Tortuguero Costa Rica: Remote Caribbean Village with Turtles

Tortuguero Costa Rica is a unique car-free village on the Caribbean coast that is a common turtle nesting site

tortuguero costa rica beach

The Tortuguero Costa Rica Vibes

Want to know one of our favorite spots in Costa Rica? This is it!

The vibe here is nothing like anything else you will find in Costa Rica.

Imagine a small island without cars, a relaxed feel, extremely nice people, a cool national park, and best of all, turtles!

Yeap, you read that right!

In late summer/ early autumn, you can watch hundreds of huge sea turtles laying their eggs and see little babies waddle their way out to sea.

It’s perfect and definitely worth a visit.

Background Info About Tortuguero Costa Rica

Nearest International Airport

Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) in San Jose

Popular Things to Do

early morning wildlife canoe rides, walking the national park trails, taking a sea turtle tour

Best Way to Get Around

By foot! There are no cars in Tortuguero

Best Time of Year to Visit

The best weather tends to be from late July until mid- October

costa rica vibes about

Thomas (the German) and Sarah (the US-er).

We met in Virginia, moved to Germany, and have called sunny Costa Rica home since 2016.

We are on a mission to help you plan the perfect Costa Rican vacation.

Want the whole crazy story?

tortuguero costa rica beach
tortuguero costa rica beach
tortuguero costa rica boat
tortuguero map

Map Of Tortuguero

Tortuguero is located on the northern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica near the Nicaragua border. T

he village is located on a peninsula that is only accessible by boat.

Flights to Costa Rica

The easiest way of getting to Tortuguero is by flying into the San Jose International Airport. 

If you haven’t booked your flight yet, we suggest using Skyscanner. We consistently find the best rates through their website.

Driving to Tortuguero from San Jose

The best way of getting here is definitely by car, but that means you will have to park your rental car for however many days you are on the island, which means you are paying for a car you won’t be using. Ugh!

If you do opt to rent a car, we suggest renting with Adobe. They are our favorite rental car company in Costa Rica and the only company we really trust. You can find out more about renting a car and get a 10% discount with Adobe here.

The drive from San Jose to La Pavona (the town where you park your car) takes about 2.5 hours and is pretty nice.

The last 30 minutes of your drive is on an unpaved road. A 4×4 would be nice, but we’ve also done it in a tiny sedan. I wouldn’t pay extra for a 4×4 just for these thirty minutes.

Our #1 Car Rental Choice
Tortuguero Costa Rica: Remote Caribbean Village with Turtles

Adobe Rent-a-Car

  • 10% discount for Costa Rica Vibes readers
  • Free second driver
  • 0% deductible on Liability Protection Insurance
  • Excellent customer service
  • New fleet of well-maintained vehicles

You then park your car in a secure lot. The lot is guarded 24 hours a day and we have never heard of anyone having any thefts with their car in the lot. 

However, please still don’t leave anything of value in your vehicle. When you leave the lot at the end of your stay you will be charged about $10 a day for the length of your stay.


car rental

The Adobe Rent-A-Car discount includes…..

– A 10% DISCOUNT  





Private Shuttle to Tortuguero

Adobe Transfers will take you from wherever you are in the country to La Pavona where you can grab a boat to take to Tortuguero.

Find out more here.

Domestic Flights to Tortuguero

Sansa Airline flies direct from San Jose to Tortuguero. This is definitely the fastest way of getting there (it’s about a 25-minute flight) but it can be pricey and it is not something I recommend to any of you that are scared of flying. 

Flights range in price depending on the season.If you’d like to look more into flying check out your options here.


tortuguero costa rica sunset
tortuguero costa rica
tortuguero costa rica

Transportation from La Pavona to Tortuguero

No matter what way you arrive to La Pavona (accept for by plane) you will then need to take a boat out to Tortuguero.

There is a public boat which costs a few dollars for a one-way ticket. It departs La Pavona at 7:30am, 11:00am, 1:00pm, and 4:30pm or whenever there are enough people to fill the boat. It is possible to buy tickets for this at the same place you park your car or get dropped off in La Pavona.

Another option is to take a private boat from a local. They are usually happy to leave whenever and sometimes charge less. They also tend to drive their boat a lot faster (which I love).

Going with a local driver is discouraged by the public boat people. Apparently, there have been some incidents in the past.

The boat ride out to Tortuguero takes about 45 minutes. Make sure you have your camera because it is super cool! You’ll feel like you just entered Jurassic Park.

Once you arrive at Tortuguero there will sometimes be someone from your hotel waiting to meet you or your boat driver can direct you to your hotel.

Transportation In Tortuguero

Within Tortuguero you can walk everywhere.

Some of the more high-end hotels are located on the river across from the downtown area. You will need to take a boat from your hotel if you would like to go downtown, but most of these high-end places provide that service to guests.

tortuguero costa rica beach

Tortuguero Costa Rica Weather

Welcome to the Caribbean coast where the weather is the complete opposite to the rest of Costa Rica!

