Turtle Watching in Costa Rica

Turtle Watching in Costa Rica

Walking in a group, quietly, on the cool sand of Playa Grande in Guanacaste, our way guided by a full moon. We come upon a female Leatherback Turtle, laboriously laying its eggs in a nest she dug in the sand. Tears coming down her face, is it the effort, is it melancholy? We observe this marvel of nature quietly and respectfully. This turtle knew to come to this beach, because this is where her mother lay her eggs, and where she hatched, and she was one of the lucky few to make it to adulthood, braving predators in land and sea. This is only one experience nature lovers seek when visiting Costa Rica. Read on for turtle watching details, and contact us to design the perfect nature lover itinerary for you.


Nesting of Marine Turtles in Costa Rica

Five of the seven species of sea turtles in the world come to nest in Costa Rica, on both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. Hawksbill Sea Turtles (Carey in Spanish), are mostly seen May through November in Tortuguero. The Atlantic Green Sea Turtles (Verde in Spanish) can be seen in Tortuguero June through November. The Olive Ridleys arrive on the Pacific side, mostly July through November, arriving in the thousands in the Ostional Wildlife Refuge on the Nicoya Peninsula. Green Turtles nest June through October in Tortuguero, on the Northern Caribbean. The largest of the marine turtles, the Leatherbacks (Baulas in Spanish), nest in Playa Grande, Guanacaste on the Pacific Coast, September through March. They also arrive on the Caribbean Coast, mainly in Gandoca-Manzanillo in Limon, March through July. The variety of species, locations and seasons, means turtle watching can be done year round in Costa Rica.


Hatching of Marine Turtles in Costa Rica

There are many conservancy groups protecting marine turtles in Costa Rica. A large part of their work is taking the eggs from the nests, and taking them to “incubators” where they are put in the sand again, and protected from predators. They keep track of each batch, and can’t know exactly when they will hatch, but can get close. If you are staying or are close to a beach where turtles lay their eggs, you can speak to your tour operator, or the hotel, and ask they let you know if hatchlings will be released during your stay. This is an exciting event for children and adults alike, as you can assist the tiny turtles as they make their way to the ocean.



Its name can be loosely translated to land of the turtles. Certainly, one of the most important attractions is a turtle nesting tour, where you will have the opportunity to see females digging their nests with their flippers and then laying their eggs, which occurs mostly at nighttime. They will then cover the nests, pat them down, and head back into the ocean. Conservancy groups then take these eggs and transport them to a safe hatching location, 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, Turtle Beach and Manatus Hotel.



While staying in the northern Pacific, you can travel to the beach of Ostional for the exciting arrival (arribada in Spanish) of the Olive Ridleys. Visit Playa Grande to see the gentle giant Leatherbacks using their flippers as shovels to build their nests. Stay at Bahia del Sol in Potrero beach or Capitan Suizo in Tamarindo beach, and be close to these and other exciting experiences in the area.


South Pacific

Playa Tortuga close to Ojochal in the Southern Pacific coast is home to a nonprofit group which studies and protects the sea turtles and their marine habitats. Speak with organizers, guides and volunteers and learn from their efforts while you interact with this endangered marine inhabitants. Stay up on the mountains in Cristal Ballena Boutique Hotel. Further south in the Osa Peninsula, Olive Ridleys are the most common turtle to nest on these coasts. Stay at Nicuesa Lodge or Tiskita Lodge and explore the beauties of the Dulce Gulf.

Any time when you are part of an exciting nature watching experience such as turtle watching, be sure you are respectful of their habitats. Watch where you step, don’t point your flashlight in the animal’s eyes, turn off the flash when taking photos, and always heed your guide’s instructions’. This helps ensure the natural beauty you are experiencing will be here for future generations.

At Futuropa, we have created suggested itineraries for you that allow you to include turtle watching as part of your nature-lover adventure. To obtain information regarding travel itineraries, travel agencies, tour operators, rent-a-car options and hotels click hereContact us to create your ideal trip and add this awe-inspiring experience in Costa Rica to your memories.