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Tortuguero National Park

Google Map - Tortuguero National Park

One of Costa Rica’s rainiest and most biologically diverse regions in the country, Tortuguero has often been referred to as Costa Rica’s Amazon. A natural system of canals and navigable lagoons, of great scenic beauty, cross the park from the southwest to northwest. The region is the most important nesting site in the western Caribbean for green turtles, with leatherback and hawksbill turtles also nesting along the Atlantic beaches that parallel the inland canals. The region’s tropical climate and rich, biological diversity helps form a habitat that hosts over 300 bird species, including the beautiful green macaw. Basilica lizards, manatee, poison dart frogs, crocodiles and three different species of monkey, is just a small sample of what can be observed here.

The Tortuguero Ranger Station resides along the Tortugero River, at the southern end of town. There’s a single trail that departs from behind the ranger station, though it’s not very long. Several other trails within the park exist, but you’ll need to hire a local guide to get you there, and it’s not a good idea to go unaccompanied. For those who like to paddle, dugout canoes of varying sizes can be hired in town. Canoes/kayaks provide an ideal opportunity to get close and personal with the many monkeys, lizards and birds that inhabit the canals. The slower, quieter canoes will not disturb the animals the way larger, engine powered launch does.

Due to its humidity and abundance of rainfall there are tons of insects, so Tortugero is not a good place to visit without copious amounts of insect repellent.

Getting to Tortuguero

Air - daily, regularly scheduled flights to Tortuguero depart from Juan Santamaria and Pavas airports in San Jose, the latter of which resides in a suburb just outside of downtown San Jose.

Google Map - Pavas AirportGoogle Map - Juan Santamaria Airport

Bus/Water Taxi - take a public bus from the Terminal Gran Caribe (Caribeños) in San Jose to Limon, and then another bus, or taxi, to the port of Moin. Once in Moin, you can take a shared water taxi to Tortuguero. Best to depart San Jose as early as possible, to ensure you reach Moin with ample time to find an empty seat. The boat ride to Tortuguero takes approximately 4 hours.

Google Map - Gran Caribe TerminalGoogle Map - Moín

As well, you can take a bus from the above mentioned terminal to Cariari (approx. 2 hours). From Cariari, you’ll need to take another bus to La Pavona (approx. 1 hour), which resides west of Tortuguero along the Río Suerte. From La Pavona (Rancho Río Suerte), you can take a regularly scheduled water taxi to the village of Tortuguero. This is a much quicker and cheaper alternative than departing from Moin, unless you already happen to be in Limon.

Tour - if you’re traveling on an organized tour they’ll have everything covered. Tour operators normally provide bilingual, naturalist guides, so if you prefer a slow, narrated trip through the Tortuguero canals then take an organized tour. Normally, an experienced tour guide will reveal surrounding local flora and fauna, something you won’t enjoy if you take a shared water taxi.

Costa Rica