Costa Rica Top Destinations: Tortuguero National Park & Canals

Written by Angie Vargas
May 14, 2014
Aerial view from Tortuguero Park and Canal

Costa Rica has been recognized around the world as one of the best destinations for family vacations thanks to the wildlife and culturally focused vacation options and the beachside boutique hotels for lodging. But this doesn’t mean all Costa Rica tourist destinations fits in a family vacation package. There are some attractions specially design for romantic escapes or for specific niches like surfers.

Tortuguero National Park, a remote area only accessible by plane (30 minutes from Juan Santamaría International Airport) or boat (5 to 6 hours from San José), is one of those tourist destinations that we think the whole family will enjoy.

This National Park is one of the main tourist protected areas in Costa Rica. Located in the North Caribbean, it is a network of navigable lakes, rivers and canals (both natural and man-made) that are used for transportation and are a great place for observing local wildlife.

The park area has 3 types of forest: Humid Tropical, Humid Premontane and Tropical Montane. This variety makes it the home of 405 bird species, half of all the birds in Costa Rica, 52 kinds of fresh water fishes and 160 species of mammals. Some commonly seen animals are fishing bats, three-toed sloths, iguanas, basilisk lizards, poison dart frogs, and howler, white-faced and spider monkeys. Jaguars, ocelots, and kinkajous inhabit the park, but are rarely seen.

Also, its beaches are the nesting haven of seven kinds of sea turtles, therefore its name: Tortuguero. This beach is the most important nesting site of the green turtle. Thanks to the effort of the community of Tortuguero, the hotel sector and the National Park management, the number of specimens has increased considerably in the last years and it is about to go off the list of animals in danger of extinction. Other types of turtles, such as the leatherback sea turtle and the hawksbill turtle also nest on this beach, although in smaller numbers. Nesting observation tours are offered from mid-July thru October.

Now, one of the main reasons why we recommend Tortuguero for your family vacations is that almost all the hotels here offer all inclusive packages, so you don’t have to worry about booking transfers, tours and meals with other companies. This make it easier for parents, as they can be sure everything they need is included or on hand.

Regular Tortuguero expeditions are 3 day – 2 night’s packages and are book with ground transfers. This means that you will be pick up from your hotel in San José early in the morning to start a route of astonishing landscapes like Braulio Carrillo National Park. Along the road, you can also observe many different kinds of products grown in this area such as pineapples and bananas. After this 4 hour of road trip you will board a comfortable boat upon arrival to Caño Blanco pier to travel through the Tortuguero canals from 1 hour and 30 minute approximately.

Once you arrive to your hotel in Tortuguero, you will spend some days in contact with nature and the Caribbean culture. The town of Tortuguero is a picturesque community originally founded by carpenters, fishermen and marine turtle hunters. Nowadays these same residents defend and protect turtles and other animals, and are a perfect example of how a community can change its actions in favor of the environment, where both can benefit from them. This small town, which is less than 1 km long, has charming samples of Caribbean architecture, with very fresh and colorful wood buildings. It has its own school, church and a handcrafts center next to the channels.

A visit to this beautiful town and an expedition through the canals are included in almost all Tortuguero vacation packages, but you can book additional tours like canopy tours, kayak rides, fishing tours and hikes to complement your stay.

Important fact: Tortuguero Weather!

Costa Rica weather is awesome but it changes from region to region. During your days in Tortuguero, be prepared for a warm and humid climate. Daily temperatures average 26 degrees C (79 F) and annual average rainfall is over 5,000 mm (200+ inches). Warm days are tempered by trade winds and cool nights.

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