Costa Rica

Our first stop: Tortuguero National Park, canoë, hike and walk

March 7, 2020

From la Pavona to Tortuguero village

After a two days in San Jose – without any interest – we headed to Tortuguero National Park taking 2 buses and 1 boat.
You can check all the details about transportation here.

San Francisco, the island next to Tortuguero village (only reachable by taxi boat)
San Francisco, the island next to Tortuguero village (only reachable by taxi boat)
Picture from the boat (from la Pavona to Tortuguero National Park)
Picture from the boat (from la Pavona to Tortuguero)

We had a very sunny first day and the trip from la Pavona to Tortugero village was a very nice start. All nature and our first spot of some of the 900 different species of birds in Costa Rica ! The trip is less than an hour and if the weather allows it, the boat will be open on the nature. Don’t forget your sun cream and your hat !

On our way to Tortuguero (on the boat from la Pavona)
On our way to Tortuguero (on the boat from la Pavona)

Book your activities in Tortuguero National Park

Once arrived in Tortuguero, you can book right away your activities. The prices seem to be fixed everywhere for the same tour, do not hesitate to take your time and chose the operator that suits you best.

Upon your arrival, some guides will wait for you at the pier with your names, take your to their offices and then show you the way to your hotel. Don’t be surprised ! All hotels provide a list of their guests coming on that day, and like that, you will not get lost.

San Francisco Island

We have tried to reach our hotel first, and had the surprise to hear it was not in Tortuguero but in San Francisco, an island you can only reach with taxi boat (10$ per trip) or with the public boat (1000 colones per person, but only a few boats per day). The room we had booked on HomeAway was clearly not advertising that, nor was it mentioned in our communication with the host. Quite disappointed, we finally find the place thanks to the help of very kind local people but still without any sign from our host. We did a walk around the area, trying to reach a beach (which is not a real beach, more like a trail of mud and grass next to the sea) of San Francisco.

A trail in San Fransisco island near Tortuguero National Park
A trail in San Fransisco island near Tortuguero National Park

A great address in San Francisco is Comidas Lao’s place (on the way for the Cerro Tortuguero Trail, just before the beginning of the jungle). It’s a small house, almost like you are invited by local people ! 4000 colones per meal per person including a drink (juices, coca or beer). The food is really fresh and perfectly cooked and seasoned. It was one of our favorite place to eat during our entire trip (and we came there 3 times during our 2 days in Tortuguero !)

We tried to do the Cerro Tortuguero Trail (which is possible to do by yourself) but we were not able to, as we needed to go back to Tortuguero island, to the entrance of the National Park, for 2$ per person. No guide has indicated that to us as they all wanted to charge us the whole tour from Tortuguero for more than 35$ per person. As it’s about hiking with a terrific viewpoint at the end, in our opinion the guide is really not needed for this hike.
For anyone staying in San Francisco, we would advice to get the entrance for the trail as soon as you reach Tortuguero (the entrance is located at the end of the village on the right when arriving from the pier).

A bar with a view - San Francisco, Tortuguero
A bar with a view – San Francisco, Tortuguero

Night walk in Tortuguero

On the first night, we did a night walk. For 20$ per person, you will go with a guide on the jungle between the village and the beach and try to catch as many animals, snakes and insects as possible ! The tour is about 2 hours, they will provide you a torchlight if you do not have any and if you are lucky enough, you will see many snakes, spiders, frogs (including the red eyes one, a very famous one in Costa Rica), sloths and maybe a tapir… Because of heavy wind that night, we saw a sloth quite down in a tree and would not get a chance to see one that close again in Tortuguero.

We were not so lucky on our second day in Tortuguero and all we had was heavy rain, but we did manage to do some activities.

The canoë tour

We had booked the canoë tour at 6:30, but due to the rain, it was delayed to 8:30. As we were staying on another island, San Francisco, we could not just go home so we went to have an early breakfast at Dorling Bakery. The food was decent and the prices not too high, but the show was great: we were sitting very close to the water and we have seen many birds from there, coming very close to us. The later it was, the lesser birds we could see, so we would recommend you to go there quite early to have an amazing show with your first coffee of the day !

Bird seeing during our breakfast at Dorling Bakery - overlooking  Tortuguero National Park
Bird seeing during our breakfast at Dorling Bakery

Then, we went on our Canoë tour. It was raining a little less however it was still raining and we kept our raincoat and the rain cape provided by the tour all the way. Be careful with your phones and cameras. For this reason, we did not take many pictures and most of them were not that great. However, a canöe tour, even with the rain, was somehow magical. We saw many birds, sloths, and even some caïmans during the tour. About 2 hours trip, for 25$ per person. To this, you need to add the entrance to the National Park (15$ per person). The entrance is valid all day long, so you can walk in the Tortuguero national park during the afternoon.

Our canoë tour in Tortuguero National Park
Our canoë tour in Tortuguero National Park

What else to do in Tortuguero National Park

We were travelling in March and it was not the good season to do so, however you can sometimes do a Turtle night tour. It seems to be an incredible experience, and a guide is mandatory, for the safety of the turtles and of their environment. The tour is 35$, from March 15 to Oct 31st, entrance to the national park not included.

The overall may see a little too expensive but Tortuguero is definitely worth it. You do not need to stay longer than 2 days, and should try to do as much as possible to group all your activities in the National park on the same day, to pay the entrance only once.

San Francisco village - Tortuguero
San Francisco village – Tortuguero

You liked our stop in Tortuguero? Check-out our next stop in the Arenal Volcano area.

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