Tortuguero is the epitome of what you imagine Costa Rica to be like.
It’s a magical town surrounded by nature and wildlife. If you love nature you’ll fall in love with Tortuguero during your time in Costa Rica.
You can just be walking down the beach and see stingrays chilling on the shore as the waves crash upon them. Or walking down a path and see a couple of sloths hanging about in the tree.
Thanks to the fact that Tortuguero is home to 11 different habitats, you’ll be able to experience such a diverse variety in nature and wildlife. This includes a rainforest, mangrove forests, swamps, beaches and lagoons.
We can’t emphasise enough what a truly magical place it is. Chances are high that it will become your favourite place in Costa Rica, but we’ll leave you to find that out for yourself.
Get your bucket list ready. In this guide, we’ll show you the best things to do in Tortuguero and how to experience them.
Need help planning your trip? Check out our tips for visiting Tortuguero — you’ll find the best restaurants, where to stay, how to get around and more!
Top tours in and around Tortuguero
- Jungle night tour for $30
- Canoe and wildlife tour in Tortuguero National Park for $35
- Kayak your way through Tortuguero for $45
#1 Take a canoe tour through Tortuguero National Park
The best way to explore Tortuguero is via its waterways. You’ll get to experience true peace and harmony as you admire the dense jungle on either side of you.
The tours are done in either electric, silent motor canoes or ones that are actually powered by your guide using a paddle!
You’ll get to learn about the natural history of Tortuguero National Park, as well as spot a variety of animals and plants. Your guide will be able to tell you so much information about the wildlife that you’ll feel like an expert afterwards too!
TIP: Do keep an eye out on the water around you, as you may spot a caiman crocodile lurking around.
The tours tend to last around 3 hours. We’d recommend taking a tour that starts early in the morning, as the animals like to venture out of their hiding spots before it gets too hot!
One of the best-rated tours is the Canoe Tour with Tortuguero Adventures, which costs $35 per person.
Book here: Canoe and wildlife tour through Tortuguero National Park for $35
#2 Watch turtles give birth on the beach at night
Tortuguero isn’t called the ‘place of turtles’ for nothing. Between the months of July to October, over 20,000 female Green Turtles come to nest in Tortuguero each year.
Loggerhead, Hawksbill and Leatherback turtles also nest there, but the chances of seeing them are very low.
With a number of the turtle species now highly endangered, the locals do their best to protect the turtle eggs, without interfering with nature.
During this season, the beach is closed and patrolled by the coast guard to prevent the turtles from being disturbed and also to stop poachers.
Therefore, the only way to see the magical event of the turtles giving birth is to join a night time tour.
How do the tours work?
The guards patrolling the beach alert the tour guides of a turtle on the beach. Small groups are then given the chance to observe the mother turtle from a distance.
You’ll get to see the strenuous and exhausting work the mother has to go through, digging the hole, laying the eggs, burying and then camouflaging the eggs.
The tours run at 20:00 and 22:00. Which time you get is randomly allocated by the national park when you book the tour.
You can book the turtle night tour with Tortuguero 7 Hostel Tours which costs $30 by sending them a message on Whatsapp +50688316401.
$6 of each ticket goes to the Sea Turtle Conservancy organisation, so you’re also helping out the turtles!
#3 Discover new animals on a night walk
A night tour is something you can’t leave Costa Rica without doing!
During the night, you’ll get to explore a hidden Costa Rica. Many rainforest inhabitants are nocturnal, making the rainforest an exciting and new place after dark.
You’ll get the chance to see moths, iguanas, frogs, spiders and even snakes. Things that you often don’t see in the daytime.
Tortuguero is bursting with wildlife, making it a great place to do a night tour. Use your flashlight to find both the two and three-toed sloths!
You can book a night tour with Tortuguero 7 Hostel Tours by sending them a message on Whatsapp +50688316401. The tour lasts for around 2 hours and costs $25.
Alternatively, you can also book a night tour online for $30.
Book here: Jungle night tour for $30
#4 Go kayaking along the canals and admire the wildlife
There are plenty of tours that you can go on in Tortuguero to see the wildlife, including a kayaking tour.
However, we’d recommend just renting your own kayak and paddling around the river by yourself. If you’ve been in Costa Rica for a while now, you’ll probably be an expert animal spotter. Stick near the shores and it won’t be hard to spot an array of birds and even monkeys.
Going by yourself allows you to be surrounded by nothing but peace. It’s something we don’t often get to experience nowadays.
You can rent the kayaks for the whole day for $8 per person. You could go out in the morning, paddle back for lunch and then head out again in the afternoon.
If you want a little extra help with spotting the animals, you can join this 3-hour kayaking tour. The guide will help with the spotting, but you’ll still have to do the paddling!
New to Tortuguero? Check out this compact Tortuguero guide to find the best areas to stay, restaurants you don’t want to miss and many more tips for your visit to Tortuguero!
#5 Go hiking in Tortuguero National Park
If you only have time for one tour of Tortuguero National Park, we’d recommend the canoe tour that we mentioned above (#1). However, if you do have a few hours to spare, hiking through the national park is also a great way to spend your time.
Tortuguero National Park covers over 19,000 hectares of land. It’s pretty big! Within this huge expanse of land, there’s a variety of habitats such as beaches, tropical lowland rainforest, freshwater riverine and more!
There’s only one trail that takes you around the park in a big loop. It’s a beautiful mixture of the dense jungle and golden-sand beaches.
