Turtle Watching Season & Tips - Playa Grande - Marino Las Baulas
Turtle Watching Season & Tips - Playa Grande - Marino Las Baulas

Turtle Watching Season & Tips - Playa Grande - Marino Las Baulas

Costa Rica
Costa Rica

When Is the Best Time

Playa Grande in Costa Rica on the west coast is one of the very view places where leatherback's nesting sites are fully protected by law. The residents and researchers are taking care of for more than 30 years already the reason Playa Grande and Playa Ventanas became one of the biggest nesting sites in the world and protected by law in the Marino Las Baulas National Park. Thanks to their efforts more than a million leatherback hatchlings leave the nests in January.

Turtle Watching Season

Hatchlings are digging out of their nest

The best time to spot leatherbacks or hawksbill sea turtles arriving in the night is from October until March with its peak in January. Some leatherbacks come with a delay to lay their eggs so there is the possibility to spot baby turtles until May.

No light, flashlight is allowed to avoid disturbing a red light only. Taking pictures is almost impossible. If a female turtle gets disturbed she won't lay eggs and crawls back to the sea.

The best chances for a guided tour are within two hours before and after high tide. Why? During high tide, the way to the nesting place is shorter due to the higher sea level. Turtles are not made for crawling on land; they are excellent swimmers. Tide Times Playa Grande

Opening Hours

Sunset at the beginning of Playa Grande
Shortly before 6 pm - Sunrise and Sunset Times

Playa Grande and Playa Ventanas are accessible from 6 am to 6 pm on your own from October to the end of February the main nesting season. Please, don't walk on the upper parts of the beaches you may step on one of the nests. During the evening and night, all lights are switched off nearby the beaches. They really care about the future of the leatherbacks.

Top Tip 

Each night only a limited number of visitors are allowed to observe turtles coming ashore. It's essential to book a guided tour at the Las Baulas ranger station in advance to take part. We asked our accommodation to arrange the booking for us. Tour Fee: $25 - Passport has to be shown before!


Playa Ventanas

It is typically hot and dry on the north pacific coast even in the rainy season. The dry season lasts from December to April, with temperatures ranging between 31°C/88°F in December and 36°C/96°F in April. 

The rainy season starts in late May until November. Brief showers are more likely in the afternoon and night—most precipitation in June, September, and October. Usually, temperatures top 30°C/86°F easily. The minimum temp is above 20°C/68°F throughout the year.

Where to Stay
Hotel Pool
booking.com link to hotels at Playa Grande

We spent a couple of days close to Playa Grande. Both beaches stretch for 6 km almost 4 miles along the sea. It is a fantastic place to be during the day and night. Book your accommodation in advance that you can walk easily to the Minae office at night.

Best Months to Visit


Related Topics

Location and Tips

National Park Marino Las Baulas
Costa Rica
Costa Rica

The Marino Las Baulas National Park was developed in 1990 to protect the endangered leatherback turtle eggs from poachers. Hundreds of female leatherbacks come ashore each year to lay their eggs and the number is continuously growing. It is one of the most important nesting sites in Costa Rica. 

The office in the Marino Las Baulas National Park
The meeting point

To observe turtles, you need to book a guided tour. The ranger let you know when to come to the turtle protection centre at night. To minimize your impact, you are guided in a small group by a ranger or researcher. We were fortunate and observed an approximately 450 kg heavy and 2 m long leatherback turtle laying eggs. On this night arrived a second turtle as well.

A volunteers digs out all laid turtle eggs

The next morning, we saw a National Park volunteer digging for eggs in the hatchery to protect them from poachers. 

Playa Grande Beach and protected turtle zone

The eggs are buried again behind the fence. The nests are guarded by volunteers each night for the entire season.

Playa Grande Beach and its emerald green sea
I enjoy this beautiful scenery - currents occur not safe for swimming.

The white sand beaches are incredibly beautiful. The dry tropical forests are home to are a huge variety of wildlife and more than 170 bird species. Several white-throated magpie-jays observed us while having lunch.

7 Leatherbacks Facts

Turtle eggs dig out and put in bucket for protection
Incubation time roughly two months
  1. They are the largest sea turtle on earth but unfortunately vulnerable and even endangered in the US.
  2. They can grow up to 2.4 m almost 8 feet long. 
  3. Weighing up to 900 kg almost 2000 lbs.
  4. They have already existed for more than 150 million years and survived the extinction of the dinosaurs.
  5. Their preferred diet is jellyfish.
  6. Leatherbacks can be found almost everywhere in the open ocean due to their ability to tolerate cold water. For the mating and nesting season, they migrate to tropical and subtropical coastal regions. 
  7. They lay up to seven times eggs in the nesting season. Leatherbacks prefer the same area but may change the beach.


Nearby Places
Birding in the Palo Verde National Park
55 km
Birding in the Palo Verde National Park
Book a boat trip for the afternoon on Rio Tempisque; it's an excellent place…
Santa Elena Cloud Forest
111 km
Santa Elena Cloud Forest
The cloud forest of Santa Elena is less popular than Monteverde. It reveals…
Carara National Park is a Top Spot for Macaws
153 km
Carara National Park is a Top Spot for Macaws
The Carara National Park located close to Jaco and 1.5 hours drive from San…
Hiking Through the Braulio Carillo National Park
207 km
Hiking Through the Braulio Carillo National Park
We made a stop for lunch at Quebrada Gonzales station on the way to the coast…
The Breathtaking Manuel Antonio National Park
214 km
The Breathtaking Manuel Antonio National Park
Two beaches Espadilla Sur and Manuel Antonio, are located in the park. Playa…
Irazú Volcano
221 km
Irazú Volcano
Irazu located in the Central Volcanic Mountain Range an hour drive north of…
Tapanti National Park
230 km
Tapanti National Park
Be aware it's one of the wettest areas in Costa Rica. It's a beautiful…
Tips to Spot the Quetzal in the Parque Nacional Los Quetzales
239 km
Tips to Spot the Quetzal in the Parque Nacional Los Quetzales
The "Parque Nacional Los Quetzales" and the San Gerardo de Dota Valley are…
Hacienda Baru a Little Gem
245 km
Hacienda Baru a Little Gem
The Hacienda Baru was our personal highlight on four weeks vacation in Costa…
Cahuita National Park
337 km
Cahuita National Park
If you travel around Costa Rica in January and February showers may occur more…
Created by
Micha Herber-Bleich
Micha Herber-Bleich
I am always open, curious about new…