Here, the rainy season runs from mid-December until end of July. I know, that sounds like a whole lot of rainy time, but let me explain.

Although it can be rainy, you just never really know. We have visited in January and had amazing weather. We have also visited in January and experienced complete washout days.

One thing we have noticed though is that usually when it rains, it at least rains at night. Daytime rainstorms don’t happen that often.

Also, the temperature stays fairly warm even when raining.

During the dry months, the weather is amazing and warm!

Turtles in Tortuguero Costa Rica

Experiencing sea turtle nesting is the highlight of Tortuguero!

Between July and November (nesting season), there are evening turtle tours on the beach.

After 6 pm you are actually not allowed on the Tortuguero beach without a tour guide so as to protect the turtles. I promise you will be one of the coolest things you’ve ever experienced in your life.

During your tour, your guide will tell you about the history of turtle conservation in Tortuguero and tell you plenty of fun facts about turtles.

Get ready to see massive mom Leatherback turtles waddle up from the ocean, lay their eggs, and go back down into the water.

Keep in mind that you are not allowed to take pictures or get too close to the turtles.

Also, wear comfortable footwear because it will be very dark.

Your guide will have a red light flashlight (this doesn’t disturb the turtles) but all other lights are not allowed.

Throughout the year it is also possible to see other species of sea turtles such as green sea turtles and hawksbill turtles.

Book Your Tortuguero Turtle Tour Here

Tortuguero National Park

Tortuguero National Parl consists of waterways and land. The best way to explore this unique environmental area is by taking a guided boat tour in the morning and then hiking in the national park in the afternoon.

Your boat tour includes admission to the park, so you can just show your ticket again in the afternoon for hiking. 

We have a complete guide to Tortuguero National Park for more info.

And here are three tours we suggest. 

Canoe Tour

We have done this tour twice and had a great time both times. The guides are really well informed and people of all ages will enjoy this.

⤷ Arrange Your Canoe Tour

Kayak Tour

If you would prefer to get out on a kayak and do all the paddling yourself, this tour is for you. 

Arrange Your Kayak Tour

2 in 1 Tour

We suggest this experience if you want the full Tortuguero National Park package. This tour includes a wildlife canoe ride in the morning and a guided walking tour through the on-land portion of the park at 11:00am.

So, just as a reminder. No matter which boat tour you do, you will pay for park admission. So, you are welcome to visit the on-land portion of the park later in the day for no extra cost. This tour is more for those of you who would like a guide to point out on-land wildlife.

⤷ Arrange Your 2 in 1 Tour

tortuguero boat ride

Things to Do in Tortuguero Costa Rica

Walk the Miles of Beaches

The beach in Tortuguero is nice to experience. It is not the best for swimming, but you can walk for miles and miles. Visit the beach at sunrise for a really nice experience.

Just keep in mind that the beach is considered a wildlife refuge because it is a nesting site for turtles. Do not disrupt them.

Check out the Turtle Museum

On the north side of the town of Tortuguero there is a small museum about the turtles. It costs a few dollars to enter but this money goes towards funding turtle conservation. You will likely spend about 45 minutes here.

Rent Kayaks

There are a few places in town where you can rent kayaks. Renting kayaks for half a day is a great way to explore the little freshwater streams near the island and see wildlife.

email opt in

Are you stressed about planning the perfect vacation to Costa Rica?

Have no fear! We are here to help. Check out our FREE Ultimate Costa Rica Planning E-Book that is jam-packed with must know travel info

Tortuguero Restaurants

The town of Tortuguero does not have too many dining options. It is a small town after all. However, there are a few places that really stand out as excellent places to enjoy a meal.

Fine Dining

Karonga: We actually haven’t been here yet, but it is high on our list. If you try it out, report back on how you liked it. 

This is a floating dining experience that lasts for about two hours. It is possible to visit for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.


Budda CafeOur favorite hangout spot. The food is great, the drinks are great, and the atmosphere is perfect. 

Tutti’s Finding quality pizza is not the easiest in Costa Rica and we are always on the hunt for decent Italian food. This place was on point! The staff is super nice and the prices are decent.


Mi Nino: Delicious typical Costa Rican food with huge portion sizes. 

tortuguero costa rica beach
tortuguero costa rica
tortuguero costa rica

Tortuguero Costa Rica Hotels

High-End Hotels

Tortuga Lodge & GardenNice hotel right on the river. There is a pool and a Caribbean restaurant on the property. 

Mawamba LodgeBeautiful place with an outdoor pool, hiking trails, and butterfly gardens. Transportation from some San Jose hotels is included in your booking. 

Mid-Range Hotels

Casa Turtle Bogue– Beachfront hotel with simple (but nice) rooms. The staff are happy to help arrange any tours for you. 

