Turtles in Costa Rica are among the most beloved animals from the country and many tourists from all over the world rush to Costa Rican beaches to catch the spectacular hatching show.
Costa Rica turtles hatching season lasts for the whole year because there are more species that come to these beaches to lay their eggs and the nesting season is different from one species to another.
It is quite hard to predict the exact date and time when the nesting season starts for each species as this is a natural phenomenon that is influenced by many natural factors like the phases of the moon, the ocean’s temperature, and so on.
The most amazing spectacle is the arribada which refers to the moment when thousands of turtles arrive on the beaches with the same goal, that of laying their eggs under the new moon.
If you are a wildlife lover and you are seeking unique natural shows, then this moment should be on your bucket list.
Now that you know which is the most spectacular moment of turtles hatching Costa Rica, let’s discover together which are the main species that come to Costa Rican beaches, when is the best time to see them, and where to go.
The 4 species of turtles in Costa Rica
The Pacific Coast, as well as the Caribbean coasts, are visited by the following Costa Rica sea turtles species:
- Olive ridley sea turtles
- Green sea turtles
- Leatherback sea turtles, the world’s largest sea turtle
- Hawksbill turtles
Arribadas is most spectacular at olive ridley when thousands of creatures come to the nesting beaches to lay their eggs and contribute to the perpetuation of their species.
The other three species of turtles that use the beaches for nesting and or hatching are endangered species, so the arribadas are not that spectacular as the number of individuals that come to lay their eggs is lower.
Like I said earlier, it is quite hard to predict the arribada moment and you should not plan your trip just for this event, but once you arrive at your hotel we strongly recommend you to check with the hotel reception if the arribada is taking place.
You cannot enter by yourself on a nesting and or hatching beach, you always have to be accompanied by a professional guide, so if the arribada happens when you are around, book a tour to see the show.
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When is the best time to see sea turtles
As you cannot just rely on luck when seeing the impressive arribada show, knowing where to be in each month makes the difference between seeing or missing the moment when the turtles come.
Grab a pen and a piece of paper and write down this useful information to have with you when you travel to spot all types of sea turtles in Costa Rica.
Olive Ridley turtles
This beautiful turtle species offers the most impressive arribada show because of their impressive number of individuals that come to the nesting beaches from Costa Rica.
The nesting season is all year round, but the most impressive events happen in September and October and sometimes even in late November, depending on the year.
A few nights before the full moon turtles start to come to the beach and the event reaches its peak when there is a full moon.
Leatherback sea turtles
If you want to see these incredible creatures laying their eggs you need to head to the eastern coast of Costa Rica in the first part of the year, from February to June.
The peak season for leatherback turtles hatching in Costa Rica is in March and April, depending on the year.
If you plan your trip for the second part of the year, you might see these creatures on the western coast of Costa Rica anytime between October and February, but the arribada show is not that spectacular as the Olive Ridley arribada.
Unfortunately, hawksbill sea turtles are an endangered species and their numbers decreased fast in the last years so you really need to consider yourself lucky if you will see these sea turtles nesting on your trip to Costa Rica.
You will not see any arribada show as their numbers are really low and they generally nest alone especially in September and October.
Green Sea Turtles
These gentle creatures usually lay their eggs from July to early November with peak season August and September on the Pacific and Caribbean coast.
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Turtles in Costa Rica seasons and places to go
Located on the northern Caribbean Coast, Tortuguero National Park is one of the most popular destinations for sea turtles watching in Costa Rica.
Tortuguero translates as “Region of Turtles” and it has one of the best beaches in Costa Rica for nesting and hatching and the largest from the Western Hemisphere.
Here you can spot all 4 species of turtles: loggerhead, leatherback, green turtles, and hawksbill.
When to go: July to mid-October with peak season August and September
Ostional Wildlife Refuge, Nicoya Peninsula
Located in the Nicoya Peninsula, north of Nosara, Ostional Wildlife Refuge is a protected area where turtles nest their eggs.
With Ostional Beach the hotspot of the protected area, Ostional Refuge is the place where you have the chance to see the largest arribada from Costa Rica.
The peak season for turtles in Costa Rica Nicoya Peninsula is during the rainy season around the night with the full moon.
One week prior to the full moon and on the full moon night thousands of olive green turtles come to this beach and lay their eggs.
The hatching period is between 45 to 55 days, depending on sand temperature, and seeing the small creatures coming out of sand is definitely another unique show you’ll have to see.
