biodiversity at its finest, from mangroves, to rain forest and lagoons. Tortuguero is also the home to over 400 species of birds and exotic animals that I've never seen before! Like the howler monkeys and the three-toed sloth, an animal that spends most of its day hanging from the trees, thanks to its long claws.

Oh, by the way the Park is 77,032 acres and forms another corridor with a protected area in Nicaragua.

Back at the hotel another tour was waiting for us, this time to the beach of Tortuguero, where we were lucky to see live the nesting and spawning of sea turtles, a unique spectacle in the world. Thousands of turtles come to the beach and choose a place to dig and lay their eggs; then they return to the sea leaving behind their legacy. This tour is done at night and no photos are allowed.

Next morning at 6 a.m. we took a wildlife watching tour in a kayak. Yes! We went on a kayaking tour through the canals for about two hours this was actually one of the best things we experienced. We saw tons of caimans, river birds, monkeys, sloths and lots of iguanas.

The highlight of our adventure was canopy tour; we literally flew over the treetops… no doubt an incredible adventure.

I went home with a goal to convince my friend Suzy to take a trip to Costa Rica and have the ultimate exotic vacation. No luck with that yet but we will get there some day, hopefully soon!


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