4 days at Poas Volcano and Tortuguero

Did you know that a quarter of Costa Rica’s land area is covered in protected jungle? It’s known for its biodiversity, wildlife and volcanoes. It also generates 99% of its energy through renewable sources and has a real focus on sustainable eco-tourism.

Tortuguero is a village on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. Part of Tortuguero National Park, it’s close to the rainforest, black beaches and is a haven for turtle nesting. Tortuguero is about a 3 hour drive from the capital city, San Jose, and requires road and boat travel to reach much of the accommodation in the area.

I personally recommend visiting Poas Volcano first for one night, and then on to Tortuguero for a further 3 nights. You can combine this visit with a longer holiday exploring more of the country. The route we went was Poas Volcano – Tortuguero – Arenal – MonteverdeManuel Antonio National Park Osa Peninsular. You can read about each area in my other Costa Rica posts which are on their way.

Here are my highlights for making the most of a visit to the Poas Volcano and Tortoguero area:

ONE. Poas Volcano

Poas Volcano is an active volcano, around a 1 hour drive from San Jose, and I recommend this as a good first stop after a long flight if you are travelling far. There are some lovely hotels in the area, and we chose the Poas Volcano Lodge as our base.

You can climb or be driven up the volcano, which requires no walking effort. The crater itself is impressive and on a clear day it’s a great view of the lava flow and bubbling steam. We learned from the small volcano museum on site that yellow in the rocks indicates sulphur and red indicates iron. I recommend spending a day exploring the volcano (I definitely recommend choosing the hike) and national park.

Poas Volcano crater

TWO. Quetzel trails

Quetzals are brightly coloured, rare birds and at many of the lodges in the area, including at Poas Volcano Lodge, there are lovely nature walks in the grounds of the hotel to try and spot some! We walked the Quetzal trail, a 5km walk which turned out to be somewhat hazardous and a genuine adventure involving an unlikely mix of broken bridges, lack of signposts, steep drops, rough terrain, dairy farmland and primitive forest. The ground and forest were sodden with moss and orchids were growing freely. We arrived back at the Lodge just as the lodge’s cows were being milked, and loved the cosy and homely feeling of the place. Interestingly, the lodge had been destroyed by a volcanic eruption previously and had been rebuilt almost entirely in wood which had been cut down for nearby highways!

Quetzel Trail path
A spider in the jungle

THREE. Tortoguero village and beaches

The village of Tortuguero is colourful and is famous for being where turtles come to nest. We did not see any turtles as it was not the nesting or hatching season but it was interesting to walk along the Caribbean beach where the turtles lay their eggs. We were surprised by how narrow the strip of sand is and how close to the settlement eggs are laid. The sea at Tortuguero is prone to dangerous undercurrents and tourists are strongly recommended not to swim in the waters which are very dangerous. The sand was an unattractive black, coloured by volcanic rock. Tortuguero is remote but is a popular destination for outdoor sports. There is a small airport, internal flights being a sensible and easy way to fly from one part of the country to another, and we recommend flying from this airport if you are then heading on to another area of Costa Rica.

Tortuguero village fruit stall
The black beaches of the Tortuguero coast
Views of Tortuguero

FOUR. Tortuguero boat trips and nature walks

We stayed at Pachira Lodge, which like most hotels in the area was only accessible by boat. It was a really exciting experience following the canals winding through dense, verdant, wet rainforest which reaches right to the water’s edge. During the journey to the Lodge and subsequent boat trips whilst staing there, we spotted a tiger heron, a toucan, a sloth, spider monkeys, grey-green iguanas, a crocodile, a caiman, vultures, a ‘lacy’ black heron and various other birds. The lodge also offers multiple nature walks morning, afternoon or night so are a great opportunity to immerse yourselves in Costa Rica’s amazing biodiversity.

A crocodile lurks at the river side!
Boat trip through Tortuguero
The best sloth ever!

This concluded our time on this leg of the journey in Costa Rica – we subsequently headed on to Arenal and The Osa Peninsular, and you can read my blog posts on those locations if you would like to read more about our trip.

Full Itinerary for those interested:

  • Day 1 – Poas Volcano and visitor centre
  • Day 2 – Nature walks from Poas Volcano Lodge, transfer to Tortuguero incl. boat ride
  • Day 3 – Tortuguero village and beaches
  • Day 4 – Boat ride and nature walks from Pachira Lodge

Thanks for reading! I hope you found this insight in to a small part of Costa Rica interesting. Let me know in the comments below.

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