From San José to Guápiles
From San Jose take highway 32 toward Limon. Click Here to see Google Map Directions to
Guapiles. The drive has some amazing scenery going through Braulio Carrillo National Forest.
You will also pass through the Zurqui tunnel. After you descend from the mountains you will come
From Guápiles to Cariari
When you get to Guapiles, stay on 32 until you arrive at the Santa
Clara gasoline station (”Servicentro Santa Clara”) just a few hundred
meters past (east of) the Burger King. Then turn left (north). Zero
At a point approximately 8.1 kilometres north of the Santa Clara
Gasoline station you will reach a cross road. Turn left so you do not
cross the rail road tracks yet. Follow the train tracks west for approx.
0.7 kilometres and then turn right on the main highway (crossing
over the RR tracks) and continue north 10.4 kilometres towards
Cariari. If you arrive in Cariari after 3:30ish, you will not make the
last boat to Tortuguero so you should stay the night in Cariari.
Click Here for the hotels in Cariari.
From Cariari to la Pavona
You know you are in Cariari when you pass the Bus Station on your right (19.2 km from Santa
Clara Gas Station). Also on your right you will pass the only gas station in the area. Drive straight
through Cariari on the same road for 7.1 kilometres.
Then turn right heading toward Campo Dos (at 26.3 km from
Santa Clara Gas Station). Be careful, this road will sneek up on
you. It is in the middle of the banana plantations. But follow the
sign indicating Campo Dos and Cuatro Esquinas.
Follow the paved road until you get to a football (soccer) field to
your left, then turn left following the paved road. Stay on the
paved road until you get to Cuatro Esquinas. (33.7 km from
Santa Clara Gas Station).
Continue straight on through Cuatro Esquinas. Here the
pavement ends. Follow the gravel road for 8.9 km. Do not
make any turns at road junctions! Until you reach the general
store on the right ("Abast Palacio") in the tiny village of
Palacios. (42.6 km from Santa Clara Gas Station).
You can buy cold drinks and snacks here. Just past the general
store is a road going off to the left. There are signs directing you
to Tortuguero. Turn left.
Follow this road for 5.7 km until you reach a building with an old
parking lot. (48.3 km from Santa Clara Gas Station).
Turn left onto the dirt road and go over the bridge. Continue on
the dirt road until you reach La Pavona, also called Rancho El
Rio Suerte. (49.4 km from Santa Clara Gas Station).
There is safe parking here for a fee ($10 per night, or $50 per
week) which includes 24 hour security.
At La Pavona (Rancho El Rio Suerte)
You can grab a bite to eat and use the restroom for a small fee at
La Pavona (El Suerte).
Go to the cashier at the restaurant under a sign that says ‘boletos’
and buy a boat ticket for Tortuguero. Your receipt is your ticket. It
costs 1600 colones (about 3 USD). There are two boat
companies, Clic Clic and Coopetraca. The ticket is valid for both
and they both share revenue, so there is not any pressure to
choose any particular boat company.
The boats leave La Pavona shortly after the public bus arrives. The boats leave for Tortuguero
from Pavona at around 7:30am, 1:30pm and 4:30pm). You should arrive at least a half an hour
early just in case the boats leave earlier.
Approximate driving time from San Jose to Cariari: 2 hours.
Approximate driving time from Cariari to La Pavona: 1 hour.
Arrival in Tortuguero
The boat trip takes about and hour and 15 minutes. It
will take longer if the river is low. During the dry
seasons (September-October or February-April) the
boats may take two hours or more to arrive in
For the first 45 minutes or so you wind along through
the jungle on the River Suerte. Then Rio Suerte runs
into Tortuguero river which is very wide. You will pass
next to Tortuguero Hill, which is the highest point on the Caribean coast (119 meters high). The
boat will stop at a little village called San Fransisco and various places along Tortuguero River and
let off locals who live on the outskirts of Tortuguero.
Then you round a river bend and arrive in Tortuguero. The main dock (’muelle principal’) is really
just a little beach area next to a large Gavilan tree. If you want to book tours, to your left is the
guide association’s office. They also have a map of the village so you can find your
accommodations. (See the map here)
Welcome to pure life paradise!
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