Contributing editor Carla Hunt recently returned to Costa
Rica's Tortuguero National Park for an update. Her report
Because there are no roads in Tortuguero National Park, there
are two ways to get there: overland from San Jose by bus or car to
the docks north of Limon and then by riverboat for a two-hour ride
to the Tortuguero lodges, or by daily or special charter air
service on a 40-minute flight to the city's landing strip.
Visitors should take the water route at least one way; a
two-hour small-craft cruise that moves through a network of canals,
lakes and lagoons.
Travelers learn that like in Venice, Italy, the best way to get
around this region is by small motorskiff, and the best perspective
of the rain forest -- as well as the best bird-watching -- is from
Following the waterways, another thing I learned is there are
now at least six additional choices of riverside lodges since my
last trip here 10 years ago.
Among the best I saw were three lodges: the Pachira (the
newest), the Mawamba and the Tortuga, where I stayed.
A decade ago, the then 10-room Tortuga Lodge, built and operated
by San Jose-based Costa Rica Expeditions, was about the only place
to stay on the river. It provided an acceptable combination of
wood, thatch, clean rooms, blooming gardens and a troop of howler
monkeys for wake-up calls.
While those basic elements haven't changed, Costa Rica
Expeditions has made a substantial investment in upgrading its
The lodge's dining room and bar were rebuilt and expanded to
provide indoor and outdoor service overlooking the river. The menus
offer a variety of soup, fresh fish, pork and vegetarian
There are now 32 spacious rooms with big, screened windows
located in two long, two-level bungalows with verandas strung with
Accommodations have private bathrooms with showers, as well as
strong ceiling fans.
Docks with lounge chairs offer full views of river life, and a
new free-form swimming pool winds its way around a thatched-roof
Facilities include a full fleet of small rivercraft for jungle
excursions along with a crew of excellent guides.
Manatees, caimans and otters feed in the river and lagoon
waters, and more than 300 species of birds have been identified,
including parrots, hawks, kingfishers, herons, toucans, pelicans
The white face, spider and howler monkeys are easy to spot, as
are butterflies, frogs and other reptiles.
Tortuga Lodge puts the accent on the area's waterways, with
primary activities including natural history excursions and fishing
trips, where the big trophies are tarpon and snook.
A strength of this property, as well as other Costa Rica
Expeditions lodges in Monteverde and Corcovado, is its
knowledgeable and well-trained guides.
The optimum package at the lodge, for two nights in my opinion,
is priced at $379 per person, double.
The cost includes bus transport from San Jose, the boat to
Torguero, half-day waterway excursions, accommodations, six meals,
a flight from Tortuguero to San Jose and a hotel transfer in San
The program, which can operate in reverse, offers daily
departures through April 15, and twice-weekly departures from April
16 to Dec. 14.
Shorter and longer packages are available, and many U.S. tour
operators work with Costa Rica Expeditions to provide customized
FIT and group arrangements.
For additional information, call (011) 506 257-0766 or 222-0333;
e-mail [email protected]., or visit www.costraricaexpeditions.com on the Web.