Caribbean Coast Places

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Tortuguero

Getting Here and Around

It's easier than you'd think to get to remote Tortuguero. Flying is the quickest (and most expensive) option. Nature Air provides early-morning flights to and from San José.

If you're staying at one of the lodges, its boat will meet you at the airstrip.

The big lodges all have packages that include transportation to and from San José along with lodging, meals, and tours. Guide-staffed minivans pick you up at your San José hotel and drive you to the put-in site, usually somewhere north of Siquirres, where you board a covered boat for the final leg on the canals to Tortuguero. The trip up entails sightseeing and animal viewing. The trip back to San José stops only for a lunch break. This is the classic "leave the driving to them" way to get to Tortuguero.

A boat from the port of Moín, near Limón, is the traditional budget method of getting to Tortuguero if you are already on the Caribbean coast. Arrive at the docks before 10 am and you should be able to find someone to take you there. The going price is $35 per person each way, and travel time is about three hours.

If you arrive in Moín in your own vehicle, JAPDEVA, Costa Rica's Atlantic port authority, operates a secure, guarded parking facility for your car while you are in Tortuguero.

It's entirely possible to make the trip independently from San José, a good option if you are staying in the village rather than at a lodge. A direct bus departs from San José's Gran Terminal del Caribe to Cariari, north of Guápiles, at 9 am. At Cariari, disembark and walk five blocks to the local terminal, where you can board a noon bus for the small crossroads of La Pavona. From here, boats leave at 1:30 pm to take you to Tortuguero, arriving around 3 pm. La Pavona has secure parking facilities. The charge is $10 per night.

If you can, avoid Rubén Bananero, a company that provides bus-boat transport from Cariari. Its aggressive agents begin to hustle you the minute you get off the bus in Cariari. (Bananero even maintains an information booth at the Gran Terminal del Caribe bus station in San José.) They'll pressure you into buying a round-trip ticket, limiting your return options, and do everything they can to steer you toward hotels that pay them a commission. Others will also try to take you to their own dedicated "information dock" in the village, steering you toward their own guides. If you've made advance reservations for guides or hotels, stand your ground and say, "No, gracias."

Water taxis provide transport from multiple points in the village to the lodges. Expect to pay about $3 to $5 per trip.

COOPETRACA (2767-7137. $10 one-way.)

Viajes Clic-Clic (2709-8155, 8844-0463, or 8308-2006. $10 one way.)

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