Costa Rica

Tortuguero, My Favorite Place in Costa Rica (And of My Trip So Far)

by Tannerthetraveler on September 21, 2011

Tortuguero, My Favorite Place in Costa Rica (And of My Trip So Far)

I will put this on the table right away, I am a nature loving kind of guy. That being said, one of the coolest places I have ever been is Tortuguero National Park in Costa Rica. I heard about this place from a few of the people I was traveling with in Coco and Tamarindo and decided to check it out. After a brief stint in San Jose, I started my adventure into the wild. I took a morning bus up to Cariari. In another few hours, I boarded the bus to La Pavona, the small town which houses the ferries into the park.

On my particular bus, there was a very loud and obnoxious baby, and a man with a box of chicks. Both of these were a great source of loud noise. Surviving the annoyance got easier when the bus took us through a banana plantation, and we got to see the mechanism which moves the bananas across the road and into the packaging facility, which I thought was pretty cool. Soon after that, my bus arrived and I bought my ticket into the wild.

Riding the boat into Tortuguero village was like the Disney jungle cruise, but real. Wildlife and jungle vegetation of all sorts surrounded us. There were monkeys in the trees, kingfisher birds diving everywhere, iguanas climbing around, river otters getting in for a swim, fish jumping, and much more. There was even an old sunken ship along the route, adding to the adventurous feel of the voyage. Even better was that the sun set along my cruise, providing beauty in itself, but also giving me the unique opportunity to see the lanterns over the small huts that appeared along the side of the river every once in a while. It was absolutely magical.

The boat ride in took somewhere between a half hour and an hour. I am not sure exactly how long because I was either marvelling at the beauty of the place or fantasizing about what the rest of the trip will be like. There was even a cabin for sale somewhere along the river for the equivalent of $7000 USD. It got me thinking about how wonderful it would be to live here for a while. Arriving at the village, I was taken to my hostel by the guide from the boat and he explained that for $40, I could get on a guided canoe cruise of the jungle in the morning, a ticket into the park all day, and a night tour to see the Green Turtles nesting. Normally, my daily budget is around $20, and that includes food and a place to stay, but I felt that getting the most out of this place would definitely be worth it. It was.

I didn't have an alarm clock, or any way to tell time, but the guide said he would get me up in time for the tour, which was at 6 am. He didn't. Luckily, I happened to wake up at 5 anyway. How often does that happen? I felt like me going on this tour was meant to be. The tour was incredible. We saw so many different kinds of wildlife, and it felt great to be paddling the boat along instead of riding by motor. The guide did a great job of explaining the ways the different animals of the jungle live their lives, and gave us plenty of perfect opportunities to take pictures. He even snagged a juvenile cayman out of the river and I got to hold it. Unbelievable. The tour went way above my expectations and turned it into the highlight of my trip. Upon returning to the island, I walked straight across the island and saw the Caribbean for the first time in my life. It was only about 9 am, and my day was already incredible.

I spent a little while swimming off the beach and then returned to my hostel, ate a little, and went out to explore the park. Walking down the path through the jungle was great. Once again, there was an amazing amount of wildlife to see and photograph. The rubber boots I had to rent didn't go well with my shorts (they yanked the hairs and chaffed the skin on my legs) but it was still amazing. The spiders are gigantic there and I finally figured out how to get a good picture of them. I returned to my hostel and hung out with the others that were staying there, I made some great friends that gave me some helpful tips for budget travel, and I hung out with one of them long enough to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Independence Day festival back in San Jose. I ate dinner, played some guitar, and left for my night turtle tour.

I am not sure how I feel about paying to see a creature give birth, but it was an informative and unique experience. Unfortunately, I wasn't allowed to bring my camera to photograph the turtles, or the beautiful, fighter jet-like moth that I saw on the way back. When I was almost back to my hostel, I saw a sign on a cabin that read:  "Adventurous? In Shape? looking to try something new?" I read on and it was an advertisement for a guide that takes you camping out into the jungle in search of the big cats and other rarely seen creatures. I was excited. I looked at my wallet. Crap, out of money. I had just enough to get back to San Jose the next morning and there is no ATM on the island. Something to do if I return I guess.

I woke up in the morning, helped a local group rake up all of the leaves in a park nearby, and boarded my boat back. The ride back was almost equally amazing as the ride in, but I was not too excited to leave. Going through the banana fields again was cool also, but my brief trip into the wild was over. I got back to San Jose and typed to my friends back home:  "If you have a bucket list, put Tortuguero on it. It is an incredible must see. Everyone needs to get here at least once in their lives."

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