Last update: March 7 2019
Unfortunately, like many travel destinations, Tortuguero has its share of hawkers and touts trying to sell tours, lodging and transportation. We hope the information below helps you make informed decisions. Travel smart, check with other travelers to the area and seek out all available options so you can have a very enjoyable and incredible visit to one of the most fascinating places on earth.
If you have any questions, suggestions, require more detail, or help in communicating with one of the services listed below please contact
Whatsapp/Phone: +506 89281169.
How to get to Tortuguero
The following is a summary of the options available to the independent traveler who wants to find his/her own way to Tortuguero village. These are not ALL of the ways and means to travel to Tortuguero but are the ones that are generally considered free of package-oriented or commission-paying options. There are five ways an independent traveler can get to Tortuguero. Here they are in no particular order:
1. Express Transportation
2. Public Transportation
3. Rental Car
1. Express Services to/from Tortuguero and other destinations:
To book express transportation please contact
Whatsapp/phone: +50689281169 (Victor Barrantes)
Prices are set for each way and per person.
Moin-Tortuguero (10 am, Japdeva docks) & Tortuguero-Moin (10 am, Tortuguero Village Public Docks)
Price: $35 each way. Duration: 3.5 hrs
Tortuguero-Pacuare (10 am, Tortuguero Village Public Docks) & Moin-Pacuare (10 am, Japdeva docks)
Price: $35 each way. Duration: 2 hrs
Puerto Viejo-Tortuguero (8am, PV downtown) & Tortuguero-Puerto Viejo (10 am, Tortuguero Village Public docks).
Price: $60 each way. Duration: 5hrs
Puerto Viejo-Bocas del Toro
Price: $30. Duration: 4 hrs
Cahuita-Tortuguero (8:30 am, Cahuita downtown) & Tortuguero-Cahuita (10 am, Tortuguero Village Public docks).
Price: $50 each way. Duration: 4 hrs
San Jose-Tortuguero (6am, San Jose downtown-National Theatre) & Tortuguero-San Jose (8:30 am or 2pm, Tortuguero Village Public docks).
Price: $55 each way. Duration: 6 hrs.
Tortuguero-International Airport Juan Santamaria (5am or 8:30 am, Tortuguero Village public docks) & Int Airport Juan Santamaria-Tortuguero (no later than 1pm, Airport Arrivals Exit).
Price:$75 one way. Duration: 4 hrs Requires a minimum of two people.
La Fortuna-Tortuguero (7am, La Fortuna downtown) & Tortuguero-La Fortuna (8:30 am or 11 am, Tortuguero Village public docks).
Price: $60 each way. Duration: 5hrs
Tortuguero-Guapiles (8:30 am, Tortuguero Village public docks)
Price: $35 each way. Requires a minimum of two people.
Tortuguero-Monteverde (5am, Tortuguero Village public docks)
Price:$175 each way. Requires a minimum of two people.
Group traveling from Puerto Viejo Sarapiqui-Tortuguero (8:30 am, Saripiqui public docks) & Tortuguero-Puerto Viejo Sarapiqui (10 am,Tortuguero Village public docks)
Group price: $650 one way.
To book express transportation please send email/text a couple of days in advance to:
Phone/whats app: +50689281169 (Victor Barrantes)
2. Via public bus and boat through Cariari and La Pavona:
This route requires a short introduction to eliminate some possible confusion you might encounter on the way.
San Jose to Cariari:
Bus terminal: Gran Terminal del Caribe in San Jose Downtown (Map)
Take the 9 am direct bus to Cariari (bus ticket is around 1700 colones). Other departures leave at 6:30 AM, 10:30 AM, 1 PM, 3 PM, 4 PM, 6 PM, 7 PM).
Cariari to La Pavona:
The 9 am bus arrives at about 11 am at the dedicated San Jose bus terminal in Cariari (Map). You do not need to walk to Coopetraca bus station (which is about five blocks) since the Pavona bus now awaits for the buses coming from San Jose in order to pick up travelers who are heading to Tortuguero. The cost for this bus ride to Tortuguero is 1100 colones; you will pay in the bus.
The bus leaves to La Pavona at 11:30 AM. (There are departures also at 6:00 AM, 9:00 AM and 3:00 PM from the other bus terminal). At the end of the bus ride you will reach a big Restaurant and parking lot called Rancho La Suerte in La Pavona. Here, you need to make your way to the river where boats are waiting.
La Pavona to Tortuguero:
There are several boats that offer transportation from the public dock 'La Pavona' to Tortuguero Village along the Suerte River. Prior boat reservation is not required (to and from Pavona to Tortuguero) even in high season since you can simply show up in La Pavona (or Tortuguero Village public dock) and take the next available boat to Tortuguero Village (or La Pavona).
