December 6, 2017


Turtle Watching in Costa Rica

Walking in a group, quietly, on the cool sand of Playa Grande in Guanacaste, our path guided by a full moon. We encounter a female leatherback turtle, diligently burying her eggs in a nest she has dug in the sand. Tears on her face, is it from the effort, is it from melancholy? We observe this wonder of nature silently and with respect. This turtle knew to come to this beach, because here is where her mother laid her eggs, and where she hatched, and she was one of the lucky few to reach adulthood, facing predators on land and sea. This is just one experience nature lovers seek when visiting Costa Rica. Keep reading for details on turtle watching, and get in touch with us to design the perfect nature lover’s itinerary for you.

Nesting of Sea Turtles in Costa Rica

Five of the seven species of sea turtles in the world come to nest in Costa Rica, both on the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. The hawksbill turtle (known as “carey” in Spanish) is mostly observed from May to November in Tortuguero.

The Atlantic green sea turtles (“Verde” in Spanish) can be seen in Tortuguero from June to November. The olive ridley turtles arrive on the Pacific side, mainly from July to November, reaching thousands at the Ostional Wildlife Refuge on the Nicoya Peninsula. The green turtles nest from June to October in Tortuguero, on the North Caribbean coast. The largest of the sea turtles, the leatherback turtles (“Baulas” in Spanish), nest in Playa Grande, Guanacaste, on the Pacific coast, from September to March. They also arrive on the Caribbean coast, mainly in Gandoca-Manzanillo in Limon, from March to July. The variety of species, locations, and seasons means turtle watching can be done year-round in Costa Rica.


Your name could be freely translated to “Land of the Turtles.” Certainly, one of the most important attractions is a turtle nesting tour, where you’ll have the chance to see females digging their nests with their flippers and then laying their eggs, which mainly occurs at night. They then cover the nests, pat them down, and head back into the ocean. Conservation groups then take these eggs and transport them to a safe hatching site to protect them from predators, both human and animal, and give the hatchlings a better chance of survival. There are many lodges in the Tortuguero area to choose from, including Aninga, Evergreen, Laguna Lodge, Mawamba, Playa Tortuga, and Manatus Hotel.


During your stay in the North Pacific, you can travel to Ostional Beach for the exciting arrival (arribada in Spanish) of the olive ridleys. Visit Playa Grande to see the giant leatherback turtles gently using their flippers as shovels to build their nests. Stay at Bahia del Sol on the beach or Capitan Suizo in Tamarindo Beach, and be close to these and other interesting experiences in the area.

South Pacific

Playa Tortuga Ojochal near the South Pacific coast is home to a non-profit group that studies and protects sea turtles and their marine habitats. Speak with the organizers, guides, and volunteers and learn from their efforts while interacting with these endangered marine inhabitants. Stay in the mountains at Cristal Ballena Boutique Hotel. Further south on the Osa Peninsula, olive ridleys are the most common turtle to nest on these shores. Stay at Nicuesa Lodge or Tiskita Lodge and explore the beauties of Golfo Dulce.

Whenever you’re part of an exciting nature-watching experience like turtle watching, make sure you’re respectful of their habitats. Watch where you step, don’t shine your flashlight in the animal’s eyes, disable flash when taking photos, and always pay attention to your guide’s instructions. This helps ensure the natural beauty you’re experiencing will be here for future generations.

At Futuropa, we’ve created suggested itineraries for you that allow you to include turtle watching as part of your nature-loving adventure. For information about travel itineraries, travel agencies, tour operators, car rental options, and hotels click here. Contact us to create your ideal trip and add this awesome experience in Costa Rica to your memories.