Costa Rica’s Northern Caribbean Coast
Each year, the North Caribbean coast hosts a special kind of “nightlife.” After dark, sea turtles make their way up the beach to lay and bury their eggs in the 35 km/22 mi of sands protected by Tortuguero National Park. Created in 1975 to protect four species of endangered turtle, this 26,156-hectare/64,632-acre park is the ultimate spot to watch sea turtles—including green and hawksbill (July to October; August/Sept is best), and a few leatherbacks and loggerheads (March to May)—in their natural nesting habitat. More than 100,000 people visit the park every year, and hundreds of additional wildlife species, including 300 bird species, make the park their home.
The North Caribbean stretches from the San Juan River to the city of Limón. Canals and rivers wind their way through the wetlands past the dense rainforest that thrives in this hot, humid climate where the average rainfall is more than 5,000 mm/200 inches each year. Most area nature lodges can only be reached by boat. Tours are recommended, but for independent exploration, you can rent a canoe. Although February, April, and November are considered the region’s “drier” months in this region, there really is no dry season; you’ll want to keep boots and rain gear handy for unpredictable sudden drenchings. This intense tropical climate creates the perfect habitat for hundreds of species and a paradise for nature enthusiasts.
Barra de Colorado Wildlife Refuge, north of Tortuguero and just south of Nicaragua, protects an enormous 78,977-hectare/195,156-acre swath of rainforest and is the second-largest preserve in the country after Corcovado National Park. You can reach the refuge by boat, and it also has its own private landing strip. Turtles nest in this park, but it is also known for protecting endangered West Indian manatees, crocodiles, and marine life as well as wild cats (jaguars, pumas, ocelots), tapirs, monkeys, and numerous bird species.
Despite that rain may fall at any time of day, this region also sees its share of sunshine, when the velvet dark-sand beaches and shimmering blue ocean beckon. Abundant aquatic life makes for outstanding, fresh water angling, and deep-sea fishing.
Tortuguero National Park – A Jewel in Costa Rica’s Wildlife Conservation Crown
Tucked along Costa Rica’s northeastern Caribbean coast, Tortuguero National Park was established in the mid-seventies to protect green, hawksbill, loggerhead, and leatherback turtles, which nest in the area at different times from March through October. Accessible by boat or air only, the remote park is approximately 770 square kilometers (300 square miles) and boasts myriad habitats, from rainforests and mangrove swamps to beaches and lagoons.
Accessible by boat or air only, the remote park of Tortuguero is approximately 770 square kilometers (300 square miles) and boasts myriad habitats, from rainforests and mangrove swamps to beaches and lagoons.
There’s tons of wildlife, too. Tortuguero’s rivers are home to manatees, caimans, and crocodiles. Forests hide jaguars, three-toed sloths, lizards, and three of Costa Rica’s four monkey species. Birds include kingfishers, toucans, herons, parrots, and more than 300 other species. Although Tortuguero is the third-most visited park in the country, services are limited. Tortuguero area accommodations (which are typically accessible by boat via a series of canals) are often pleasant but rustic and designed to minimize impact on the environment.
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