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Tortuguero National Park

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Tortuguero National Park is the most popular national park on Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast. While visiting Tortuguero National Park, you’ll be able to encounter a variety of wildlife — including baby sea turtles during sea turtle nesting season — which makes Tortuguero National Park a must-visit for wildlife enthusiasts during any trip to Costa Rica!
If you’d like to visit Costa Rica’s Tortuguero National Park — either to see the nesting sea turtles or to explore this popular national park’s unique waterways and terrain — discover everything you need to know before visiting below.

Overview of Tortuguero National Park in Costa Rica

Tortuguero National Park was founded in 1970 with the help of the Caribbean Conservation Corporation — an organization started in 1959 to study and protect sea turtles. The turtle-tagging program that started in the national park in the 1950s is still used today.


Tortuguero National Park is located on the northern Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica in the Limón Province. Unlike many national parks in Costa Rica accessible via a quick drive, Tortuguero National Park is in a remote location, surrounded by mangroves and swamps, and is more difficult to reach.
While you can drive or take a shuttle to Tortuguero National Park, the furthest you can ride on wheels is to La Pavona — a restaurant at the park’s entrance. From here, you can take a short boat ride into the park. Some travelers fly into Tortuguero National Park, but the most common way to visit the park is by booking a guided tour with round-trip transportation.


Tortuguero National Park is open daily from 6 AM to 4 PM. The tourism services in the park do close for a short lunch break between 12 PM and 1 PM.


Admission to Tortuguero National Park is $15 for adults and $5 for children. You can purchase tickets online or when you arrive at the national park. We recommend bringing some colones to the national park — there is only one ATM in the park, and the dollar is not widely accepted.

Popular Attractions in Tortuguero National Park

Tortuguero National Park lies within the Tortuguero Conservation Area. While about 1% of this area is used for tourism, over 99% is used for conserving and protecting resources!
That said, there are still plenty of fun things to do within the small percentage of Tortuguero National Park meant for tourism, including the following activities.


Sea Turtle Nesting Season

There are a total of seven species of turtles found in Tortuguero National Park, including four sea turtle species — hawksbill, leatherback, loggerhead, and green sea turtles.

The best time to visit Tortuguero National Park to see nesting turtles is from March to October. However, if you want to see the green turtles nest, you’ll have the best chance of seeing them during the peak of the nesting season from June to October.

Green turtles are the most common of the four sea turtles in Tortuguero National Park. This is because the sandy beaches of Tortuguero Beach along the Caribbean Coast are one of the world’s largest and most significant nesting beaches for this endangered species.


River & Canal Rides

After seeing the sea turtles nest on the beach, the second-most popular activity in Tortuguero National Park is a boat ride through the park’s extensive network of winding canals that link the national park’s lagoons, beaches, and dense rainforests. The most popular water trails in Tortuguero National Park include the Caño Chiquero-Mora Trail, Río Tortuguero Trail, Caño Harold Trail, and Caño Palma Trail.
Depending on the water trail you take, you can ride in a motor boat, kayak, or canoe through the national park — and believe us, since this national park is so swampy, it’s much easier (and safer) to explore this national park on a boat than on foot.
Here are some activities you can enjoy while boating through the park.

Wildlife Watching

Sea turtles aren’t the only endangered species in Tortuguero National Park. This vast national park is home to 442 bird species, 138 mammal species, 118 reptile species, and 58 amphibian species — and those are just animals that have been identified in the park so far!

This means that Tortuguero National Park is an excellent place for spotting wildlife. If you take a guided boat ride through Tortuguero National Park, your expert guide will be able to point out unique plants and animals in the Tortuguero canals along the way.

A few notable animals to look for in Tortuguero National Park include unique bird species, like green macaws, jacanas, and anhingas, and extraordinary mammals, like capuchin monkeys, river otters, jaguars, and sloths. Tortuguero National Park is also home to an incredible array of marine wildlife, including sharks and endangered manatees in the ocean and crocodiles and caimans in the inland waters.


