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.
If you’re visiting Tortuguero soon, you’ve come to the right place. After reading this guide, you’ll know which area to stay in, where to find the best restaurants and how to get around this jungle and beach town in Costa Rica.
Also, check out our list of the best activities in Tortuguero!
Is Tortuguero worth visiting?
The people of Tortuguero truly live the ‘Pura Vida’ lifestyle and have learnt to live side-by-side with the wildlife. They’re also some of the friendliest people, always saying hello as you walk down the main street (the only street) in the town.
Whilst not actually being an island, Tortuguero boasts a laid back, island-vibe. The only way to get to the town is by boat, making you feel like you’re in a secluded little town that you can’t help but fall in love with.
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.
Tortuguero means ‘Place of turtles’
Tortuguero is also one of the best places to see turtles nesting and the babies hatching in the whole of Costa Rica. Fun fact, Tortuguero actually means ‘place of turtles’. If you can, we’d recommend planning your visit around turtle season (July-oct).
How long should you spend in Tortuguero?
We can’t emphasise enough what a truly magical place Tortuguero 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.
If you’re on a tight schedule, we’d recommend 3 days. This allows you to relax after the potentially long journey to get to Tortuguero and enjoy the main activities it has to offer.
If you have more time, be prepared that it’s easy to embrace the slow-paced way of life in Tortuguero and end up staying here for a while.
Where to stay in Tortuguero
Tortuguero is a tiny town with only one main road running through it.
You basically only have two options of where to stay in Tortuguero: in the main town or at a lodge in the surrounding forest.
Location #1: Main Town — close to shops, restaurants and the beach
The main town is where you’ll find most of the accommodations, ranging from hostels and homestays, to beach-front hotels and luxury lodges. Prices start from around $20 a night and can go up to just under $200.
If you chose to stay in the main town you’ll be close to the beach that runs along the east side of the town, restaurants, supermarkets, shops and bars.
It’s also nice to just be in and amongst the locals as they go about their daily lives and start selling their street food as the sun begins to set.
Location #2: In the jungle — a secluded stay surrounded by nature
Scattered throughout the jungle, on the banks of the canals, you’ll find a few lodges. If you’re looking for absolute tranquility during your stay, this is the place to stay.
All you’ll be able to hear is the sound of the jungle orchestra. A lot of the time, your accommodation will provide all of your meals so that you don’t have to leave the lodge, apart from when you’re doing tours.
But don’t worry, if you do want to visit the main town, you can get a water taxi for around $4.
Best places to eat in Tortuguero
Although there is a lot to be excited about when visiting Tortuguero, the food scene isn’t at the top of that list. Sorry if you’re a big foodie!
The majority of the restaurants are locally owned and sell only local food such as Casado, fried rice, fish and meat dishes. Don’t get us wrong, this is still done really well.
To help you find the best food in Tortuguero, here are out 3 favourite spots:
Soda Oasis — delicious local food in the middle of town
You won’t actually find Soda Oasis on Google Maps, but it’s not difficult to find. It’s right next to the boat port, where you will have arrived in Tortuguero.
The food is simple but delicious. The family-owned restaurant will make you feel like you’re receiving a home cooked meal from your parents. Soda Oasis serves a variety of food from delicious fresh fish, fried rice, burritos, pasta and much more. Their breakfast is also a winner.
An added bonus, it’s all super cheap. A lot of the prices are actually lower than in the rest of Costa Rica.
Tortuguero street food — deliciously barbecued kebabs and salad
Although this one may not be an actual restaurant, the food is probably some of the best that you can get in Tortuguero.
Every day as the sun starts to go down, the ladies with their grills come out. For $1.60 you can enjoy a perfectly grilled kebab, most likely either pork or chicken, with a yucca salad and coleslaw.
You can then take your food to the park overlooking the river and admire one of the best views in Tortuguero as the sun sets.
Buddha Cafe — a beautifully decorated restaurant with international cuisine
The Buddha Cafe is one of the fanciest restaurants that you’ll find in Tortuguero. The place boasts a charming and vibrant decor, with the most attentive staff.
Here you’ll be able to get a break from local food and enjoy an array of international dishes such as pizza, hummus and burgers. They also make some cracking cocktails. And don’t worry if you still want some local food, they do that too!
Also read: Top 9 Things to Do in Tortuguero
How to get around Tortuguero
Tortuguero is super small, which also means that getting around is super easy. There are no cars in Tortuguero, so your two options to get around are either by foot or by boat.
In Tortuguero main town, walking will get you everywhere you need to go.
No matter where your accommodation is within the main town, anywhere you want to go won’t be longer than a 15-minute walk away.
The majority of people will arrive at Tortuguero via boat, unless you’ve decided to fly. For most people, this will be the only time you’ll need to use a boat.
However, if your accommodation isn’t within the main town, you may need to use water taxis to get around. Your accommodation should be able to organise these for you and cost around $4 per ride.
Wondering how to get to Tortuguero? Check out our detailed guide on how to get from San Jose to Tortuguero.
Now that you’ve finished reading this guide, you’re almost ready for your adventure in Tortuguero. The next step is to create your personalised itinerary with our top picks of things to do in Tortuguero. Simply choose your favourite activities and places to visit, and you’re all set to make lasting memories in Tortuguero.
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