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A Guide to Costa Rica's Sea Turtles and Where to Find Them

Updated: Jan 18

If you're a wildlife enthusiast or simply an ardent admirer of nature's wonders, Costa Rica is a paradise that should be at the top of your travel list. This biodiverse, rich country is home to a truly awe-inspiring spectacle - the nesting of sea turtles. These beautiful, ancient creatures emerge from the depths of the ocean to lay their eggs on the sandy shores, creating a sight that's nothing short of magical.


Our experienced tour guides will help you witness this unique phenomenon firsthand. In this post, we'll explore the types of sea turtles you can find in Costa Rica, the best time to see them, and the most popular nesting sites for these enchanting marine animals.


So, pull up a chair and immerse yourself in the wonder of Costa Rica's sea turtles.


An Overview of Costa Rica's Sea Turtle Species

Costa Rica is home to four main species of sea turtles, each with its own distinctive characteristics, nesting habits, and lifespans. Here's a brief overview:


  • Leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea): The largest of all sea turtles, Leatherbacks can measure up to 7 feet in length and weigh as much as 2,000 pounds. They are known for their extensive migratory patterns, covering thousands of miles each year.

  • Olive Ridley turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea): Named for the olive color of their heart-shaped shells, these turtles are the most abundant in Costa Rica. They are well-known for their synchronized nesting in mass numbers, a phenomenon known as "arribadas".

  • Hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata): Recognized by their pointed beak and beautiful, patterned shell, Hawksbill turtles are critically endangered. They nest sporadically throughout the year on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast.

  • Green turtles (Chelonia mydas): Named for the green color of their fat, these turtles are a favorite among divers due to their curious nature. They can be found year-round in Tortuguero, Costa Rica, often referred to as the "Turtle Capital of the World".


Where to Go for the Best Sea Turtle Viewing in Costa Rica

Corozalito and Ostional are two of the prime locations for turtle viewing in Costa Rica. Ostional Beach, although a bit more off the beaten track, offers visitors the chance to see Olive Ridley turtle nest, particularly during an arribada event. On the other hand, Corozalito Beach, a protected wildlife refuge, is famous for its high turtle activity.


All four species mentioned above have been known to nest here. Getting to either beach from Samara is an adventure in itself as you ride with a knowledgeable driver/guide who can offer insights into the local wildlife and culture. It's an experience that combines education, conservation, and the stunning natural beauty of Costa Rica.


How to Spot a Sea Turtle Nest in Costa Rica

Spotting a sea turtle nest can be a thrilling part of your Costa Rican adventure, but it's important to approach this activity with respect and caution to protect these vulnerable creatures. Here are some key signs to look for:


  • Track Patterns: Sea turtles leave distinctive track marks in the sand as they move from the water to their nesting site. These patterns can often be a clear indicator of a nearby nest.

  • Disturbed Sand: Look for patches of sand that appear disturbed or uneven. This could be a sign that a turtle has been there recently, digging a nest.

  • Nest Shape: A turtle nest typically has a somewhat circular shape, slightly depressed in the center. If you see such formations in the sand, it's likely a nest.

  • Shell Fragments: As hatchlings break free from their eggs, they often leave behind fragments of their eggshells. Finding such fragments near a potential nest site could be a strong indicator of a turtle nest.


Remember, never disturb a sea turtle nest. If you find one, keep a respectful distance and enjoy the wonder of nature.


What to Do When You Come Across a Sea Turtle Nest

Stumbling upon a sea turtle nest can be an exhilarating experience. However, it's crucial to respect these vulnerable creatures and ensure their safety. Here are some do's and don'ts when you come across a sea turtle nesting in Costa Rica:


  • Do maintain a safe distance: It's important not to get too close to the nest, as you may inadvertently damage it or disturb the turtles.

  • Don't use flash photography: Flash can startle and disorientate turtles, especially hatchlings trying to find their way to the ocean. If you want to capture the moment, do so without a flash.

  • Do stay quiet: Noise can scare the turtles and disrupt the nesting process. Always observe in silence.

  • Don't touch or handle the turtles: Even with the best intentions, handling turtles can harm them and interfere with their natural behavior..

  • Do inform local authorities or conservationists: If you find a nest, let the local wildlife authorities or conservation groups know. They can then monitor the nest and ensure the turtles' safety.


How to Help Protect Costa Rica's Sea Turtles from Poaching

Poaching poses a significant threat to Costa Rica's sea turtles. However, there are several ways you can help combat this issue and contribute to the conservation of these extraordinary creatures.


By getting involved, you can play a part in protecting these species for future generations to appreciate and marvel. Here are a few ways you can make a difference:


  • Support Local Conservation Efforts: Consider donating to organizations that work to protect sea turtles and their habitats in Costa Rica. Your contributions can help fund research, conservation initiatives, and public education.

  • Shop Responsibly: Avoid buying products made from turtles or any other endangered species. This includes souvenirs, jewelry, or any items made from turtle shell.

  • Be a Conscious Tourist: Stick to the guidelines provided by authorities while visiting nesting sites to ensure you do not disrupt the turtles or their habitat. Always choose eco-friendly tour operators who respect and adhere to conservation principles.

  • Raise Awareness: Use your social media platforms and your voice to educate others about the plight of sea turtles and the importance of conservation efforts. Your influence can encourage others to act responsibly and support the cause.


About Samara Adventures

Samara Adventures is the perfect place to book your next vacation. We have experienced and knowledgeable staff that can help you plan the trip of your lifetime. Most importantly, we are dedicated to customer satisfaction and ready to do everything possible to ensure you have a great time. So what are you waiting for? Contact us today and let us help you plan an amazing vacation. To obtain further details about day trips from Costa Rica, call us at +506 2656-0920 or email at info@samaraadventures.com.

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