Tortuguero National Park, Limón

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Frequented by tourists from all over the world, the Parque Nacional Tortuguero is another significant turtle nesting site in Costa Rica. Among the most important nesting areas in the Western Hemisphere of the endangered green turtle, the stunning Parque Nacional Tortuguero lies on Costa Rica’s beautiful Caribbean coast in the northeastern region of the country. Roughly 50 miles north of Puerto Limon and bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to its east, the Tortuguero National Park sits adjacent to the Refugio Barra del Colorado to its north.

Protecting over 22 miles of beach strip beginning from the mouth of the River Tortuguero south to Parisimina, this national park is 19,000 hectares and is a key nesting area for leatherback sea turtles, hawksbill sea turtles and loggerhead sea turtles as well. Declared a national park in 1970 to protect the green turtle population of the world from extinction, this park is also a wildlife sanctuary for monkeys, jaguars, green macaws, tapirs, and a variety of other mammals, birds and reptiles.

Home to around 170 species of reptiles and amphibians, this park is also the habitat of 60 species of mammals and 300 different species of birds as well. A great place for bird watching, both migratory and native birds can be seen throughout the park including herons, egrets, trogons, parrots, toucans, jacanas, kingfishers, anhingas, kites and hawks. Some other common animals here include; caimans, crocodiles, sloths, iguanas, frogs, bats, basilisk lizards, otters, peccaries and ocelots. A variety of crustaceans are also found here. Another endangered animal found in the park is the shy West Indian manatee. Researchers believe that only 100 manatees now inhabit the remote lagoons within Tortuguero National Park.

Tortuguero which means ‘Region of Turtles’ in Spanish is nesting ground for sea turtles every year from March to mid-October. This nesting period known as the arribadas occurs when the moon is fading. Therefore, if you wish to see these turtles nest, it will be after 6:00 pm with a guide, as no one is allowed to explore the beach unaccompanied after this time. A great way to see the turtles nest is from a boat, canoe, or kayak off shore, so as not to disturb the turtles during their nesting or mating period.

Warm, humid and rainy throughout the year, the best time to visit the Parque Nacional Tortuguero is February, April and November, which are the driest months. Primarily a rainforest, this park has 11 different and varied ecological habitats that include costal shrubs, swamps and evergreen forests. Mostly an alluvial plain, the flora and fauna found here are the most diverse in the country. To get here, fly in from San Jose Airport to the village of Tortuguero that lies within the park. Since there are no roads to this village, your only other option is to catch a boat from Moin near the Port of Limon.