How to See Sea Turtles in Costa Rica

There are multiple places in Costa Rica where you can see sea turtles. However, this post focuses on the Ostional Wildlife Refuge on the Nicoya Peninsula. 

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Where to see the sea turtles:

The Ostional Wildlife Refuge hosts possibly the largest number of Olive Ridley sea turtles laying their eggs in the entire world. AND, it is one of only 8 places in the entire world where Arribada occurs- a phenomenon where hundreds and even thousands of Olive Ridley turtles come and lay their eggs all in one beach. Arribada typically occurs every month in Ostional, and lasts anywhere from 1-5 days. During these days, scores of sea turtles come to the beach in the early hours of the morning to lay their eggs. 

Sea Turtles Nesting in Costa Rica
Arribada in Playa Ostional, this past January!

It is also possible to see baby sea turtles hatch in Ostional! It takes about 55 days for the babies to hatch, so hatchings usually occur almost 2 months after each arribada. 

Playa Ostional is about 10 km (6 miles) north of Nosara, 60 km(37 miles) south of Tamarindo. It is a small town with limited accommodation options, however you can easily book tours from neighboring towns, or drive there yourself (with 4wd, you will need to cross a few rivers!)

When to see the sea turtles:

The largest number of baby sea turtles hatch between late July- November, but it’s possible to see baby sea turtles hatch here in other months. Babies will hatch even between the months of December- February! However, it is less common for babies to hatch in these months, particularly in March and April because it is so hot. 

The biggest nesting season is June- August, but the Olive Ridley sea turtles do nest year around- and in Playa Ostional, the sea turtles do swarm to the beach and nest once a month!  The nesting days revolve around the moon cycles so it’s different every month and difficult to predict when exactly they will come, but if you are in the area, or about to be, you can reach out to a sea turtle guide and ask when the arribada, or hatching is. 

Sea turtle nesting during Arribada
Sea turtle nesting in Costa Rica during Arribada

How to see the sea turtles:

If you are in Costa Rica, you can reach out to a sea turtle guide and they will tell you if there is hatching or nesting. Then, you can schedule a guided tour. This is the only way to see the turtles- the rangers will not let you on the beach without a tour guide. I had transportation, and paid $20USD for a 2 hour tour and saw HUNDREDS of nesting sea turtles this past January. 

Here is a current list from 2021 of all the turtle guides and their Whats app phone numbers in Playa Ostional!:

List of turtle guides in playa Ostional
List of sea turtle guides in Playa Ostional

Don’t worry if you don’t have transportation, the guides on this list can arrange it for you! Also, DO try and negotiate a better price, especially for transportation.

If you are in Costa Rica and want to see sea turtles, Ostional Wildlife Refuge is the place to go. Seeing the sea turtles in Costa Rica is an absolutely magical experience, and one you should not miss out on.

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