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4 BEST Tortuguero Tours From San Jose, Costa Rica (Which One to Book!)

4 BEST Tortuguero Tours From San Jose, Costa Rica (Which One to Book!)

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Are you considering taking a tour to Tortuguero? We say go for it! It’s possible to visit Tortuguero in a day or overnight from San Jose, but we’d definitely recommend a tour so you can make the most of it and don’t have to worry about getting there – it’s quite remote!

People call this area “the Amazon of Costa Rica,” and as you can probably guess from the name, turtles are a BIG reason to visit Tortuguero. Turtle nesting season is incredible, but actually, we find this place amazing year-round. And honestly, the best way to relax and see the most wildlife is on a guided tour.

After living in and traveling all over Costa Rica for years, we know which tours offer the best experience. So to help you out, we’ve rounded up the top Tortuguero tours available.  

Quick Pick: Our Favorite Tour

Don’t have time to read the full article? No worries – we’ll skip to the good stuff! Our absolute favorite tour to Tortuguero from San Jose is this Classic Guided Day Trip. It’s the quintessential tour of Tortuguero and includes a boat ride with epic wildlife spotting (I saw animals I didn’t even know existed!). We also walked through the Tortuguero Village and if you visit during nesting season (June-October), you’ll head to the beach to see the turtles nest!

This is a 12-hour tour and you’ll depart bright and early at 5:30 am, but wake up to views of coffee plantations and waterfalls on the drive. It costs $209 USD, which covers roundtrip transport, breakfast, lunch, and park fees. You’ll need a minimum of 2 per booking, and I highly recommend booking in advance, especially during nesting season. But hey, you can book for as early as tomorrow if you like!

Best Tortuguero Tours from San Jose

1. Classic Tortuguero Day Trip with Boat Ride

A local drives a boat through Tortuguero National Park
That isn’t water you want to swim in!

We were pleasantly surprised by how cool San Jose was but, let’s be honest, cities aren’t the reason anyone comes to Costa Rica. So with this full-day tour, you’re up and out early, and you’ll be on a boat trip along Tortuguero’s incredibly biodiverse canals by mid-morning. Sounds good to us! 

The boat trip is an ideal opportunity to spot toucans, sloths, iguanas, and even crocodiles. And yes, spotting a croc can be a little scary, but the guides know what they’re doing. After the boat ride, there’s even more Costa Rican wildlife to spot on the rainforest hike up to a viewpoint. We love hiking so this was a real highlight for us, but make sure you wear comfortable shoes, which is always a good idea in Costa Rica anyway. 

And naturally, during turtle nesting season, which is from June to October, you’ll head down to the beach to see them. Watching the turtles make their way across the volcanic sand is precisely the kind of magical experience that keeps us coming back to Costa Rica again and again! 

Tours leave at 5:30 am and last about 12 hours. It costs $209 USD per person, which includes roundtrip transit from downtown San Jose accommodations plus park fees, breakfast, and lunch. You also get free cancellation up to 24 hours before you go in case travel plans change (as they often do!).

There’s a minimum of 2 per booking and it books up fast during turtle nesting season! We recommend reserving your spot in advance if that’s when you’re planning to visit Tortuguero.

Related Read: If you’re hungry before or after your tour, try one of the best restaurants in San Jose.

2. All-inclusive 2-night, 3-day Tortuguero Getaway

Tortuguero Beach at sunrise in Tortuguero, Costa Rica
Tortuguero Beach!

Sometimes, we just want to enjoy a getaway without worrying about any planning, and this 2-night, 3-day Tortuguero tour is perfect for that. Personally, I don’t love experiences that feel super rushed, so I like this tour because it gives you plenty of time to soak up the beauty of one of Costa Rica’s richest and most fascinating national parks! Plus, it gives you time to explore Tortuguero town which we loved.

After an early morning departure, you’ll arrive in Tortuguero with plenty of time to enjoy the day. Luckily, the first day is nice and relaxed, with time to settle into your 4-star digs before you go to the beach, visit the turtle museum, and explore the town. Tortuguero is quite a charming little town with strong Caribbean vibes. We like that you can explore it properly rather than making a flying visit, and if you’re looking for things to do, check out our list of fun activities in Tortuguero.

Then, on the second day, you can enjoy a laid-back boat ride through Tortuguero’s canals. These wetlands are some of the most biodiverse in the world so trust me when I say that this is an incredible chance to spot wildlife! And on day three, you’ll head back to San Jose, feeling refreshed rather than tired!  

This tour offers a much less demanding way to visit Tortuguero from San Jose, as I find doing it one day can be quite intense.

They offer pickup and dropoff from San Jose hotels or the airport, but not Airbnbs, although you can just request pickup from the closest hotel! Entrance to the park ($17 USD) and the turtle museum ($2) are not included, either. But overall, I think it’s a fantastic deal at $437 USD for 2 nights in a boutique hotel in one of Costa Rica’s most important national parks, with all meals included! 

