The green season has arrived in Costa Rica, and with those warm tropical showers come plenty of perks – from fantastic low season specials on vacation rentals and hotels to magnificent wildlife watching opportunities. Some of the nation’s most iconic animals are sea turtles, and for unforgettable turtle nesting tours the best place to head is the Caribbean village of Tortuguero, which hosts four different endangered species on its protected shores.
A haven for 4 species of sea turtles
Situated 50 miles north of Limon on the northern Caribbean coast, Tortuguero was named for the thousands of marine turtles that nest on its beaches every year. Nearly the entire village and surrounding network of rivers and canals are part of Tortuguero National Park. And its 20+ miles of rugged, dark sand beaches have been named the largest nesting site for green sea turtles in the Western Hemisphere.
While females begin arriving as early as May, the peak nesting season for green sea turtles runs from July through October, when nightly excursions led by trained guides allow visitors to observe this amazing event. Tourists are asked to wear dark clothing and leave their flashlights and cameras back at the lodge, as bright lights may disrupt nesting behaviors.
Local guides association features nightly tours
During turtle nesting season, park rules stipulate that all visitors be accompanied by a registered guide to ensure nests remain undisturbed. Depending on the evening, you may see as many as five giant females (weighing 250 to 400 pounds!) digging nests with their flippers before depositing upwards of 100 eggs. Your guide will carry a special red flashlight that won’t bother the turtle, but will allow you to see this incredible process. Turtle tours range from $20 to $35, based on transportation needs to and from your lodge.
Marine turtle nesting seasons in Tortuguero
While green sea turtles are the most frequently sighted, you may also spot three other types of endangered species in the region.
- Green Sea Turtles: late June-October
- Loggerhead Turtles: May – August
- Leatherback Turtles: March-June
- Hawksbill Turtles: May-November
Watch sea turtle hatchlings make a dash for the sea
If your Costa Rica vacation plans include a November/December arrival, you may be swapping out a chance to see nesting mothers for baby turtle hatchlings. These adorable creatures typically make their dash for the ocean early in the morning or just after dusk. Since nests are located up and down the beach, you may see them anywhere and everywhere, and some lucky tourists have reported this amazing event as early as late October. Cheer them on as they run the gauntlet, avoiding would-be predators along the sands before disappearing under the thrashing waves of the sea.