Travel Guide Central America Costa Rica Tortuguero





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Tortuguero is a town along the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica and gateway to the popular Tortuguero National Park. The village of Tortuguero was founded in 1930 when a Colombian family settled in the area. The exploitation of the rainforest around Tortuguero began in 1940. In order to facilitate the transport of the timber canals were dug. Today there is little of primary forest left in the area. The largest part of the vegetation consists of secondary forest. In 1975 the national park was created to protect the area. As a consequence, a growing number of sea turtles nested on the long beach of Tortuguero. Tourism is the main source of income for the inhabitants of Tortuguero. The park has an area of 31,174 hectares of which 21,000 hectares in the Atlantic ocean.



Sights and Activities

Tortuguero National Park

The Tortuguero National Park is what most visitors brings all the way up to the town of Tortuguero along the Caribbean coast and the main activity probably is seeing turtles laying their eggs on the beaches. Most of these tours last for several hours and leave when it's dark. It is not always season though and your best bet will be visiting during April to May for leatherback turtles and July to October for green turtles. Canoe tours, wildlife watching and jungle trips are other options with one of the many tour operators in this fantastic area.



Getting There

Tortuguero is one of the most remote places in Costa Rica and is only accessible by boat or plane. The major public road/river routes to get here are through Moín (close to Limón), La Pavona (north of Cariari) and Caño Blanco (accessible through Siquirres).

There is an inexpensive public bus/boat route that can be used to get from San Jose to Tortuguero. Take the ,09:00 direct bus from San Jose to Cariari, which leaves from the Gran Caribe bus terminal. The bus arrives at the long distance bus terminal in Cariari around 11:00. Sometimes the bus to La Pavona/La Suerte meets you there, but otherwise walk 5 blocks north to the local bus terminal and buy a bus ticket to La Pavona/La Suerte. This bus leaves at 11:30 and takes you to the river at La Pavona/La Suerte, where you transfer to a public boat that will reach Tortuguero around 15:00. Inside the restaurant is a ticket office where you must buy a ticket before boarding the boat. Use the restrooms here, as the boat trip can take up to 2 hours if the river is low.

To return, catch the 06:00, 11:30 or 15:00 public boat from Tortuguero and follow these directions in reverse. The total cost one-way should be around US$8: $2.40 for the bus to Cariari, $2 for the bus to La Pavona/La Suerte and $5.20 for the boat to Tortuguero. Beware of touts selling packaged trips along the way, who will tell you that the boats aren't running, the hotels are full, the route isn't safe, and so on -- anything to get you to buy into their "deals". Touts also meet the water taxi in Tortuguero and will offer to "help" you find a hotel.

The route to Tortuguero from the south is longer, but public boats still run. From Moín (a taxi ride from Limón) a boat leaves at 10am to Tortuguero, and costs about US$35.

A quicker but more expensive option is to fly into Tortuguero. Nature Air offer daily flights from San José, from Tobias Bolanos International Airport (SYQ IATA) in Pavas at 06:15AM and arrives in Tortuguero at 06:45. The return flight arrives in Pavas at 07:20.

If you choose to stay at one of the lodges, land/water transportation to and from Tortuguero is usually included in the package rates.

Other than a plane, the only way to access Tortuguero is by boat. Most visitors take a tour from San Jose. The tour takes them by bus to the boat landing. Usually there is a stop on the way for a meal - breakfast on the way to Tortugero and lunch on the way back. After breakfast, the bus goes down a long unpaved road, and turns at a small parking lot at a tiny place called La Pavona. There is a sign with the boat times on it. At the end of this road is a larger parking lot, and a place where the charter buses disgorge their passengers. There is a restaurant there where you can use the rest room for a small fee. This is also where you buy your boat ticket if you are not on a charter

If you are on a charter, you carry your luggage (or pay a small fee for a man with a handcart to take it for you) to the luggage boat for your hotel, and then slide down the muddy bank to the boat for the guests at that lodge. There is no dock.

When you return after visiting Tortuguero, you climb the mud bank, get your luggage from the luggage boat and go to the restaurant to wait for the bus to take you back to town.

There are also boats to Tortuguero from Caño Blanco (accessible through Siquirres).



Getting Around

By Car

There are no cars in Tortuguero.

By Public Transport

If the lodge is not close enough to walk, you will need to take a boat or a water taxi. One-way to the village will run about $2-$5 per person.

By Foot

The village itself is small enough that you can walk everywhere. You can walk from some of the lodges to the village.

By Bike

Some of the inhabitants ride bikes to and from the village.




As with the rest of Costa Rica, you will have lots of rice, chicken, and beans. Fresh fish may be available, ask around. For non-traditional food, your options are Wild Ginger or Budda Café.




There are two hotels outside of the village that offer luxury options, such as TV, air conditioning, a-la-carte dining, and room service. These are Tortuga Lodge and Manatus Hotel.

There are several resorts located outside of the village that offer all-included packages including tours, transportation from San Jose and all meals. Boats must be used to travel between the village and all the lodges, except for Mawamba Lodge which is a 15-minute walk from the village. Bring a flashlight if you plan to stay out past 5:30PM.

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)



Keep Connected


It's easy to find internet access, and although you can still can find a lot of internet cafes, wifi is growing fast in the country. The further away you get from San Jose, the slower and more expensive it becomes when you are using an internet cafe. Wifi is generally free of charge at most places though and apart from off the beaten track parks, jungles and mountains, the connection generally is ok. Some internet cafés also offer international calls via either phone or IP using services like Skype.


See also: International Telephone Calls

  • The country calling code to Costa Rica is 506.
  • To make an international call from Costa Rica, the code is 00.

There are plenty of phone booths around and you will get the best rate using a pre-paid international card (can often be purchased in internet cafés and other small stores). There is usually a connection fee making short calls extra expensive. International calls are fairly expensive. The cheapest way to make them is over the internet using a service such as Skype at an Internet café. But making short calls using the domestic calling cards (you can make international calls using these but the denominations of the calling cards are quite small so your call will be short!) or the international calling cards available within Costa Rica (all from the government phone monopoly ICE) is the next best deal.

Those travelling with a mobile phone and willing to pay the roaming costs should ensure it supports 1,800 MHz GSM network. Note that the GSM phone systems in the United States and Canada use different frequencies and that travelers from there will need a "world" handset, such as a tri-band or quad-band phone, if you want to use your existing cell phone. If you want to use a local Costa Rica number, you can rent cell phone service, and of course anyone can buy a cell phone. If you have an unlocked cell phone (either one from home or bought in Costa Rica - all cell phones sold in Costa Rica must be unlocked), prepaid (prepago) SIM cards can provide a local number and service can be purchased throughout the country by anyone with a passport from any country. Try using companies like Grupo ICE under the Kölbi brand, TuYo Movil, Movistar and Claro.


Correos de Costa Rica (website in Spanish only) is the national postal services of Costa Rica. You can find post offices (correos) in almost any city and town and they are generally open from 7:30am to 5:30pm or 6:00pm Monday to Friday and 7:30am to noon on Saturdays. There are not that many mailboxes, so it's best to ask your hotel or go directly to the post offices. Services tend to be slow but generally reliable and on the whole cheap regarding letters and postcards. It costs about US$0.20 to the USA and Canada (taking about 1 week to 10 days), US$0.25 to Europe (about 2 weeks) and US$0.30 to Asia and Australia (3 weeks or even more). All in all, if you can try and arrange your mail from the capital San José as it's generally quicker from there. Small packages are also no problem, though take them to the post offices unpacked for inspection first! Otherwise, arrange things through private international courier services like UPS, FedEx, DHL or TNT.


Accommodation in Tortuguero

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This is version 16. Last edited at 11:10 on Jan 15, 18 by Utrecht. 6 articles link to this page.

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