Tortuguero National Park offers saltwater and freshwater fishing between the ocean and an extensive waterway network, making it an excellent destination for sportfishing.

Although fishing is primarily “catch-and-release” to protect the fish population within the national park, you’ll be able to catch several species here, including tarpon, bass, rainbow trout, snook, and snapper.


Tortuguero Village

Tortuguero Village is a small village built on a sandbar within the national park where the sea turtles come to nest. Tortuguero Village is primarily used for conservation and research purposes, but there are a few restaurants in this little town that tourists can visit to fill up during a day in the park, including Miss Junie’s, Tutti’s Pizzeria, and Taylor’s Place.
Sea Turtle Conservation Visitor’s Center

While in Tortuguero Village, we recommend visiting the Sea Turtle Conservation Visitor’s Center. This small natural history museum details the history and conservation work done to protect the endangered sea turtles in Tortuguero National Park.

Admission to the Sea Turtle Conservation Visitor’s Center is only $1 per person, and all proceeds go to conservation efforts for the green turtle. The center is open from 10 AM to 12 PM and again in the afternoon from 2:30 PM to 5 PM.

Best Time to Visit Tortuguero National Park in Costa Rica

Tortuguero National Park is one of the few national parks in Costa Rica that is best to visit during the rainy season — particularly from June through October. Unlike the Pacific Coast, the month of September presents a “mini” dry season on the Caribbean Coast — not to mention this month (along with August) is the peak of the green sea turtle nesting season!

Although February, March, and September are the driest months in Tortuguero National Park, this park is located in one of the rainiest regions in Costa Rica. It receives almost 20 feet of rain annually. That said, rather than trying to plan your trip around the rain, prepare to run into some rain while visiting Tortuguero National Park and dress accordingly.

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What to Bring to Tortuguero National Park

Before spending a day in Costa Rica’s Tortuguero National Park, wear or bring the following items:
  • Dark Clothing — If you plan to visit Tortuguero National Park during sea turtle nesting season, wear dark clothes to prevent disrupting the turtles on the beach. However, since this park is so hot and humid, you’ll also want to wear lightweight clothing to stay cool.
  • Rain Gear — You’d be lucky to come to Tortuguero National Park on a day it doesn’t rain. That’s how common rain is here. That said, be sure to come prepared with a rain jacket, heavy-duty poncho, waterproof backpack, and any other necessary rain gear.
  • Waterproof Shoes — You won’t be doing much hiking or walking in Tortuguero National Park, so don’t worry about bringing your hiking boots. Instead, bring waterproof boots or shoes to navigate this national park’s swampy and marshy waterways.
  • Insect Repellant — Mosquitos love moisture, and, as we’ve established, Tortuguero National Park has plenty of it! That said, be sure to liberally apply (and re-apply) bug spray throughout your day at this national park to avoid getting any bug bites.

Stay with Special Places of Costa Rica for a Memorable Costa Rican Vacation

Tortuguero National Park is an incredible place to visit in Costa Rica — this park’s biodiversity and concentration of animals (including sea turtles) is truly remarkable to witness!
However, there aren’t many places to stay in this region of the country, and the excessive rain can really put a damper on your vacation. Instead of staying here, we recommend staying on the Northern Pacific Coast — where you can enjoy white-sand beaches, turquoise waters, and clear skies — before and after your excursion to Tortuguero National Park.

Explore our hundreds of beachfront rentals, condos, villas, and luxury mansions to find the perfect place to stay in Guanacaste. And if you have any questions for us — please reach out. We would love to help you book the perfect vacation to Costa Rica!

Other Attractions

After you have visited volcanoes and national parks you may want to observe (or cool off in) some of the many beautiful waterfalls while in Costa Rica. Be sure to view our full list of things to do in Costa Rica to ensure you’re experiencing all of the main attractions while on your vacation.
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