Over five species of sea turtles can be seen their natural Costa Rican habitats when they come ashore to lay their eggs. Visitors from all over the globe still travel to Costa Rica’s national parks to watch these Costa Rica sea turtles nest. Guided tours of the sea turtle nesting events are one of the most popular activities around for tourists and naturalists alike.
In fact, Costa Rica is home to more species of sea turtle than almost any other place on earth. Costa Rica is the most bio-diverse nation on the planet; a fact that still draws thousands of eco-tourists, botanists, biologists, and scientists to this popular vacation spot every single year.
If you want to observe some rare sea turtles in Costa Rica during your visit, your choices for viewing these marvelous creatures will depend in large part on the specific species of turtle, its unique nesting habits, and the timing of your stay.
The five most common species of Costa Rica sea turtles are the olive Ridley sea turtle, the leatherback, the hawksbill, the green sea turtle, and the Pacific green sea turtle. If you are very lucky you may even catch sight of a rare loggerhead turtle, although they are now so rare that they are hard to spot. Wherever each species of turtle is found in the wild you will also find guided sea turtle observation tours.
Keep in mind that Costa Rica sea turtle habitats are protected, as are the turtles themselves, so anything that might disturb the turtles during these viewing tours (such as red lights on cameras or camera flashes) will be forbidden. Even something as seemingly mild as too many lights from nearby hotels can cause the numbers of Costa Rica sea turtles to decline, so reaching the turtles may require a bit of trek in darkness and quiet; a necessity in order to keep these animals safe from the thoughtless development, noise, and light pollution that would harm them.
By far the best place to observe sea turtles in Costa Rica is Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean Coast in the far eastern part of the country. Tortuguero actually means ‘sea turtle’, and was so named because of the four separate species of turtles (green, hawksbill, giant leatherback, and the rare loggerhead) that come ashore to lay their eggs every year between July and October. Guided tours run between $10 and $15, and visitors are not allowed on the beaches during nesting season without a guide.
The beaches of Tortuguero National Park are rocky and rough and not suitable for swimming or water sports, but turtles are not the only reason to visit this major wildlife preserve. Boat and foot tours of the rainforest and the many canals that crisscross it are popular, especially since Tortuguero is home to over350 species of wild birds, many exotic butterflies and insects, and rare animals like jaguars, howler monkeys, anteaters, and peccaries.
Playa Grande near Tamarindo in Guanacaste (on the western coast of Costa Rica) is another excellent place to observe Costa Rica sea turtles, and Guanacaste and the Nicoya peninsula offer the advantage of being home to hundreds of whit an black sand beaches suitable for swimming and water sports. Play Ostional near the popular Playa Nosara in Guanacaste, is one of the few places the olive Ridley turtle can be seen during nesting. Olive Ridley sea turtles nest 4-10 times between July and December, with each nesting period lasting four days.
No matter where or when you choose to observe Costa Rica sea turtles in the wild, the sight is something you will not soon forget. For families with children old enough to stay awake and make the guided trek in the dark, a sea turtle tour is a must-do part of any Costa Rica vacation.