Tortuguero is one of our absolute favorite places in all of Costa Rica. We are total fangirls of the vibe here. Part of what makes Tortuguero so amazing is the Tortuguero National Park. This national park is very different from other national parks in Costa Rica because most of the parkland is actually along the tiny streams next to Tortuguero. It is a completely unique experience and we highly suggest you all visit.
The national park consists of over 77,000 acres of waterway and land. The national park works hard to educate locals and work with them in preserving the natural ecosystem of the area.
Now on to the complete guide to Tortuguero National Park.
Helpful Tortuguero National Park Tips:
– The national park is a protected area for leatherbacks, green sea turtles, and hawksbill turtles to lay their eggs. The best months to see this are between July and November. You are not allowed on the beach after 6pm (when the turtles come to lay their eggs) without a guide. Your hotel can arrange this for you. However, during the day it is possible to sometimes see the little babies heading to the water.
– One of the best ways to see Tortuguero National Park is by boat. You can take an early morning wildlife canoe ride with a guide (it’s really amazing) or it is possible to rent your own canoe or kayaks in town.
– If you plan to explore the national park by boat you will need to purchase a day pass to the national park as well as renting a boat or paying for the canoe tour.
– Some animals your guide may point out to you are river turtles, howler, spider capuchin monkeys, fish, birds, caiman, river otter, egrets, jaguars, and heron.
– You should not swim in the river. Locals do, but there are caimans. I wouldn’t mess with them.
– If you want to take guided canoe tour it is best to do it really early in the morning at around 6:30am. Your hotel can arrange it for you. Everything is very relaxed in Tortuguero and you do not need to reserve anything ahead of time. Just let your hotel know the day before that you are interested in doing a canoe tour and they will arrange it for you.
– We paid about $20 per person for the canoe tour, but just remember you also have to pay for park admission on top of this.
– If you take the canoe tour we suggest hiking the national park in the afternoon to take advantage of the fact that you’ve already paid for a day pass to the park.
– The national park is very flat and consists of only one trail in and out. It is not an overly exciting hike, but the entire walk runs along the beach which you can easily walk on to every few feet.
– We like to hike along the trail and walk the beach back for a bit of variety.
– Don’t forget to check along the beach for hatching turtles. Usually, their buried eggs are in holes near the top of the beach.
Important Info About Tortuguero National Park:
Hours: 6am to 6pm
Cost: $15 per person
To Bring: You need to bring different things for the canoe ride and for the hike. Let’s start with the canoe ride gear.
The canoe ride is usually early in the morning but the sun gets strong fast. You definitely need strong sunscreen. It can also be buggy before the sun comes up so I suggest bring bug spray. Also, the guides are really great at spotting wildlife but having pocket binoculars is always a good idea (and one of our must-have gear items for Costa Rica travel. If you have a camera with good zoom power, bring that as well. I suggest putting all of your stuff in a waterproof bag, just in case.
For the hike, we suggest bringing sunscreen and your camera. Don’t forget your towel if you want to relax on the beach after!
For the canoe ride, I suggest wearing a long sleeve shirt over a t-shirt. It can be cool in the morning but warms up fast. I also like having layers because the sun can be really strong while you are out in the canoe. If I feel like I’m getting burned I like to have a long sleeve shirt to throw on top. I usually opt for sports shorts and flip-flops. You won’t likely get wet, but you never know. Also, wear a hat to protect you from the sun.
For the hike, I suggest having some kind of footwear you do not mind getting wet (like Keen’s). At the beginning of the trail, there is sometimes a lot of mud if there have been heavy rains recently. It is possible to rent rubber boots, but I always just take the risk and rinse my shoes off in the ocean when I’m done. I always wear some kind of sports shorts, a t-shirt, and a sun blocking hat. Don’t forget your swimsuit if you plan on cooling off in the ocean after!
Amount of time you need:
The canoe tour is about two hours long. For the hike, you can walk as long as you want. We usually spend about two hours hiking.
Directions: You first need to get to Tortuguero. You can read our complete guide to getting to Tortuguero here. Once you are in Tortuguero, just walk to the most southern part of Tortuguero along the man road through the village and you will come to the entrance point of the national park.
If you have any questions about visiting Tortuguero National Park leave them in the comment section below and we’ll help you out!
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