6 Best Places To Watch Sea Turtles In Costa Rica

If you’re a nature lover, then watching turtles will probably be on your bucket list when you visit Costa Rica. Unfortunately, you may not easily find answers to where to watch sea turtles in Costa Rica on the internet because there are mixed options. 

Costa Rica’s Pacific and Caribbean coasts are where sea turtles lay their eggs. The best places to experience this include Las Baulas Marine National Park, Santa Rosa National Park, Ostional Wildlife Refuge, and Tortuguero, on the Caribbean coast.

Many visitors complain about this when they send me personal messages, and we see the complaints on various forums as well.

To have the best sea turtle watching experience, you’d want to know what time of year is ideal, where the best place is, and how much it would cost. 

So far, I’ve visited five different spots for turtle watching across Costa Rica and documented all the necessary information for this activity. This article provides all the answers. 

Key Takeaways

In case you don’t have all the time to read this article and need to make a quick decision, here are the critical points of this post: 

  • Costa Rican turtle hatching season is between March and November.
  • best spots include Tortuguero, Ostional Wildlife Refuge, and Santa Rosa.
  • Some of the best Costa Rica turtle-hatching tours are offered by Leonardo Tours, Native’s Way, and Tamarindo Travel Agency.
  • Expect to spend between $50 and $100 for these tours or less than $20 without tours for this experience. 

 

Full Review of the Best Places to View Turtle Hatching in Costa Rica

Pro Tip: 

  • Remember to wear comfortable shoes or waterproof sandals. You’ll be walking on the beach and might have to cross a small stream.

Best Places To Watch Sea Turtles In Costa Rica

1. Tortuguero National Park

  • Address: northeast of Costa Rican territory
  • Cost: from $32
  • Best enjoyed with guide: Yes

One of the best places to see turtles in Costa Rica is Tortuguero, also known as the “Region of Turtles” on the North Caribbean Coast. 

This is where sea turtles come and lay their eggs.

Tortuguero has many jungle canals and wild beaches where different kinds of turtles, such as green turtles, leatherbacks, hawksbills, and loggerheads, lay their eggs. 

What I Like about this spot 

  • Boat trip: saw birds, monkeys, reptiles, and heard howler monkeys.
  • Village visit: shops, beach, church, school, Caribbean Sea.

What I don’t like about this spot

  • Turtle tour: $35, guide issues, saw turtle nesting.

2. Ostional Wildlife Refuge

Best Places To Watch Sea Turtles In Costa Rica

  • Address: X8Q2+XQ8, Guanacaste Province, Ostional, Costa Rica
  • Cost: $10
  • Best enjoyed with guide: Yes

Ostional Wildlife Refuge beach is safe, and you need a guide to visit and see the turtles. 

You will see lots of turtles coming onto the beach, laying eggs, and then returning to the sea. Sometimes, it can be hard to decide where to look! 

I recommend you choose the 5 a.m. tour because by 6 a.m., the turtles will start to leave a bit, and you will notice more people arriving at the beach.

The guide at this refuge is friendly and answered our questions about the turtles very well. 

The cost to enter was 12,000CRC for tourists and quite a bit less for locals at the time of visit. 

3. Las Baulas National Marine Park

  • Address: 500 m SO de la Escuela de Playa Grande 933, Provincia de Guanacaste, Santa Cruz, 50308, Costa Rica
  • Cost: Tours cost $35 per person, including the $10 park entrance fee.
  • Best enjoyed with guide: Yes

Las Baulas National Marine Park gets its name from the leatherback sea turtles that live there, known as “las baulas.” 

Within the park, just above Tamarindo Beach, you’ll find Grande Beach, a top spot for the endangered leatherback turtles, which are the biggest sea turtles globally. 

In fact, Grande Beach is the second-largest nesting place for them worldwide. 

That’s why the beach is carefully managed to safeguard this crucial nesting area. Guided tours are offered at night but must be booked no more than eight days beforehand.

