Tortuguero National Park is arguably one of the most heavenly places found in the northeastern part of Central America. This ecological treasure trove is hidden in Costa Rica.
It boasts an abundance of wildlife – from clusters of nesting sea turtles laying their eggs at night to its wild, remote Caribbean beaches and lush jungles.
Listen to the screeching of exotic birds and the howling of monkeys. Zig-zag through canals and enjoy the spectacle of turtles and caimans.
Explore the park by foot, boat, kayak, or canoe, either way, you will get to experience a jungle paradise. This park is a wildlife enthusiast dreamy destination nestled on the Caribbean Coast.
I was lucky enough to explore this incredible destination with some memorable Tortuguero tours during my trip to Costa Rica. Here’s how to visit Costa Rica’s spectacular Tortuguero National Park, and to get the most out of your trip.
- 1 Do you need travel insurance to visit Tortuguero National Park?
- 2 Popular tours in Tortuguero
- 3 Where to stay in Tortuguero
- 4 How to get to Tortuguero
- 5 What to bring on your tours
Do you need travel insurance to visit Tortuguero National Park?
After my personal experience spending two nights in a private hospital in Tenerife, and having to pay for it out of pocket (it wasn’t cheap), I always recommend getting travel insurance.
You might not end up needing it, but for a small fee you can travel without worries. Personally, I suggest getting your travel insurance with Heymondo.
Heymondo offers tailor made travel insurance, providing the best value for money for your specific trip. You can also buy it once you’re already abroad and have forgotten about it before flying (which, if you’re anything like me, is quite likely).
Besides the usual cancellation, medical expenses, luggage coverage and general travel insurance services, Heymondo also has a 24/7 doctor chat and instant assistance through their app.
As a Greta’s Travels reader, you get 5% off your Heymondo travel insurance!
Popular tours in Tortuguero
The celebrated Tortuguero National Park offers a vast network of rivers, canals, beaches, and lush rainforests.
Despite the National Park’s remoteness, it’s one of Costa Rica’s most popular destinations and forms part of many day tours from San Jose (although I recommend staying at least 1 night).
Attracting wildlife enthusiasts from around the world, this stretch of Caribbean Coast is famed for its sea turtles and dense jungle mazes of winding canals.
Local expert guides are happy to assist you in spotting wildlife and the park’s main attractions.
The park protects a list of exotic plants and animals, including a list of endangered species such as the leatherback sea turtle, jaguars, and macaws.
Of all things to see in Tortuguero, the turtle tour is possibly the most popular. Between March to October, female sea turtles make their way back to the shore to lay their clutches of eggs.
Tortuguero National Park is one of the last undisturbed nesting grounds for a variety of turtle species such as; Green Sea Turtles, Giant Leatherback Turtles, Hawksbill Turtles and Loggerhead Turtles.
There is a 90% chance of spotting turtles in their environment during their nesting process, but remember, it needs to be the right season.
This is a fantastic tour with a high chance of catching a glimpse of this spectacle during the nesting season – a uniquely memorable experience.
I was in Costa Rica in February and unfortunately I missed out on this, but it gives me a good reason to go back to Tortuguero one day!
What better way to explore this Costa Rican famous rainforest than to explore the rich biodiversity living high up in the canopies.
Take a thrilling Jungle Canopy Tour, so you don’t miss out on the opportunity to spot some majestic wildlife.
Get your adrenaline pumping on a zipline soaring through the treetops on 11 different lines, some reaching lengths of 80 metres (263 feet).
If you’re lucky, you will get to see howler monkeys, sloths and crocodiles as you cruise through the lush jungle.
Though this canopy and zipline tour may not be the most famous or the tallest in Costa Rica, it’s still an excellent experience.
The forest night walking tour in Tortuguero National Park is ideal for anyone looking to experience a unique activity. Also, you can certainly see more animals at night.
On tour, you can typically see nocturnal animals at night such as possums, sloths, lizards, tamanduas (a type of anteater), as well as various snake and frog species.
If you want to sloths up close you should consider visiting a sloth rescue centre. There are some all over Costa Rica where you can see these adorable animals up close.
Tortuguero lies in the centre of Costa Rica’s rainforests and consists of dozens of small intertwined canals. Visitors can enjoy a quiet, eco-friendly experience through the national park’s creeks and lagoons on a rainforest canoe tour.
See the park’s native wildlife in their natural habitat. The rainforest is home to monkeys, a variety of bird species and is a famous nesting ground for the endangered green sea turtles.
The canoe tour takes 6-8 people, so it’s great to go with a group of friends or family. The best time to go on the canoe tour is in the early morning when the forest comes alive.
This breathtakingly beautiful Costa Rican Park is one of the few places where walking isn’t the only option to explore this magical place.
Besides marked trails along the beach, used to observe the turtles nesting area, there is also another way to see the park – by boat or kayak.
Explore the canals on a stable kayak while taking in the natural wonders in your surroundings. Enjoy the exotic wildlife; birds, turtles, caimans, monkeys, the list goes on…
You can opt to paddle by yourself or enjoy the scenery and watch nature while a guide paddles for you.
Chocolate making class
What better way to spend a stormy, rainy day than to sit in a chocolate-making class? A delicious alternative, that’s for sure.
Not only can you participate in the chocolate-making process, but you also get to learn about how these fantastic small beans are magically turned into rich scrumptious tasting chocolate drinks and slabs.
A fun experience perfect for a stormy day. There is a shop that offers this class just outside the Tortuguero National Park entrance. You can book it once you are there.
