Adult female green sea turtle is illuminated in a red glow on the beach at night

Seeing nesting turtles in Costa Rica with kids (2024)

For all of us, but especially our David Attenborough-inspired, wildlife-mad boys, seeing turtles nesting was one of those dream bucketlist activities. Whenever I’d dreamt about a trip to Costa Rica, seeing turtles nesting was always one of the things that was at the forefront of my daydreams. Even better was the opportunity to see nesting turtles in Costa Rica with our kids!

And we were lucky enough to actually tick this one off the list! Below is our guide to seeing the nesting turtles in Costa Rica.

Where can you see turtles in Costa Rica?

After a huge amount of scouring the internet, I’d just about figured out that the stretch of coast north of Tamarindo was our best bet in November for a shot at seeing nesting turtles. The best bit of info I could find online was this handy guide that tells you when and where sea turtles nest in Costa Rica.

There are different seasons for each of the different types of turtles and these run across both the Caribbean and Pacific Coasts. If seeing nesting turtles is high on your wishlist for Costa Rica, I would highly recommend taking a look through the information in the guide above. You can then plan out your trip based on where the turtles are likely to be.

Whilst there is never any guarantee with wildlife watching, you can see from the guide above that turtles nest throughout the year in Costa Rica. If you want to see turtles with kids in Costa Rica it’s just a matter of making sure you’re in the right location to maximise your chances.

What kinds of turtles can be found in Costa Rica?

There are several types of turtles that nest along both the Pacific and Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. These include the giant Leatherbacks (very rarely seen), Hawksbills, Olive Ridleys and Green turtles. Which turtles you might see depends on the time of year you visit and where you head to. In general the Olive Ridleys and Green turtles are seen more often.

It was the green sea turtles that we were aiming for on the Nicoya Peninsula around Tamarindo. These looked like our best bet at the time of year (November) that we were visiting.

Booking a turtle tour

My initial plan was to try and join a ranger-led tour at Las Baulas Marine Park just outside Tamarindo. I’d read that this was the place to see the turtles in November, but when I finally managed to get through to them on the phone I was told that they hadn’t had a nesting turtle in the national park for around four years.

So back to more searching online!

Instead I headed to Viator as they seemed to have a number of tours operating out of Tamarindo. I booked us on to this night walk via Native’s Way that got good reviews and was in our price range. In the end we paid a total of £165 for the five of us (three adults and two children).

What was our turtle tour like?

The tour headed out at 6pm, with pick up from Tamarindo (where we were staying). The minibus drove for about 45minutes (the last 15mins or so down some very rough unpaved roads) to a remote stretch of beach. It was a short walk in the pitch black down to the sand (which was pretty exciting on it’s own!). No light is allowed at all (hence my lack of photos) so that the turtles are not disturbed; the only exception is the red lights that the guides use to find the turtles.

Adult female Green turtle is illuminated in red glow on a beach at night. Part of a family trip to see turtles nesting in Costa Rica with kids.

We’d spotted the first turtle almost immediately – there was another tour group gathered round one that was busy building a nest. As there were already 8-10 people our guide just briefly showed us the tracks that the turtle had made and explained the process in a bit more detail. We didn’t join the existing group as they didn’t want to disturb the turtle.

Instead we waited another 15minutes or so until our guide had identified another turtle further along the beach. This one was in the process of digging her nest. As the nesting process can take some time, we hung around away from the turtle for a while until it was clear that she was settled in and definitely going to lay her eggs there. At the point we VERY QUIETLY headed over and sat in our small group to watch the process – which was completely magical. Watching the way the turtle’s back flippers reached down and scooped out the sand was fascinating. Griff even managed to get sand thrown in his face! 

After a short time the turtle shifted position slightly and then started to lay her eggs, right in front of us. Both boys (and us!) watched in amazement. It really was just such an amazing thing to witness in real life. Once the turtle has finished laying we left her to fill in the hole, and went further down the beach to watch (from a distance) other turtles hauling themselves out of the water to nest, and turtles who had finished dragging themselves back out to sea. 

Seeing turtles in Costa Rica with kids – the verdict

We LOVED our turtle tour and would definitely recommend booking through Native’s Way on Viator if you’re considering it.

The whole thing really was one of those dream, once-in-a-lifetime experiences that was worth every penny. There are lots of opportunities to see turtles nesting across both coasts of Costa Rica with kids, depending on the time of year and I would highly recommend making sure one of the accessible nesting sites is on any itinerary for a Costa Rica trip.

Top tips for seeing turtles in Costa Rica with kids

  • If this is important to you, try to build your trip itinerary around turtle nesting seasons
  • Check the guide here for info on where and when turtles nest in Costa Rica
  • Remember to pack a flashlight for the walk in the dark to the beach, but NOT to use this once you get there
  • Turn all phones/smart watches off or pack them away in your bag so they don’t unexpectedly glow up on the beach!
  • Brief your kids in advance of the need for silence on the beach so they understand why this is so important

Planning a family trip to Costa Rica? Check out some of our other guides and reviews here!

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