Where and when to encounter turtles in Costa Rica
When people refer to Costa Rica, the chance to observe turtles nesting and hatching is one of their most profound memories of the country. Occurring both on the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, the turtles return year and year again to the delight of tourists and locals alike. Here is a where and when to go guide to see the turtles.
Leatherback Sea Turtles
Between October and March, the largest turtle species, the Leatherback return to the Northern and Southern beaches of the Costa Rican Pacific, especially Playa Grande in Las Baulas National Marine Park to lay their eggs. Guided tours are available to book where knowledgeable guides will show you the best places and ways to see the turtles in a non-evasive manner. Endangered, the Leatherbacks are colossal creatures which are well protected in the country.
Between the months of December and May the baby leatherbacks will begin to hatch and tentatively make their way to the surf of the Pacific. A dangerous few feet separate them from the water, and sea birds often intercept them before they have a chance to reach safety.
The months between February and July are when leatherback mothers make their way onto the Caribbean beaches of Tortuguero. Peak season is March to April. Make sure to combine a trip to see the turtles with cruises down the stunning canals of the Tortuguero national park, a dense jungle ecosystem with a vast array of animal species to encounter.
Olive Ridley Turtles
Olive Ridley’s nest and hatch year round on the Pacific coast. This smaller species of marine turtle can be best seen at the Ostional Wildlife Refuge on the Nicoya Peninsula. The annual ‘arribada’ which occurs a week before the full moon on a rainy season night sees hundreds of thousands of turtles making their way up the beach to lay their eggs. Tours are available and recommended between September and October, the months with a higher turtle count. Within 60 days the baby turtles hatch and embark on their journey down the beach and into the ocean. The beaches of Santa Rosa National Park are in turn famed for their population of nesting olive ridley sea turtles.
Hawksbill Sea Turtles
Throughout the year on both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of Costa Rica Hawksbill sea turtles nest and hatch. Between July and October is the when the greatest populations of Hawksbill turtles are present for viewing on the Osa Peninsula, situated on the Costa Rican south pacific coast. Hawksbill’s are considered the most beautiful turtle due to its highly decorative and colourful shell, named due to its strong beak that seek out sponges to feed on in the cracks and crevices of the coral reef.
Green Sea Turtles
Found on the Pacific and Caribbean coasts of the country, Green turtles are best known to frequent the beaches of the Osa Peninsula between the months of July and October. Protected bays are what make this location so hospitable for the Green turtles as they forage on the sea grass. Within the Tortuguero National Park between July and October Green sea turtles nest and hatch.