I’ve spent the past 4 days in Tortuguero, Costa Rica, One of the most remote places I’ve ever been to.
This is a quick summary of the past 4 days. Practical details at the top, and you can scroll down for “boring Mariana thoughts and experiences” & last minute tips at the bottom.
One of the trickiest things about Tortuguero is to actual get there. There’s soooo many blog posts about this and still…. Tough. So below is a description of what I did to get there and to go from Tortuguero to La Fortuna.
You take a bus, then a cab, then another bus, then another bus, then a boat. I know it’s all part of the experience, but let me tell you, it’s a very hot, sweaty, long and humid experience.
You can do this your own way, by car, by shuttle etc. I decided to do half-half.
Loads of people will tell you that you’re spending money on shuttles when you can get anywhere by bus in Costa Rica and it’s really cheap. They’re not lying. You can get everyone by bus if you’ve got an extra 4 to 5 days to spend on travelling.
So for me, the best thing I did was ask for a lot of information, do one way by public transport and the other way including a shuttle. Was it expensive? Yes. Was it worth…. Yep yep yep.
From San José to Tortuguero
- San José Airport to Tulsa Terminal – city centre (bus)
- Exit the terminal, turn left, walk around the parking lot and you will see a bus station on the main street. Wait for the Tulsa (big red bus) that says San José. Pay the driver in colones
- Terminal Tulsa to Gran Terminal del Caribe (by cab)
- The bus to get to Cariari is not in the same terminal as the one from the airport, so you have to swap. It is fairly dangerous for a woman to walk alone in San José early morning or night. So take a cab outside the station. Go to the main road a choose an older driver (or so I was advised, and it was good advice!)
- Terminal del Caribe in San José to Cariari (bus)
- I got to the terminal, got my ticket (less than 1000 colones I think) and waited until 9am for the bus. They told me “Gate 7” but then there was no gate 7, however, the driver will shout out “Cariari” so just be ready and near the buses area a good 30min before
- Cariari to La Pavona (bus)
- Cariari terminal is very very small and buses to Guapiles are quite regular (every 20min or so). There will always be someone around, so do keep an eye out to when new buses are arriving for Guapiles and just pay the driver. They might sell you the bus ticket and the boat ticket together, it’s normal. I paid 5000 colones for mine. Then the guy didn’t give me change and I was too stupid/shy to ask, so “lost” 5000 colones there. Do ask for your change or give them the right amount!
- La Pavona to Tortuguero (boat)
- There will be boats waiting there for you. There’s a cafe in La Pavona where they might try to ask you to wait there, in case you need something. Unless you’re starving, just go straight to the boat.
- Boat – Hostel (walk)
- There was someone from my hostel waiting in Tortuguero for me and they took us to Aracari (the best hostel!!), but anyone can give you instructions if you’re feeling a bit lost.
From Tortuguero to San José:
- Tortuguero to La Pavona (boat)
- You can buy the boat ticket when you get to the boat terminal in Tortuguero. They tried to sell it for 4.500 colones but I said I’d bought it for 2000 on the way to Tortuguero and then he said it would be 3000. I didn’t have the energy to negotiate any more. (As a tourist they will do this, always! I’m learning how to not be shy and be quite assertive)
- La Pavona to Cariari (Collective car)
- When getting to La Pavona you will be bombarded by Taxi Drivers or other people, Just assertively say: “No Taxi! Collective Car!”. I paid 3000 colones and I think the locals paid 2000 or 3000 as well, so somehow it worked.
- Cariari to Guapiles (bus)
- Getting the bus is Cariari is super easy, just buy the ticket at the ticket office, should be no more than 500 colones (yep, that cheap) and the bus will come every 20min. It’s one of those that gets busy, so try to be at the front of the line if you want to sit down.
- Guapiles to Fortuna (interbus shuttle)
- I booked this with Interbus and walked from the Guapiles station to Le Suerre hostel (go to the restaurant part to pick up the shuttle at 1.30pm). This meant I didn’t have to go to La Fortuna and take 2 other buses.
I hope the information above helps.
Now… what did I do in Tortuguero for 4 days? I learnt I’m awful at resting and doing nothing lol
I got there at around 3pm and went immediately to the beach to cool off. The water is surprisingly warm. Actually warm.
I booked a morning boat tour through the national park and saw soooo many animals, it’s actually ridiculous. Tortuguero is absolutely gorgeous and full of wildlife. In the afternoon I did the walk through the jungle and saw loads more lizards, monkeys, parrots etc.
After that… it was time for the to try to disconnect. I know there were other stuff I could have done, but I don’t have an unlimited budget and after having flown directly from LA to a 9hours journey to get to Tortuguero, the idea was always to rest. Guess how long it took me? Until the last day, of course.
The 1st full day I explored the national park and did tours.
The 2nd full day I was moody and annoyed because I felt I had nothing to do and no one to hangout with. Went to the beach, chatted with people at the hostel and did little else.
The 3rd full day I went for a walk on the beach, took loads of pictures and finally picked up a book for the first time in the past month. Took myself out for dinner (Budda Cafe – really nice, everyone was super nice, bit expensive, awesome music).
The 4th full day I left my phone at the hostel, went for a walk on the beach, met a few locals, played with a puppy for hours, took myself out for dinner again, packed and slept like princess.
I stayed at Arcari hostel and I could not recommend it enough. I was emailing them weeks beforehand about getting to Tortuguero, asked loads of questions when I got there, kept annoying the lady at reception and she was always (always!) incredible to me. Replied to all my emails, was super patient with my questions and even gave me allergy cream for my million insect bites! Thank you!!!
I’ve decided I like Tortuguero. A pain to get there, and it can be seen as quite a “boring place” for some. But I loved it.
- If you love yourself, bring some insect repellent. They’re vicious.
- Do stay at Aracari Hostel
- Chat with people at the hostel about where they’ve come from and where they’re going. I got loads of advice about how to move around in Costa Rica!
- Go to the beach and walk until you can walk no longer!
- Say “Hola”, “Buenos dias” and “Pura Vida”. The locals are so so nice (except maybe the ones trying to sell you boat tickets lol)