What I Like about this spot 

Visiting the beach where leatherback turtles nest

It was not a busy beach; I saw surfers in the water

What I don’t like about this spot

  • None

4. Santa Rosa National Park

Best Places To Watch Sea Turtles In Costa Rica

  • Address: R7QV+5XC Hacienda Murciélago, Provincia de Guanacaste, Costa Rica
  • Cost: Foreign non-residents pay $15; children pay $5; camping right costs $4 per night per person plus an entry ticket, which is daily.
  • Best enjoyed with guide: Not necessarily 

Santa Rosa National Park is in Guanacaste, just inside Costa Rica’s northern border, near Nicaragua. 

When you visit, make sure to bring enough food for your stay because there’s only a small restaurant that charges $10 per meal (only dinner), and it’s the only place with WIFI. 

However, there is water, bathrooms, and cold showers available. You’ll also find lots of plants and animals to enjoy, such as birds, three types of monkeys, iguanas, turtles, and more. 

There are easy-to-follow hiking trails throughout the park. The road to the beach is pretty rough, especially during rainy months. You’ll need a 4WD vehicle with big tires and a snorkel. My 1991 Toyota 4Runner couldn’t make it to the beach because water came up past my floorboards. The entrance fee to the park is $15.

5. Cahuita National Park, Manzanillo

At Gandoca Beach in the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge on the Southern Caribbean Coast, four types of sea turtles lay their eggs: green, hawksbill, loggerhead, and leatherback. The leatherback is the most common.

6. Hermosa Beach

  • Address: northern Guanacaste Province; looks the Gulf of Papagayo
  • Cost:
  • Best enjoyed with guide:

Getting to the refuge at the far end of the beach is an adventure. 

You’ll travel along a narrow dirt road, winding through palm trees. Since turtle eggs are buried in the sand, there isn’t much to see on the way, but you might find some tasty coconuts to enjoy later. 

Eventually, you’ll reach the river at the end of Hermosa Beach.

Sea Turtle Species in Costa Rica and Where to See Them

Costa Rica has four kinds of sea turtles that visit the Pacific and Caribbean Coasts at different times of the year: olive ridley, leatherback, green, and hawksbill sea turtles. 

The olive ridley sea turtle is famous for its mass nesting events called arribadas. 

These events are hard to predict, making it challenging to book tours in advance. But if you’re visiting during nesting season, ask your hotel if an arribada is happening.

The other three sea turtles in Costa Rica are endangered.

Here’s a table clearly defining these species and where you can find them: 

Sea Turtle SpeciesLocationBest Months
Olive RidleySanta Rosa National ParkYear-round, best: May – October
Ostional Wildlife RefugeYear-round, best: May – October
Camaronal Wildlife RefugeApril–November
Hacienda Baru (and Playa Matapalo)Mid-July–Mid-October
GreenTortuguero National ParkMid-July–Mid-October
Pacific GreenPlaya NaranjoOctober–March
LeatherbackPlaya NaranjoMid-October–mid-February
Playa GrandeMid-October–mid-February
Tortuguero National ParkMarch-May
Cahuita National Park, ManzanilloMarch–July
LoggerheadTortuguero National ParkJuly–October
HawksbillVarious locationsOctober–March

 

How Much Does It Cost To Take A Tour To See Turtles in Costa Rica?

The overall cost of seeing turtles in Costa Rica depends on whether you go through a tour guide or pay directly to the center in charge of that area of the beach. 

If you book directly from these locations, expect to pay around $20 per person. Your toddler may even be able to join the tour for free.

Meanwhile, some nearby hotels can also provide transportation to and from the beach, so you don’t have to drive on the bumpy roads early in the morning or late at night. 

Wrapping Up: Tips For Going To See Turtles In Costa Rica 

If you’re going on a road trip to these places, you should drive early in the morning or late at night, especially for the refugee office in Ostional town for the tour. 

The roads around Ostional are bumpy, and there’s a river crossing, which could cause problems with insurance if the car gets damaged. 

Also, you should always stay away from the turtles so you don’t bother them. I noticed some people were cautioned against standing in the way of the turtles as they returned to the water after laying their eggs.

Meanwhile, the number of turtles on the beach changes so that you might see more or fewer depending on your luck.

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About 

Born in California, Michelle traveled extensively through the USA and Europe before moving to South Florida during the pandemic. Her career in Marketing has taken her all across the world. Her favorite country is France but she'll never turn down a beach vacation!

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