Keep an eye on the trees as you may be able to spot 3 of the 4 species of monkeys from Costa Rica. Howler, Capuchin and Spider monkeys can all be seen swinging through the trees.
The trail is relatively flat and should take around 3 hours to complete the loop. Entrance to the national park is $15 per person.
PRO TIP: If it’s been raining a lot, you can rent rainboots from a number of places in town for just $1.
#6 Hike to the top of Cerro Tortuguero
Cerro Tortuguero, also known as Tortuguero hill, is an extinct volcano that boasts the title of being the highest point on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica.
It’s a strenuous hike, but the panoramic views of rainforest, lagoons and beaches below definitely make it all worth it.
To get to the starting point of the hike, you’ll need to take a 10-minute boat ride. We’d highly recommend hiring a guide to take you to the top as it’s a much safer option, plus you’ll get to learn about your surroundings on the way up.
Tortuguero hill is 119m high and pretty steep! The hike should take you around 2-3 hours.
#7 Learn about turtles at the Sea Turtle Conservancy Centre
If you have an hour spare, or it’s raining, head down to the Sea Turtle Conservancy.
The organisation was set up in 1959, making it the world’s oldest sea turtle research and conservation group.
In order to share their knowledge, the education centre was built in 1994. The one-room museum teaches visitors how turtles build their nest, their life cycle, migratory routes and the research that goes on.
There’s also a small ‘theatre’ where visitors can enjoy a video about Tortuguero and its history with turtles.
The volunteers there are incredibly friendly and in a small amount of time, you’ll know a huge amount about turtles.
The entrance to the centre is $5, which goes towards the turtle research. The centre is open every day from 10:00 to 12:00 and 14:00 to 17:00.
#8 Relax on the beach or take a walk along the shore
Running down the entire east side of the town is a stunning dark-sand beach. You’ll barely have to walk more than 200 metres from town to get to the beach!
If you have a day to spare, why not spend it sunbathing on the beach reading a book?
During turtle season, it’s really nice to walk along the beach spotting turtle tracks and nests from the night before.
The only problem with the beach in Tortuguero is that you’re advised not to go swimming in the sea due to the rip tides. It’s still fine to go in for a paddle, around knee depth.
#9 Go fishing and catch the world-famous Tarpon aka “Silver King”
Before tourism came to Tortuguero, the village relied heavily on fishing. It’s now a popular destination for both salt and freshwater fishing.
One species of fish that’s put Tortuguero on the fishing map is the legendary ‘Silver King’ or tarpon. These can be found between January and July as they migrate inland.
Tortuguero is also home to a number of other fish including Rainbow Trout, Machaca and Mojarro.
Captain Elvin, also known as Primo, is one of the most well-known fishermen in town. His full-day rate for both river and inshore fishing is $550 for 2 people and $650 for 3 people. You can make an inquiry for a day trip on fishingbooker.com.
Rounding it up
Now you’ve picked the best things to do in Tortuguero, it’s time to start ticking off that bucket list. Not sure how to plan your trip? Our guide is here to help! You’ll find out how long to stay in Tortuguero, where to eat, how to get around and more. Happy planning!
Our favourite places to stay in Tortuguero
Tortuguero Casa Pelican - Treat Yourself
Casa Pelican boasts the perfect location in Tortuguero, only minutes from both the beach and the town. You won’t even need to go to the beach to relax as you’ll find hammocks and chairs on every balcony to chill and take in the view from.
The rooms are modern, clean and homely. The rainfall showers are also a treat. You’ll feel like you’re actually in the rainforest with that.
- Perfect location
- Clean and spacious rooms
- Modern bathrooms
- Hammocks to chill in
Double rooms start from $80 per night
Casa Turtle Bogue - Mid Range
You can’t get much closer to the beach than at Casa Turtle Bogue. You can either relax in a hammock, or soak up the sun on Tortuguero Beach. All of the rooms are clean and modern, offering everything you need. There’s also a seating area for guests to relax in and kitchen facilities.
The owners will do anything they can to make your stay in Tortuguero amazing, whether it be organising tours, or sharing their love of the place with you.
- Right on the beach
- Clean and fresh rooms
- Great and friendly staff
- Air conditioning in the rooms
Double rooms between $50-$70 per night
Pura Natura - Mid Range
Pura Natura is exactly what the name says – pure and natural. The whole place feels modern and fresh with its neutral and earthy colour scheme. It only opened in February 2021, so everything’s new and modern.
There are plenty of places to relax, in their garden or on their roof terrace. Make sure to enjoy the sea views too. The owners of Pura Natura, a young couple, are so incredibly kind, helpful and knowledgeable about Tortuguero.
- Modern and fresh design
- Close to the beach
- Young and friendly owners
- Relaxing spaces to chill
Double rooms between $50-$70 per night
Los Amigos Jungle Hotel Tortuguero - Budget Friendly
An added bonus to this super cheap hotel is the outdoor swimming pool. It’s perfect for cooling down after a day of adventures in Tortuguero.
The rooms are brightly coloured, emanating the vibrant atmosphere of Tortuguero. You can also enjoy the outdoor terraces, or the shared kitchen facilities, if you decide to do some cooking on your own. Summing it up, this place is great value for money!
- Outdoor swimming pool
- Vibrant and colourful rooms
- Shared kitchen
- Helpful and knowledgeable staff
Double rooms between $15-$50 per night
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