Written by Cyril Brass

     It is a true natural wilderness deep in the tropical jungles of Costa Rica. Considered one of the most biologically diverse regions in the country, Tortuguero National Park is a treasure of fascinating views, incredible wildlife and exotic flowers for any outdoor enthusiast, birdwatcher and nature lover.

     Basilisk, Tortuguero National Park, Costa RicaThis coastal lowland region was declared a National Park in 1970 by the Costa Rican government primarily to protect the green sea turtle population from extinction. In Spanish Tortuguero means “Region of the Turtles”.

     The Tortuguero beach, stretching some twenty-two kilometers, is the most important nesting site of the green sea turtle in the Western Hemisphere. From July to mid-October, this endangered reptile comes to lay their eggs on this beach. During the turtle-nesting season, guided night walks are available for visitors to experience this amazing natural wonder. The leatherback and hawksbill species come to nest here as well but they are less in numbers.

     The National Park was also created to protect a unique series of natural inland waterways with a high concentration of flora and fauna species. This intricate network of man-made canals and fresh water rivers creates a connected water highway.  Dissecting swamp forests and meandering through secluded lagoons, this easy flowing waterway system is the only means of getting around in the area.

     Cerro Tortuguero is the highest point in the park reaching one hundred and fifty meters above sea level.  A short but adventurous climb to the top is rewarded with stunning panoramic views of the canals, forests and coastline. This forest-covered hill resembles the shape of a turtle and is considered a navigational marker for the green sea turtles.

     Located within the park boundaries is the village of Tortuguero, a gathering place for travelers interested in visiting the turtle museum, hiking in a tropical rainforest, strolling along the beach, or shopping for souvenirs. The friendly residents possess a mix of African and Spanish cultures found only on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica.  Caiman, Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica

     Touring the canals by boat is the best way to experience the lush vegetation and abundant wildlife. Observe iguanas basking in the trees, sloth climbing in the forest canopy, herons searching for fish or caimans resting along a riverbank.

    Flat bottom motorized boats carry nature enthusiasts deep into the wild jungle through the forest-lined canals searching for snakes, monkeys, lizards, river turtles, and macaws. The local naturalist guides have telescopic eyes enabling them to spot the local inhabitants well camouflaged to the untrained eye. Smaller waterways branch off the main canal allowing tour boats to explore more closely this fascinating region.  Relax and enjoy the natural beauty all around as the boat drifts silently through the tranquil backwaters.

     The tropical plants, lush vegetation and interesting wildlife showcase an impressive spectacle in the northeastern region of Costa Rica.  For a truly extraordinary experience in a natural wildlife sanctuary, travel to Tortuguero National Park.


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