Tortuguero & Puerto Viejo... Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica

Puerto Viejo is the perfect place to soak up the laid back Caribbean vibes and experience Costa Rica's Pura Vida.  What makes it so special is the mix of African, Latin and Caribbean Cultures.  We saw vibrant painted buildings, people sporting dreadlocks, heard reggae music and saw more beach cruisers than cars.  We started our Costa Rican adventure in Puerto Viejo and ended in Tortuguero.

Day 1:  Our flight didn't arrive until 7:30 p.m. so we stayed in San Jose.  We picked up our rental car and spent the night at El Rodeo Estancia Boutique Hotel. 

Day 2: We drove about 4 hours from San Jose to Punta Uva, a small town near Puerto Viejo.  The best time to visit is during the drier seasons, March and April and September to October.  
We stopped at the Sloth Sanctuary 
before arriving to our lodge!  

Our daughters have been obsessed with sloths the past few years so this was a must see for us.  The Sanctuary has been open for 27 years.  Their goal is to rehabilitate sloths and get them back to the trees.  The sloths you will see in the cages can't be rehabilitated and are there permanently.  Our tour guide was passionate about all things sloths and he taught us that sloths aren't lazy they're just energy efficient.  πŸ˜ 

Your admission includes a boat ride behind the sanctuary.  

Day 3: We loved Cahuita National Park!
We took the walking trail that runs parallel to the beach.  We saw monkeys, iguanas, birds, sloths and a raccoon eating someones Cheetos. 😏 This was my favorite beach. The water was clear, calm, warm and so relaxing (after doing some research it sounds like this might not be the case year-round, so check before you go). We spent all day there but it closed around four, make sure you give yourself enough time to explore.  They don't charge admission but ask for a donation.  

We saw lot's of monkeys in Cahuita National Park.  Watch your stuff the monkeys and raccoons will try to steal your food. πŸ˜‚

#Another Day In Paradise! 
Our lodge had boogie boards and snorkeling gear available to use. 

Day 4: We stayed at the Pachamama Jungle River Lodge in Punta Uva. The lodge has a few villas and bungalows and sits on the edge of the river Rio Ernesto and not far from the beach.  We were able to use the lodge kayaks to explore the river.  We saw turtles, monkeys, toucans and iguanas.
Our kayak ride was all fun and games until I fell into the murky water 😱 the lodge owner told us not to swim in.  So far so good, I haven't come down with anything yet. πŸ˜‚

The Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge includes a beach, rain forest, coral reef and two swamps and it's only a few miles away from the Panama border. The beaches are gorgeous (but rocky).  We also enjoyed our walk through the jungle and saw lots of wildlife. 

These Views! 😍
After leaving the wildlife refuge we went to Punta Uva Beach for a swim. It's known as one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica.  The Rio Ernesto River meets up with the ocean at Punta Uva Beach. You can snorkel, rent a kayak or hire a guide to take you up the river (same river we stayed on). 

Next stop: 😍Tortuguero... Nicknamed Central America's Amazon because of the rivers and canals that crisscross the jungle.  Part of the adventure is getting there... you can only arrive by boat or plane.
Day 5: We woke up early and drove to Guapiles where we met our guide for breakfast at the Selva Tropical Restaurant.  We followed the tour bus to the La Pavona boat dock and kept our rental car there while we stayed in Tortuguero.  There are two different dock locations to access Tortuguero and the dock they use depends on the water level of the river.

TIP:  Our Tortuguero all-inclusive lodge package included transportation from San Jose.  The easiest way to get to Tortuguero is to take the included van ride from San Jose (make this your first stop in Costa Rica).  You can arrange to have a rental car agency (Adobe Rental Car is who some in our group used) meet you at Selva Tropical Restaurant with your rental car when you return from Tortuguero in Guapiles.  If we weren't flying standby into Costa Rica we would have done the same.

We stopped in the village of Tortuguero to pay our National Park entrance fee and spent time shopping and exploring the village. 

This is our third visit to Tortuguero but first time staying at the Turtle Beach Lodge.  We loved the location! It's away from the other lodges which means you won't see a lot of boats when you're in the canals looking for animals.  The lodge is a beautiful surprise at the end of an amazing water wonderland.

Day 6: Early morning boat ride!
Tortuguero is a bird-watchers paradise!
Cicily got a special surprise flower from our boat captain Maurice.  (Top left picture is a row of bats!πŸ¦‡) Our boat captain and tour guide pointed out all the fascinating creatures we passed in the jungle.

Afternoon hike through the jungle πŸ’
We found a few poison dart frogs 🐸
And our tour guide surprised us with some Jungle Music! πŸ˜†

Day 7: We woke up at 5:00 a.m. 😳 to search the beach for green sea turtle hatchlings.  We only found empty eggs (Cicily is holding them) but we did see a green sea turtle lay lots of eggs the night before.πŸ™Œ We don't have pictures since the National Park doesn't allow photography. πŸ˜ͺ Around 20,000 green sea turtles nest in Tortuguero each year making it the largest colony of nesting green turtles in the world.  One of the biggest draws to Tortuguero is people wanting to see the turtles lay their eggs at night.  It's an experience I will never forget.  After the turtle laid 100 + eggs we watched her make her way back to the ocean.

Our girls enjoyed the turtle shaped pool and we had a good view of the spider monkeys playing in the trees above the pool. πŸ’

 We used the lodge canoe to explore the canals.  We loved our canoe ride through the jungle it was so quiet and peaceful!  We left around three in the afternoon and came back around five.  Towards the end of our ride we noticed lots of monkeys coming out to play.

#Monkey Business

When we weren't in the turtle pool we were chillin' in the hammocks! The beaches in Tortuguero have strong currents and shark attacks have been reported.  We heard about a local who died in the currents a few days before we arrived.  Our tour guide told us to stay out of the ocean in Tortuguero.   

Day 8: We were sad to leave Tortuguero! But excited for one more boat ride as we made our way back to the dock.

The rivers get low when they don't get enough rain.  Sometimes the boats get stuck!😱

#Tortuguero Traffic Jam

When we first came here 17 years ago I think our boat was the only one here.πŸ˜‚ Tortuguero has grown in popularity and it's easy to see why!!!

We headed back to San Jose and dropped off our rental car since we had an early flight the next day. We stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott San Jose Airport (they have a shuttle to the airport, not all airport hotels offer this).

TIP: If your wanting to return your car the night before your flight I did see a few airport hotels within walking distance to several car rental returns (I don't remember the names).  We used Alamo and it was a little further out.  We took Uber to get from the rental return to our hotel. Kind of interesting, our Uber driver told us Uber isn't legal in Costa Rica so not sure how we were able to use our app? 😳
TIP: Remember raincoats or umbrella's it poured on us during our turtle tour in Tortuguero.πŸ’¦
TIP: Remember to bring lots of small bills for tipping. We used dollars the whole time.
TIP: Tortuguero doesn't have an ATM or bank so plan ahead.  We had to pay cash for our turtle tour.
TIP: There is a departure tax when leaving Costa Rica.  It's $29.00 per person, most airlines include it but make sure. We flew on Southwest Airlines and it was included.

πŸ–On our last visit to Costa Rica we went to Tortuguero then Monteverde and ended in Manuel Antonio.⇩
Check out our last Tortuguero trip and the amazing Laguna Lodge.
Click here to see Monteverde... Cloud Forest Reserve!
Click here for Manuel Antonio... National Park on the Pacific side.