Estimated public and private boat one way transportation: 2500 colones or $5
The boat operators use covered boats, they provide ponchos and a large plastic sheet to cover all the baggage. It is an adventure for all and generally quite safe (i.e. no white-water rafting!). La Pavona is currently the most popular route used to get into/out of Tortuguero for both locals and independent travelers, it is also the safest and very most reliable way of transportation. There is nothing complicated or dangerous about traveling on your own to Tortuguero along this route but remember and be prepared to meet up with hawkers or agents. The costarican Institute has received many complaints regarding false or misleading information provided by these people which you most likely will see them along the way and arrival in Tortuguero. Please be aware they will try to sell you lodging and tours. Some people have been talked out of standing reservations for lodging and tours before arriving in Tortuguero, so you you have to deal with this. Don't be afraid to be firm since you can travel and choose your hotel and guides of your preference. By following these recommendations, you will be supporting the non commission-paying, hard-working independent guides and services in the village.
Public Bus Itinerary :
San Jose to Cariari- Caribeños Terminal: 2 hr ride
Cariari to La Pavona:1 hr ride
La Pavona to Tortuguero: 1 hr ride
The boat departs from la Pavona at 7:30 AM, 11:00 AM, 1:00 PM, and 4:30 PM to Tortuguero, the boat ride is about 1 hr long. The boats and buses always wait for one another. *There is an early bus that leaves Cariari at around 5:00 am for La Pavona, this route makes the 7:30 AM boat connection to Tortuguero. The last bus for La Pavona leaves at 3:00 PM.
The boats generally do not stop on the way to observe wildlife unless there is something in plain view on the river, so if you want to observe wildlife nothing beats a dedicated, slow early morning canoe tour through the water trails in Tortuguero National Park.There is a return boat service that leaves for La Pavona at 5am, 5:30 AM, 8:30/9:00 AM, 11:00 AM and 2:45 PM. These boats meet up with the buses that make the return journey from La Pavona to Cariari. The boat leaving Tortuguero at 5:30 AM makes the most efficient outbound bus connections it will connect you to the 9:00 AM bus to San Jose (bus ride is about 2 hrs) to then make your bus connection to many other destinations in the southern Caribbean, Monteverde or la Fortuna allowing you to arrive before dusk.
Important Traveling information during sea turtle nesting season (Mar 1-October 31):
If you are traveling on the late bus (3:00 PM Pavona bus) and would like to go on the Turtle Tour on your arrival day please reserve ahead of time by contacting us before your arrival in Tortuguero since there is a cut off time (4:00 PM) for guides to get a tour permit for you.
3. By rental car via Cariari/La Pavona:
Please read the previous section for important information about this route (like buying your boat tickets etc.).
You must get to La Pavona (Rancho la Suerte) for the 7:30 AM, 1:00 PM or 4:30 pm boat to Tortuguero. Here you will find secure parking for a $10.00 fee per night. Remember that La Pavona is not on any map. You may follow the route from Cariari which passes through the villages of CAMPO DOS, CUATRO ESQUINAS and PALACIOS. There are some road signs that will help you find Campo Dos and Cuatro Esquinas and La Pavona and finally Rancho La Suerte.
First you will need to get to Cariari. You must first pass through Guapiles, which is located on the San Jose-Limon highway. Exit to the north at the Santa Clara gasoline station just a few hundred meters east of the Burger King. At a point approximately 8.1 kilometers north of the Santa Clara Gasoline station you will reach a cross road. Turn left. Do not cross the tracks yet. Follow the train tracks west for approx. 0.7 kilometers and then turn right on the main highway (crossing the tracks) and continue north towards Cariari.
Set your odometer to zero at the only gas station in Cariari (200 meters past the single lane bridge coming into town). Drive straight for 7 kilometers and turn right onto the newly paved highway. There is usually a sign here indicating Campo Dos. Follow this PAVED road with all its twists and turns until the pavement ends after the village of Cuatro Esquinas (approximately 14.5 km after the gas station). Do not make any turns at road junctions until you reach the general store ("Abast Palacio") in the tiny village of Palacios on the right (23.4 km after the gas station). You can buy cold drinks and snacks here. 50 meters after the general store is a road going off to the left. Follow this road for 5.7 km (29.1 km after the gas station) until you reach the farm called La Pavona on your left. There is one more kilometer to get to Rancho La Suerte where there is a safe parking lot for a fee ($10 per night at time of writing).
Boats will be waiting in La Pavona Docks (Official boat schedules: 7:00am, 1:00pm and 4:00pm, however you will most likely find private boats waiting for travelers at any time).
Approximate driving time from San Jose to Cariari: 2 hours. Approximate driving time from Cariari to La Pavona: 1 hour. To reach the 1:00 pm boat you will need to leave San Jose at 9:30 am at the absolute latest. This will NOT leave time for mistakes or stops along the way if you want to have lunch etc.
If you have, questions about these driving, directions call or write to the Tortuguero Infocenter: firstname.lastname@example.org