There are several prominent organizations that focus their efforts on the protection and preservation of the sea turtle nesting beaches in Costa Rica including:

  1. Leatherback Turtle National Park (on the Pacific Coast)
  2. 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. However, 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 Costa Rica sea turtle nesting beaches.

Humans have caused much of the reduction in world turtle populations. Humans have directly affected 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 sea turtle nesting beaches are now attempting to combine tourism and eco-travel vacations with volunteer activity. This has helped to positively affect and protect endangered turtles and their nesting grounds, while educating curious vacationers.

Pacific Sea Turtle Nesting Season

Costa Rica is home to sea turtle nesting beaches for many species including:

  • Giant leatherbacks
  • Loggerheads turtles
  • Olive Ridley turtles
  • Hawksbill turtles
  • 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. The best time to plan a visit to these sea turtle nesting beaches for the giant leatherback turtles is between the months of October and 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 sea 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.

Research teams for the Atlantic sea turtle nesting beaches 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.

Visit this blog page to explore more Costa Rica Beaches.

Endangered Hawksbill Turtles

In addition to the Leatherbacks and Green Sea Turtles, the Hawksbill turtle is of particular interest to science and 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.

Costa Rica Tours Includes Sea Turtle Nesting Beaches

The leatherback turtle nesting beach in Guanacaste Costa Rica is one of this country’s biggest tourist draws. The nesting beaches and Caravan’s accompanying naturalist tour guides, offer Caravan travelers 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.

Check out the affordably priced, 9-day Natural Paradise tour for up to date travel itineraries, tour dates, hotel accommodations, FAQ’s, and more. You can also read fellow traveler’s reviews for this tour.

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!

People surfing the waves at Playa Grande Beach in Guanacaste Costa Rica

Lowlands of Guanacaste Costa Rica

Today, on the first day of 2017, we are making our way to Guanacaste Province in Costa Rica to visit the leatherback turtle nesting beaches. As we pulled out of La Fortuna we headed away from the wet tropical rainforests of Central Costa Rica, traveling northwest across the continental divide and then down into the lowlands of Guanacaste; an area known for its dry rainforests and white sandy beaches.

Tarantula – Hanging Bridges Tour Costa Rica

On our way to the leatherback turtle nesting beaches, our first stop was to take a tour of Costa Rica’s famous Arenal Hanging Bridges in the mature wet forests of Mistico Park. According to Wikipedia, this area receives up to 250 inches of rain each year. The 243-hectare wildlife reserve features a series of suspension bridges along easy to navigate paths through the tropical rainforest.

Here, it’s possible to see many species of Costa Rica’s trees, mammals, reptiles, and birds in their natural habitat. There were three paths to choose from with varying levels of difficulty, depending on your comfort level. The easiest path was the shortest and crossed just one hanging bridge. The second path was a little more challenging, and the third path was 3.2 Km long with 6 German designed suspension bridges (and 9 stationary bridges) that allow you to move across the forest canopy. Seeing the rainforest from above gives you a whole different perspective of the diversity of this rainforest. Closed shoes like runners are mandatory for your own protection.

Venomous snake, Hanging Bridges Tour

On our hanging bridges tour, we saw a yellow venomous viper snake, several tarantulas, a number of birds, and even Costa Rica’s wild boar, which we could easily smell before our guide pointed him out beside the creek below. On clear days you can even get a view of Arenal Volcano from here but the weather was still overcast today and it started to rain, which meant that the local sloths and monkey species were all hiding and keeping still, trying to keep out of the rain. This made it very difficult for us to see them today. Although our guide said he could smell the monkeys and knew they were near, they were well camouflaged.

View of Arenal Lake Costa Rica

After leaving the Hanging Bridges area our tour bus took us around Lake Arenal towards the leatherback turtle nesting beaches of Guanacaste. Lake Arenal is not only a man-made lake but also the largest landlocked lake in Costa Rica, covering 33 square miles. It was created to support the new hydroelectric dam, which now supplies up to 12% of Costa Rica’s electricity. Lake Arenal is also an important year-round recreational area for Costa Ricans that like to windsurf, fish, kayak, go boating, or do land activities like hiking, mountain biking, or horseback riding.

Once around Arenal Lake, we headed down into the lowlands of Guanacaste Province. Our tour guide Paul, provided us with a wealth of knowledge about Costa Rica on this trip, including the history of the province of Guanacaste (which used to be an independent state) and how Guanacaste eventually became a part of Costa Rica and how the government has worked hard to protect the leatherback turtle nesting beaches.

Playa Grande Beach, Leatherback Turtles National Park

Costa Rica is widely considered to be the birthplace of ecotourism. In this area, located on the northwest coast of Costa Rica, Guanacaste is world famous for its beautiful Pacific Coast sandy beaches. We headed over to Playa Grande, an area that so far has been able to ward off what could have been very lucrative commercial development, in favor of preserving these natural leatherback turtle nesting beaches. In fact, as many as five different species of turtles nest here, including the green sea turtle, the Olive Ridley sea turtles, and of course, the most impressive (and most endangered) species, leatherback turtles.

Leatherback Turtles National Park monument

I was really quite impressed at how Caravan Tours is taking an active role in supporting the preservation of these leatherback turtle nesting beaches. Caravan has taken the initiative to create an educational center, even producing a short video on the efforts that Costa Ricans have taken to preserve these turtle nesting beaches and help ensure the survival of the Leatherback Turtle.

In the video, one of the oldest long-time volunteers remembered seeing as many as 200 leatherbacks come ashore in one night to lay their eggs. But last year, he only saw 37 return here. In fact, the population has declined up to 90% in the last two decades. Leatherbacks have been around for over 150 million years and can grow up to 8 feet long and weigh up to 2000 pounds, so the exceptional work the volunteers are doing here is essential to their survival. The volunteers actually gather the turtle eggs and care for them in nurseries until they hatch. On their own, only 1 in 1000 Leatherbacks survive to adulthood but the work that is being done here has helped raise the survival rate to three times as many.

We must give kudos to Caravan for pitching in and doing their part to raise awareness and support this amazing turtle preservation program. It was also really cool to see our naturalist guide, Paul, as one of the featured commentators in the video.

After leaving the leatherback turtle nesting beaches, our last stop was at the amazing JW Marriott Resort, which opened only 5 years ago. We are here for two nights and tomorrow we have the day to ourselves to relax and enjoy this 5-star resort. Really looking forward to it.

Until tomorrow…!!!

~Lee K