Tortuguero, A Town With No Cars

I’m currently in a bungalow on the Caribbean coast putting this post together on a sweltering afternoon.  My door is open and children are singing and laughing next door.  I have a fan blowing in an attempt to dry at least a few articles of clothing that I handwashed in the sink.  In a rain forest with humidity this high nothing dries, including my hair after a nice cold shower.

Our home for a few days


We are on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica in the tiny village of Tortuguero, population 1,500.  The town is right next to one of the most visited the national parks, Parque Nacional Tortuguero.  This town may as well be called Laid Back town.  Getting here is a mini-adventure in itself.

The path from San Jose to Tortuguero, the town with no roads. 5 hours and $8 per person.

We took a bus into San Jose then walked over to the Gran Terminal del Caribe where we caught the next bus to Cariari.  In Cariari we transferred to another bus that would soon leave pavement and wander through banana and coffee plantations and smaller towns finally arriving in La Pavona.   Here we caught a boat that would take us through the meandering rivers of Parque Nacional Tortuguero before arriving in the town of Tortuguero.


Our connection in La Pavona


The river ride was fun and felt adventurous.  It rained but we stayed somewhat dry with the small canopy over our heads.  The guide slowed down at one particular section where another river connected to the one we were traveling on.  He told us that 20 minutes up that river was Nicaragua.


The boat went right up onto a sand beach and we dismounted from the front of the boat where Bill was waiting to meet us.  We had booked a small bungalow ahead of time through Airbnb.  The place is called Bill’s Place.  Bill took us on a tour of the town, gave us a bit of history and a wealth of information on where to go what to do and how to save some money here.   The primary mode of transportation through town is on foot or by bicycle.  The town is small and everything is easy to get to on foot.  There are no cars. That evening we wandered through the “roads” (sandy paths) to explore the entire town

This is downtown and the main road through town



The next morning we got up at 4:30 AM and walked 20 feet to the edge of the trees and then we were on the beach.  It was dark but our eyes slowly adjusted to it and we started looking for one-way turtle tracks.

Strewn all over the beach are pairs of turtle tracks, one of the turtle coming out of the surf and trudging across the beach to the treeline in order to lay eggs, another for the trip back.  We kept a lookout for a one that did not have a return track yet.

In less than ten minutes we were able to spot a mother green turtle covering her eggs in a hole she had dug by the tree line.  We watched her finish up and make her way back to the ocean.  Every few feet she would stop to rest, laying her head on the sand in exhaustion of the effort.


On our way back to our room we spotted a late baby emerging from another nest trying to make it to the ocean before the sun rose.  He struggled desperately up every “mountain” (divots in the sand made by foot prints).  Almost to the ocean he plummeted off the sand ledge onto his back (less than a foot below).

We so wanted to help him, but knew he had to do this on his own.  We only helped by keeping the birds away who were eagerly watching and waiting.  Finally he made it to the surf, flipped a few times in the current and then swam away with the second serf.  Quite an effort for the little guy.

Hurry before the sun rises!

By 6AM we were on the canal side of the peninsula of Tortuguero where we rented a kayak to spend the morning in.  Bill hooked us up with one of the local operators and we were able to rent a kayak for the entire morning instead of just two hours.  We were able to explore channels through the rain forest and see a lots of spider monkeys, lizards and iguanas, birds, unidentified animals and a three-toed sloth.

The sounds of the jungle were amazing.  Many guided tours start at 6AM and end at 8AM. After 8AM we continued for a couple of hours without seeing another soul  The rain forest is so alive, plants on top of trees, and animals in the tree tops.




Back at our room I took a cold shower (there is no hot water) to try to cool down, the afternoons are hot.  Since the animals lay low during this time we also took a nap.

During our evening walk on the beach we saw quite a few baby turtles racing toward shore.  They were much faster than the one we saw this morning.  It makes me wonder how long our little late bloomer from the morning will last.


The next morning we took a walk through the rain forest in pouring rain.  There were a lot of white-face capuchin monkeys, some had babies on their backs, and a few aggressive alpha males.  The drumming of the rain hitting large and small leaves making a soothing background to the calls of the monkeys and songs of the myriad of birds.


Ants rule this place.  Bill can tell you about the telephone poles they ate through.  He had built a tree house and used telephone poles for structure support.  Ants build their own little highways and given enough time they will even eat through your concrete home.

On our last evening Bill built a small campfire and we spent the evening enjoying great conversation about places and ways of life.  Bill has lived an untethered life and enjoyed many places on this earth.  If we ever come back to Tortuguero we will definitely stay at Bill’s Place again.  It was almost sad leaving our little home here on the beach our last morning.

Bill & Trin on our last morning in Tortuguero

I’m finishing this up back in San Jose, since all roads lead to San Jose it is a stop over from many places to the next.  The internet is also stronger here so I can load the pictures.  Our boat out of Tortuguero almost didn’t make it back.  The little outboard motor kept stalling out giving us the opportunity to see more animals including a glimpse of a caiman as it slid into the water.  But it only added 30 min to our hour ride and we made it in time for the bus so no worries.  No one worries about anything here. Pura Vida.


4 thoughts on “Tortuguero, A Town With No Cars

Add yours

  1. Thank you for posting the pictures and telling us about your adventures. I’m so happy that you are able to go on these trips. Doug and I really enjoyed the pictures from Costa Rica. Can’t wait to see your next stop. Be safe! Love you.

    Liked by 1 person

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