TORTUGUERO, COSTA RICA
THE COST OF COSTA RICA – IS COSTA RICA BUDGET FRIENDLY?
I can only speak from my personal experience but Costa Rica isn’t your typical budget friendly Central American destination. After spending time in Costa Rica’s budget friendly neighbours Honduras and Nicaragua I was slightly biased too.
We worked out through the extra we spent over our daily budget that Costa Rica was was 3 times pricier than its neighbours. Buying our first drink came as a small shock after leaving budget-loving Nicaragua.
The price of all your necessities are much higher in Costa Rica. Food, drinks including alcohol and even water prices. I thought I’d be able to bypass this factor and when we chose to head on from San Jose to Tortuguero we assumed prices would only decrease leaving the large capital.
To put this into backpacker perspective take this for an example; $20 for a meal doesn’t sound like a lot of money to your average person and its not, but when you’ve eaten exactly the same for $5 and less a few days ago you naturally ripped off. Why is Costa Rica so much more inflated than its neighbours? I suspect the inflation is due to the popularity of Costa Rica as a vacation destination by US tourists.
|Arriving in Tortuguero looks a little like this|
A BRIEF REVIEW OF HOTEL BRISTOL, SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA
We arrived in San Jose at night and I’d booked us into the cheapest hotel I could find, Hotel Bristol. I don’t recommend you stay here, but please feel free to find it on TripAdvisor so you can accurately imagine my face when I was shown to my stale smoke scented room. A budget hotel is a budget hotel and we spent our $6 night without a fuss.
We had limited time to spare in Costa Rica’s capital and on hindsight a few days in the city would’ve been wise. The most we saw of San Jose was from a taxi window.
Keep reading for how to get to Tortuguero from San Jose, Costa Rica
|They don’t call it the rainforest for nothing – Costa Rica during a day of nonstop rain|
|The bodies of water that surround the Tortuguero National Park peninsular|
HOW TO GET TO TORTUGUERO
|Source: Google Maps|
HOW TO GET TO TORTUGUERO, COSTA RICA
Tortuguero is only accessible by boat or air. Once you reach your first stop Cariari from San Jose the trip begins.
Busses leave frequently from San Jose to Cariari, Costa Rica for $3/$4. There isn’t much in Cariari for tourists but there’s an ATM. This is crucial as it’s the last ATM for hours in both directions once you get to Tortuguero there are no cash machines.
The addition of a guide is important to understand the impacts of tourism to Costa Rica and the Tortuguero National Park. Our guide spent the journey highlighting the importance of conservation efforts across Costa Rica.
Getting to Tortuguero from Costa Rica’s Capital takes several hours, dedicate a day to travel and be prepared to arrive later than anticipated.
A JOURNEY THROUGH THE JUNGLE – HOW TO GET TO TORTUGUERO, COSTA RICA
I’d go back to Tortuguero for the boat journey alone. It’s a total surreal experience being on a boat, deep in the overgrown river and deep in the beautiful Costa Rican rainforest.
The bus from Cariari drops you off at the boat docks that take tourists to Tortuguero. There’s just enough time to visit the restaurant in the middle of no where. A Central American theme. Where there’s tourists there will be a restaurant, no matter how deep in the rain forest you may be. We boarded the boat and began our long boat ride towards Tortuguero.
Our baggage was sent don’t the chocolate river ahead of us and we watched as our only belongings floated off through the mangroves.
During our boat ride we were always quietly aware of crocs and the lack of other human presence in the literal middle of nowhere. There’s no one around you for miles, you are completely alone with nature in the rainforest. Its very peaceful.
Sailing along slowly towards Tortuguero in complete silence is something you’ve seen on a documentary but never thought you’d find yourself doing.
You travel roughly for an hour by boat to get to Tortuguero. The boat ride along the river somewhere on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica instantly becomes a once in a lifetime experience and you’d be a fool not to enjoy and appreciate every second.
The dense rainforest to your left and right along with the humidity and the silent hum of the boat engine carefully moving you along. The landscape is everything you would hope to expect from a mixture of dense rainy rain forest and tropical Caribbean coastline. Without exaggerating we got to see plants and trees I’ve only ever seen on TV, we were engulfed by nature.
When you arrive at the foot of the National Park it’s all go. Find a hostel and plan your activities. The tourism board is keen to get you booked on as many excursions as possible, most will cost you between $50-$100. Its island-like being surrounded by water and sand. But the ever present tranquility of the rainforest is always around you.
It’s wet in Tortuguero (actually wet is probably an understatement), but what do you expect from the rainforest in Costa Rica. There’s so much wildlife it’s difficult not to get over excited, visiting a protected area of National Park like Tortuguero is eye opening. Nature lives so comfortably with the small human population here.
|Spot the parrot in the trees|
|The vicious coastline. If you get caught in one of those rip tides you’re gone forever|
NO TORTUGAS IN TORTUGUERO – TURTLE TOURS
|Windswept tropical beach of Costa Rica, during our turtle tour|
|The lush green and tropical skies of Costa Rica|
During our first turtle tour there was a buzz in the air. It felt like every single person in our small group was there for a reason. Our whole purpose to be on this very turtle tour and watch these incredible late hatchers find their way to the ocean to begin their lives.
We were bitterly disappointed when all that we found were empty nests of recently hatched turtles eaten by local stray dogs. I’m not just talking about or two nests but hundreds of them, some scattered with empty turtle shells and even the most gruesome half-eaten baby turtles. Our second turtle tour – the night tour was exactly the same. A bitterly disappointing end to a Tortuguero love story.
|Exploring Tortuguero and its quirky colourful streets|
TORTUGUERO NATIONAL PARK AND CONSERVATION AREA
STILL NO TORTUGAS IN TORTUGUERO, COSTA RICA
Tortuguero is an intensely beautiful place. Costa Rica is from what we managed to see in our short four days there an incredible country. The reality of what is happening in Tortuguero in the off season is hard to fathom. A National Park and protected area that cares so deeply about the natural area but does nothing to influence a clear destructive issue of stray dogs interfering with nature.
I do believe that there are times in the turtle season where people get to spend lots of time watching little hatchlings scramble to the sea in Tortuguero and I think in this case we were very unlucky. I believe that Tortuguero for us was simply an unlucky experience and a case of wrong place at the wrong time. We were unlucky.
Tortuguero from everything else I witnessed is an exceptional National Park filled with unique nature and total wonder. From the unpaved streets to the small fence church to the parrots in each tree. The adventure to reach Tortuguero makes even the simplest of bus journeys an adventure. I truly hope in the future this issue can be dealt with before it becomes out of hand and Tortuguero, Costa Rica can always remain the Turtle Catcher.
|Is this the only actual turtle in Tortuguero?|
A 20-something travel blogger based in Liverpool. Covering all things from Latin America to Liverpool local guides and everything in between.