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
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
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.
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!
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.
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
Location and Tips
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.
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.
The next morning, we saw a National Park volunteer digging for eggs in the hatchery to protect them from poachers.
The eggs are buried again behind the fence. The nests are guarded by volunteers each night for the entire season.
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
- They are the largest sea turtle on earth but unfortunately vulnerable and even endangered in the US.
- They can grow up to 2.4 m almost 8 feet long.
- Weighing up to 900 kg almost 2000 lbs.
- They have already existed for more than 150 million years and survived the extinction of the dinosaurs.
- Their preferred diet is jellyfish.
- 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.
- They lay up to seven times eggs in the nesting season. Leatherbacks prefer the same area but may change the beach.