Ostional Wildlife Refuge, Guanacaste

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After Nancite Beach in the Santa Rosa National Park, the second most important turtle nesting site in Costa Rica is the Ostional National Wildlife Refuge on the Nicoya Peninsula in Guanacaste province. The Ostional Wildlife Refuge, as it is more commonly known, is a 200 meter beach strip bordered in the north by Punta India, and in the south by Playa Guiones & Playa Nosara. This refuge also extends three miles out to sea and includes the tiny village of Ostional. Not only does this refuge protect the millions of turtles that nest here every year, but it also looks after and safeguards the marine wildlife and birds in the area as well.

Impressive Arribadas

Encompassing the beaches of Playa Ostional, Playa Nosara, and Playa Guiones, the Ostional Wildlife Refuge protects the Olive Ridley sea turtles as well as the Leatherback and the Pacific Green sea turtles that come ashore in huge numbers every year to nest and lay their eggs during the months between July and December. This phenomenon, known as ‘arribadas’, takes place around 4 to 10 times during this period, lasting roughly between 3 to 10 days each.

Olive Ridley Sea Turtles

It is thought that a significant portion of the world’s Pacific Olive Ridley sea turtles lay their eggs in the Ostional Wildlife Refuge. To date, the largest arribada recorded at the refuge occurred in November 1995, when an estimated 500,000 female sea turtles came on shore to nest.

Protection of Turtle Eggs

Officially created in 1984, this refuge is also the only place in the world that allows people to harvest turtle eggs legally. This was done in order to prevent turtle egg poaching and to help the people of the Ostional village community. Under this project, the locals are allowed to collect and then sell a certain percent of turtle eggs from the initial three days of every arribada.

Getting to the Ostional Wildlife Refuge

Accessed by road, from either Nosara or from San Juanillo, it is best to fly in from San Jose area and then catch a local flight to Nosara airport. From here, you can rent a four-wheel drive to the refuge. While plenty of companies arrange tours to Ostional, getting here should not be a problem. A great place to take the entire family, especially children, the entry fee of $6 is very affordable. Since this refuge has no lodging facilities or accommodations, most people usually stay in Nosara, San Juanillo or Samara. It is recommended that you take a tour with a licensed guide / company during the egg laying season as tourists who come on their own maybe turned away for the protection of the sea turtles.