Tortuguero National Park has often been called the “Amazon” of Costa Rica. Located in the country’s northern Caribbean coastal region, this tropical rainforest is accessible only by small aircraft or boat, making the experience of getting there an adventure in itself. Originally intended to protect a major nesting beach of the Atlantic green sea turtle, Tortuguero National Park (established in 1975) protects 77,032 acres and is one of the last large areas of tropical rainforest in Central America. Eleven habitats are found within the park. Three species of monkeys, as well as three-toed sloths and river otters, are frequently seen along the park’s natural inland waterways and canals. Caimans, iguanas, river turtles, basilisk lizards, and poison dart frogs (Dendrobates) also inhabit the area. The park is also rich with bird life, hosting more than 320 species, including all six species of kingfishers found in the Western Hemisphere, three species of toucans, eight species of parrots, and other neo-tropical species. Don’t miss this opportunity to view such biodiversity up close!
DAY 1: Depart from home / Fly to San Jose, Costa Rica / Transfer to hotel
Your flight departs from home for Costa Rica early this morning. The particulars of your arrival overseas are detailed with your flight itinerary and airline tickets. Please note that flights departing from the East Coast will typically arrive in Costa Rica in the mid-afternoon, while West Coast departures will arrive later in the evening.
Upon arrival at the San Jose's Juan Santamaria International Airport, meet your complimentary hotel shuttle curbside outside the customs area. The driver will be holding a VBT sign or a Wyndham San Jose Herradura sign. Then transfer by minibus (approximately 5 to10 minutes) to your hotel in the outskirts of San Jose.
The rest of the day is free to settle in and explore the city. Choose a restaurant for dinner on your own.
Please note: If you arrive early, your hotel room may not be available until 3:00 p.m. You may store your luggage at the reception desk.
Tomorrow’s transfer time to the airport for your flight to Tortuguero will be given to you at the time of hotel check-in. If for some reason this information is not available, please ask the receptionist to assist you.
Our splendid San Jose hotel, Wyndham San Jose Herradura, is located just minutes from the International Airport and approximately 30 minutes from the center of the city. VBT provides you with City Information that includes recommendations on what to see and do in San Jose during your stay.
Hotel: Wyndham San Jose Herradura Hotel
DAY 2: Private Charter Flight to Tortuguero, Independent exploration of Tortuguero
This morning, we will have an early-morning transfer from the hotel to the Pavas domestic airport. Here we will board a privately chartered flight (shared with other guests) for the 35-minute flight to Tortuguero National Park, on the Caribbean coast.
Please note: You are only allowed ONE piece of luggage, and your luggage cannot exceed 30 pounds. Additional luggage may be stored at the Wyndham San Jose Herradura for your return to San Jose. We will fly over Braulio Carrillo National Park and the Atlantic lowlands, landing in Tortuguero’s beachfront airstrip. There we will be met by Tortuga Lodge staff and taken by boat to the Tortuga Lodge & Gardens, located on the banks of the Tortuguero River. Breakfast will be offered upon arrival at Tortuga Lodge.
During our stay at the lodge, we will enjoy one guided boat excursion and one guided visit to the town. The timing of these excursions may vary, depending on weather conditions and availability. During your leisure time today, you may want to consider scheduling more tours (at additional cost), walk in the gardens, hike the trails behind the lodge, meet local schoolchildren and assist in their English classes (arranged daily by the lodge staff), swim in the riverfront swimming pool, or simply slip into a hammock set between the tropical rainforest and the Tortuguero River, relaxing amid the abundant sights and sounds of the tropical rainforest.
All meals are included during your stay at Tortuga Lodge, and complimentary tea and coffee are available throughout the day.
Hotel: Tortuga Lodge & Gardens
Meals: B, L, D
DAY 3: Tortuguero Village & Sea Turtle Conservancy Visitor Center / Natural History Boat Excursion
If you are an early riser, you are welcome to join the early-morning bird walk, departing from the reception area every morning at 6:00 a.m. This nature walk through the gardens is led by your Tortuga Lodge guides. Please sign up at the front desk the night before, as space is limited.
We enjoy a sumptuous breakfast, then join our local Tortuga Lodge guide on a short boat transfer to nearby Tortuguero Village for our included two-hour excursion. We visit the Park headquarters and the general goods store, and walk down the paths with colorful Afro-Caribbean homes. Stop for a chat with the locals and learn about their way of life along the way. Next, visit the museum founded by the Sea Turtle Conservancy, formerly known as the Caribbean Conservation Corporation (CCC). Every year, from June through October, thousands of Atlantic green sea turtles come to Tortuguero Beach to lay their eggs. The conservancy continues the work of the late Dr. Archie Carr in monitoring, studying, and tagging the turtles. After our visit to the village, we return by boat to the lodge in time for our included lunch.
Enjoy a siesta after lunch, then leave the lodge’s dock by boat with our Tortuguero local naturalist guide for your afternoon expedition. This three-hour excursion into the backwater creeks and lagoons of Tortuguero National Park will introduce you to tropical rainforest flora and fauna, such as caimans (small crocodiles), tiger herons, boisterous toucans, and howler, spider, and white-faced capuchin monkeys. An ice chest aboard our boat is stocked with water; if you’d like to have additional beverages available, you can ask your guide to stock the ice chest with your favorites (at an additional cost).
We return to the lodge in time for bocas (Costa Rican hors d'oeuvres) at the poolside bar, followed by dinner at the riverfront open-air restaurant.
Please note: The time of your scheduled tour may vary, depending on weather conditions.
Hotel: Tortuga Lodge & Gardens
Meals: B, L, D
DAY 4: Boat and bus transfer from Tortuguero to San Jose
After breakfast, board a boat with your local naturalist guide and depart on the 1.5 to 2-hour trip to the dock area. A service guide and van driver will meet you for the drive back to San José (3 to 4 hours). Along the way, you will pass through Braulio Carrillo National Park.
Upon arrival to San Jose, enjoy the remainder of the day and evening at your leisure.
Hotel: Wyndham San Jose Herradura