Are you in Costa Rica and want to know how to reach Tortuguero? In this article, I’ll guide you on how to get there from SAN JOSÉ by SHUTTLE + BOAT (👉price), by taking a FLIGHT (👉price), or by bus or car. I’ll also explain the options for getting to Tortuguero from LA FORTUNA by SHUTTLE +BOAT (👉price), or if you prefer, by car or bus and then taking the BOAT (👉price & schedule).
Lastly, I’ll provide you with all the instructions for reaching Tortuguero from PUERTO VIEJO (👉SHUTTLE+BOAT), from CAHUITA (👉SHUTTLE+BOAT), and also from MANZANILLO (👉SHUTTLE+BOAT) and from Limón, including details for transportation options such as bus and BOAT.
If you plan to travel by your own vehicle or RENT A CAR, I’ll let you know the best route and the distance you’ll have to cover to reach Tortuguero.
Additionally, you’ll find information on where to stay and the BEST HOTELS in Tortuguero, as well as some extra tips to make your trip more enjoyable.
Best Travel insurance for Costa Rica
How to get to Tortuguero National Park
If you are planning a trip to Costa Rica (👉COSTA RICA GUIDE), you should know that it is a country characterized by the beauty of its beaches, mountains, volcanoes and the diversity of its wildlife.
If you’re foreigner planning a trip, in this link you can check the ✅ SANITARY REQUIREMENTS and get a VISA. Also, to help you travel without spending too much, in this link you’ll find ✈️ CHEAP FLIGHTS and a 💥10% DISCOUNT on your TRAVEL INSURANCE.
When browsing the internet during your trip, it is essential to use a 👉 QUALITY VPN to ensure your privacy and security. Additionally, bringing a ⭐ TRAVEL DEBIT CARD will help you avoid issues with carrying cash and reduce the risk of theft.
Tortuguero is a Costa Rican National Park that is divided into a forest area, another of lagoons and the beach part. It can only be accessed by boat, and this makes the place better preserved and respects its nature.
The climate is hot and humid, with an average annual temperature of 25°C and 30°C; so I recommend that you bring light and comfortable clothing for hiking and exploring the park.
It is also the area of Costa Rica that has the most extensive biological variety and is the most important zone in the western half of the Caribbean for green turtle nesting; although other sea turtles also lay their eggs on its beaches, such as the leatherback and the hawksbill.
Jaguars, crocodiles and caimans, poisonous frogs (beautiful colors!), raccoons, fishing bats, some species of monkeys (such as the red and white-faced monkey), manatees, and many more animals live in Tortuguero.
How long does it take to get to TORTUGUERO
Let’s see how long it’ll take you to get to Tortuguero, depending on whether you’re starting from La Fortuna or San Jose and the transportation you choose.
How long does it take From San Jose
The travel time to Tortuguero can vary greatly, depending on your transportation choice. Here’s an estimate of how long each option will take:
- Plane: The flight takes 1 hour, but you’ll need to arrive at the airport an hour before departure.
- Shuttle or Car: The trip takes 3 hours and 30 minutes, including the minibus and boat rides.
- Bus: This is the longest option, taking a total of 4 hours and 30 minutes, with the combination of bus and boat rides.
How long does it take From La Fortuna
Here’s how long it’ll take to reach Tortuguero from La Fortuna, using either a shuttle or car and by bus:
How to get to TORTUGUERO from SAN JOSÉ
If you’re traveling to Tortuguero from San José using public transportation, you have four choices: fly on a PLANE, take a SHUTTLE + BOAT, drive your own car, or go by bus. Each option has its benefits, and I’ll explain the details of each of the four methods below.
Shuttle from SAN JOSÉ to TORTUGUERO
Taking a SHUTTLE + BOAT (👉price & schedule) is particularly enjoyable and comfortable, as it will only take you 3 hours and 20 minutes to travel from San José to Tortuguero and the transfer will take you directly to your destination hotel. Additionally, it offers more amenities than the bus, as it has air conditioning and free Wi-Fi.
