Where & When Can You See Turtles in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is a top destination to view sea turtles. According to Wanderlust Magazine, our country is famous for turtle spotting. But the question is, where and when do turtles hatch in Costa Rica? Well, it depends!

Costa Rica has shores on the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, where you might see different turtle species in diverse places. Fortunately, we’ll explore the best times to see turtles in Costa Rica, where to go for turtle watching, and what you need to prepare for this exciting journey.

Witnessing the nesting process of sea turtles in Costa Rica is a remarkable experience that draws nature enthusiasts from around the world.

What Turtle Species Can You See in Costa Rica?

In Costa Rica, you can see five of the seven species of sea turtles that inhabit the world:

Kemp’s ridley turtle

This turtle is the smallest of the sea turtles. It measures about 70 cm in length. Newborn turtles are dark in color and measure about 5 centimeters.

Hawksbill sea turtle

This sea turtle measures just under 90 cm long and usually weighs about 60 kg as an adult. It is sought both in Costa Rica and in many other countries of the world by hunters for their precious shells, of which they make a variety of crafts such as rings, earrings, and necklaces.

Hawksbill sea turtles find refuge along Costa Rica's coastline, contributing to the region's rich marine diversity.

Leatherback sea turtle

The leatherback turtle is the largest in the sea ​​turtle family, growing to almost two meters long and weighing just over a ton.

Green sea turtle

This is the second-largest turtle of all known species. The most concentrated large green turtle is off the coast of Australia, although there is a great abundance on Tortuguero Beach in Costa Rica.

The sandy shores of Costa Rica are a vital nesting haven for green sea turtles.

Loggerhead sea turtle

This is the third-largest turtle among sea turtles and can weigh more than 150 kg. Recently, the population of Atlantic turtles in the United States has shown a critical decline. In Costa Rica, it is a habitual inhabitant of the reefs of Cahuita National Park.

Top Places to See Costa Rica’s Sea Turtle Nesting Sites

Each year, between April and November, numerous sea turtles grace Costa Rica’s Pacific and Caribbean shores to lay eggs. Nighttime nesting tours provide a chance to witness the egg-laying and hatching processes, promising an unforgettable, one-of-a-kind experience.

Let’s explore the finest sites and the best time to see sea turtles nest in Costa Rica.

#1 Tortuguero National Park, Northern Caribbean Coast

Tortuguero is an enchanting place in Costa Rica where biodiversity and conservation efforts intertwine perfectly. Here, you can see turtle nesting season firsthand in tranquil surroundings.

Among the species you can view are:

  • Green turtles
  • Leatherback turtles
  • Hawksbill turtles
  • Loggerhead turtles

When is the best time to visit Tortuguero to see sea turtles?

Timing varies by species, but generally, you can see sea turtles between March and November. To witness sea turtles hatch at the beach, you must wait two to three months after nesting.

The weather is also a factor to consider when planning your trip to Tortuguero. Why? Nesting turtles peak in the rainy season. Pack rain gear, just in case.

#2 Cahuita National Park, Caribbean Coast

Located on Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast, Cahuita stands out for its natural beauty, rich Afro-Caribbean culture, and relaxed atmosphere. Several animal rescue centers in Cahuita National Park encompass over 2,700 acres of land and sea.

When is the best time to visit Cahuita to see sea turtles?

If you would like to see any of the four species of turtles come to nest in Cahuita each year, plan your visit accordingly.

Here is the nesting season per species:

  • Leatherback turtles: March to July
  • Atlantic green sea turtles: July to October
  • Hawksbill sea turtles: February to May
  • Loggerhead sea turtles: February to May

#3 Ostional Wildlife Refuge, Nicoya Peninsula

The Ostional Wildlife Refuge, situated on the Nicoya Peninsula and about 31 miles from Nicoya, safeguards 238 hectares of land and 15 kilometers of the Pacific coastline. Mainly, Olive Ridley sea turtles nest on this beach, but sometimes you can also see Leatherbacks and Pacific green turtles.

When is the best time to visit Ostional to see sea turtles?

Plan your visit from May through November to see Olive Ridley sea turtles. Leatherbacks and Pacific green turtles come during the rainy season, from August to December.

#4 Las Baulas National Marine Park, Guanacaste

Situated in Guanacaste, Las Baulas National Marine Park is an excellent location for observing sea turtle nesting.

The marine park covers diverse landscapes along the Guanacaste Gold Coast, including Playa Grande, Carbon, Ventanas, Langosta, and the Tamarindo Estuary, which is, as the SINAC states, a site of global importance.

When is the best time to visit Las Baulas to see sea turtles?

The best time to visit is from October to February. During these months, you can see Olive Ridley and leatherback sea turtles nesting on the park’s beaches.

Tips for Enhancing Your Turtle-Watching Experience

Embarking on a turtle-watching adventure is a chance to connect with nature and experience a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. To make the most of your experience, consider the following tips:

Pack essential gear

Prepare for your journey by packing essential gear that safeguards your comfort and the environment. Here are some things you’ll need.

  • Binoculars to observe from a distance.
  • Red-filtered flashlight to maintain nesting area tranquility.
  • Insect repellent and light clothing for protection and comfort.
  • A reusable water bottle to stay hydrated.

Respect turtle nests

Turtle conservation in Costa Rica relies on preserving nesting sites. When visiting, follow these rules to help:

  • Avoid touching or disturbing nests and eggs, giving them the maximum chance of survival.
  • Stay on designated paths to protect nests from accidental damage.
  • Leave no trace, which means taking all your trash and belongings with you.

Become a volunteer

Elevate your experience by actively participating in Costa Rica’s turtle conservation initiatives. Volunteering allows you to contribute hands-on to safeguarding the future of these magnificent creatures. 

Witnessing the journey of baby turtles to the sea is a heartwarming spectacle along Costa Rica's shores.

Witness Turtle Nesting in Costa Rica!

Witnessing how sea turtles lay eggs and baby turtles swim to the ocean is a unique chance to enjoy Costa Rica’s incredible natural wonders and diverse ecosystem. 

If you want to see sea turtle nests up close at these amazing spots, contact Find My Costa Rica! We’ll help you plan your visit and experience this fantastic event for yourself.

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