Tag Archives: wildlife

Guide to Turtle Spotting in Costa Rica

Wildlife watching is undoubtedly one of the very best things you can do in Costa Rica, the country home to a mind-boggling array of unique and endemic creatures. Yet above all animals, including monkeys, birds, sloths, whales, crocodiles and dolphins, turtles hold by far the biggest appeal. Turtle spotting in Costa Rica is among the most ‘time & place sensitive’ endeavors, requiring you to be on specific beaches, at specific times of year, to admire their nesting and/or hatching rituals. Widely considered one of our planet’s most mesmerizing natural phenomenon, the mass nesting events for which Costa Rica is so renowned are certainly reason enough to visit the country, let alone the fact you’ll find a wide array of adventure activities to enjoy once here.

Following is your guide to turtle spotting Costa Rica: the where, when and how to admire some of our planet’s oldest and most precious residents.

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What kind of turtles can you spot in Costa Rica?

Home to four out of seven sea turtle species on our planet, Costa Rica attracts a host of biologists, researchers and wildlife-watching visitors every year. To your average turtle-watcher, sea turtles appear very similar but they are in fact quite distinct and, as such, boast different nesting seasons. The main turtle species calling Costa Rica home are:

  • Olive Ridley (with its heart-shaped shell, triangular head and relatively small size, the Olive Ridley is easily recognized. This species hosts the largest mass-nesting events of all, the magical arribadas)
  • Leatherback (the most distinctive due to a lack of hard shell, the leatherback is the 4th-largest reptile in the world – and the largest sea turtle – with adults weighing 1,000 pounds on average and boasting 6-feet long front flippers)
  • Hawksbill (can be easily confused with the green sea turtle, except for its protruding beak, which resembles that of a hawk!)
  • Green (beautifully colored and lacking the ability to stretch its neck out of its shell, the green sea turtle appears to be somewhat stuck in its home when, in fact, it isn’t)

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When is the best time to spot turtles in Costa Rica?

Although you’re likely to see some turtles in all the hot-spots, at any time of year, it helps to know the specific nesting season of each type so you have the highest chance of spotting the largest colonies.

Olive Ridley – They may boast the most numerous arribadas of all yet the mass nesting events of Olive Ridleys are still as unpredictable as ever. The season is nearly year-round, although the largest nesting events tend to occur in September and October and, some years, as late as November. Arribadas are closely linked to full-moon nights and, usually, the beaches get a ‘warning’ of a few hundred nesting turtles for a few consecutive nights, before the nesting culminates in the arrival of thousands. Although we couldn’t possibly advise which week of the two months you should plan your Costa Rica adventure vacation, you should simply aim to be here in September or October to increase your chances of timing it just right and, once here, keep abreast of the latest local news, ready to plan a last-minute trip to their favored nesting sites.

Leatherback – Leatherback turtles take to nesting on the eastern coast in the first half of the year, mostly between February and June with peak events happening in March and April. On the western coastline, however, they nest between October and February, so you have multiple chances to spot these elusive creatures.

Hawksbill – Highly endangered and boasting declining numbers, the hawksbill is the hardest sea turtle to spot in Costa Rica. What doesn’t help your spotting chances is the fact that, unlike the other species, the hawksbill nests alone, mostly in September and October, so you’d have to be especially lucky to see one (let alone more) on your visit to Costa Rica.

Green Sea Turtles – The peak nesting months of the green sea turtles are August and September although nesting season runs from July to the end of October.

Where should you go to spot turtles in Costa Rica?

Start researching turtle-watching guides to Costa Rica and you’ll no doubt find references to which side of the country’s two coastlines attract which species. Knowing specific spots, however, will help you better plan your visit.

Tortuguero National Park – This incredibly wild reserve on the northern Caribbean coast isn’t called ‘turtle heaven’ for no reason. Tortuguero attracts all the four Costa Rica turtle species in nesting season and is the best place to specifically spot the endangered green sea turtle. A stunning maze of canals, jungle forests and glorious beaches, Tortuguero is remote and hard to reach, which makes a visit all the more unforgettable.

Nicoya Peninsula – Ostional Beach regularly makes worldwide news every year, when it hosts Olive Ridley arribadas that number in the hundreds of thousands. This is one of only a handful of beaches in the world that see this kind of turtle spectacle and is, as such, avidly protected. Being so popular, however, means that regular guided night-time tours are on offer, to give visitors (and locals) the chance to see these mesmerizing events, whilst maintaining the site safe for the turtles.

