Tortuguero National Park

Land of turtles and wetlands
General characteristics:
Tortuguero National Park was declared on September 24th 1970 and its limits have been modified on three occasions (1980, 1995 and 1998) in order to incorporate more territory. Its extension has increased from 64,701.45 to 76,937 hectares. Of these, 50,284 are marine and 26,653 are terrestrial.
In the case of terrestrial area, 99% is used for absolute protection of resources and 1% as site visitation. The marine area is dedicated to 100% absolute conservation.
Tortuguero National Park (TNP) is located northeast of Costa Rican territory and is one of the main tourist icons of Costa Rica since it is internationally recognized for protecting the most important green turtles nesting beach in the Western Hemisphere.
Away from the city and made up by an extensive network of rivers and canals, the access is possible only through small boats: this way the Tortuguero National Park is, a place unlike any other; where small communities surrounding Protected Wilderness Area, as Barra del Tortuguero and San Francisco, still retain their traditions and also enjoy the benefit of having the bicycle as their main transportation method, making the travel a true encounter with Caribbean culture.
TNP is a paradise for research and ecotourism, the ecosystems of the area are so complex and diverse that visitors can expect anything in the routes, passing from calm to find any species of flora and fauna of Costa Rican Caribbean.
At TNP humid tropical forest and very humid tropical forest predominate. The annual average precipitation reaches 19.6 feet (6,000 mm). The highest rainfall months are July and December, the least rain are March, April and October. The annual average temperature ranges between 77 Fahrenheit (25 ° C) and 86 Fahrenheit (30 ° C). The heat, humidity and rain are companions on the journey.
Ecological importance:
• Protect nesting beaches for 4 sea turtles species: Green (Chelonia mydas), Baula (leatherback, Dermochelys coriacea), Carey (Hawksbill, Eretmochelys imbricata), Cabezona (loggerhead, Caretta caretta).
• Protects important populations of endangered species.
• Protects the habitat of the manatee (Manati, Trichechus manatus), which is one of the most rare and endangered mammals in Costa Rica.
• Protects the habitat of the largest felines in America. Tortuguero has one of the largest populations of Costa Rica and a consolidated research program.
• Protects the ecosystem called Yolillal (Raphia taedigera)
Flora and fauna (identified to date):
• 734 plant species.
• 442 bird species.
• 138 mammal species (101 genera y 32 families).
• 118 reptile species (76 genera y 22 families).
• 58 amphibian’s species (27 genera y 11 families).
• 460 anthropoid’s species.
Featured species:
• Green turtle (Tortuga Verde, Chelonia mydas): One of the first reasons to create the TNP is that this species has Tortuguero as one of the major nesting beaches in the world.
• Green Macaw (Lapa Verde, Ara ambiguous): bird species in danger of extinction that has been recovering its population with Tortuguero as one of its main nesting sites and food.
• Caiman (Caiman cocodilus): One of the Species present along the canals of Tortuguero, it is sometimes possible to observe several of them taking a sunbathing.
• Black Turtle (Tortuga Negra, Rhinoclemmys funerea): One of the Tortuguero river species. In the canals you can get to observe several in the same wooden log.
• Jacana (Jacana jacana): One of the most colorful species of birds in the Tortuguero canals.
• Anhinga (Pato aguja, Anhinga anhinga): Featured bird of Tortuguero canals, you can see it at tree branches drying its wings after diving to hunt.

From Turtle Bogue to Tortuguero

In the past...
From pre-Columbian natives, early explorers and pirates, to the first settlers; all had the turtle as the main consumer product, through their meat and eggs and even their shells that were also used for making complementary products.
Turtle Bogue or Boca Tortuga, as Tortuguero was previously known, was settled in the early twentieth century, near the 20s, by Afro-Caribbean families from Limon and Parismina, along with some migrants who came from
Barra del Colorado and Nicaragua.
These migrations occurred due to two main reasons:
1. Be part of the economic benefit generated by the worldwide golden age of the exploitation of precious woods, where Tortuguero and its vast forests offered lots of high-quality timber, such as Almond (Almendro) or Cativo and were relatively easy to be transported through the canals network.
2. Take advantage of the expansion of the agricultural frontier to establish new land and plantations, especially coconut and mango.
The Turtle Bogue consisted of a few families distributed in a small strip of land and sawmill where all the wood that was being removed from the forests of Tortuguero was processed.
In the 50s an event happened that changes the history at Turtle Bogue. A zoologist at the University of Florida, Dr. Archie Carr was interested in the behavior of sea turtles, therefore he searched at the Caribbean and Central American countries the ideal site for making his studies.
Thus way he came to Tortuguero, attracted by rumors of a beach filled with green turtles and completely wild conditions, founding the CCC (Caribbean Conservation Corporation). From his studies began to be evident the ecological importance of the whole plain of Tortuguero, not only for being the main area of spawning of sea turtles in the Latin American Caribbean but also by the complexity of ecosystems harboring and lot species that inhabit them.
The growing ecological information joined the conservationist trend of the country in the 70s, triggering the declaration of Tortuguero National Park on September 24, 1970 by Executive Decree 1235-A, published in La Gaceta No. 213, which marks its territorial limits and general rules governing its management. On November 3, 1975 by Republic Act No. 5680, its establishment and management rules were reaffirmed. Since the TNP was established its limits have been modified three times by Executive Decrees (1980, 1995 and 1998). Its extension has gone from 64,701.45 to 76,937 hectares. Of these 50,284 are marine and 26,653 are terrestrial.
The declaration as a National Park and the fame of sea turtles caused by the early mid-80s the travelers were coming to the area, at that time they were adventurers looking to explore new horizons. Tortuguero gradually became a town living from tourism activities, where very few of its inhabitants eat turtle and rather they help in the conservation of sea turtles and their ecosystem. 
Opening hours:

