Tortuguero National Park
Tortuguero, the little Amazon – Tortuguero National Park is located on the Caribbean coast to the north of Limon province. Its name comes from the 4 species of turtle that nest on the surrounding beaches: the leatherback, the hawksbill, the hawksbill and the green turtle.
The small village of Tortuguero is located on an island and actually consists of a single street lying between the sea and the main canal. A small church, a few restaurants, souvenir stores and a typically Caribbean vibe plunge you into the heart of a purely Caribbean atmosphere. There are no cars here, just a few bicycles, and nothing to disturb the calm of the area.
History of Tortuguero National Park
The first inhabitants of Tortuguero bore a striking resemblance to the Mayans. They lived mainly from hunting and fishing, which was easy thanks to the many canals where numerous species of fish spawned. They also grew a small amount of manioc. Then, in 1541, the Spanish settled here to facilitate trade between Nicaragua and Panama. But only around twenty people became accustomed to the difficult life in the area.
In the 18th century, the turtle trade (meat, shells, scales) attracted many merchants and sailors who settled in the area. Cocoa was planted and African slaves brought in. In 1871, construction of the railroad line linking Limon to San José began, and with it came a massive influx of slaves, mainly from Jamaica.
Then came the intensive development of Tortuguero’s timber industry. Sawmills were set up on what is now the airstrip, and some 250 people worked to harvest the region’s precious woods. The timber was then transported by sea to the port of Limon for shipment to Europe. The rusting remains of this bygone era can still be seen in places. The last sawmill closed in 1972.
In 1979, the government introduced 2 trips a week to link Tortuguero to the rest of the country.
Today, the main industry is tourism, thanks to the national park and the protection of the area.
Tortuguero National Park
Tortuguero National Park is made up of a tropical rainforest that is very humid (6.9 m/year) and canals that are home to an incredible wealth of flora and fauna. Tortuguero is colloquially known as “the little Amazon”.
The park is home to some 170 species of reptiles and amphibians, 60 species of mammals and 300 species of birds. These include green macaws, herons, egrets, trogons, parrots, toucans, jacanas, kingfishers, anhingas, kites and falcons.
Caimans, howler monkeys, capuchins, sloths, otters, basilisk lizards, peccaries and ocelots can also be easily spotted. The jaguar is also present in the area, but is harder to see. Around a hundred manatees still inhabit the waters of the lagoons.
As for the turtles, you can only enjoy the show with a guide. Places are limited and reservations are required between July and October.
Last but not least, Cerro Tortuguero, the highest point in the area, offers a breathtaking view of the entire park and the Caribbean. In the late afternoon, the view is breathtaking.
Many of our customers hesitate to go to Tortuguero because it’s so difficult to get to, but they don’t usually regret it. The fauna is such that it’s well worth the detour. We particularly like the Turtle Beach Hotel because it’s located on a secluded canal, and kayaking is very easy. The main canal is, in our opinion, a little less interesting and very fleeting.