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Las Baula National Park – Named after the forem

ost sea turtle species it hosts, Guanacaste’s Las Baula attracts the highly endangered leatherback. The park’s Grande Beach is the 2nd-largest nesting spot for these majestic beasts in the world and although tours are organised during nesting events, they are only organised a few days in advance. For obvious reasons, given the leatherback’s endangered status, all visits during nesting season are strictly regulated.

Santa Rosa National Park – The second-largest arribada beach for Olive Ridley turtles, Guanacaste’s Santa Rosa is one of the country’s smallest and least-known yet most pristine reserves. The beaches here – Nancite in particular – are quite remote and necessitate some real commitment (in the hiking sense) but at least you’ll be in the company of far fewer visitors if you make the effort to go.

Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge – Located on the southern Caribbean coast, this remote and lesser-visited refuge is a prime turtle nesting hub, not only for attracting all four species but for attracting the most numerous leatherback colonies of all. Visit between March and July and you’ll likely have the chance to witness a nesting event of at least one species, if not more. Just south of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca in the Limon Province, Gandoca-Manzanillo is an off-the-beaten-path destination nestled in one of the most jaw-dropping corners of Costa Rica, home to a flurry of exceptional wildlife.

The Osa Peninsula – The southern coast of the Osa Peninsula plays hosts to nesting turtles almost all year long. The sheer concentration of turtles here means that if you miss a nesting event, you will likely be able to admire a hatching event instead. Generally speaking, the months with the least number of turtles are January and February so head here at any other time of year and you’ll be at the ‘prime’ nesting time for at least one turtle species.

How to visit turtle-nesting sites in Costa Rica

Turtle nesting beaches in Costa Rica are fervently protected and you can only visit through authorized entry points, following very strict protection guidelines. The main emphasis is on people being mere observers, neither getting in the turtles’ way nor ‘helping them’ in any manner. Plan your visit with a local guide, follow the rules and enjoy being a spectator to a truly magnificent natural event and you can be sure your Costa Rica vacation be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

At Costa Rica Rios, we plan outstanding adventure vacations for families, honeymooning couples and solo travelers alike. If you love adventure, nature and wildlife, and wish to spot amazing sea turtles in the wild environment, let us help you plan the adventure of a lifetime.

Contact us, right here, to know more.

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10 Reasons Costa Rica Does it Better

Closer, cheaper, safer, friendlier AND with so much more wildlife and fun to offer: there are countless reasons Costa Rica just DOES.IT.BETTER!

Offering more active pursuits than Hawaii and Tahiti, better beaches than Asia, easier to reach than Australia and more value for money than Europe and just about everywhere else, Costa Rica really is an unmatched travel destination. The undisputed queen of sensational active vacations, Costa Rica simply offers more, so much more, for your time, efforts and holiday funds.

And what’s not to love about that?

Here are just 10 reasons Costa Rica does it better!

  1. There’s more wildlife

Costa Rica wildlifeThe sheer concentration and diversity of wildlife makes it a superior animal-lover’s choice destination, anywhere on earth. Not only will you find unique species like sloths, jaguars, ocelots, turtles and an endless array of monkeys and birds, but you’ll find them all in close proximity to one another and immersed in the same pristine wilderness where your eco-lodge or resort is located.

Unlike Africa or elsewhere in Latin America, you need not head out on mammoth expeditions specifically in search of wildlife. Here, the wildlife finds you.

  1. The area is compact and traveling around is easy

Good infrastructure, well-connected airports and a wide array of accommodation options makes traveling around the country very easy. What’s more, Costa Rica simply isn’t all that big and the most popular and beloved attractions, from Arenal Volcano to the Manuel Antonio National Park and the startling Pacific coast beaches, are reached within just a couple of hours’ drive from the capital, San Jose, or merely minutes from the northern airport in Liberia.

  1. Costa Rica is close to home

Not everyone has a month’s vacation to spare OR days to waste dealing with jetlag and extensive trans-continental flights.

Travel here and you don’t have to deal with any of that, and that’s what makes this such a revered short-vacation destination. You can go from your front door to an idyllic tropical beach in just a matter of a few hours.

From home to paradise in a jiffy, from sitting at your work desk to rafting one of the world’s best rated rivers, in a matter of hours. Costa Rica offers you a superb value-for-time vacation even in just a single week away because you can fit a lot into each and every day.

Vacation perfection? We think so!

