Watching Nesting Sea Turtles

Leatherback sea turtles nest on Playa Grande between early October and mid-February. The turtles come ashore to lay their eggs only at night. During the nesting season, you’ll be inundated with opportunities to sign up for nightly tours, which usually cost $35 to $60 per person. No flash photography or flashlights are allowed because any sort of light can confuse the turtles and prevent them from laying their eggs; guides must use red-tinted flashlights.

Note: Turtle nesting is a natural, unpredictable, and increasingly rare event. Moreover, things have gotten worse here over the years. All indications are that excessive building and lighting close to the beach are the culprits. Even during heavy nesting years, you sometimes have to wait your turn for hours, hike quite a way, and even accept the possibility that no nesting mothers will be spotted that evening.

If your hotel can’t set a tour up for you, you’ll see signs all over town offering tours. Make sure you go with someone licensed and reputable. Do-it-yourselfers can drive over to Playa Grande and book a $30 tour directly with the National Parks Service (tel. 2653-0470). The Parks Service operates out of a small shack just before the beach, across from the Hotel Las Tortugas. It opens each evening at around 6pm to begin taking reservations. They sometimes answer their phone during the day, but it’s best to make a reservation in advance because only a limited number of people are allowed on the beach at one time. Spots fill up fast, and if you don’t have a reservation, you may have to wait until really late, or you may not be able to go out onto the beach at all.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.