When to go: September and October are the best months but you may spot a few individuals from January to June, too.
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Las Baulas National Marine Park
This is the best place to go if you want to see the leatherback sea turtles hatching their eggs from Guanacaste province, Costa Rica.
The main protected area where the largest sea turtle in the world lays its eggs is located on Grande Beach or Playa Grande, which is the second-largest nesting and hatching location in the world.
The beach is a highly protected and regulated area and you cannot enter the beach during the night without a professional guide; keep in mind that you cannot book a tour more than eight days in advance.
When to go: October to mid-February
Santa Rosa National Park
Another great place for turtles hatching Costa Rica located also in Guanacaste province is Santa Rosa National Park on Nancite and Naranjo beaches.
Starting with October on these beaches olive ridley turtles come to lay their eggs and you can be witness to the birth of a new generation if you take the access permission from the ranger station first.
When to go: Turtles in Costa Rica seasons are at their best in September and October and from January to June fewer individuals might be spotted.
A less crowded beach for turtles hatching in Costa Rica is Playa Hermosa from the Central Pacific with its fine sand and beautiful turquoise waters.
You can book a tour with a professional guide and be witness to this incredible event that happens in just a few places in the world.
When to go: July to December is the best period to see the turtles nesting
Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife refuge
Within Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife refuge, especially on Gandoca Beach from the Southern Caribbean Coast are the highest chances to spot three out of the four types of turtles from Costa Rica.
The most numerous turtles that come to this wildlife refuge are the leatherback sea turtles which are the largest species of turtles in the whole world.
When to go: March to July is the best period to go to Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife refuge
This is one of the very few places in the world where you can spot all the four species of sea turtles in Costa Rica: leatherback, green, hawksbill, and olive ridley.
The southern beaches from the Osa Peninsula give you the privilege of observing the newborn turtles making their way to the ocean and you can see with your own eyes how a new generation of turtles are born.
When to go: Osa Peninsula is an year-round destination for watching turtles laying their eggs and hatching, but if you are interested in a certain type of sea turtle in Costa Rica then plan your visit as follows:
- For leatherback sea turtles from March to September
- For Olive Ridley sea turtles from June to December
- For hawksbill sea turtles from July to October
- For Green sea turtles from July to October
Best accommodations for observing turtles in Costa Rica
Pick your stay on one of the following hotels that are located close to the beaches where turtles hatch:
- Hotel Boutique Lagarta Lodge Costa Rica for Ostional Wildlife Refuge, Nicoya Peninsula
- Hotel Rip Jack Inn Costa Rica for Las Baulas National Marine Park
- Iguana Lodge Beach Resort And Spa Costa Rica for Osa Peninsula
Costa Rica is one of the best places in the world for turtles nesting and hatching and you should consider yourself lucky if you will be witness to an arribada show during Costa Rica turtle season.
Most of the areas where turtles lay their eggs are protected zones and you are not allowed to enter those beaches during the night on your own.
Book a guided tour with a professional guide who will guide you and tell you a lot of useful information about these magnificent marine creatures, their nesting habits, and how the newborns find their way to the ocean.
Once you reach your hotel from one of the regions mentioned above ask at reception about arribada as you might be lucky and see this unique spectacle.
Logistical tips and tricks for your trip
Book your accommodation
We always use Booking.com as they have the best price-quality ratio and they offer a wide range of hotels, guesthouses, apartments, and villas to choose from.
You will find here all types of accommodations, from the cheapest ones to the most luxurious.
Don't forget travel insurance
Travel insurance will always protect you against unexpected events and cost like illness, COVID, injury, theft, or travel cancellation.
We never go on any trip without travel insurance and there were many cases when we had to use it.
Renting a car
We like to explore a country on our own and a car gives us the mobility and freedom to do that.
We always rent our car from Discovercars as they have free cancellation 48 hours prior to starting date and a wide range of car rental companies and options to choose from all over the world.
Tours and attractions
When we are looking for some adventure or we simply want to break up the monotony and discover new places, we always use GetYourGuide.
We love it because we always find the most amazing experiences, with free cancellation and a large variety of activities and tours to choose from.
Airplane tickets and holiday packages
Expedia is our ally when searching for the best price for airplane tickets as it works as an aggregator for a huge number of airlines and we always find the best price for our flights.
Travel tip: use Expedia when you are searching for holiday packages as they have many last-minute offers and great discounts for hotels, flights, and even the whole holiday packages.