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Marino las Baulas National Park, Guanacaste

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Leatherback Turtle coming out of ocean
Leatherback Turtle coming out of ocean
Marino las Baulas de Guanacaste National Park is one of Costa Rica’s most important sea turtle nesting sites. Located on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast in the Northern Province of Guanacaste near the tourist town and surf mecca Tamarindo, this national park is a significant Leatherback sea turtle nesting spot in the world. Created in 1990, this national park was made in order to protect the endangered Leatherback turtles, who come every year to nest on the shores of the beautiful Playa Grande.

Location & Size of the Park

Encompassing an area of roughly 445 hectares of mangrove swamps and coastline, the Marino las Baulas National Park is made up of the four beaches, Playa Grande, Playa Langosta, Playa Ventanas and Playa Carbon. The two mangrove estuaries in the park are the Estero de Tamarindo and the Estero de San Francisco, the former of which is the biggest mangrove estuary in Latin America. This national park also extends 12 miles off shore as well, to protect the sea turtles from poachers and tourists alike.

Marine Turtle Nesting Site

The nesting ground for thousands of Leatherback turtles who make the journey every year to this national park, Marino las Baulas National Park also protects 174 species of birds and a number of different animals that live in the estuaries here. Home to the white ibis, the cattle egret, the blue-winged teal and the muscovy duck, this park also looks after capuchin monkeys, howler monkies, raccoons, crocodiles, pacas and grey squirrels as well.

The largest marine reptiles in the world, the Leatherback Sea Turtles or Baulas as they are known in Spanish, come here in huge numbers during the months of November to April to mate and lay their eggs. Also the world’s largest turtles, Leatherbacks can weigh up to 1,100 lbs (500 kgs). Unlike other turtle species that have a hard shell, Leatherback turtles have a black tough leathery skin that is almost rubbery. These amazing marine turtle travel about 3,700 miles from their feeding ground to mate and lay their eggs, making it the furthest migrating sea turtle.

Getting to Marino las Baulas National Park

To get to Marino las Baulas de Guanacaste National Park, you can fly into the Liberia International Airport and then drive west toward the town of Tamarindo; from here, you need to go north to Playa Grande by a rough dirt road. Another way of reaching this national park is by boat across the Estero de Tamarindo.

It is important that visitors be aware of certain things when touring this national park. Do not use cameras with flashes or flashlights, do not approach the turtles and do not walk on the dry sand that lies above the high tide markings. In order to see the turtle you will have to go on a tour with a certified guide, without a guide you will not be allowed on the beach at night, as this is when the turtles come to nest. Marino las Baulas National Parks is a great place to visit with family, this national park also has a turtle museum and certified night tours during the turtle nesting season.