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Costa Rica Caribbean Region

Tortuguero

 

Tortuguero National Park & Town of Tortuguero

Rain forests, beaches, rivers, canals, & boat trips

Nesting turtles, monkeys, tropical birds, & bats

Iguanas, caiman, Jesus Christ Lizards, & frogs

Pachira Lodge & Mawamba Lodge

Caiman in Tourtuguero National Park.

Caiman in Tortuguero National Park.

Tours

We use the best tour operator to book all kinds of tours to Costa Rica, including independent tours and packages. If you have a group we can design a tour for your group with your own private naturalist guide and driver. Check with us for details or for other information. Please contact us to book your travel. We book travel worldwide. Check out our Special Promotions.

Regions of Costa Rica

Costa Rica can be broken down into a number of regions or specific destinations. You can start with an overview of Costa Rica. For specific details of a region or destination choose the one of interest. There is the Central Region, which includes San Jose and the Central Valley, and features the Poas Volcano and the La Paz Waterfall Gardens. San Jose area hotels are found on a separate web page. Hotels at other destinations are reviewed with a specific destination's web page. To the north of San Jose is Arenal where you find the spectacular Arenal volcano, and Monteverde where the very impressive Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is located. Tortuguero is found in the eastern part of Costa Rica on the Caribbean Sea. There you see great wildlife from boats in rivers and canals. The region in the northwest adjoining the Pacific Ocean is Guanacaste. This is where you find popular beaches and the beach town of Tamarindo. This is the driest part of Costa Rica. The Central Pacific region includes the Jaco area and the near by Carara National Park. The Central Pacific also includes Manuel Antonio and the very popular Manuel Antonio National Park. In the southwest region on the Pacific coast is the Corcovado National Park. It is in a remote location, but is a great place to visit. Contact Us for more information.

Tortuguero and the Caribbean Coast

Bird 2 in Tortuguero National Park canal.

Bird 2 in Tortuguero National Park.


Boat for trip to Tortuguero.

Boarding boat for trip to Tortuguero.

Tortuguero is located on the Caribbean coast in the eastern part of Costa Rica.  The name is derived from the Spanish word for turtle: tortuga. You cannot drive there, as there are no roads that go to Tortuguero.  To get there you have to go either by plane or a vehicle and transfer to a boat.  From San Jose we started out by motor coach. You might also travel by a small van. For the last part of our journey we transferred to the boat, as seen above, for a trip of about two hours through rivers and canals. This was most enjoyable, and offers a chance to see wildlife.

Naturalist guide, in shorts on the left, telling us about wildlife, including turtles laying eggs on the beach.

Naturalist guide, in shorts on the left, telling us about wildlife and the area.

Once you get to the Caribbean Coast you discover that it is much different from the rugged and majestic Pacific Coast. Nevertheless, it is beautiful in its own way. The beach is sandy, as is seen in the picture above and the one below. In this part of Costa Rica there is a lot of rain, more than 15 feet (4.6 meters) per year. But do not let that deter you from going there, this is an awesome destination. In the picture above our naturalist guide, Manfred Gomez, is telling us about the area, wildlife, and especially the turtles that lay eggs there. Note that in the picture below of Rebecca that she is prepared for rain wearing an inexpensive poncho. It was bought in a shop in Tortuguero.


Rebecca on the Caribbean Sea beach in Tortuguero.

Rebecca on the Caribbean Sea sandy beach in Tortuguero.

Swimming is not recommended on the beaches at Tortuguero due to sharks.  Also, swimmers should be on guard for rip currents.  If caught in one do not try to swim toward the beach, as a strong current will wear you out.  Instead, swim parallel to the beach, and in a short distance you should come out of the current.  Then you can head for the beach.

Tortuguero National Park

Bird 4 in Tourtuguero National Park.

Bird 4 in Tortuguero National Park.

The Tortuguero National Park and area contain a large number of flora and fauna. The wildlife at Tortuguero includes anteaters, frogs, jaguars, monkeys, ocelots, tapirs, sloths, snakes, and turtles.  There are many tropical birds including toucans and the green macaw.  Manatees are also found at Tortuguero.  Many canals go through the rainforest in the Tortuguero National Park.  As a result, the best way to see wildlife is by boat.  In fact, Tortuguero offers some of the best boat tours in Costa Rica.  We took several boat tours through parts of the Tortuguero National Park.  We saw lots of wildlife, some of which are pictured on this page. There were a number of photo opportunities for birds. The small town of Tortuguero is located on a narrow strip of land south of the Park. It will not take you long to walk through the town. You will find a few shops and places to eat. There are no cars in the town or the surrounding area.

