Situated northwest of San José, Tortuguero is a large area of untouched rainforest and a wetland of extraordinary biodiversity – recognised by the Ramsar Convention.
The rivers within the park are home to seven species of river turtle, spectacled caiman, southern river otter, and the endangered West Indian manatee. The rainforest, with more than 400 species of trees and roughly another 2,200 plant species, offers refuge to jaguar, three-toed sloth, and three of Costa Rica’s four species of monkey: Geoffroy’s spider monkey, mantled howler, and white-headed capuchin.
Something approaching 400 different species of birds have been recorded here, with many kingfishers, toucans, blue herons, peacocks and parrots. Other inhabitants include basilisk lizards, poisonous frogs and enormous fish-catching bulldog bats.
The beaches are a key nesting ground for endangered sea turtles and the highlight of any stay is a beach walk after dark to watch green and hawksbill turtles coming ashore to nest between July and September (peaking in August), or leatherbacks between February and April – although individual stragglers may be seen at almost any time of year, day and night. Nesting activity peaks at the height of the rainy season, but in this humid, tropical area showers are frequent all year round.
The only way to reach Tortuguero is to fly by light aircraft from San José, or drive down to the flat coastal strip, with its monoculture landscape of dense banana plantations, and take a boat into the national park. Once there, activities centre around boat trips on the creeks and lagoons behind the beaches, walks and birdwatching.
Ideal for viewing: Baird’s tapir, green turtle, spectacled caiman, spider monkey, three-toed sloth
Where: Limon Province, Costa Rica
is featured in the following itineraries:
An exceptional trip to discover Costa Rica’s abundant birds and wildlife amid its forests, lagoons and beaches. Highlights include the canals of Tortuguero, Arenal’s volcanic landscapes and howler monkeys, spectacular birdwatching in Monteverde’s cloud forests, canopy walkways and idyllic beaches.
When to go: Jan-Dec
Duration inc. flights: 14 days
Price inc. flights: From £2,995 pp
Tailor-made trip idea
Costa Rica has long been an established wildlife destination, renowned for its remarkable biodiversity. Join acclaimed photographer Nick Garbutt on this unique itinerary that offers extended stays in prime locations to discover some of the country’s best preserved ecosystems.
When to go: Apr-May
Duration inc. flights: 19 days
Price inc. flights: From £6,995 pp
Trip type: Group tour
This family trip has plenty of interesting activities to introduce you to tropical wildlife, yet there is also ample time to relax (all hotels have a pool) if you wish. The distances are not great, so you won’t waste time travelling, but have maximum opportunity to enjoy Costa Rica to the full.
When to go: Jan-Dec
Duration inc. flights: 16 days
Price inc. flights: From £3,395 pp
Tailor-made trip idea
Suggested accommodation options are shown below.
for further recommendations.
Situated in the northeastern corner of Tortuguero, this pleasant lodge lies just a five minute boat trip from the main entrance to Tortuguero National Park. Surrounded by towering trees and exuberant tropical vegetation, it offers an ideal location from which to explore this unique area.
This rainforest ecolodge occupies an exclusive location on a narrow strip of land that lies between the Caribbean Sea and the main Tortuguero Lagoon. There is direct access to the sandy beach where, from mid-July until October, green sea turtles (amongst others) come ashore to deposit their eggs
Built on a sand bar between Tortuguero's canals and the Caribbean Ocean, Mawamba nestles in lush forest, its beautiful gardens and rustic rooms blending in with the exuberant vegetation, exotic birds and wildlife. Your stay here will include morning and afternoon boat trips with a keen-eyed naturalist guide.
Pachira Lodge is just five minutes from the main gate of Tortuguero National Park and offers guests some of the most scenic waterways with unique flora and fauna in the world. A highlight between July and September are green sea turtles coming up onto the beaches to lay their eggs.