Almost everyone will say that the best place to see sea turtles in Costa Rica is Tortuguero, but this isn’t totally true. While the turtle season is from April to October, you will be very lucky to see a turtle in the first months. The peak season in Tortuguero for green turtles is July and August for laying the eggs, and November-December for the baby turtles hatching.
Which one is the best place to see sea turtles in costa Rica in the first months of the turtle season? The leatherback turtles season is from February to August, with the most active time being mid April – mid May. The leatherback turtles which are much bigger than the green turtles, can be also found in Tortuguero, but I can already tell you that they prefer the beach of Parismina, which is just south of Tortuguero.
We went in Parismina at the beginning of May and it was the best change of plans we have ever made!! Our trip’s itinerary included Tortuguero, but the friends who were travelling with us wanted to go there (they were leaving before us and it was already at the end of the trip). Causalities of life, finding accommodation for the 1st of May (day of labor in Costa Rica and a Friday) was mission impossible. We decided to head to Parismina, even though isn’t touristy and has few accommodations.
Parismina is also not accessible by road. We drove to Caño Blanco and took the 15 minute boat. We were very lucky, because we didn’t know the schedule of the boats and we just arrive twenty minutes before the departure. Just enough time to pack a bag with the lunch and cloths for a day. The public boat was 1000 colones (2$) and it departs 3/4 times a day.
The first thing we had to do in Parismina was to find a roof for the night. A house in front of the dock had just one room left. They called a friend, but it was also fully booked. They pointed us to another cabinas: Gamefish Lodge. They had just two rooms available for 30$/night each. The rooms were very clean, with two double beds, bathroom that needs renovation and an old AC, that it’s noisy and it takes twenty minutes until you feel it’s working. Our bathroom came with a surprise: two big cockroaches!! We closed the drains and didn’t have any more visitors. All in all, it was a decent accommodation for the price and his owner was attend and helpful.
After settling down, we went to admire the Caribean beach. It was a narrow dark sand beach with strong currents. But you know, beach is beach and the kids loved to play in the sand.
Back to the cabinas, we met a tour guide and Laura and I decided to try our luck that night. Ángel and Paul stayed with the kids while we went on turtle tour. Turtles normally come when it’s really dark, so we started the tour at 21:30 (sunset was around 18:00). Kids went to sleep around 19:00, so you can imagine that it wasn’t a good idea to take sleepy kids to the tours.
I had try my luck with sea turtles before. In 2012 in the beach of Mon Repos, on the coast of Bundaberg (Australia), we saw turtles hutching, but unfortunately no turtle came to lay eggs. We were waiting from 19:00 to 2:00, so we had plenty of time to read all the information about sea turtles in their information center. Maybe that’s why I felt like our guide wasn’t telling us much new information. In any case we paid 5000 (less than 10$) colones for the tour.
After walking for 20 minutes we saw a red light going on and off. Our guide knew what was going on: a turtle is laying eggs!! When we arrived, we saw a huge leatherback turtle (baula in Spanish) laying eggs. The rangers from the turtle conservation project were already there and they were taking the eggs to put them in a safer place as the beach of Parismina isn’t a national park and it isn’t protected. They also tagged and measured the turtles, this one was 1,5m long and 1,2m width!! As in any turtle tour pictures aren’t allowed, but I’m sure I’m not going to forget what we saw!!
A day later we went to Tortuguero and we asked about the price for the turtle tours (Paul could go on the tour while I stay with Liam: “tour is 20$ plus 15$ for the entrance fee to the National Park with a 99% of seeing nothing”. It seems like leatherback turtles prefers Parismina rather than Tortuguero and while in Parismina they had had turtles every night, in Tortuguero hadn’t seen any for the past week. It was obvious that Paul didn’t take risk.
Also getting to Tortuguero is more expensive than Parismina, 3000 colones instead of 1000. The parking for a night costs 5000 colones instead of 2000. Without accommodation, tour and transport to Parismina would be 16$ while in Tortuguero you will pay 51$!! If you are planing you trip between April and July, the best place to see sea turtles in Costa Rica without spending a fortune will be Parismina. April and May are nestling season and 6-8 weeks later is hutching season.
Is seeing sea turtles in your bucket list? Have you seen them already? Where?