3. Budget-friendly Tortuguero Day Trip

A baby howler monkey in Tortuguero National Park
A baby howler monkey in Tortuguero National Park

We think that this full-day tour is ideal for groups and families traveling on a budget. You’ll need to book for at least three people at a time, but as long as you can make the numbers, it’s a great way to experience Costa Rica’s natural beauty in just one day. 

I found the drive to Tortuguero beautiful and loved seeing cloud forests, waterfalls, and coffee plantations along the way. The journey is also broken up with a visit to a banana plantation to discover how fruit is farmed and exported here. I really appreciated this because the drive from San José to Tortuguero is pretty long, so it was nice to stretch our legs and see something new.

And of course, once you get to the Tortuguero National Park, you’ll tick off all of the quintessential activities, including a wildlife boat ride, a visit to the main village, and observing the turtles at the right time of year. For me, the guides make this experience extra special – Buddy is so funny and chatty, and really keeps the energy up throughout the day. 

This tour costs $150 USD per person, which is quite a bargain considering that this price includes breakfast and lunch. It’s not a huge tour either, as there’s a maximum of 30 people in a group. When we went, we were picked up around 6:30 am and returned to our hotel about 12 hours later.

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Lowest price guarantee – If you happen to find the same tour at a lower price elsewhere, Viator will refund you the price difference.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

4. Semi-private Day Trip to Tortuguero with Volcano Hike

A crocodile in Tortuguero National Park
Watch out for crocs!

We’re big wildlife enthusiasts, so we think that if you’ve got the cash to spare, taking this semi-private tour to Tortuguero is worth it. It’s actually quite surprising just how much more wildlife you end up spotting when you have your guide’s undivided attention. And since Tortuguero is like a mini Amazon, there’s so much to see here, from sloths, iguanas, and basilisk lizards to monkeys, toucans, and poison dart frogs… to name just a few! 

The guide, Alberto, is so friendly and it was very clear to us that he cares deeply about the park and its wildlife. His enthusiasm made the boat ride and visit to Tortuguero village even more enjoyable, and we loved the hike up to Cerro Tortuguero Volcano (don’t worry, it’s extinct!). However, it still offers incredible views over the park, and seeing the canals from up here made us realize just how huge the park is! 

The tour costs $295 USD per person (minimum 2 per booking), and there will be a maximum of 8 people in your group so it’s very personal. The price includes the Tortuguero entrance fee, plus lunch and bottled water along the way, which is always welcome in the humidity, I can assure you. You’ll depart around 7 am, returning roughly 10 hours later.

Related Read: There are many other day trips and tours from San Jose. For one of our faves, check out the best Manuel Antonio tours – another park brimming with wildlife and gorgeous beaches.

Other Activities to do while You’re in San José

Daniel and Bailey at the Poas Volcano viewpoint, Costa Rica
Poas Volcano is so cool!

There are plenty of things to do in San Jose! But if you’re having trouble filling that itinerary, I’ve highlighted some of my favorites below.

  • Visit Poas VolcanoPoas Volcano is a very active volcano and it’s only about an hour and a half drive from San José city center. Seeing this huge acid-blue lake crater is mesmerizing, and this specific tour covers entry and guarantees you skip the long lines.
  • Take a coffee tour – You can’t leave Costa Rica without trying their world-renowned coffee! There are literally hundreds of coffee farms around Costa Rica, but some of the most famous are located only a short drive from San José. And on this Britt Coffee tour, you’ll try some of my favorite coffee and chocolate in the world!
  • Go whitewater rafting – There are some awesome places for whitewater rafting in Costa Rica, including the Pacuare River near San Jose. If you love adventure like me, you have to go on a guided rafting tour! This tour had fantastic guides and included lunch after the rafting, as well as transportation.

Pura Vida!

Bailey and Daniel take a selfie in Tortuguero National Park
Thanks for reading!

When in San Jose, we love making a side trip to Tortuguero. This little slice of paradise is the perfect place to soak up small-town charm and spot loads of wildlife – and perhaps even turtles nesting (if the timing is right!). We love these 4 tours in particular because they highlight the best of the area, and they’re each a bit different. Whether you want a day trip on a budget or a relaxed 2-night getaway, we hope you enjoy your trip!

If you found this blog useful, check out our other blogs about Costa Rica! We absolutely love this country and have spent loads of time traveling here. To help you out, I’ve linked to a few more articles below. Thanks for reading!

5 BEST Arenal Volcano Tours from San Jose, Costa Rica

13 Fun Things to do in Alajuela, Costa Rica

The BEST Time to visit Costa Rica: What to Expect Every Month of the Year

7 Day Costa Rica Itinerary: How to Spend One Week in Costa Rica!