(Editor’s Note – This original post from January 2010 has been updated to reflect current Costa Rica vacation details.)
There are several prominent organizations that focus their efforts on the protection and preservation of the sea turtle nesting beaches in Costa Rica including:
- Leatherback Turtle National Park (on the Pacific Coast)
- Tortuguero National Park (on the Atlantic Coast)
Turtle Population in Costa Rica
Historically, turtle research only revealed that actual turtle population numbers are very hard to pin down but in recent decades many organizations have been able to conduct more accurate research.
Teams composed of scientific experts and enthusiastic caring volunteers observe, count and even tag several species of turtles on various Pacific and Atlantic coast Costa Rica sea turtle nesting beaches.
Humans have caused much of the reduction in world turtle populations, directly affecting turtle habitats and nesting beaches with high-impact fishing, pleasure boating, and by developing encroaching oceanfront properties.
Changes in tourism over the last few years have increasingly helped to improve the world’s sea turtle populations. Tour organizers for today’s turtle nesting beaches are now attempting to combine tourism and eco-travel vacations with volunteer activity, to positively affect and help protect endangered turtles and their nesting grounds, while educating curious vacationers.
Pacific Sea Turtle Nesting Season
Costa Rica is home to turtle nesting beaches for many turtle species including the giant leatherbacks, loggerheads, Olive Ridleys, hawksbill turtles, and green sea turtles. The sea turtles return to these nesting beaches annually all along both the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines but each species has its own season, depending on where the nesting grounds are located.
Leatherback National Park
Leatherback Turtle National Park is located on the Pacific coast north of Guanacaste, Costa Rica and the best time to plan your turtle spotting vacation for the giant leatherback turtles is between the months of October an March.
Leatherback Turtle National Park was created to protect, study, and improve the population of hundreds of giant leatherback turtles that nest here annually. Giant leatherbacks are the world’s largest turtles and can grow in excess of 6-feet long, and weigh up to 2000 lbs. or more!
Atlantic Sea Turtle Nesting Season
Tortuguero Costa Rica is one of the prime areas for ongoing research as well as Atlantic sea turtle preservation and eco tourism.
Costa Rica has developed some excellent programs for turtle conservation including the Green Turtle Research Station in Tortuguero National Park.
Tortuguero’s Atlantic turtle nesting season may vary depending on the turtle species that is nesting at different times of the year. Each species nests here for about three months or more.
- Leatherback Turtles (March – May)
- Hawksbill Turtles (March – October)
- Atlantic Sea Turtles (July – September)
- Loggerhead Turtles (July – September)
- Green Sea Turtles (July – October)
The John H. Phipps Green Turtle Research Station in Tortuguero Costa Rica, along with the Caribbean Conservation Corporation (and other such organizations), focuses their efforts on different turtle species, depending on the nesting season.
Atlantic sea turtle nesting beach research teams will tag the turtles as they come ashore to bury their eggs. In many cases the researchers are also able to re-direct turtles that become disoriented by lights from condominiums and beachfront residences. In one study, teams were able to help turtles hatch nearly 3,000 eggs, with a minimum of disorientation or predator interference.
Costa Rica Ecotourism Raises Turtle Awareness
To increase awareness and appreciation for Costa Rica’s Pacific and Atlantic sea turtle nesting beaches (and their inhabitants), research projects usually coincide with several tourism activities, such as the Green Market, various festivals (with live acoustic music), beach parades, and more.
During these events, various table displays and shops offer different types of turtle themed gear, including T-shirts, wooden ornaments, and even license plates that spell out the word “turtle.” All souvenirs and activities are planned with conservation and turtle welfare in mind.
Endangered Hawksbill Turtles
In addition to the Leatherbacks and Green Sea Turtles, the Hawksbill turtle is of particular interest to science and to eco-tourists. Hawksbill turtles were placed on the endangered list nearly 40 years ago.
The Hawksbill turtle species is a medium-size sea turtle that generally nests between late March and October each year. The Hawksbill turtle is commonly found in the Caribbean Ocean and the western parts of the Atlantic. The alarming decline in Hawksbill numbers is primarily due to human predators who hunted the species for its shell.
Caravan Costa Rica Tours Include Turtle Nesting Beaches
The turtle nesting beaches in Costa Rica are one of this country’s biggest tourist draws. The nesting beaches and Caravan’s accompanying naturalist tour guides, offer Caravan travellers the opportunity to learn about and help protect endangered turtle species while enjoying nature.
Currently Caravan Tours includes a visit to the Leatherback Turtle National Park along Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast in Guanacaste.
Call 1-800-CARAVAN (227-2826) to reserve your space today for an all inclusive Costa Rica tour that includes a visit to turtle nesting beaches in Leatherback Turtle National Park!