Hiking trails in the Tortuguero National Park
Find your way to the entrance of Tortuguero National Park, one of Costa Rica’s most popular attractions. Whether you’re a hiking enthusiast and opt to do a hiking trail or a water tour, you will not be disappointed with either.
The hiking trails offer a spectacle of both forest and marine life. The park is home to jaguars, peacocks, parrots, sloths, endangered red-eyed tree frogs, toucans, spider monkeys, alligators, the list is endless.
The guards at the entrance of the hiking trail are helpful and can show you to the best guides if you don’t want to hike alone. You can also rent rubber boots if the trails are wet and muddy after a rainstorm has passed.
I suggest the Jaguar Trail, it’s a popular hike and for a good reason. You can do it alone or with a guide.
The experience is far more enjoyable with a guide as they can take you along the best routes and are knowledgeable about the exotic fauna and flora. The park is open to the public from 8 am to 4 pm daily.
Guided hike to the Tortuguero View Point
Trekking to the Tortuguero viewpoint is well worth the hour’s walk. The Tortuguero Hill (Cerro Tortuguero) is an ancient volcano and is considered the highest point in the Caribbean coast region of Costa Rica.
Offering you breathtaking views on the way up and fantastic flora and fauna scattered around you, this hike is superb. I highly recommend hiring an experienced guide for your safety, but also for logistics ease.
From the main town in Tortuguero to the base of the hike you need to take a boat, which is included in the price of the guide. If you go alone you will have to haggle with a water taxi.
Keep your eyes peeled, and your camera charged because during your adventure tour it’s highly likely you will come across; three-toed sloths, basilisks (a kind of lizard), tapirs, iguanas, various bird and monkey species.
Once you reach the top of the viewpoint you will have epic views over the sea and rainforest below you. You will see only trees and water as far as the eye can see.
Where to stay in Tortuguero
Keep in mind, Tortuguero has no proper roads and therefore is only accessible by boat. The town is lovely and feels very Caribbean, without big and modern infrastructure.
I listed below the place we stayed, as well as some fancier options if you’re looking for something less rustic.
Best luxury accommodation in Tortuguero – Tortuga Lodge & Gardens
Nestled at the river bank at the edge of Tortuguero National Park, you’re surrounded by jungle.
The lodge is a ten-minute boat ride from Tortuguero Town and offers glorious luxury amongst nature. Try one of their Caribbean themed cocktails after a busy day of exploring and adventures.
Best mid-range accommodation in Tortuguero – Hotel Tortuguero Beachfront
Hotel Tortuguero Beachfront, the name says it all. A family-friendly small hotel with access to the beach. To make your stay additionally gratifying the hotel offers a lovely restaurant and pool.
For days spent around the hotel, see the famous Sea Turtle Conservancy Visitor Center that is within walking distance.
Best budget accommodation in Tortuguero – Hospedaje Meryscar
Hospedaje is located in the Tortuguero towns centre, just 100 metres from the beach. It offers free WiFi access, and each room features a fan.
You will find a variety of restaurants, shops and tour operators within minutes walk from the accommodation. The best of all, the hostel is 200 metres from the Tortuguero National Park.
It’s the ideal place for anyone looking for good value for money, as well as a true Costa Rican experience.
How to get to Tortuguero
The easiest way to get to Tortuguero National Park is by boat. Boats depart from La Pavona, which is about a 2.5 hour drive from San Jose. You can leave your car at the parking area of La Pavona.
I was expecting some sort of ferry, but was very surprised to find a fairly small boat waiting for us. The boat journey to Tortuguero is an adventure in itself.
On the journey we spotted an iguana, a caiman and monkeys, all before even arriving in Tortuguero!
Boats depart from La Pavona four times a day and cost around 1600 CRC (around 2,62 EUR) per person one way. Once we arrived in Tortuguero there was someone from our hotel waiting for us who showed us the way to the hotel.
What to bring on your tours
Whether you go on a ziplining tour, a cruise or a kayak tour, I highly suggest taking a rain poncho – being a rainforest and all!
Boots are available to rent for 1,000 CRC (1,62 EUR). They’re handy to use, especially during your walking tours!
Of course, don’t forget it’s essential to bring along your best camera to snap some memorable pictures on your adventure. I would suggest bringing along your binoculars for spotting wildlife.
When you are packing, keep in mind Tortuguero has a warm and humid climate. Make sure you pack light clothing, a hat and some sunglasses – as a general rule, keep it casual.
Final thoughts for your next adventure to Tortuguero National Park
Tortuguero National Park will leave you with unforgettable memories. Whether you’re making your way through the lush vegetation and intertwined jungle by day, or watching sea turtles lay their eggs at night.
This jungle paradise is home to hundreds of wildlife species, both land and marine life. It’s one of the few unspoiled Costa Rican rainforests that’s left.
The Tortuguero National park is undoubtedly a must-visit to experience an abundance of wildlife. In this place, you can truly immerse yourself in the Costa Rican jungle. Kayak through the canals, trek through the lush forest and watch sea turtles hatch.
If you’re planning to visit the Tortuguero National Park, be prepared to be amazed.
Looking for more fun things to do in Costa Rica? Check out these travel guides:
- Snorkelling trip to Isla Tortuga
- The best surf spots in Santa Teresa
- 4 epic rivers to go rafting in Costa Rica
- Catarata del Toro – the ultimate guide
- Blue Falls of Costa Rica – everything you need to know