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Options for traveling to Tortuguero
There are several ways to get to Tortuguero, they are all laid out below or you can just directly to the section you want:
Booking a package with transport, accommodation and tours is the easiest.
To travel there independently there are a number of options:
• Shuttles which pick you up at your hotel in Puerto Viejo (or San José or Arenal), bring you to the area where their boats dock and then take you to Tortuguero village. One ticket that can be booked below online.
• If you're coming from San José there is the option of flying. Sometimes flights also operate from Limón and/or Arenal or you can connect.
• Getting there via public bus and then the public boats is doable but requires a number of steps. These are detailed below.
• You can't drive all the way to Tortuguero but we've included options on how to drive to where the public boats leave from.
Once you've figured out your transport, we've included a few recommendations of where to stay
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, touring the Tortuguero canals by boat and returning to Puerto Viejo.
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 possibly from Limon when these flights are running)
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.
We do not know of anyone regularly offering shuttles via Moin at this time
For further information and booking, click the service you would like:
|Puerto Viejo to Tortuguero|
|Departs||Provider||Route||Price plus tax|
|6:00am||Exploradores||Caño Blanco||$59||Book Now|
|Tortuguero to Puerto Viejo|
|Departs||Provider||Route||Price plus tax|
|12:00noon||Exploradores||Caño Blanco||$59||Book Now|
Prices are shown here for your convenience but the operator may change them so verify before payment.
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 short flight:
|San Jose to Tortuguero|
|Departs||Provider||Price plus tax|
|varies||Sansa Air||varies||Book Now|
|6:30am||Tortuguero Shuttle||Inquire||Book Now|
Also for travel between Arenal and Tortuguero, shuttle and boat services are available:
|Arenal to Tortuguero|
|Departs||Provider||Price plus tax|
|Tortuguero to Arenal|
|Departs||Provider||Price plus tax|
Fly to Tortuguero
You can fly to Tortuguero from San Jose, Limon or Arenal (the Limón and Arenal flights are not operated all year long but you can check if this option is available). If you're coming from the Pacific coast or Arenal it may be possible to book a connecting flight via San José. You can book these services as follows:
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 is possible to do this by public bus from Puerto Viejo but it is a little more
1. Take one of the frequent buses from Puerto Viejo to Limon (see schedule here)
2. In Limon walk or taxi from the MEPE terminal to the nearby Terminal Trascasa
3. Take the Trascasa bus to Guapiles (departs frequently, takes 2 hrs approx, schedule here)
4. In Guapiles there are frequent buses to Cariari (about 1:15, schedule here)
5. In Cariari you can catch the buses going to La Pavona (about 1 hr). Note that these only leave a few times a day. The last issued version of the official Costa Rica bus schedule indicates departures at 05:00, 09:00, 11:30, 15:00.
6. Take the boat from La Pavona to Tortuguero. These boats connect with the buses from Cariari so our latest information indicates departures at 06:30, 10:30, 13:00, 16:30 with boats returning from Tortuguero to La Pavona at 05:00, 09:00, 11:00 and 13:00. The boat part of the trip takes 1.5 hours on average but can vary quite a bit depending on the water level.
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) (many Tracasa buses would also pass by Moin but on route 32 but not directly the the boat dock). 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 haven't booked a package to Tortuguero then the next decision is whether to stay in the village or in lodge style accommodations. The places in the main Tortuguero town give you different options for eating out, for shopping and (limited) partying. The lodges tend to be self contained affairs where meals (or at least some meals) are included and going anywhere off the lodge property involves getting a water taxi from their dock usually about $2 per person to go to the village. Most customers of the lodges are generally staying there as part of packages so if you prefer a lodge style setting you should compare booking the lodge independently to the price of a complete package with transport, tours and accommodation.
Since this isn't a website about Tortuguero we won't make any attempt at an exhaustive list but will just offer you some of our favorites in various categories or you can search all the options here.
Village/Studios w Kitchen: Hotel Serendipity
This recently built hotel offers studios with kitchenettes, private bath and A/C. You can cook your own simple meals, there is a restaurant onsite with room service or all the options of the village are walking distance. Free Wifi. Double rooms with some meals or all meals included from $175 USD
Village/Moderate: Casa Pelican
Hotel run by a Swiss-Costa Rica family with wood accented double rooms, AC, private baths and balconies. Wifi. Double rooms from from $80 USD
Village/Hostel: Aracari Garden Hostel
This small hostel has 9 rooms including double, triple and quad options and two dorm rooms. All rooms have private bathrooms with hot water. Free Wifi. Dorm beds from $15 USD, double rooms from $45 USD.
Lodge: Aninga Lodge
The highest rated of the lodges which specialize in package tourists in the area, Aninga can also be booked separately. They have two swimming pools and a spa onsite. This lodge has 32 spacious bungalows with comfortable beds, private bathrooms, hot water and ceiling fans. Free Wifi. Doubles include buffet sytle breakfast, lunch and dinner from $500 USD for 1 night, $350 per night for two or more nights.
Luxury Lodge: Tortuga Lodge & Gardens
Located about a mile north of town in the lush riverside property, this property has 29 rooms all with views. Property has an outdoor swimming pool and a private nature reserve. Spacious rooms with A/C, terrace or balcony from $425 incl breakfast or options including all meals
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!