Hey folks! It’s time for yet another armchair adventure to South America, so grab a cup of tea and get comfy while I fill you with wanderlust and inspiration for your next trip! In this post, I’m going to talk about turtle-tastic Tortuguero, one of the Caribbean’s best-kept secrets… Well until now!
Why You Should Go?
Tortuguero is a unique biosphere where the land meets the Caribbean coast. Surrounded by brackish water, this tiny remote village can only be reached by boat and has one of the richest ecosystems in Costa Rica. It is a nature lover’s paradise with wildlife so deeply integrated into the everyday hum, you are hard pushed not to see an iguana sunbathing on the side of the road or the famed symbol of Costa Rica, the sloth making its way along a washing line. It was this density of wildlife and of course, Tortuguero is one of the best places to witness turtle nesting in the world which attracted us to this funky little Caribbean village.
The turtles were an exceptionally big draw for us, having arrived at the tail end of Green Sea Turtle nesting in October, we were excited to get the most out of our experience and have the best chance of seeing turtles possible. Tortuguero did not disappoint! Seeing those nesting turtles up close and personal and being witness to such an amazing natural spectacle is something I will never forget and would encourage anyone with an opportunity to experience this spectacular event for themselves. If you’re a keen turtle enthusiast and want to know more about our turtle experience, check out my earlier blog post here…
Tortuguero is like nowhere I have experienced before, you get a real island vibe and the atmosphere is so wonderfully chilled out. Much of our South America trip had been organised down to a minute detail and was micro-managed (largely by myself) to ensure every moment of time was spent effectively to see and do as much as possible. The Tortuguero vibe even allowed captain control freak over hear to hand over the reins and go with the flow. I felt relaxed and rejuvenated after our time in Tortuguero and despite this, I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything.
How Long Should You Go For?
From experience, the ideal length of time, particularly if you’re wanting to see turtles is 3-4 days. You can easily occupy yourself for this length of time as not only is It’s a great place to chill out but there’s also plenty to do, which I will get on to later. We stayed 4 days and found it gave us a good few stabs at seeing turtles. We were lucky enough to see them on our first nesting tour but nature can never be guaranteed so it’s best to plan for this. If you’re a little bit mental like we are you can also go out both at night with a guide and at first light on your own to try and capture a glimpse of our glorious flippered ladies returning to the water after a hard night’s work.
Where to Stay?
Now, obviously I have not done a scout of all the accommodation Tortuguero has to offer but what I can do is recommend the place we stayed during our visit because it was fab! Aracari Garden is a cosy little hostel a mere stone’s throw away from the beach and the national park. The staff were fantastically helpful and the rooms were cosy, cool and nicely laid out. The hostel ran tours, all of which were fantastic (based on the ones we went on) and the staff had a really eco-friendly ethos, which I really admired. There were both dorm rooms and privates to choose from ranging from an unquestionable £10 to £40 per night, so perfect for anyone on a budget. You can check out their website here… http://www.aracarigarden.com
Where to Eat?
As we were very much backpacking on the cheap, we mostly used the hostel facilities to cook for ourselves. If this is something you would also be considering, Aracari garden had decent kitchen facilities with plenty of oil and spices to cook with and there were local grocery stores a short walk away. One place, however, that we could not keep from going back to was Aracari Bistro, an amazing little eco-friendly eatery attached to the hostel which is run by a French lady and her husband. Everything we sampled on the menu was divine, and all the bread and cakes are freshly baked each day. I could not recommend this place enough and for the quality of the food, the prices were really reasonable, so most definitely check it out! And if you don’t believe me, see their glowing ratings on trip advisor… https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g309268-d13544397-Reviews-Aracari_Bistro-Tortuguero_Province_of_Limon.html
What to Do?
For such a tiny place, we found there was so much to do in Tortuguero. First and foremost, the opportunity to chill out on the Caribbean white sands and take a dip in the gorgeous turquoise waters. Sometimes it’s just nice to have a day to relax, soak up some rays and read a good book. The beaches are very wild and unkempt so you won’t be finding sunbeds and cabanas here but to me, that was part of the charm.
The next and most obvious thing is, of course, all things turtle related! As this is what this little sanctuary is best known for, I’m guessing that’s a big draw for most of you – it definitely was for us. I would implore all of you to get as turtley (see what I did there?!) immersed as you can while spending time in this amazing place. Book yourself on the nighttime turtle nesting tour to witness one of the most breathtaking natural spectacles of a lifetime. Patrol the beaches at the crack of dawn for the chance to see the mother turtles heading back to the sea or even, if you’re really lucky, witness the newly hatched babies scampering to the ocean for the first time. And of course, visit the Sea Turtle Conservancy station to learn about the sea turtle’s plight and support their protection. Remember though, while taking part in your turtle-tastic activities to respect our flippered friends and look but don’t touch. If you’d like to read more about how you can be a turtle-friendly tourists click the link to my earlier blog post here!
Wander around the national park seeing how many animals you can spot. It’s a $20 entry fee but you can then come and go as you please all day until the park shuts in the evening. The park is home to a plethora of beings including tapirs, jaguars, spider, howler and capuchin monkeys, sloths, iguanas and an abundance of bird life. What you see may be hit and miss but you are bound to see something with such a high density of life in one place and half the fun is wandering through the dense undergrowth keeping your eyes peeled for what you might find. One top tip would be to wear sturdy footwear. We went in sandals which we later discovered was not the greatest plan. Firstly because there were masses of bitey ants on the forest floor, secondly because part of the trail was incredibly water-logged so we got incredibly filthy and thirdly, to protect yourself against the risk of snake bites. Now I, thinking I knew what I was doing figured the chance of getting bitten by a snake was incredibly slim, surely they would hear the vibrations of our feet and be long gone by the time we even got anywhere near them… cut to a few days later when, once again in sandals, I nearly stepped on a baby coral snake (for those of you who don’t know they have some of the most potent venom in the world)…. that sure told me! So learn from our mistakes, walking boots or wellies are a good idea!
And finally, enjoy some of the many wildlife tours in and around the national park. Take a wander through the trees at night to discover the twilight activities of the Costa Rican creatures or take a kayak at first light through the Tortuguero waterways or take advantage of the naturalists keen eyes as they take you for a guided ramble through the national park. Tours are around the $20-25 dollar mark excluding entry to the national park and in my opinion, are worth every cent. My advice; if you’re planning on taking two tours do them on the same day so you don’t have to pay the park fee twice. During our stay, we selected to do the kayaking tour which was spectacular. You could get to within meters of Kamen and the buzzing of life around the water was amazing. With the expertly trained eyes of the guide, we felt like we got so much more out the experience and wouldn’t have found half the critters if we’d been searching on our own!
So there you have it, my guide to Tortuguero and why you should go! Caribbean tides, chilled vibes and more wildlife than you can shake a stick at, what more could you want for your next holiday destination!? If you like these posts please subscribe and follow me on my various social media. I always welcome comments and questions so feel free to email me or comment below, I love to chat!