This is what you need to know when traveling to Tortuguero
Yes, there is an ATM from Banco de Costa Rica installed on the main street. Nevertheless, make sure to bring plenty of cash with you. While many businesses take credit cards, there are many more who operate with cash only. And in the case of a power outage or some problem with your card, you don’t want to limit your options due to lack of cash.
If you are driving or taking public transportation, we recommend trying to get cash before you get to Cariari. The ATM lines can be very long and bus transfer times very short. There is an ATM at the Caribeños bus terminal and another at the Guápiles bus terminal.
Yes, anywhere within the village of Tortuguero. The town is supplied by a water treatment plant that is run in partnership between a local group and the Costa Rican water authority, Acueductos y Alcantarillados. The pumps and tanks go through regular maintenance and the water is tested regularly. Municipal water service covers everything from the National Park in the south to the Sea Turtle Conservancy in the north.
Lodges and restaurants in San Francisco, across the river, and on the outskirts of Tortuguero each have personal wells, and we cannot vouch for the sanitary condition of such.
While the area receives an impressive fifteen feet or more of rain annually, we also see a lot of tropical sun. The driest month of the year is September, and sunny skies and calm seas usually extend into the first weeks of October. December through February are typically stormy and cooler, but July is the month with highest average rainfall.
It’s a good idea to be prepared for rain on all your tours and excursions, and to make sure electronics have plastic bags to keep them safe. If you do get caught in the rain, at least it won’t be colder than about 20C/68F. Try to make the most of it, and enjoy the natural phenomenon that makes the forest so green and vibrant.
Yes! Tortuguero has one of the best trash collection and recycling programs in the country! Trash is collected twice a week, and every single bag is sorted for recyclables. Construction materials, appliances, etc. are all broken down for their recyclable parts. Organic trash is composted when possible, and the minimum left over goes to landfills.
The plant funds various art installations, some made with upcycled materials, and has placed iconic, unique trash cans throughout town to combat littering. A new pilot project at the plant is creating building materials from trash.
There is no post office, but there are post boxes available for mailing postcards and letters. The mail carrier only comes to town once every 15 days, however, so you’d be better off mailing that postcard from your next destination.
Most hotels and restaurants offer WiFi to their customers, and the phone company ICE offers free WiFi at their office in the center of town. Speeds usually range between 1KBPS - 8KBPS.
Kölbi (ICE) customers will have cellular service throughout town and on most of the journey to and from, but Claro and Movistar do not offer service in Tortuguero. Your best bet for service while on vacation is to buy a prepaid SIM card from Kölbi at the airport. You can recharge minutes in thousands of small shops around the country, and Kólbi has the widest coverage.
Make sure your phone is unlocked for use with other carriers before you leave home. Call your phone provider if unsure.
Costa Rican high season, due to dry weather in the Central Valley and Pacific, is December - March. Tortuguero also experiences a high season during Green Turtle nesting July - October. Make sure to have reservations for a hotel in August, as availability becomes scarce.
Our favorite time to visit is September - October. September is the driest month of the year, and the climate is consistently sunny and beautiful. The Caribbean sea becomes so calm that some days it resembles a lake. Green turtles are still nesting in great numbers until at least the end of September, and hatchling turtles will be emerging well into November. The end of summer in the northern hemisphere means fewer tourists, so you may avoid the crowds. That is, unless everyone starts taking our advice!
The Costa Rican social health program has a clinic in town for emergencies only. Locals, who pay into the system, receive general care here, but tourists will only be seen for urgent health issues. The clinic is open 7 days a week, from 7:30am to 10:00pm, and will be opened in case of emergency outside of those hours (dial 911 in case of emergency). The clinic has alternative solar/battery power in case of loss of electricity.
The nearest hospital is in Cariari, and evacuations in case of medical emergency are available by boat, plane or helicopter. Several members of the community are trained Red Cross first responders, and there is a local Emergency Committee that works in conjunction with the National Emergency Committee (CNE).
Yes, Tortuguero is a town dedicated to tourism, therefor there is a wide range of hotels, shops and restaurants as well as local guides and activities to do. Don't let anyone convince otherwise.
Upon arrival in Tortuguero you will be approached by vendors who will try to offer you tours and accommodation. You must be wise in this type of situation and not make decisions at first. Do not let anyone convince you to leave a reservation you have already made for a hotel or a tour.
Colón (¢): the Colon is the official currency of Costa Rica, therefor its acceptance is mandatory. The denominations are ¢1, ¢2, ¢5, ¢10, ¢25, ¢50, ¢100, ¢500 (coins) and ¢1000, ¢2000, ¢5000, ¢10000, ¢20000, ¢50000 (bills).
The Costa Rican bills are very attractive and in the back they show the different kinds of forest and ecosystems of our country. Learn more about our currency.
US Dollar ($): the dollar is well received in the turistic zones of Costa Rica and Tortuguero is not the exception. Banks in Costa Rica deal only with bills, hence, neither the banks nor the business will accept coins. Bills must be in perfect condition: not be scratched, torn or with scotch tape.
Euros (€): The acceptance of the euro has been increasing through the last few years and nowadays
is possible to pay with it in several businesses of the village. State banks (Banco Nacional y Banco de Costa Rica) buy and sell this currency in their offices, but as well as the dollars the bills must be in perfect condition.
Debit and credit cards: a lot of businesses accept payments with debit and credit cards. Among the better received brands are Master Card, Visa and American Express. Remember always to show an ID when you want to pay with your cards.
To know more about the exchange rates visit the state banks websites:
Also known as "El Cerro" (The Hill), San Francisco is a newly formed village located a few miles north of Tortuguero.
Like Tortuguero is a strip of land surrounded by water and its main economic activity is tourism.
San Francisco currently has elementary school, Development Association and recycling programs.
If you have decided to come to Tortuguero through the La Suerte River (La Pavona) you will see the picturesque main dock of San Francisco just minutes before arriving in Tortuguero.
No, there are strong and unpredictable currents that make this area of the Caribbean Sea a bit dangerous. Instead, we advise you to enjoy the sea from the shore.
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