In the small village of Tortuguero, Hispanic, Afro-Caribbean, and Miskito Indian cultures come together, and the music of Spanish and Creole English fills the air. But of all the influences that combine to create this unique corner of Costa Rica, perhaps none is as significant as that of its most famous residents: its turtles. Endangered green turtles, as well as giant leatherback, loggerhead, and hawksbill turtles, nest here. Once on the brink of extinction (because of a taste for turtle soup and the belief that the eggs are aphrodisiacs), Tortuguero National Park has helped preserve these magnificent creatures. They are just one of the wonders you will find in this Costa Rican paradise.
Tortuguero National Park was established in 1970, and today it stretches over 46,000 acres and includes 22 miles of protected nesting beach. To encourage the preservation of turtles without hurting the local economy and way of life, the Caribbean Corporation for Conservation (CCC) began promoting ecotourism, hiring locals to count turtle tracks, and then later, businesses like hotels and shops began to bring in steady income. Many locals earn money by becoming guides for visitors, who must be accompanied on beaches after 6pm. Tortuguero National Park offers a great balance and coexistence between man and nature.
More than 50,000 visitors come each year to see the giant turtles; but there are plenty of other natural wonders to keep their attention once they arrive. The network of canals, mostly freshwater creeks and lagoons, offer an abundance of wildlife, including Spectacled Caiman, various crustaceans, Southern River Otters, and more than 50 species of fish. You can indulge your inner fisherman and try for some Atlantic Snook and tarpon. You may also spot capuchin, howler, and spider monkeys and dozens of bird species.
But wait, there’s more. Tapirs, jaguars, slots, macaws, frogs, bulldog bats, and more make their homes in the rich alluvial floodplains. Coconut trees, banak, orchids, hollio palm, crab wood, tamarind, and heliconias provide vivid color.
Tortuguero has a warm climate, with daytime highs in the upper seventies. This is a tropical paradise, so expect tropical weather. This means be prepared for humidity! Bring water and wear loose fitting cotton clothing so you enjoy your trip to its fullest. Mid-August through early November is the hot summer season with little rain, and February through May are usually sunny with a little rain. No matter when you go, though, keep your eyes and mind open to the possibilities of this Costa Rican village and its incredible National Park.