The journey you will take will be from San José to La Pavona by minibus, and then you will take a boat that will take you to Tortuguero National Park.
How to get to TORTUGUERO from SAN JOSÉ by plane
Traveling by PLANE (👉flights) is the quickest option among the four, as the journey only takes 1 hour and you don’t have to make any transfers. However, you must remember to arrive at the airport an hour before departure. The flight takes you directly from Juan Santamaria Airport to Tortuguero Airport.
It’s a great alternative if you arrive in San Jose by air and want to go directly to Tortuguero without staying overnight in the capital.
How to get to Tortuguero from San José by CAR
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can travel with your own vehicle or rent a car to travel through Costa Rica by road. I’ll tell you all the details you need to make the journey and some useful information.
Renting a car in Costa Rica
Road trips are a fantastic option and, in Costa Rica, you have a variety of vehicles and pick-up locations to choose from to meet your needs. In case you decide to RENT A CAR, I’ve listed a few pick-up locations near your destination and tourist areas that you might want to visit on your trip.
Also, keep in mind that you have the option of picking up and dropping off the car at different locations. For instance, you can pick up the car in San José and return it in La Fortuna.
|Car rental in SAN JOSÉ
|Car rental in LA FORTUNA
|Car rental in LIMÓN
|Car rental in TAMARINDO
|Car rental in UVITA
|Car rental in PUERTO JIMÉNEZ
|Car rental in QUEPOS y MANUEL ANTONIO
|Car rental in LIBERIA
Directions for Driving to Tortuguero from San José
It’s not possible to drive to Tortuguero National Park, but you can drive most of the way from San José. Follow these steps:
- Take Route 32 to Limón and continue to Guápiles.
- From there, take the detour to Cariari and drive to Pavona dock, where the boat to Tortuguero departs.
When you arrive at La Pavona, you can park your car in the guarded lot next to the dock for about 7,000 CRC per day. Then, buy a BOAT ticket to Tortuguero National Park and don’t worry, if you have any questions, just ask at the dock.
How to get to tortuguero from San José by bus
Important: if you want to make the journey in the opposite direction (that is, go from Tortuguero to San José) and your final destination is not San José itself (but it is just a place of passage), you can make the entire journey as long as you leave Early in the morning.
Example: I took the first boat, the one at 5 in the morning, since my final destination was Matapalo and I wanted to make the trip in a single day. To give you an idea: I left Tortuguero at 5, at 9:30 I arrived in San José and at 11 the bus left to go to the Pacific coast (Quepos, Jacó, Domincal, Uvita and those places).
Directions for getting to Tortuguero by bus from San José
Taking the bus is the most economical way to make the journey between San José and Tortuguero, although you will have to make more transfers. The steps that you will find below are to go from Tortuguero to San José.
To go from San José to Tortuguero is basically the same, but you have to calculate that the last bus from Cariari to Pavona leaves at 3 in the afternoon, if you arrive later you will have to spend the night in this small town and it is not a place that stands out for its beauty or tourist attraction.
This is the breakdown, step by step, of the adventure:
1. Go to Tortuguero pier. The first boat leaves at 5 in the morning, and it is the one you should take if you want to make the most of the day or if you have a long way to go to the next point on your route.
Enjoy the BOAT (👉price & schedule) ride and get in front of everything to feel like in Titanic, but jungle plan.
2. When you arrive at the La Pavona pier, you have to take the bus to Cariari. I went with one that was actually a school bus, just like the one from the Simpsons, it was great. The ticket costs 1100 CRC.
4. Once you have arrived in Cariari, the bus leaves you at the same terminal where the bus departs to go to San José. The ticket for the journey to the capital will cost you 1815 CRC.
5. In San José, if you need to take a taxi/uber to get to the hotel or change terminals to go somewhere else in Costa Rica, it will cost you approximately 1600 CRC for two kilometers. It is a more than acceptable amount if you also go with suitcases. Now all you have to do is relax and enjoy life.
How to get to Tortuguero from La Fortuna
To reach Tortuguero from La Fortuna, you can cover the distance of 175 km by either shuttle or public bus. Below, I will provide details about both transportation options.
From La Fortuna BY TRANSFER
Taking a SHUTTLE +BOAT (👉price) is the quickest and most comfortable choice, as it takes you directly from La Fortuna to La Pavona pier. From there, you can catch a boat to get to the Tortuguero.
I highly recommend this option if you want to make the most of your time in Tortuguero, spend less time travelling, and arrive feeling refreshed.
From La Fortuna by bus
On the other hand, you can also consider getting there by bus, which entails taking three or four buses and then a boat to reach Tortuguero. This entire journey will take around 10 hours, but in my opinion, it is much more worthwhile to opt for a SHUTTLE +BOAT (👉price) instead.
However, if you do choose to embark on the journey via public transportation, here are the directions:
From La Fortuna to José
To begin, you’ll need to arrive in San Jose. You have two options, both of which will bring you to the 7-10 terminal in San Jose:
- Take a direct bus from La Fortuna to San Jose. The trip takes 4 hours and costs 3,000 CRC. The catch is that there is only one direct bus per day, which departs at 2:45 PM. If you take this option, you’ll need to stay overnight in San Jose and continue your journey to Tortuguero the following day.
- Take a bus to Quesada and transfer to another bus that will bring you to San Jose. This option takes about 5 hours and costs 4,000 CRC. As you can see, this option is less comfortable but offers more frequent schedules. Buses operate from morning until evening, allowing you to complete the journey to Tortuguero in a single day.
From San José to Tortuguero
Now that you’re in San Jose, you have the second half of the journey ahead of you. From San Jose, you’ll need to take a bus to Cariari, then another bus to the Pavona dock, and finally a boat to the town of Tortuguero.
You can find all the details of the journey here.
Getting to Tortuguero from Puerto Viejo, Cahuita, Manzanillo & Limón
To go to Tortuguero, there are three options:
- the fastest and most comfortable is to hire a minibus + boat service from PUERTO VIEJO (SHUTTLE + BOAT) and CAHUITA (SHUTTLE+BOAT) and MANZANILLO (SHUTTLE+BOAT)
- and the cheapest is to go by bus (many transfers)
- then go by boat independently (more practical than the second one)
Next, I will tell you all the options step by step:
Getting to Tortuguero by Shuttle + Boat
This is the most comfortable and practical option of the three, and the total duration of the journey is 5 hours. A minibus will pick you up at the hotel and from there it will take you to La Pavona pier, from where you will go directly to Tortuguero.
If you are not exactly staying in PUERTO VIEJO (👉SHUTTLE+BOAT), but your hotel is in CAHUITA (👉SHUTTLE+BOAT), MANZANILLO (👉SHUTTLE + BOAT) or Punta Uva, you can also ask to be picked up or taken there.
How to get from Puerto Viejo & Cahuita to Tortuguero BUS
This is cheaper, but involves changing more transport. The route is Puerto Viejo > Limón > Guápiles > Cariari > La Pavona > Tortuguero (yep, there are a lot of changes and it’s scary, but, within the hassle, it’s done faster than it seems).
If you decide to choose this option, this is what you have to do:
1. Puerto Viejo/cahuita > Limón
You take the bus from Puerto Viejo or Cahuita to Limón. It costs 1970 CRC and takes an hour or an hour and a half.
Important: you have to change terminal to transfer. The next terminal is next door (don’t ask for a taxi), just ask the driver or the people and they will guide you.
2. Limón > Guápiles
Once there, you get on the bus that takes you to Guápiles, it costs about 3,200 CRC per person and the tour lasts a little less than two hours.
3. Guápiles > Cariari
When you arrive in Guápiles, the bus to Cariari leaves from the same terminal, it will cost you 520 CRC.
4. Cariari > La Pavona
Once in Cariari, you have to go to La Pavona, which is the pier from where the boat leaves to get to Tortuguero.
Super important information: the last bus leaves at 3:00 p.m., you have to be there before. If it happens to you like me, that you miss the last bus and you start asking people if they know of a cheap hotel to spend the night, keep in mind that it is most likely that they will recommend a hotel for hookups and prostitution (to me They recommended 3 different ones until I found a hotel just to sleep).
5. La Pavona > Tortuguero
Finally you are going to enjoy the BOAT (👉price & schedule) ride to Tortuguero! The landscape is very beautiful and if you are lucky you may see some little animals. On the way back I saw a sloth, an alligator and different birds.
HOW TO GET TO TORTUGUERO from Limón BY BOAT
This option is much more comfortable but a bit more expensive:
- You have to go to Limón by bus.
- From there go to the Moín pier by bus (it is next to the stop).
- A boat leaves at the pier at 10.00 in the morning and in 4 hours you are in Tortuguero. The only disadvantage is the price, since the ticket is quite expensive.
Of course, if you opt for this option, be well informed about where the tickets are bought or if they have to be bought the day before (I think so).
Where to stay in Tortuguero
The town of Tortuguero is very small, and you really shouldn’t worry about the location of the accommodation. Even if you stay a bit far from the center itself, in a few minutes walk you will find a restaurant where you can eat or you will arrive at the pier to do the tours.
I recommend that you prioritize finding a nice hotel/hostel that fits your budget; and, if possible, that it has good views of the lagoon.
If you are vegan, or want to save or eat healthy during your stay, in the very center of town there are two supermarkets where you can buy the basic things to cook. They are tiny but have a little of everything, including fresh fruits and vegetables.
How many days in Tortuguero?
If you want to enjoy Tortuguero National Park, you have two possible options: to do a one-day tour or to spend more days in the park.
If you have little time to visit Costa Rica and want to make the most of your time, you can do a 1-DAY TRIP to see Braulio Carrillo Park and Tortuguero Park.
On the other hand, if you have more time and want to travel in a more relaxed way, I recommend that you spend a minimum of two nights in the park. This gives you time to take a boat ride, hike to see the nocturnal wildlife and make a trip to the hill.
Tours in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a country with a wide variety of fauna and nature. You can visit volcanoes, national parks, towering waterfalls, sunbathe at the beach, go kayaking,…
There are different TOURS and ACTIVITIES that you can do during your trip, so you can make the most of your stay:
When is the best time to visit Tortuguero?
There are three factors you have to take into account when deciding when to visit Tortuguero National Park: temperature, rain and turtle nesting season.
Temperatures in Tortuguero remain stable throughout the year, with maximums of between 29 and 31ºC.
The next factor to consider is rainfall. In Tortuguero, the wettest months are from May to December, although it is a very humid place throughout the year.
And finally, the nesting of turtles. The three species that nest in the park swim towards the shores of Tortuguero between the months of July and October. It will be during this period that you will have more opportunities to see them.
What to do in Tortuguero
The excursions that you can do in Tortuguero revolve around knowing the channels of the lagoon, hiking, and seeing and learning about its fauna.
There are different activities and tours that you can do during your stay; although, you can also do some of them on your own and without the need to hire a guide.
Visit the lagoon by boat
This excursion is done in a small boat where a small group of about 6 people can fit. The size of the boat is great, as it allows you to feel closer to the natural environment and gives you the feeling of living a little adventure; especially if you come across alligators, you will have them very close!
Tip: you can do this at different times of the day, but I recommend that you choose the first thing in the morning, since it is less hot and the animals tend to be seen more (during midday they are hidden).
Night trekking to see the fauna
It is an activity that takes place after dark. You do a little walk without going too far from the town, and the fun is to go looking with the flashlight, and see all the nocturnal animals that are hidden during the day.
