What Is Tortuguero National Park?

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  • Written By: Debra Barnhart
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 26 September 2019
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Although it is not easy to find, Tortuguero National Park is apparently worth the effort. Located in northeastern Costa Rica on the Caribbean coast, this park offers 11 ecological habitats and a rich biodiversity that make it a favorite of visitors. Nature lovers can find a variety of ways to tour the park. The area was given park status in 1970 to protect sea turtles and is home to a number of endangered animals.

Tortuguero National Park, a popular park in Costa Rica, can only be reached by boat or by airplane. Located in the Tortuguero Conservation area, the park is bordered by volcanic hills on the west and the Caribbean sea on the east. There are 11 different ecological habitats, which make Tortuguero National Park a favorite for nature lovers. The park includes both high and coastal rainforests, lagoons, swamps and beaches.

The diversity of habitats makes Tortuguero National Park a haven for a wide variety of animals as well as plants. The park is home to jaguars, cougars, ocelots, otters and howler monkeys. Reportedly more than 300 species of birds reside there, including macaws, toucans, anhingas and hawks. Crocodiles and manatees inhabit the waters. The most famous residents of the park are the sea turtles. Giant Leatherback, Green, Hawksbill and Loggerhead turtles lay their eggs along the beaches where visitors can observe this process.


Both short and long hiking trails wind through the park, although interior trails are often water covered. To avoid disturbing nesting turtles, park rules stipulate that visitors are not allowed to walk the beach at night without a guide. Canoes and pangas, or flat-bottomed boats, can be rented in Tortuguero village, as touring the park by water is probably the favored way to see the animals. Guided boat tours apparently offer the best opportunity for viewing wildlife, and a number of guides who have been trained by the National Parks Service are available.

Tortuguero National Park was created to protect the sea turtles that nest along the beaches. The turtle meat and eggs have been hunted since the 1500s, and poachers are still a problem, although incidents of poaching have declined. The park is home to 13 out of 16 animals on Costa Rica’s endangered species list including jaguars, cougars and manatees. All three of these mammals are endangered due to human encroachment on their territories. Manatees are hunted for their meat and were thought to be extinct in the park until they were found in isolated lagoons.


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