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 then you just have to visit 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.
Tortuguero National Park
Tortuguero town sits within Tortuguero National Park, a vast area encompassing beaches, dense jungle and winding waterways.
While most national parks are best to explore by foot, this isn’t the case for Tortuguero National Park. Instead, you should take to the waters and admire the animals from a peaceful canoe gliding through the canals.
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.
To make sure that you get the most out of your trip, here are our top things to do.
#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.
#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 would like to join a tour to go kayaking, then you can book with Tortuguero 7 Hostel Tours for $40. All you need to do is send them a message on Whatsapp +50688316401.
New to Tortuguero? Check out this compact Tortuguero guide to show you 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
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.
Entrance to the centre is $5, which goes towards the turtle research. The centre is open every day from 10am-12pm and 2-5pm.
#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 persons and $650 for 3 persons. You can make an inquiry for a day trip on fishingbooker.com.
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.
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./p>
The owners will do anything they can to make your stay in Tortuguero amazing, whether it be organising tours for you or sharing their love of the place with you.
Pura Natura is exactly how it’s name describes it to be - 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’s plenty of places to relax, in their garden or on their roof terrace. Make sure to enjoy the sea views. The owners of Pura Natura, a young couple, are so incredibly kind, helpful and knowledgeable about Tortuguero.
An added bonus to this super cheap hotel is the outdoor swimming pool. It’s perfect for cooling down in after a day of adventures.
The rooms are brightly colour, 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!