Location: Limon Province
Date of Creation: 13th of November, 1975
Area: 77,032 Acres
Nesting time of the Green Turtle: From July to October
Main reasons for visiting the area: Observing turtles laying their eggs, observing newborn turtles, birdwatching, navegating the canals
Tortuguero National Park is located on the northeast Atlantic coast of Costa Rica, about 80 kilometers north of the Caribbean city of Limon. The park consists of approximately 19.000 hectares of coastal park and 52,000 hectares of marine area. It is a lowland area with an altitude of only 20 meters above sea level and with a few volcanic hills with heights of 100-300 meters. Palm swamps, mixed rainforests, tropical wet forests and pre-mountain forests dominate the park. For someone who wants to experience a rain forest from a boat, Tortuguero is one of the most beautiful places in Costa Rica to do so. Additionally, there is a network of black water canals leading through the region. This network is a combination of natural canals and rivers where you will discover the natural treasures in the area.
The park has the biggest population of Green Sea Turtles on the Caribbean coast and is the most important nesting area for these amazing creatures. There are three other types of turtles that nest in Tortuguero: Baula, Carey, and Cahuama. Although turtles are the main attraction for visitors, other types of wildlife can also be spotted in Tortuguero National Park. This amazing park is home to half of the bird and reptile species that are found in Costa Rica. Within the park you are also likely to see monkeys, sloths, anteaters, lizards, caimans, crocodiles, fresh water turtles, snakes and frogs. More than 400 species of birds have been recorded and manatees, peccaries, tapirs and various members of the cat family inhabit the area as well.
There are three ranger stations within the park, “Aguas Frias Station” is on the western limit of the park. You can access it by driving north off the Guapiles highway (Braulio Carrillo), and driving through the town of Cariari, Pococi. The Los Raudales Nature Trail leads to the scenic lookout point (1,000′) named Lomas del Sierpe. “Jalova” is on the southern part of the canals with access to a nature trail, drinking water and bathrooms. “Cuatro Esquinas” is the head quarter, located only a few minutes walking from the Tortuguero village and on the north end of the canal. Here you find a 2-kilometer jungle trail and you could head back to the station walking on the beach.
The beaches in Tortuguero are not recommended for swimmers since its currents are very strong and dangerous. Night walks on the beach are only allowed during the turtle season and all visitors must be accompanied by a certified guide. The guide is the only one allowed to use a flashlight, since too much light may affect the turtles during their nesting process. Those walks can be organized from most hotels in the area or in the village at a cost of approximately US$30.
Although the area is protected by law, loggers, plantations, ranches and tourism development, are constant threats to the park. The western areas are eroded and the towns of Cariari and Guapiles are illegally trying to build a road leading to the village. This would harm the fragile eco system in Tortuguero and would disturb the wildlife of the region. Today, the income generated from tourism is therefore needed to protect the area from exploitation and non-sustainable developments.
Opening hours: Daily 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM