Visiting Tortuguero National Park – Costa Rica

Traveling by land from San Jose to Tortuguero National Park is quite an adventure. Leaving San Jose behind we drove through the National Park of Braulio Carrillo which offered great cloud forest views. Around 10am we stopped for breakfast in Guapiles and continued our way along a 14 mile dirt road afterwards. We stopped to visit one of the banana plantations which are the main income source of the area.tortugueronp

As I learnt along the way, Tortuguero is located on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. Not only is it supposed to constantly rain there, it is also “Jamaican” territory. We quickly understood that there was a certain rivalry between the two sides, the Caribbean/Jamaican and Costa Rican that is. For one, they do not agree on the recipe for rice and beans, and for two, the Caribbean side tends to listen to reggae music. Adrian, our guide was a lot of fun and very knowledgeable. During the 5 hour drive we learned a lot about his country.

After the two hour dirt road drive we arrived in Palacio, from where we contiued out journey by boat. We stocked up on supplies at the General Store.

Turtle at TortugueroThe National Park was an archipelago of volcanic islands until alluvial sediments from the interior mountains, filled in the spaces and formed a network of marshy islands. The beaches, canals, lagoons and wetlands of Tortuguero are areas of exceptional biodiversity. Houses are mainly on stilts along the different canals. People travel by boat. After about 1 hour and a half on the boat we finally arrived at Pachira Lodge, our home for the night.

Pachira Lodge Tortuguero Costa RicaPachira Lodge has a rustic rainforest charm. No air conditioning, just ceiling vans. Rooms are spacious, bathrooms tiny. They don’t offer much privacy. Windows are closed by screens only. Our cabin was located somewhere in the rainforest about 5 minutes from the main complex. We learnt later that the night before our arrival they had to remove an 8 foot boa constrictor right out of our back patio.

Most people visit Tortuguero during turtle nesting season. This is the place to see large turtles waddle their way up the beach, laying their eggs, covering them up and making their way back to the ocean.

Visits are arranged in groups with a guide who makes sure no flashlights or flashes are used. They also scare of hungry Jaguars. If you don’t wish to participate in one of the evening adventures you can make your way to the beach in the early morning and see if you can spot a baby turtle hatching and making its way to the ocean. It is amazing to see how these small creatures struggle through the sand to reach their goal.

Tortuguero is also home to a large amount of birds and other wildlife, incl. several monkey species. You can see plenty of exciting things with patience and a good eye. There really is not much to do in the area other than appreciate nature. As a matter of fact you can consider yourself lucky to find an internet connection. Most people stay for two nights and spend their days on wildlife safaris. Some resorts also offer canoes and there is the possibility to zip line in the area. Given that the area is flat, the zip line is more a chance to get a closer look a the tree tops than an adrenaline rush.

Sunrise at Totuguero beach Costa Rica
From a vacation concierge standpoint I would recommend this area to anyone who loves nature, particularly birds, and is patient enough to be rewarded. It can also be a romantically secluded destination for couples who are looking to be cut off from the world. Although I spent two days without an inkling of rain I was assured that it rains all the time. Whilst you can travel to Tortuguero via land both ways you might want to consider flying at least one way to save time. I do definitely recommend contacting a specialist to make your travel plans since it is an out of the way destination and there are ways to optimize your stay. Also, should you decide to travel one way by plane you will be subject to considerable luggage weight restrictions and a travel concierge can help you making arrangements to avoid problems.

Posted by: Stefanie Pichonnat can be reached at 812-917-2149 or