Tortuguero, Costa Rica
Friday: The last weekend in September was a long weekend and- imagine that!- we had no plans whatsoever. I decided to take a trip to Tortuguero, Costa Rica with my friends Oneil and Mike. We found out the best way to get there was a bus from San José to Cariari, then another bus from Cariari to Pavona, where we would get on a boat that would take us to Tortuguero- the whole trip on public transportation (that was about 5 hours total) cost less than $10! We had only just booked our hotel that morning and were pretty much 100% winging this whole thing.
It’s such a cool town because it’s truly one of the most remote locations in Costa Rica. You can’t get there without taking a boat and there are no cars in the town so most people ride their bikes. So we left on Friday around noon on our journey. On the first bus I met a Costa Rican student who was from Cariari and was studying in San José and we talked about traveling and joked about the difficulties of learning your second language. One of my favorite things about traveling truly is the people that you meet along the way. Finally, at 4:30 we were at Pavona just in time for the last boat of the evening. It was a gorgeous ride and, needless to say, we were excited about the weekend to come.
Like most people, an evening beach stroll sounded right up our alley but as we were about to walk outside the hotel owner warned us to not walk on the beach. We were very put off at first, wondering if it was dangerous or a town rule or what? Instead the three of us ended up sitting on a log at the edge of the wooded area and quickly realized why the beach at night is a no-go: TURTLES! I spotted- and freaked out about- a turtle nearly as big as I am making its way back to the water after laying her eggs. IN THE MOONLIGHT. WITH THE MOON’S REFLECTION ON HER WET SHELL. It was pure magic. I have goosebumps just remembering it.
Saturday: We woke up and headed straight for the tourism office, which is very helpful. One of the top things to do is take a river boat tour and check out the wildlife. I was incredibly excited to spend the morning out on the water admiring the gorgeous scenery, though it as about a thousand degrees sitting there baking in the sun. We had a wonderful morning and even spotted some caiman (basically mini crocodiles), birds, and iguanas. I brought my camera and got some great shots, if I do say so myself!
I couldn’t resist the coconuts that were being sold right as we got back into town so I had a delicious snack. We were so hot that we went back to our hotel, which was right on the beach, and hopped in. Cooling down doesn’t really work so well, though, when you’re in water that feels like it could be in a bath. We planned on going for a hike in the national park before it got dark so we could make the most of the all-day park passes we had purchased but after hours in the sun I accidentally took a hammock nap listening to the waves crash. Not one single regret! Oneil ended up losing his pass somewhere throughout the day anyway so I guess it worked out. We ended up going to a wonderful restaurant called Buddha’s Table. Oneil and I are both vegan so it was very up our alleys!
Another very popular thing to do in Tortuguero is a nighttime turtle tour and it was the #1 thing I wanted to do, especially after seeing that turtle the previous night. So immediately after dinner we headed to the beach with our guide to do some turtle watching. Because the moon was so bright there were less turtles than usual coming onto shore to lay their eggs. However, we did get to see one! Once she was in her frenzied-state of laying her eggs, it’s safe for people to come closer because she won’t get frightened off and we won’t affect this natural process. One thing I really appreciated is how dedicated to the preservation of the wildlife the people of this country are. Obviously, we weren’t allowed to bring cameras or cell phones because the flash could be damaging the turtle. I feel so nerdy commenting on “the miracle of life” but I got to stand less than a foot from a MASSIVE and beautiful turtle while she was laying thousands of eggs in a hole she dug on the beach. It was truly magnificent and one of the coolest things I’ve ever gotten the chance to experience.
Sunday: We woke up and Mike had the idea to make our own breakfast. The three of us hit up the grocery store right down the path and ended up making a delicious rice, bean, potato, and veggie concoction in the kitchen at our hotel. It was SO nice to cook again! Also you can’t really complain about breakfast with an ocean view!
On the course of our weekend there, we got to talk to and play with the two little boys who live in the hotel. They were absolutely adorable and were so excited that they pulled me away from the stove so I could see the turtle they found. We all know tiny humans are my favorite kind of humans so I was out the door in a second! Precious!
We didn’t really have any plans in particular for this day but decided on a whim to go zip lining, which I had never done before. It was a blast and I don’t know why I hadn’t done anything like this because I wasn’t freaked out at all; it was such a rush! We even got to do a tarzan swing and walk across a wire. I think I’m becoming an adrenaline junkie?
Later on in the day we walked around the town and did a little bit of shopping as well as admiring the area. I couldn’t resist this absolutely gorgeous handmade silver and stone necklace. What can I say, I’m a sucker for jewelry. I also ended up getting this awesome turtle necklace a local carved out of a seed and offered to me. I’ve been wearing it every day since!
In the evening we got to eat at my favorite Tortuguero restaurant yet, which is also voted #1 on TripAdvisor. We got there just in time because it started to downpour. We ended up having an incredibly delicious meal- so good that I didn’t even stop eating for a second to snap a photo like I normally would. We also got to see the super moon from right outside the restaurant while chatting with the owners. What a cool experience.
Monday: Monday was a day of travel. Nothing too special except we did meet a few people from Germany who were traveling throughout Costa Rica, which made me reminisce about Oktoberfest- where I was this time last year.
There are manatees in the rivers in Tortuguero but apparently they’re very hard to see. Just knowing that I was in the general vicinity of my manatee cousins makes me happy. My only real complaint about the Tortuguero experience was that it was SO FREAKING HOT. Sleeping, even with a fan blowing right on me, was pretty miserable. You just couldn’t get away from the heat! I cringe to even think about how much I sweat just that weekend alone. However, overall it was a great weekend and it was nice to get away and relax with two great friends.