“Unspoiled rainforest accessible only by boat or airplane.” ~Lily L.
View of Tortuguero canal and Caribbean Sea. Photo by Lily
Operated by: GAP Adventures, 4 days
Countries visited: Costa Rica
Book this trip:
On the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, the protected Tortuguero National Park is known for abundant wildlife and being the nesting grounds of endangered sea turtles. Accessible only by boat or airplane, the rainforest is rich with vegetation, with common sightings of monkeys, caimans, birds, sloths and lizards.
You can include Turtles & Tortuguero as a 4-day addition to a self-planed trip or group tour in Costa Rica.
I would recommend this trip to:
- Travelers wanting to experience lush rainforest and wildlife
- Explorers who don’t mind being off the beaten path
- Those who like to be away from masses of tourists
You may have a life-changing moment on this trip, if you:
- Are a city dweller used to being surrounded by concrete high-rises, or think nature means pigeons, racoons and squirrels
- Have watched National Geographic and wished you could actually go somewhere ‘like that’
Memorable trip moments
- Kayaking in the canals. The tall and lush trees had perfect reflections in the still, black water of the canals – being in the kayak was like hovering in space between the real vegetation and its reflection. Imagine spending an entire afternoon feeling like you were floating in the air, leisurely passing majestic trees. When I tilted my head back to look at the massive leaves above me, it was like being a small creature looking up at the grandness world.
- Night boat ride to the turtle nesting area. It was pitch dark. The only light showing the canal path was the light the front of the boat. For the entire 20 minutes of the boat ride, you could see the shadows of the vegetation on the sides of the canal suddenly appear and then disappear as the boat sped with its light. If flying through a time warp was possible, this is what it’d feel like.
- Standing in the dark as I watched an endangered giant sea turtle gracefully lay her eggs on the beach. It was a simple, but unforgettable moment.
- Feeling the fast breeze from my first-ever zipline as I flew past a blur of rainforest.
- Seeing the gorgeous view of the Tortuguero canals and Caribbean Sea after a steep and muddy hike up Tortuguero Hill.
- Falling asleep and waking up to the sounds of wildlife every day; seeing a sleepy three-toed sloth move from branch to branch.
How I felt on this trip
- Zen-like, peaceful, and alive – as if the humid rainforest cleansed away all the unnecessary noise from my urban lifestyle
- Courageous for facing minor fears – fear of heights when climbing multiple platforms to zipline, and fear of nature when kayaking in the canals with caimans lurking in plain sight. (Our guide assured us the caimans would not eat us if we fell in, as they prefer smaller-sized prey. Luckily, the kayaks were sturdy and we all took care not to fall in the water.)
- Like I want to come back and stay longer next time.
Good to know
- Weather is hot and humid, with good chances of rain
- Optional activities included ziplining though it wasn’t listed in the GAP Adventures trip itinerary
- Food was delicious and fresh; meals were included with the stay (I don’t think you can get food anywhere else since you’re in the rainforest)
- For the turtle nesting night excursion, you will be with a national park guide who will guide you through the dark with a red flashlight. Cameras and flashes are prohibited, as those may frighten the sea turtles or scare them from coming onto shore.
- Accommodation is Turtle Beach Lodge. When I took this trip, the price for 4 days for two people was lower through GAP Adventures than booking directly with the lodge. The lodge had about 50 cabins and was quite nice considering it’s in a relatively remote area of rainforest. I found the bed to be comfortable, shower and plumbing was good, and the premises were well cared for.
In addition to your regular travel gear, you should bring:
- Rain jacket, day pack and water bottle
- Bug repellent (our guide told us mosquitos are most attracted to blue and black; not sure if he was telling the truth or teasing because we had lots of bites and wore blue and black rain jackets and pants.)
- Camera with telephoto lens for wildlife photos
When I came home, I emailed the lodge for the ‘mailing address’ of my zipline instructor to send a postcard. As there are no roads, the lodge told me there are no mailing addresses in the entire area, and it’d be best to email or phone. I was shocked, and happy to see people living without something I previously assumed was essential.
|Average Ratings (from 3 ratings)|