Nestled in the swamp lands by the Caribbean coast, Tortuguero is a quaint little town with river and canals serving as road. There are no cars, buses to go around. Boats and water taxis are the only way to navigate the village surrounded by a mangrove rainforest.
We hopped on a quick flight in the tiny jets operated by NatureAir from San Jose airport. With only 10kgs allowed on the flight per person, we left all our luggage in the hotel in San Jose, and embarked on what would be a voyage straight from the fantasy books. The Tortuguero airport is located just between the beach and a river. We hired a water taxi to get to the hotel (ecolodge, rather).
Around the Village
Our tour operator sent a boat to pick us up to visit the Tortuguero National Park which is best viewed by boat instead of walking. Read more on the adventure into the park by boat, walk and the night time escapades.
We stayed in the village for the entire day, taking breaks and coming back to the hotel for a shower and change, by water taxis. We had lunch in the local village shops and had coffee, ice cream and drinks with the villagers, 90% of whom did not speak English. We also had a chance to explore the Caribbean side of the Tico dishes in a small soda called Dona Maria.
We even spotted a night club in the little village to check off the vibrant nightlife(!) here.
Back to San Jose
On our return trip, we chose to immerse in the local culture and take public transport instead. There were multiple steps involved and took much longer than a 45 minute flight, albeit 10 times cheaper. Here are the steps –
- Caught a water taxi to reach La Pavona (20 minutes)
- A water shuttle boat leaves every 15-20 minutes to go to Carriari (1.5 hours) along the narrow canal ways
- From the Carriari boat stop, walk over to the bus station (3-5 minute walk) and then when the bus to San Jose comes, hop on to it. 2-2.5 hours drive to San Jose. There are many private shuttles and bus routes from Carriari, so ask around for estimated time for the bus to come. They are not necessarily on-time all the time, so budget more to be safe.
- In San Jose, the bus will arrive in the main terminal downtown.
Total time should be around 5 hours or less, and less than $20 per person. But it is a thrilling experience nevertheless.