Tortuguero National Park
From Costa Rica Travel Guide: Vacation and Travel tips
Tortuguero National Park
Tortuguero is one of the most popular National Parks in Costa Rica, but is also recognized for its rich biological diversity.
There are 11 identified habitats within the park, including littoral woodland, high rainforest, slope forest, swamp forest, holillo forest, herbaceous swamp and herbaceous lagoon communities. The wildlife is also rich and diverse at Tortuguero. Over 300 species of birds are found there, like the Great Green Macaw, Curassow, Turkey Vulture, Violaceous Trogon, Montezuma Oropendola to name a few. Some other species of wildlife found in the park are the Mantled Howler Monkey, White-Faced Capuchin and Spider Monkeys, the Fishing Bulldog Bat, the jaguar, ocelots, the Neotropic river otter, the Collared Peccary, the Tayra, sloths, and the Paca. Fish are also found in abundance at Tortuguero National Park.
Tortuguero is best known for being a preferred nesting ground for sea turtles. The creation of this park in 1970 gave much needed protection to one of the region's most important and unique natural resources: a 22-km. stretch of shoreline that serves as the principal nesting site throughout the western half of the Caribbean Sea for the Atlantic Green Sea Turtle. With its dark sands and long stretch of beach, these shores appear to be the ideal environment for sea turtles to lay their eggs. Watching these magnificent reptiles emerge from the sea and haul their 100+ kg. bodies ashore to lay their eggs under cover of darkness is truly a memorable experience. The nesting season for the green turtles extends from July to October. An even larger species, the Leatherback Sea turtle, also nests on these beaches from February to April, although most nesting is done in the southern portion of the park, far from the actual village of Tortuguero.
In addition to this vital strip of coastline, Tortuguero National Park protects an extensive network of freshwater creeks and lagoons. The aquatic environment is home to 7 species of river turtles, as well as Spectacled Caiman, Southern River Otters, the scarce and hard to see West Indian Manatee, the fierce-looking Alligator Gar -- a fish which has remained nearly unchanged in appearance since prehistoric times -- and numerous other fish species including Atlantic Snook and Atlantic Tarpon which bring serious anglers to this area from all around the globe.
Gliding through the tranquil backwaters in a small boat is as enjoyable and rewarding a way to watch wildlife as you're likely to find anywhere. And even if most of the diverse assortment of rain forest denizens manages to elude your gaze, the experience alone, along with the wonderful forest sounds, make this activity one of the highlights of any visit.
Admission policy: Night walks on the beach to observe nesting sea turtles must be in the company of a trained and authorized local guide (arrangements can be made through any of the area hotels).
There are three park stations in Tortuguero National Park that are open from 8am to 4pm and they are: Cuatro Esquinas Headquarters which has camping available. The Sector Jalova Station which is located on the south end of the park near Jalova Lagoon and the Aguas Frias Station located on the western border of the park.
The park has many nature trails, scenic overlooks and at Tortuguero hill a tower provides a scenic view of the area.
Getting to Tortuguero National Park
• from San Jose take the Guapiles highway toward the city of Limon
• at the Bay of Moin, which is the beginning of a canal that leads you into Tortuguero National Park
• Boats are available in Moin