  1. Costa Rica is always a safe bet

Having dodged the kind of political, social and economic turmoil that has affected its neighbors on a regular basis over the last century, Costa Rica is a very safe and predictable holiday destination. Perfect for planning a trip months in advance and ideal if you wish to travel with your family and just don’t want to worry about safety or last-minute disruptions due to unforeseen domestic issues. Considered one of the safest countries in all of Central America and the Caribbean, Costa Rica is not only a very rewarding bet but a very safe one too.

  1. Boasts better beaches

Costa Rica beachA beach vacay in the heart of winter is what everyone dreams yet unless you want to share your ideal beach with a ton of rubbish or exceptional crowds, you’d do well to choose Costa Rica.

More dreamy than in Europe, cleaner than in Asia, more accessible than in Australia and infinitely cheaper than in Africa, the beaches in Costa Rica are better, any which way you look at it.

  1. In fact, water is EVERYWHERE

It’s not only in idyllic beaches that Costa Rica showcases best; the country also boasts more waterfalls than Hawaii and an incredible maze of crystal-clear rivers you can have a world of fun in. If you’re a water baby, or at least dream to be, Costa Rica is your endless wonderland. Snorkel, surf, dive, kayak, raft, swim and paddle your way through the country, whether you choose to stay on the coast or explore the wild interior. With hundreds of startling beaches to choose from and a head spinning number of riverside lodges, you’ll have the revitalizing and relaxing effects of flowing water no matter where you go. Plus, the water’s warmer here! Need we say more?

  1. There’s a natural landscape to suit you. Yes, all of you

There may be plenty of lovely tropical beach destinations in the world but, 99% of the time, the variety is what’s lacking; making family vacations more than a little restrictive. What if one loves the beach but another wants to climb mountains? Well, in Costa Rica, you can do both…and more! Costa Rica is the most biodiverse country in the world and offers a kaleidoscope of landscapes to suit every taste. Vertiginous volcanic peaks shrouded in clouds, several different types of forests alongside wildlife-brimming mangroves, luscious countryside and, of course, thousands of miles of pristine coastline. No matter what your eyes love feasting on, you’re bound to find it here. If variety really is the spice of life than Costa Rica offers the tastiest vacation for you and your loved ones. More than a dozen distinct ecosystems, all boasting a spectacular array of unique wildlife and landscapes: Costa Rica is like a dozen nature-filled countries all rolled into one.

  1. The people are friendlier in Costa Rica

Friendly, hospitable, fun and humble, Costa Ricans are a personification of their country. Recently rated by the Happy Planet Index as the happiest country in the world, Costa Rica is considered the most satisfying place to live and, as far as its inhabitants go, it certainly shows. Ticos love children and are sociable, laid-back, quick to smile and eager to help, making them some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. Proud of their culture, culinary prowess and certainly proud of their nature, you’ll find locals to be among the most memorable treats of all. Families, in particular, are often overwhelmed by the friendliness of the locals, especially towards children, something that seems to be increasingly lacking back home. The smiles are genuine and warm here and make you feel welcomed and cherished from the first moment you set foot off the plane.

  1. The fun in Costa Rica is totally immersive

There’s nowhere else on earth that offers the kind of nature-filled adventures that Costa Rica offers, in every corner of the country. Yes, you can admire waterfalls elsewhere but you’re not allowed to swim at their base, you can hike through rain forests but you’re not allowed to zip line through them and although you may be able to enjoy a picnic on the shores of a crystalline river, you’re probably not allowed to white-water raft through it. But in Costa Rica, you can. You can do it all. There’s no other country that has invested so much effort and funds in creating a natural playground whilst still preserving the integrity of its unspoilt nature and that’s what makes Costa Rica revered among adventure travelers. The spellbinding nature here can be enjoyed in a myriad of ways so if you’re not happy merely admiring it but want to FEEL part of it, then you’ll never find a more worthy choice.

  1. Costa Rica offers the best value for money. Hands down

Could you possibly find a cheaper destination than Costa Rica, with this much stuff to do and so close to home? We think not. Authentic experiences and luxury accommodation in Costa Rica cost but a fraction of the price of what you’d get anywhere else, making ‘indulgences’ much more affordable. Overall, you get more – and can DO more – for the price of a mid-range vacation in comparative destinations and, for this reason alone, Costa Rica continues to top all the lists for the best honeymoon, family and adventure vacation destinations in the world. Costa Rica isn’t merely ‘cheap’ but is, hands-down, the best value-for-money destination you’ll ever find.

More adventure, more fun, more diversity, more beauty and more of everything, for much less.

Costa Rica doesn’t just do it better: Costa Rica does it best.

For a wide array of fantastic adventure vacations in Costa Rica, with the country’s foremost active vacation experts, click here and contact us today.

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