Turtle Spotting in Tortuguero National Park

Canoe trips are an ideal way to spot wildlife at Tortuguero National Park
Tortuguero is unique in that, unlike many national parks in Costa Rica, it almost exclusively revolves around the water. And the best way to explore this 312-square-km (120-mile) protected area is on an organized tour where you hop in a canoe and navigate the network of arterial waterways that snake around the park. On a trip like this, you'll spot various denizens of the reserve such as manatees, spectacled caimans, river otters, and rare birds. These include macaws, toucans, and kingfishers.

Back on terra firma, you can explore Tortuguero's 35-km (22-mile) expanse of beach. It's a favorite nesting area for a variety of different species of turtle: the hawksbill, leatherback, and green sea turtle. All of these nest in the area from July through October (mostly at night), and seeing the mother turtles lay their eggs is an unforgettable experience. If you come from February to July, you'll spot the leatherback, which at 6 to 7 feet long and up to 1,500 pounds, is the largest sea turtle in the world.

Here are some recommended times of the year to visit for different types of turtles.
Species Nesting Season Hatching Season
Green Sea Turtles July - October  September - November
Loggerhead July - October September - November
Hawksbill March - October Year around
Leatherback March - May May - July

Read our Ultimate guide to Tortuguero for more information about Tortuguero National Park

Itineraries with Turtle Spotting in Tortuguero National Park

Caribbean Coast Adventure Tour - 10 Days

Experience the best of Costa Rica's tropical flora and fauna on this 10-day trip. Spend a fun-filled week hiking in the rainforest, snorkeling in coral reefs, rafting the world-class rapids of Río Pacuare, and more. This itinerary is ideal for travelers heading to Costa Rica during the "green season" (May - November), as the Caribbean coast stays relatively dry during rainy months—and it's also the best time to see turtles nesting in Tortuguero National Park.

Costa Rica's Essentials - 11 Days

This 11-day itinerary allows you to enjoy a comprehensive Costa Rican experience that will take you from the Caribbean to the Pacific coast and everything in between. Beyond the virgin rainforest and exotic wildlife, however, you'll also get to experience Costa Rica through its delicious flavors, be it local cuisine or the famed coffee grown in its volcanic soil.

Wildlife & Beaches in Costa Rica - 10 Days

This 10-day adventure allows you to experience Costa Rica from both coasts. Visit San José, check out Tortuguero National Park, marvel at Arenal Volcano, and lounge on the remote beaches of Guanacaste. Enjoy plenty of activities along the way: watch sea turtles hatch on a Caribbean beach, sample locally produced chocolate, or take a surf lesson in the Pacific.

Coast to Coast Adventure: Tortuguero, Arenal, Monteverde, & Guanacaste - 14 Days

Experience the country from both coasts on this two-week trip. You'll visit San José, Tortuguero National Park, the towering Arenal Volcano, Monteverde's cloud forest, and the remote beaches of Guanacaste. There will be plenty of activities to choose from along the way: watch sea turtles hatch on a Caribbean beach, sample locally produced chocolate, and take a surf lesson in the glittering Pacific.

Caribbean Coast Adventure - 9 Days

On this 9-day trip, you will experience the best of the country's tropical flora and fauna. From rainforest hikes to snorkeling in coral reefs.  This itinerary is ideal for travelers going to Costa Rica during the "green season" (May - November), as the Caribbean coast stays relatively dry during these rainy months. It's also the best time to see turtles nesting on the beaches in Tortuguero National Park (July-October).

Coast-to-Coast Family Adventure - 11 Days

Experience the best Costa Rica has to offer on this family-friendly 11-day adventure. You'll watch sea turtles on the Caribbean beaches of Tortuguero National Park, hike around Arenal Volcano, zip-line through the cloud forest of Monteverde, and finally relax on the remote, Pacific beaches of Guanacaste. Along the way, you'll make your own hot chocolate and coffee from bean to cup, swim under a waterfall—and maybe even catch a wave.

Explore Tortuguero from San José - 4 Days

Tortuguero National Park is most famous as a sanctuary to nesting sea turtles—you can witness the babies hatch on the beach during this 4-day excursion to the Caribbean coast. After spending a day exploring San José, you'll make your way east to the untouched beaches of Tortuguero. Delve deeper into the park and paddle a canoe around its arterial waterways, keeping an eye out for plenty of other wildlife along the way.

Coast to Coast Adventure: Tortuguero, Arenal Volcano, & Guanacaste - 9 Days

Experience both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of Costa Rica — and all that's in between — on this 9-day adventure. Starting in the bustling capital of San Jose, you'll make your way to Tortuguero National Park, where you'll watch sea turtles hatch on the beach. Then head inland to Arenal Volcano and its magnificent rainforest trails. After a long day of hiking, soothe your muscles in the natural hot springs at Tabacón. After a river wildlife safari and a chocolate lesson, you'll travel to the sparkling waters of the Gulf of Papagayo. Here you'll go snorkeling and surfing, and end your journey with a spectacular sunset cruise around the bay.