Depending on how lucky you are, you will be able to see different types of animals such as snakes, frogs, small mammals, armadillos,… I walked back along the beach with the guide, to try to see the sea turtles and enjoy the starry sky (it’s full , full of stars, it’s amazing).
Learn about SEA TURTLES spawning
Sea turtles spawn 3 to 4 times a year. On the beaches of Tortuguero, 4 different species of sea turtles arrive to nest. These are the different stages of the process:
1) The mother turtle arrives at the beach at night to dig a hole in the sand, and lays between 80 and 120 eggs. Then it runs back to the water before the predators arrive.
2) 45 to 70 days later, the baby turtles break out of their shell, and run as fast as they can into the sea. This seems very easy but it is an odyssey, because there are some that go to the side that they do not touch, others that are preyed upon by the animals that live there, or sometimes the waves are strong and throw them back onto the sand.
3) Once in the water, they begin to swim like damned so that they are not eaten by any seagull or any bug that is there.
Hike to Cerro Tortuguero
Cerro Tortuguero is an extinct volcano that is located about 5.5km from the town. Although not particularly high, the summit (standing 119m above sea level) is the highest peak in the region.
The day begins with a boat ride (about 10 or 15 minutes) to the beginning of the path that leads to Cerro Tortuguero. The walk lasts a total of 2 hours and at its highest point you can see the views of the lagoons, the jungle, the town of Tortuguero and the sea.
I hope you have a great time in Tortuguero and enjoy your trip to the fullest!
Is Costa Rica SAFE to Travel?
Costa Rica is a moderately dangerous country, where nothing should happen to you if you go carefully and take precautions. Remember to follow these recommendations:
- In case of robbery, do not resist physically.
- Do not show a high purchasing power, that is, do not go with jewels, bags, etc … that are expensive.
- Be careful if you go out at night, and stay in crowded places where you are surrounded by other people.
- Thefts are usual, so don’t go with the camera or mobile in your hand or hang out of your neck.
- Try to avoid carrying the backpack on the back. Put it in front of you, or use a belt pouch or a cross bag.
Personally, I spent 3 months traveling alone in Costa Rica (I visited San José, Puerto Viejo, Tortuguero, Dominical, Uvita, Bay Drake and Puerto Jiménez) and I did not find myself in any really serious situation.
Going down the street with the camera, several Costa Rican people approached and warned me that they were carefully with robberies, since they told me that they are very frequent.
In my case, during the trip they tried to steal 2 times and, luckily, I realized on time and I could avoid it. In any case, it is always a good idea to have travel insurance (👉5% discount) that can compensate you financially and help you if a medical emergency occurs.
If you are interested in traveling alone, I recommend this article about the reasons and benefits of traveling alone and this other article with tips for traveling alone being a woman. I encourage you to try it since it is a great and very profitable experience for oneself.
Eating VEGAN in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is not a country faced with vegan food. Anyway, they have some traditional dishes that are vegan or that you can ask without egg or sauces such as the pico of rooster (rice with beans for breakfast), black bean soup or rice with vegetables.
You should always ask if the purés or soups are made with some type of dairy product or meat broth, since at first glance they might seem vegan dishes but not be.
In San José you can find some vegan restaurants, but when you leave the capital the offer is very limited or non -existent. Next, I make three recommendations and in this link you can read tips to travel vegan.
- Try to stay in hotels that are characterized by cooking vegan and vegetarian dishes. This is the best option and the most practical for not having to be looking for places where to eat comfortable without always repeating the same dishes.
- Before going on a tour that includes a meal, always mention that you are vegan or vegetarian, so that they can adapt the food.
- Costa Rica is a country where you can find a variety of fresh products (fruits and vegetables) to prepare salads and breakfast with fruits. In any city or town, you will easily find some supermarket or stalls on the street where you can buy groceries.