A vast area of mangrove-fringed lagoons, wild coastline and dense tropical rainforest connected by a network of canals, Tortuguero is one of Costa Rica’s most popular national parks. The relatively challenging access to the park – perched in the far north east of the country on the Caribbean coast – does not seem to deter visitors. A series of simple but well-organised lodges provide fixed programmes shuttling their guests from San Jose into the park by coach and motorised canoe, with all meals and a set programme of group activities typically included during two-night stay here. The focus on group touring at Tortuguero will not appeal to everyone, but most visitors are usually charmed by the unique experience of staying in the heart of the flooded forest, at a lodge only accessible by boat.
Activities during a stay in Tortuguero generally involve nature walks and boat trips designed to showcase you the flora and fauna of the unique ecosystems here. The ominous growl of the howler monkey is quite frequently your alarm call in the morning before you set out in search of creatures such as sloths, colourful poison dart frogs and the curious basilisk or ‘Jesus Christ’ lizard, which skates along the surface of the water at remarkable speed. Toucans and tanagers can occasionally be glimpsed in the trees above you, while cormorants, herons and kingfishers grace the edges of the canals. The chance of seeing sea turtles nest on the beach is another big draw of the region, though in reality a relatively short window to see this phenomenon between July and October means it is not always possible to plan a trip around this.