Double-Dipping Costa Rica – To the Village of Turtles

As our travel itinerary involved us heading back to La Ceiba, Honduras, we began our journey back north from Panama City to San Jose, Costa Rica.

Crossing the border from Panama into Costa Rica the second time around was much less painful. The whole process took about 2 hours as opposed to the 7 hours we spent the last time we tried entering Panama from Costa Rica.

Andres - our guide from Casona

Arrived in San Jose early afternoon. As we were collecting our bags, Jon casually asked one of the guys at the counter for advice on how to get to T0rtuguero. Luckily, the guy spoke a little English and had done the trip to Tortuguero quite a few times himself.

He suggested that instead of passing through Moin, as most tour books recommend you to do, take a bus to Cariari and ride the public water taxi down the canal to Tortuguero, thereby saving money and the hassle.

Unlike most places in Costa Rica that experience both  high and low seasons, Tortuguero is busy pretty much all year round. As a result, most guide books will recommend booking your lodging and transportation ahead of time.

This is not the case as both lodging and transportation is plentiful. Just make sure to arrive at the bus stop a little earlier to ensure a spot on the bus, and subsequently on the boat. But once you’ve secured your ticket for both the bus to Cariari and the water taxi to the village of Tortuguero. You can buy the boat ticket at the port, which lies at the end of the bus stop in Cariari.

If for whatever reason you need to make an overnight pit stop, as we did, then I suggest taking a bus from San Jose to Guapiles (about a 1 hour bus ride), staying in one of the locally owned Cabinas, simple lodgings that resemble hostels, for the night.The one we stayed in was quite clean and simple, costing us $22 total for the night.

It was a bit frustrating because none of the 3 travel guide books we had, including the Lonely Planet and The Rough Guides, made a note of places to stay in Guapiles, Moin, or Cariari, all of which are main stops on the way to get to Tortuguero. Perhaps it was a simple oversight, but be assured that at least in Guapiles there are plenty of Cabinas, and based on what the locals have told us, the same can be said for the two other places – Moin and Cariari.

As of October 2011, the bus from Cariari to the port leaves twice a day- once at 6:00 AM and the other at 11:30AM. (Ticket price: $3) The bus ride took about an hour and a half. Prepare for a grueling and hot bus ride particularly if you’re one of the unfortunate ones who don’t manage to find a seat.

You’ll get off at the last bus stop, which takes you to the mouth of the canal. There, you can purchase your boat ticket ($3). Make sure to water proof your bag as it tends to rain a lot particularly during the rainy season, and although you are covered by the boat roofing, most of the bags are left at the bow of the boat, and therefore, are not covered.

The boat ride can take anywhere from 1 hour to 1 hour and 30 minutes, depending on the speed of the boat and the number of people aboard the boat. Prepare your camera as wild life spottings are quite common. Look out for crocodiles, herons, caimans, and kingfishers.

They’ll most likely make a few stops in the villages, letting the locals off before they pull up to the main village of Tortuguero. And there you have it.

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About Panda Writer
Essay Panda here to help dispel myths and answer FAQs for International Students applying to Colleges in the US.

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