Budget Hotels

Hotel Icaco: This hotel is about as basic as they come, but it is perfect if you’re on a budget. It is located directly across from the beach on the ocean side of the island. 

Aracari Garden HostelThis hostel offers private rooms and shared dorms. There is a shared kitchen on site for guests to use. 

Tortuguero Natural: Simple, but nice rooms on the ocean side of the island. The people working here are the sweetest and will help you out in any way they can.

tortuguero costa rica
tortuguero costa rica

Group Tours to the Tortuguero Area

Take the planning, stress, and guess work out of traveling by booking a multi-day tour with an experienced guide.

For more tour ideas check out Tour Radar

Costa Rica Adventure

A 10 day adventure that mixes adventure with relaxation. On this trip you can go zip lining, take a night safari, relax on beautiful beaches, take yoga classes, and more!

Essential Costa Rica

A 10 day tour that combines Manuel Antonio National Park, Tortuguero National Park, and La Fortuna’s Arenal Volcano National Park.

Costa Rica Wildlife Tour

Spend 15 days visiting some lesser-known Costa Rica destinations for tons of wildlife spotting. This tour is mostly in the jungle but don’t worry there is some beach exploration as well.

Tortuguero Travel Tips

– Don’t swim in the rivers. The locals often do, but there are caymans (small crocodiles) that live there.

– Bring cash, preferably colones. There is no ATM in Tortuguero. Most places will accept US dollars, but you will get the best exchange rate with colones.

– 2 nights is enough time here. It is an amazing place, but there isn’t that much to do here. 

tortuguero costa rica
tortuguero costa rica
tortuguero costa rica

Packing for Tortuguero Costa Rica

Tortugurero is super relaxed and there is no reason to dress nicely. You can live in flip flops here (except for maybe when walking in the national park). 

Also, we strongly suggest bringing your stuff in a large backpack rather than a suitcase. It will make your life much easier when taking the boat to and from Tortuguero. 

Don’t forget bug spray and sun protection!

Check out our Tortuguero Packing List on Amazon for all the essentials. 

Tortuguero Costa Rica FAQ

How many days is enough in Tortuguero?

Two full days is the perfect amount of time to spend in Tortuguero Costa Rica. This will give you enough time to take a wildlife canoe ride, hike the national park, explore the town, and take an evening turtle nesting tour.

Is Tortuguero worth visiting?

Tortuguero is worth visiting all year round, but the best time is in August or September when it is possible to experience turtle nesting.

How can I get to Tortuguero?

To get to Tortuguero you will need to take a boat from La Pavona to Tortuguero. Alternatively, it is possible to fly on a domestic flight to Tortuguero.

Articles About Tortuguero Costa Rica

You Might Also Like Visiting

Cahuita: A small beach town that is home to a beautiful national park.

Puerto Viejo: A popular Caribbean coast town with backpackers. This town is great for surfing, yoga, and nightlife.

Manzanillo: a small relaxed beach village near the border of Panama and Costa Rica

….if none of those appeal to you, check out our Guide to the Caribbean Coast for more ideas of places to visit in this area.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Here’s the complete post –
    Hi Sarah, Thomas – Tortuguero was our favorite part of our recent Costa Rica trip. Thanks for all your tips. Here’s some information based on our experience –
    1. Allow for additional drive time to/from San Jose for traffic jams and possible tunnel closure (on our way out, the tunnel was operating one way only and our side had to wait it out for 40 minutes).
    2. Parking at La Pavona cost us $10/day. The private boat ride cost 4000 colones per person. On the way back, we were able to bargain and paid 3000 colones per person. The last ferry/private boats leave Tortuguero for La Pavona at 3 pm.
    3. We explored the National park with our Canoe tour guide – we made arrangements with him directly so it was cheaper – we saw a sloth, spider monkeys, howler monkeys, blue crab, blue frog, all kinds of spiders and even though we didn’t see any Toucans, it was absolutely worth it. Bug spray is a must. It had rained quite a bit so we rented boots for $3 from a store near the entrance to the park. There is another smaller store closer to the entrance that rents boots for $2.
    4. The Turtle hatching tour cost us $30/person and you are right, it was the coolest thing ever ! It was recommended that we wear long pants and dark colored clothes for the tour. Photography was prohibited. Binoculars are useful to have with you.
    5. Our stay at the Tortuguero Natural cost $58 for 2 with breakfast included (breakfast was at a restaurant on the main strip)
    6. Tutti’s was closed so we went to the nearby Donde Richard instead – the food was amazing (my vegetarian husband loved his bowl)
    7. Major lesson learned – although dollars were accepted at Tortuguero, the conversion rate were terrible. There are no ATMs so carry colones.

    1. Thanks so much Reetoo for all that info! We haven’t been to Tortuguero in about a year so it’s definitely helpful to get an update and it will surely help other travelers as well. It sounds like you enjoyed your trip and that’s awesome that you got to see turtles!! 🙂