Playa Grande used to host the world's largest visitation of nesting giant leatherback turtles, but the number of turtles has fallen drastically in the past 20 years, from a high of 1,504 in 1989 to less than 50 currently. This loss is due to long-line commercial fishing boats that trap turtles in their nets, causing the turtles to drown, along with poaching of turtle eggs and loss of habitat. The beach is still strictly off-limits from 6 pm to 6 am from October 20 to February 15, during the peak nesting season. You can visit only as part of a guided tour with a park ranger, waiting your turn at the headquarters for Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas (Leatherback Marine National Park), 100 meters east of Hotel Las Tortugas, until, if you are extremely lucky, spotters find a nesting turtle. At their signal, you'll walk down the beach as silently as you can, where in the darkness you'll witness the remarkable sight of a 500-pound creature digging a hole in the sand large enough to deposit
up to 100 golf-ball-size eggs. About 60 days later, the sight of hundreds of hatchlings scrambling toward open water in the early morning is equally impressive. Turtle-watching takes place around high tide, which can be shortly after sunset, or in the early morning. Plan on spending one to four hours at the ranger station waiting for a turtle to come up, during which you can watch a video on the turtles in English (the guides speak mostly Spanish).