There are seven species of sea turtles—green, hawksbill, loggerhead, olive ridley, Kemp’s ridley, flatback, and leatherback—that live a life adrift in the tropical oceans. Six of those seven species are endangered, and five of those seven species depend on the waters around Costa Rica. There are also a few very special beaches on both the Pacific and Caribbean coast of Costa Rica that host tens to hundreds of thousands of nesting sea turtles at various times of the year.
What threats do sea turtles face?
Sea turtles worldwide face a lot of hardships and dangers due to humankind. Between the oceans turning into plastics seas, industrial fishing, discarded nets and ropes that are littering the oceans, rising land and sea temperatures, illegal poaching, and rapid and widespread coastal development, it’s sadly no wonder almost all sea turtle species are threatened.
Fortunately, in Costa Rica, specific beaches that have been used as nesting sites long before we arrived in Costa Rica, are under protection and guardianship.
One of the easiest things you can do to help the sea turtles is to eliminate your single-use plastic consumption and pick up any litter you see when you are at the beach, especially straws, nets, fishing lines, and ropes.
The five types of sea turtles found in Costa Rica
The most abundant sea turtle specie in Costa Rica and globally is the olive ridley sea turtle. They are one of two turtle species that nest in arribadas (mass nesting). During the rainy season in Playa Ostional, hundreds of thousands of nesting females come ashore around the new moon every month.
This phenomenon is a wildlife spectacle that should not be missed if you find yourself en Playa Grande between August and the end of November.
The rarest and most endangered sea turtle in Costa Rica and globally is the massive leatherback sea turtle. Playa Grande used to be a prime nesting beach for this species, but due to various human impacts, their numbers have significantly dwindled here. If you see a leatherback sea turtle, consider yourself incredibly blessed.
Green, hawksbill, and loggerhead sea turtles can also be found in Costa Rica.
The top sea turtle nesting beaches in Costa Rica
As previously mentioned, Playa Ostional is one of the most famous turtle nesting beaches in Costa Rica. During the nesting season, it is illegal to go to Playa Ostional without a certified guide. Fortunately, there are plenty of fantastic sea turtle protectors and guides at this beach.
The Santa Rosa National Park in northern Guanacaste is home to two sea turtle nesting beaches. This secluded and slightly challenging park to access is an incredible place to enjoy wildlife in the rare dry tropical forest.
Las Tortugas Research Center on Costa Rica’s northern Caribbean coast is also world-renowned for its sea turtles. This remote location is only accessible by small plane or boat, but worth the journey for not only the sea turtles but the abundance of other fantastic wildlife.
The Osa Peninsula is also host to several sea turtle nesting beaches and the location of one of the most spectacular national parks in the country, the Corcovado National Park.
All of the above places in Costa Rica are best visited with an experienced and certified naturalist and guide. While each sea turtle species has different nesting seasons, because there are five species here, there is almost always a sea turtle nesting event taking place somewhere.
But aside from seeing sea turtles on the beach nesting (or if you are lucky, baby sea turtles emerging from the sand and scurrying down to the sea), you can see sea turtles in Costa Rica all year long out on the water, whether you are snorkeling, sailing, stand-up paddleboarding or surf. Just keep your eyes peeled!
If you are interested in setting up a local sea turtle tour, let us help you at the front desk.