National Parks of the Caribbean Coast


Tortuguero National Park
Visitors love to watch turtles during their travel to Costa Rica which makes Tortuguero National Park the region’s most popular destination. Named for the wildlife it is helping to save, the park provides habitat for three of the country’s four species of marine turtles. Each year, green turtles, leatherbacks and hawksbills come to nest on the park’s black sand beach, enabling visitors on Costa Rica tours to observe one or more turtle species most months of the year. Established in 1970, Tortuguero National Park is located midway between the coastal city of Puerto Limon and the Nicaragua border. The park’s 77,000 acres of rainforests, estuaries, lagoons and beaches attract diverse wildlife and protect 128,500 acres of off-shore waters. Though most visitors come here to observe what the coastal habitat offers, the park also contains a number of ancient cinder cones. Visitors on Costa Rica tours may explore the forests on hiking trails and its waterways by boat through the picturesque Canales de Tortuguero.

Turtle territory continues north and south of the park. To the north lies the largest of Costa Rica’s national wildlife reserves, remote 223,000-acre Barra del Colorado that extends to the border with Nicaragua. Government protection didn’t come soon enough to spare some of the forests; nonetheless this remote reserve filled with lagoons, islands, waterways and few visitors is teeming with wildlife, including the same species that inhabit Tortuguero. Established in 1994, the 2,000-acre Cariari National Wetlands protects the mangroves that stretch along the Caribbean coast from Tortuguero National Park south to the 1,200-acre Pacuare Matina Forest Reserve.

Cahuita National Park
Located between Puerto Limon and the Panamanian border, Cahuita National Park offers visitors on Costa Rica tours much to see and do, making it an enjoyable destination for hikers and snorkelers alike. Established in 1982, the park contains 55,200 marine acres and 2,732 acres of land. On rainforest walks, visitors on Costa Rica tours may see sloths and other tropical wildlife as well as turtles arriving on its beaches to nest. The coral reefs protected by the park are a magnet for scuba divers and snorkelers who travel to Costa Rica.

While you’re in the neighborhood, you may wish to travel a few miles south to visit 12,000-acre Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge that extends to the Panama border. Established in 1985, the refuge is home to many tropical and migrating bird species and protects the living coral reefs within its 11,000 acres of protected ocean waters.