Jesus Christ Lizard in Tourtuguero National Park.

Jesus Christ Lizard in Tortuguero National Park.

One of the highlights of our visit to Tortuguero was seeing a Jesus Christ Lizard, which is pictured above. This amazing and elegant lizard gets its name because it can run for a distance on water due to the shape of its feet. Without a naturalist guide most of us would never have seen a Jesus Christ lizard. They blend into the background of vegetation, and are very difficult to spot. A naturalist guide sees them so often that they are etched into their memory. A naturalist guide can spot them and other kinds of wildlife immediately. That is why guided tours are important, because a good guide knows what to look for and where to look.

Bird 1 in Tortuguero National Park canal.

Bird 1 in Tortuguero National Park canal.

Nesting green turtles

Large turtles nest on the Tortuguero beaches between July and October.  Of the turtles the green turtles are the most abundant.  They are big, up to 3 feet long (1 meter) and weigh as much as 700 pounds (318 kilograms). A high point of our first visit to Tortuguero was the opportunity to see a nesting green turtle. It was September, and at this time of the year these turtles come from great distances through the ocean to lay their eggs on the beach. We were hoping to see this, and our naturalist guide took us out to the beach.  At times it was pouring down rain, so we wore rain gear. It was so dark we had to hold on to the person in front to keep from being separated from the group. We kept very quiet and did not use flash lights or flash cameras so as to not scare the turtles. Without a guide you are not allowed on the beach after dark. They protect the turtles. So where was mama turtle? Finally, our guide found one. She was digging a big hole where she would lay about one hundred eggs, which would hatch in about two months. Of those, only about one would reach adulthood. But suddenly the turtle was spooked and she started back to the water.  She may have been scared by the lightning. It was a struggle for her to drag herself across the sand. She would return later to lay her eggs.

Baby turtles that just came out of their nest on the beach, and are running to the Caribbean Sea.

Baby turtles that just came out of their nest on the beach, and are running to the Caribbean Sea.

Our second trip to Tortuguero was during latter November. Our naturalist guide took us to the beach where baby turtles, about an inch (2.5 centimeters) long and only a few days old, were climbing out of their nest and running as fast as they could to the Caribbean Sea. Their flippers were digging into the sand. Two of the turtles are pictured above nearing the waters' edge. It was quite a sight to see so many baby turtles exiting from a hole in their nest and instinctively knowing which direction to head.

Bird 3 in Tourtuguero National Park.

Bird 3 in Tortuguero National Park.


Iguana in Tourtuguero National Park.

Iguana in Tortuguero National Park.

We saw many beautiful birds in the canals and surrounding area. Some of them are pictured above. Iguanas, one pictured above, are seen in the canal or nearby bushes and even up in trees. They are big, some perhaps 6 feet (1.8 meters) long. They obviously like to sun themselves. You also see lots of caiman. One is pictured at the top of this page. They are not afraid of boats, as we could pull up right next to them and they would not move. There were lots of photo opportunities. In the event of rain a cover is placed on the boats. Boat tours in Tortuguero are among the most relaxing and eventful ways to see lots of wildlife in Costa Rica.

Nature walk in Tortuguero National Park

Nature walk in Tourtuguero National Park.

Nature walk in Tortuguero National Park.


Small frogs seen on nature walk in Tourtuguero National Park.

Small frogs seen on nature walk in Tortuguero National Park.

We also went trekking through the jungle. It was raining, but we were provided with rain gear, as can be seen in the above picture.. We had lots of fun. Among the interesting things that we saw were small colorful frogs, pictured above and bats in a cave shown below. Because of predators, mostly bats, mosquitoes are not a nuisance in much of Costa Rica. For example, many restaurants have open areas that are not covered by either screens or windows. In this country there are more bats than any other animal. We have never had a problem with mosquitoes. Bless the bats. On one of our boat trips through a canal we saw monkeys above us in the overhanging branches. One is pictured below.

A playful monkey above a canal in Tourtuguero National Park.

Bats seen in cave on nature walk in Tortuguero National Park.


Bats seen in cave on nature walk in Tourtuguero National Park.

A playful monkey above a canal in Tortuguero National Park.

