From June to October Hundreds of turtles leave the safety of the sea to lay their eggs on the same beach that saw them born.

Tortuguero has 35 kilometers of protected beach and is the most important nesting area in the Western Hemisphere for the green turtle (Chelonia mydas). It is worth mentioning that there are also other species that visit our beach such as the leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) and the loggerhead (Caretta caretta)

From hunters to conservationists

This season has always been a period of abundance and opportunity for our community, however, it has not always been for the same reason. Before the declaration of Tortuguero as a national park, the hunting of green turtles for human consumption was a normal practice, while other species such as hawksbills were hunted for their beautiful shell which is used for the manufacture of jewelry and other products. Fortunately, today we have understood that a turtle is more valuable alive than dead because of the tourist attraction they represent.

Research and protection

Different public and private organizations work together to protect not only sea turtles but hundreds of other species.

Tortuguero National Park

Tortuguero was declared a national park on September 24, 1970 with the main objective of protecting the green turtle. Its extension covers 50,284 hectares of sea and 26,653 hectares of land within which are protected other species such as jaguars, manatees, lowland paca, wild pigs, great curassows, green macaws, tapirs and many others.

Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC)

The STC is a non-profit organization that has been involved in the study and protection of the sea turtle in Tortuguero since 1959. Its monitoring programs provide information on the reproductive and migratory habits of sea turtles. In addition to research, STC has taken seriously the mission of educating and engaging with the community by promoting programs that reduce the use of plastic bags as well as talks and activities with school children.

One of the best memories of my childhood is having had the opportunity to accompany the people of the STC (formerly CCC) to mark turtles during my last year of elementary school (1997).

Kenneth Vargas Torres


Learn more about the green turtle

  • Origin of its name: it is known this way due to the color of the fat under its shell.
  • Scientific name: Chelonia mydas
  • Measures: from 83 to 114 cm
  • Weight: from 110 to 190 kg
  • Diet:
    • Young: worms, crustaceans, aquatic insects, algae and sea grass.
    • Adults: algae and sea grass.
  • Habitat: they stay close to the coastline, islands and bays, rarely seen in the open sea.
  • Nesting: every two years. They can go out to nest three times five times a season and deposit an approximate of 115 eggs per nest which lasts 60 days in hatching.
  • Natural predators:
    • Young: vultures, seagulls, hawks, crabs, sharks and other large fish
    • Adults: jaguars, sharks


Interesting fact

Did you know that during incubation is the temperature that determines if more males or females will be born?

Nests with temperatures higher than 30 degrees Celsius tend to produce females while lower temperatures produce more males.

The nature of things

It is heartening to know that despite the impact humans have on ecosystems around the world, the cycle of life continues. Such is the case of the eternal war between turtles and jaguars. It seems an unequal fight, however, each contender has its weapons: while the jaguar has agility and strength the turtle defends itself of its many predators when reproducing by thousands and thus to compensate the losses and to prolong its species.


In Tortuguero we have a relatively healthy population of jaguars and it is not strange to find turtles that have been victims of their attacks.

Turtle attacked by jaguar being attended by veterinarian Gilberto Borges / Photo by Jenni Lopez

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