My decision on coming to Tortuguero happened because someone told me that this was one of the best places they had been to in Costa Rica. For me, all of Costa Rica was basically a blank page. As has happened in the past, I didn’t prepare anything. Sometimes not such a great idea, sometimes though, it is. So when on my first morning in my hostel in San Jose I met people my age who told me about Tortuguero, I was intrigued enough to explore the national park. Later on the free walking tour though, two girls told me that it wasn’t all that special. And that they had seen better places. But by then I had read up on Tortuguero and was dead-set on it.
So when my luggage finally arrived, or rather I got a text that it was in San Jose, I booked a hotel for Tortuguero. Not a great idea in the end. The hotel was booked and the shuttle not arranged. During ‘Holy Week’ it cost me a fortune. By then not going was not an option anymore. In the end I splurged for a private shuttle but it would probably have been better to book an organized tour to Tortuguero. Because it is far away from everything else and can only be accessed by boat. Or by plane. There is nothing else to do in Tortuguero except enjoying the national park. Of course I didn’t know at that time.
Monica, my shuttle driver, was the nicest person ever. We talked the whole way to La Pavona, which is the starting point for the boat shuttle coming from all directions except the south. She gave me some great information regarding Costa Rican food. Once we arrived, this place was like a well oiled machine. Right at the entrance they ask you where you are going and if you have any transport booked. Then they give you your ticket (plus a return, so decide before if you need one) and send you into the hustle. Not even a minute of standing around and I had a flyer in hands for tours and other trips. Quite amazing this place.
The boat ride from La Pavona took about an hour and the public shuttle was just the same as every other boat. Beware that they try to charge you extra for the luggage, which is of course already included in your ticket. The boat ride itself was uneventful, even though I had the impression there was low water. Which is definitely weird with the amount it rained on the boat ride alone. I wonder how they navigate that channel if there es ever a dry spell. Or maybe these are just very shallow channels.
Once in Tortuguero I walked up to the office from the flyer and booked a canoe tour for the next morning. This is when I realized again, that an organized tour would have made so much more sense. In regards to time and money. There is really not much to do besides the national park. And to really appreciate the park and get the most out of this experience, you need a local guide. Hence my vote for an organized tour for this destination.
But whatever, I was on my individual tour and needed to cross the river to check into Pachira Lodge. No wonder though that there had still been something available during Holy Week. It was rather inconvenient to need a water taxi every time I wanted to cross the river. Especially since there was nothing on the resort side, except bad hotel food and a huge garden (14 hectares). The were advantages of a jungle around one though. E.g. I didn’t need an alarm in the morning. Loud howling made me jump out of bed around 5am. I thought a herd of dinosaurs was on a stampede. It turned out that was only a howler monkey (or maybe ten of them, who can be sure?). Wow, that was one intense wake-up call.
The next morning I had to be on the other side of the river to meet my canoe tour guide. Since it had rained steadily on and off through the night, as well as in the morning, I caved and bought a bright blue rain poncho for the canoe tour. The six USD were a great investment. In the end I wore the poncho on and off my whole time in Costa Rica. When it rains, then it pours here.
Eventually I made it back to the lodge with my water taxi guy and we arranged another pick up the next day. I had to book my ticket for my next destination after all. Meanwhile the weather had picked up in the sense that it had stopped to rain. It’s doesn’t really matter if it’s overcast. You don’t need the sun to go swimming in a turtle shaped pool. Or maybe you do, but not when you come from a country where it was still cold at that time of the year.
My last day in Tortuguero turned into a day of rest. After breakfast I waited again for the rain to subside. Once the sky was clear I headed out on the trail of the grounds of the lodge. Since Pachira Lodge advertises its 14 hectares of jungle I figured I should explore it. My wake-up call, the howler monkey, definitely lived somewhere around the lodge. So I might as well get to see the noisy animal. But, no such luck. Some crabs, iguanas, lizards, and even an armadillo crossed my way. But the monkey proved to be too aloof to show itself.
After all this excitement I decided it was time for the pool. It was finally sunny and thus perfect for catching a bit of a tan. The sun lasted exactly another 20 minutes and then the rain came back. Not much else to do therefore than getting a beer.
In hindsight I think it’s more convenient to stay in the main village of Tortuguero. If you don’t have half board or full board included, it’s quite expensive to always set over for meals, trips, or just shopping. Pachira lodge itself was good, I really liked my room, and there was a lot of jungle around. But breakfast was mediocre and didn’t bode well for other meals. Also, I like to eat outside the hotel.
Overall I think Tortuguero would have been better with a booked tour. For me at least it would have been way cheaper. And I met people who came in the morning, did three different tours during the day, stayed one night, and left the next morning. So keep that in mind when booking Tortuguero. It has a great national park, but there is no need for a three night stay. Especially since there is so much more to explore in Costa Rica. Yours, Pollybert