Lodging in Tortuguero

On our first trip to Tortuguero we stayed at the Mawamba Lodge, and on the second trip we stayed at the Pachira Lodge. Both stays were most enjoyable.

Pachira Lodge

Dock entrance on canal to Pachira Lodge.

Dock entrance on canal to Pachira Lodge.

The Pachira Lodge is located across the canal from the town of Tortuguero. It spreads over 34 acres. The entrance to the Lodge is a large dock on the canal, and is pictured above. The picture of the crab was taken at the dock. Surrounding the Lodge are scenic canals where wildlife can be seen. The Tortuguero National Park is only 5 minutes away. Boat tours are conducted by bilingual naturalist guides.

Bird 5 in Tourtuguero National Park.

Crab at the Pachira Lodge dock near the water.


Front porch to room at Pachira Lodge.

Front porch to room at Pachira Lodge.

The guest rooms at the Pachira Lodge contain a private bath, hot water, and a ceiling fan. The rooms are in single-story buildings spread throughout the property, and are surrounded by lush vegetation, as seen in the picture above. There are covered walkways to many of the rooms from the restaurant and reception area. The covered walkways are very convenient when it rains. Wi-Fi is available at Reception, and it is free.

Restaurant at Pachira Lodge.

Restaurant at Pachira Lodge.


Pool at Pachira Lodge.

Pool at Pachira Lodge.

One of several dining rooms is pictured above. Buffet-style meals are served. We found the food to be good and the wait staff to be very attentive. Dining was relaxing and enjoyable. It is also a nice way to meet others staying at the Lodge. You meet people from different countries. There is also a bar. For those wanting to swim there is a large swimming pool, which contains a children's wading pool. The pool is pictured above. You will want to take walks around the beautiful property, as seen in the picture below. Spa services are available; there are a number of spa packages.

Walk past rooms at Pachira Lodge.

Walk past rooms at Pachira Lodge.

Mawamba Lodge

Rebecca on the grounds at Mawamba Lodge.

Rebecca on the grounds at Mawamba Lodge.

Mawamba Lodge is located next to the town of Tortuguero, and it is a short walk from the Lodge into town. The lodge property of 15 acres is family owned and run by the family. There are 2 butterfly gardens, a frog garden, and an iguana garden. In the picture above Rebecca is examining a beautiful flower on the Mawamba Lodge property. The Tortuguero National Park is nearby. They offer boat tours and guided hiking tours in the jungle with naturalist guides. They also offer kayaking tours. Nightly lectures and slide shows are presented on Tortuguero National Park and the area. In the picture below the guide is holding a baby bow constrictor snake.

Naturalist guide at Mawamba Lodge with snake.

Naturalist guide at Mawamba Lodge with snake.

The rooms have hot showers, ceiling fans, and verandas. Dining is in the cafeteria, and there is a floating restaurant where they arrange dinners, sunset tours, and private events. There is also a bar, swimming pool, and whirlpool. They offer spa services. Free Wi-Fi service is found in the cafeteria and bar.

Passenger plane coming in on jungle landing strip in Torguguero.

Passenger plane coming in on the jungle landing strip in Tortuguero.

To leave Tortuguero we were taken by boat to an airstrip in the jungle where a small two motored passenger plane, pictured above, landed to pick us up and take us to San Jose. The trip by air took about 30 minutes.

Regions of Costa Rica

Costa Rica can be broken down into a number of regions or specific destinations. You can start with an overview of Costa Rica. For specific details of a region or destination choose the one of interest. There is the Central Region, which includes San Jose and the Central Valley, and features the Poas Volcano and the La Paz Waterfall Gardens. San Jose area hotels are found on a separate web page. Hotels at other destinations are reviewed with a specific destination's web page. To the north of San Jose is Arenal where you find the spectacular Arenal volcano, and Monteverde where the very impressive Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is located. Tortuguero is found in the eastern part of Costa Rica on the Caribbean Sea. There you see great wildlife from boats in rivers and canals. The region in the northwest adjoining the Pacific Ocean is Guanacaste. This is where you find popular beaches and the beach town of Tamarindo. This is the driest part of Costa Rica. The Central Pacific region includes the Jaco area and the near by Carara National Park. The Central Pacific also includes Manuel Antonio and the very popular Manuel Antonio National Park. In the southwest region on the Pacific coast is the Corcovado National Park. It is in a remote location, but is a great place to visit. Contact Us for more information.

 

Photos by Sunny Breeding. We sell prints and images.