• Every day from 6 am to 12 md and from 1 pm a 4 pm.
• National and resident adults: ¢1.000
• National and resident children: ¢500
• Foreign non-resident adults: $15
• Foreign non-resident children: $5
• Currencies: Dollars ($) and Colones (¢ - Costarican Colons).
• Cash: Bills in good condition, $ 100 and ¢ 50,000 bills are not accepted.
• DATAFONO: all credit / debit cards are accepted, in case of being foreign ensure to report to your bank you are leaving your country.
• Dock
• Drinking water
• Sanitation services (availability of health services for people with different abilities)
• Self-informative kiosk
• Tourism services such as food, accommodation, guides, transportation, telephone, internet and other that are offered privately in the village of Barra del Tortuguero
Main Attractions
Sea turtle watching program:
This eco-tourism management tool allows to manage properly the high beach visitation in sea turtles nesting season. Through this program Tortuguero National Park is allied with a local organization to establish turtle crawlers: highly trained people who are the only ones that, under high ecological measures, detect turtles when they are going out from the sea. This prevents the large number of visitors walk on the beach and by ignorance scare away the turtles. On the contrary, visitors will be located in waiting bases to receive valuable information about the turtle until the turtle is in a process of spawning that could be observed in proper way. The turtle nesting season runs from June to October. It is important to verify the opening of the season to confirm the presence of turtles because it is possible that the ecological dynamics change.
El Jaguar terrestrial trail:
This linear trail runs 1.55 miles (2.5 km) parallel to the beach of Tortuguero National Park and is the path used in turtle season. It is clearly demarcated with entrances to the beach every 328 feet (100 meters) and numbered from 37 to 60. During spawning season you can observe turtle footprints and nests. You can find animals like hawks, monkeys, peacocks and lots of dragonflies and butterflies.
Aquatic trails:
Travel by canoe, kayak and electric motor:
• Caño Chiquero- Mora Trail:  This 1.42 miles (2.3 km) tour is exclusive to non-polluting small boats. Dense and high vegetation, occasionally there you can see the greyheaded tayra (tolomuco). Near the 6233 feet (1900 meters) the path is divided and that is the reason it is known as Caño Chiquero and Caño Mora.
Motor boats tour:
 • Río Tortuguero Trail: This route of 2.67 Miles (4.3 km) is the gateway to TNP canals sector. There it is possible to observe variety of water birds, amphibians and reptiles, as well as lots of poponjoche trees, striking by its large flowers and fruits.
 Caño Harold Trail: 2.17 miles (3.5 km) tour across a wide canal in calm waters which facilitates the observation of animals. Secondary forest predominates and you may even see some coconut and cocoa. There are plenty of reptiles such as turtles and alligators.
• Caño Palma Trail: This 3016 miles (5.1 km) canal is the only one that does not have entrance through Laguna Tortuguero but by Laguna Penitencia, located next to the Cerro Tortuguero in Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge. It is a narrow canal with dense vegetation where waterfowl abound.
​Due to the particular conditions of Tortuguero National Park and the need to protect sea turtles, their nests and eggs it is vital to take into account the following:
• Respect the Public Use Park Regulation.
• Respect the park visitation schedule.
• Respect and follow the park guard´s  instructions
• Stay on the trails.
• Please do not bring trash to TNP and pick garbage you find.
• To protect sea turtles the access to the beach is restricted from March 1st to October 31st   6 pm to 6 am.
• It is forbidden to enter to the park with drugs, stimulants or alcohol.
• Sports activities or sound equipment are not allowed.
• Campfires are not allowed.
• Do not carry weapons of any kind.
• Plants and animals are living beings, not mistreat or feed them.
• Fishing is not allowed.
• It is forbidden to enter pets.
• Take care of your belongings.
• Bring fresh clothing, hat, insect repellent, sunscreen.
• The use of rubber boots is recommended.
• Take care of your hydration. It is not recommended to swim in the sea or lagoons, at dangerous currents, or in presence of boats and animals in transit.