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Because Tortuguero is reachable only by boat or small plane, the easiest and most popular way to get there is to book a multi-day package which includes transportation from Puerto Viejo to San Jose or Arenal, your accommodation and some or all of your meals.
These multi-day packages include transport from Puerto Viejo and also give you the option of onward transport to San Jose or Arenal. Or, the package can be booked in reverse, starting in San Jose or Arenal, spending 1 or 2 nights in Tortuguero and then ending in Puerto Viejo.
If you don't have more nights to add on to your trip, there is also the option of visiting Tortuguero as a day trip with pickup in Puerto Viejo in the morning, a full day touring Tortuguero and ending your day in San Jose.
There are several options for independent transport to Tortuguero,
however some work better from San Jose than they do from Puerto Viejo:
1. Book shared transport which includes boat and van service from Puerto Viejo to/from Tortuguero
2. Fly from San Jose or from Limon
3. Take a bus to one of the places where there are boats to Tortuguero
4. Drive your rental car to one of the places the boats leave from.
Details on each option are below.
Van and boat shuttle to Tortuguero
If you don't want to book a package, the next easiest way to get to Tortuguero is to book shuttle transport which includes both van service to the dock and the boat to Tortuguero village. The shuttles will pick you at your hotel in Puerto Viejo, drive you to meet a boat in Moin or Caño Blanco (read the note below about the difference between the routes). The boat will leave you at the Los Almendros dock which is an easy walk to hotels in Tortuguero village. The whole trip takes about 5 hours. Note that most of the larger lodges are not located in the village but have their own docks but if you're booking them they will generally arrange transport for you.
For further information and booking, click the service you would like:
|Puerto Viejo to Tortuguero|
|6:00am||Exploradores||Caño Blanco||$55||Book Now|
|8:00am||Pleasure Ride||Moin||$75||Book Now|
|8:00am||Caribe Shuttle||Moin||$75||Book Now|
Note that the routes via Moin, Caño Blanco and La Pavona (not offered here but you may see on
some other sites) are substantially different experiences:
• For the shuttles operating via Moin Dock, there is about a 70 min drive in a van shuttle, 30 min stop for bathroom break and logistics then a 3 to 4 hour boat ride including a stop. These routes operate with a minimum of just 2 passengers.
• For shuttles operating via Caño Blanco or La Pavona you'll spend about 3 1/2 hours in a van driving there, a 45 min lunch stop, then about 1 hour on the boat.
For travel between San Jose and Tortuguero, you can choose between several shuttle & boat services which operate via the Caño Blanco dock or a 30 minute flight:
|San Jose to Tortuguero|
|varies||Sansa Air||varies||Book Now|
|6:30am||Jungle Tom||$55||Book Now|
Also for travel between Arenal and Tortuguero, shuttle and boat services are available:
Fly to Tortuguero
You can fly to Tortuguero from San Jose or Limon. If you're coming from the Pacific coast or Arenal it may be possible to book a connecting flight via San José.
For flight information to Tortuguero, click one of the flight links in the shuttle section above, ask our travel agency partner Gecko Trail Costa Rica to tell you about the options, or check the Sansa website directly.
Bus and Public Boat to Tortuguero
The main place where boats leave from to Tortuguero is La Pavona. Unfortunately it is easier to get there by bus from San José.
From San Jose you take the bus to Cariari then a bus from there to Pavona where the boats will take you on to Tortuguero. Refer to the official Costa Rica Tourism bus schedule for times and prices of buses. From San Jose the journey should take about 5 hours if you time it well.
It should be possible to do this by public bus from Puerto Viejo but it would be a little more complicated. You would need to take the bus from Puerto Viejo to Limon (see schedule here) then get a bus to Guapiles where you could transfer to one of the San Jose to Cariari buses. Again, refer to the official Costa Rica Tourism bus schedule for details.
We have also heard of travelers who have taken the bus to Limon (see schedule here) and then a taxi to the port at Moin (near Limon). From there shared water taxis leave for Tortuguero. However note that these water taxis are generally prebooked by the shuttle companies and do not run often so if you want to try this route confirm the details first with your Tortuguero hotel or other reliable local source.
Finally, there are also some boats from Caño Blanco to Tortuguero. Caño Blanco is closer to Tortuguero however the road there is very rough so this will not save you any time. This route may not be safe either so we don't recommend it. However if you want to try it, it should also be possible to get there by bus via Limon and Siquirres. Note that the boats which run from Caño Blanco are private boats run by hotels and tour operators so talk to your hotel before attempting this route. For bus schedules check the official Costa Rica Tourism bus schedule.
Driving instructions to Tortuguero
Tortuguero is only reachable by water but if you have a rental car you can drive to one of several places where you can park your car and then take a boat ("lancha") for the final leg to Tortuguero. The main place where boats leave for Tortuguero is La Pavona.
La Pavona has covered parking, no fences but a night watchman and the owners of the place live there. We've never heard of anything being stolen there — in fact, a friend left his keys in his car and when he got back they were keeping them safe in the restaurant for him. That said, we would still recommend not leaving anything of value in the car.
If you park at La Pavona, there are normally 4 boats a day leaving for Tortuguero and it is about 75 minutes on the boat. However, during the dry season the river flow can drop considerably causing some trips to be temporarily suspended or the schedule modified.
Some other travelers have driven to Caño Blanco. This is closer to Tortuguero but you will be driving a long way on unpaved roads. This could add as much as 2 to 4 hours of extra travel to the next part of your journey so is especially not recommended if you are continuing after Tortuguero to San Jose or Arenal. This road may also not be safe as it is very remote.
For Caño Blanco you would need to arrange boat transportation with your Tortuguero hotel or tour operator as these are not generally public boats. But some of the larger hotels/lodges run their shuttles from here so if you are driving they may ask you to meet their boat here.
It does take a while to get to Tortuguero so consider spending 2 nights there instead of just the single overnight. It's a lot more relaxing this way since if it's an overnight, you travel all day and then do a turtle tour that night (in season) and then get up early for a canal tour - absolute MUST DO in Tortuguero - and then hit the road. Anyone would be exhausted after that.
If you've travelled independently between Puerto Viejo and Tortuguero and you have more details to add to any of these methods (or have another method of your own!) please contact us with your experience and tips or leave a comment below!
You may also want to check the website Tortuguero Village which has good information on getting there (albeit mostly from the perspective of getting there from San José).