Tortuguero National Park

Although visitors can only reach Tortuguero National Park by airplane or boat, it is still the third most visited national park in Costa Rica.

Located in the remote northeastern part of Costa Rica, in Limón Province of northeastern Costa Rica, the park’s amazing biological diversity attracts visitors from all parts of the world. Among its eleven distinct habitats are rainforest, swamp, beaches, and lagoons.

The climate is quite consistent: Warm and wet, to put it simply. You won’t need a sweater. Rain gear would be a better choice, as the area receives around 250 inches of rain a year.

Tortuguero’s beaches along Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast are nesting grounds for many species of sea turtles including Green-turtles, Leatherbacks, Hawksbills and Loggerheads. Most of these species are considered ‘endangered.’ The park’s name, Tortuguero, means ‘place of turtles.’

The eastern border of the park is the Caribbean Sea, bordered by an endless stretch of beach. Inland from the beach lies a long, narrow lagoon, lying between the ocean on the east and the rivers that feed it on the west; a maze of streams and channels where Tarzan, Cheetah and Boy would feel right at home. Oh, and how could I forget Jane?

The park is home to more than 300 bird species, 57 species of amphibians and 111 species of reptiles, 60 species of mammals, including 13 of Costa Rica’s 16 endangered mammal species. Among these are jaguars, ocelots, cougars, tapirs, river otters, and manatees. Bird lovers will see toucans, aricaris, herons, kingfishers, anhingas, parrots, oropendolas, swallow-tailed hawks, and jacanas.

The numerous streams and channels provide a better opportunity to view wildlife than most of the other parks in the system. What’s your preference? Giant iguanas? Howler monkeys? Crocodiles? Bats? Vultures? Toucans? With some luck you just might see them all.

Sadly, but not surprisingly, this pristine area is being threatened by the encroachment of civilization, particularly along its western border, where logging and hunting are significant problems. Locals and conservationists are busy fighting a planned road, sponsored by logging and banana interests, that would run into the area between Tortuguero and Barra de Colorado.

Tortuguero National Park hosts around 50,000 visitors every year. The sheer number of tourists has given rise to concerns that the park is becoming too popular for its own good. Trash is a major concern, as there are no facilities for rubbish disposal. If you visit, you are encouraged to take your rubbish out with you. Take it back to San Jose, nobody will notice.

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