Tortuguero & the Caribbean Coast in Costa Rica

Advisor - Kim Walters
Curated By

Kim Walters

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  • International Travel

  • Costa Rica

  • Adventure Travel

  • Beaches

  • Nature Escapes

  • Off-the-Beaten-Path Travel

  • Relaxation

  • Wildlife

  • Outdoors

Sandy beach next to the ocean with palm trees during daytime
Curator’s statement

Tortuguero is an amazing place to get away from it all. This remote area in Costa Rica is only reachable via boat. Embrace nature, spot wildlife and relax poolside or at the beach. If it is turtle nesting season, you will be in for a sweet surprise, so make sure to take a turtle nesting walk with a licensed guide from your lodge.

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Where to stay in Costa Rica

Mawamba Lodge Tortuguero

Relaxed resort in Tortuguero National Park with rustic rooms and an outdoor pool.

Manatus Hotel

Warm rooms surrounded by endless greenery and wildlife in Costa Rica's Tortuguero National Park.

Tortuga Lodge & Gardens

Rustic hotel with laid-back rooms and a peaceful atmosphere along the Tortuguero River.

Advisor - Kim Walters

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Things to do in Costa Rica

Pathway in the forest surrounded by trees during daytime

Things to do in Tortuguero

Tortuguero Boat Tour – Take a boat tour that is offered by your lodge to explore the canals of Tortuguero. Your guide will help you spot the different species of birds, crocodiles, caimans, sloths, monkeys and more. You’ll learn about the diverse and incredible wildlife you discover along the way. Aside from admiring the wildlife, the beauty and peaceful feeling of the canals is something special to behold.

Tortuguero Night Hike – As the day draws to a close, the nocturnal animals and insects come to life. A guided hike along a land trail is an amazing adventure. In the darkness of the jungle, you’ll see snakes, reptiles and insects. The highlight of our night tour was seeing the female Brazilian Wandering spider, the most venomous spider in the world. Our guide flashed his light on her, as she was chilling out on a plant leaf. These spiders are very aggressive. And dangerous. We made sure to keep a comfortable distance between us and her.

Tortuguero Village Tour – The village is the only permanent area where Costa Ricans live in Tortuguero. The village is built on the strip of land between the Caribbean Sea and Tortuguero Lagoon. It’s only a couple of blocks at its widest and the main street stretches between guest houses, tourist shops, mini-supermarkets and restaurants. The village is very remote, and if you’ve made it this far, it’s worth walking around and stopping for an authentic Caribbean meal.

Turtle Nesting Visit – Arrange a tour with a naturalist guide to walk the Pacific beaches. There are strict rules that don’t allow for taking pictures with a cell phone, as the light from a cell phone can disrupt the egg-laying process. Your guide will lead you to an area on the beach where turtles are either making a nest or perhaps you are there at the time of the year when hatchlings are making their way to the ocean. Either way, it is something phenomenal to experience. Fun Fact: did you know that baby turtles will come back to this same beach they were born to lay their own eggs, continuing the process that lets the green sea turtles continue to exist?

Things to do in Puerto Viejo

After leaving Tortuguero, you can spend a few days or more in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. The biggest draw to this area is its beautiful beaches (and even black sand beaches), which are known for swimming. Playa Punta Uva is a favorite beach, with its clean ivory sand and aquamarine water, and tall palms make this cove the perfect place to waste away the day.

Surfing is another big draw to this area. Playa Cocoles is a great place to go surfing as well as Playa Salsa Brava.

Cahuita National Park - Support the local community and hire a guide to walk through the park. Guides will spot more with their trained eyes than we can see. In this park look for sloths, monkeys, lizards and many types of birds.

Jaguar Rescue Center - This is a temporary (or sometimes permanent) home for ill, injured and orphaned wild animals in the area. Animals are cared for and nursed back to health so they can be released back into their homes in the jungle.

Places to eat & drink in Costa Rica

Two glasses on wooden table with beach in background during daytime

Places to eat & drink in Tortuguero

Since this area is so remote, you generally eat all meals at your lodge.

Katonga Floating Restaurant – If you are staying at the Mwamba Lodge, then make sure to book a meal on their floating restaurant. You will slowly make your way down a Tortuguero canal, reaching the mouth of the Pacific Ocean before turning around and heading upstream. During your canal ride, you will spot wildlife and enjoy a tasty meal and drinks.

Places to eat & drink in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

Cafe Viejo – Owned by three brothers from Italy, they serve up authentic Italian dishes, exceptional pizza and delicious cocktails.

Restaurant Tamara – Authentic Caribbean food with indoor and outdoor seating areas.

Puerto Pirata Tiki Bar – This is a fun bar on the beach to have a snack or drink and spend your time people watching.

Grow Puerto Viejo – Beachfront vegetarian restaurant and bar that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Noa Beach Club – Located on Playa Cocles, this restaurant serves modern cuisine made with fresh, locally-sourced ingredients.

Need to Know

For more tropical travel inspo, check out my guide to Aruba: Adventure in Aruba.

Advisor - Kim Walters

Travel Advisor

Kim Walters

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