Review: Tortuguero-based Tours

Costa Rica Roots Tours

We booked a full 2-night Tortuguero package with Roots, more than 3 months before travelling. This included the trips outlined below, as well as two nights accommodation at La Casona and the transport. Raquel and I exchanged numerous emails, and although there were a couple of communication issues, she was mostly very patient and understanding. The package ran smoothly and included everything we had booked and Raquel even offered for Megan to go on the canoe tour the next morning after she missed it due to being unwell. The tour staff were kind, informative and professional.

We probably could have fitted everything into a 1-night package (with hike on the first afternoon, turtle nesting that night and the canoe trip in the morning before leaving) as there wasn’t a lot else to do in Tortuguero that we were interested in, which gave us more downtime than we were expecting but we were on holiday and meant to be trying to ‘slow down’!

Turtle Nesting Tour

This is done by a lottery-style system, so it isn’t known until the evening which tour slot you are on, so be prepared for a very late night if you have children with you. Roots keep their groups small, which was a bonus as some groups had more than 20 people with one guide. Roots’ guide was clearly very keen to ensure we not only understood the impact we were having by being on the beach but also that we minimised that impact as much as possible. Each group is allocated a station to wait at – this is inland in the national park, and you can use torches along the path to get there. There were a lot more people at our allocated station than I expected, but somehow the organisation seemed to work. Scouts on the beach determine when each group can go on the beach and where they need to be. There’s a long stretch of different entry points, so be prepared for a lot of walking to get to the right one! NO torches or cameras are allowed to be used on the beach, and they are very strict about this. We were guided to the turtle, saw her laying eggs (while she’s in a trance), then moved away, went back to look again when she was nearly done, moved away, then went back to watch her fill in the hole. This was a special experience, despite Megan being unwell on the beach – the guide was amazing at the end of the tour in making sure I knew where to find someone from Roots if she got worse in the night.

Canoe Tour

This wasn’t really a canoe – more like a small rowing boat. There was enough room for 6 of us plus the guide. Again, I was glad we went with Roots, who seemed more eco-conscious than other tours which were using engines and bigger boats. This tour was better than I’d expected and I’d do it again! We saw so much and it really felt like being ‘in the Amazon’. It was much longer than I’d expected too, which meant we took our time when we saw something of interest, rather than rushing through the route. We didn’t have paddles and didn’t need them – this was very much a ‘sit and watch’ tour rather than hands-on activity, although we had been given the choice to kayak instead at the beginning, for an additional cost.

Hiking Tour

We had the same Roots’ guide for our walking tour of Tortuguero national park. Roots also provided wellies for us to wear, which was unexpected but helpful as it was quite muddy. While we didn’t see as much wildlife as we’d seen in Cahuita, we did get our best sloth pictures and saw the amazing land turtle (not a tortoise, apparently). It was very hot that afternoon and we were tired from our early canoe trip start, so perhaps didn’t make as much of this tour as we could have done.