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Tortuguero or Manuel Antonio?

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the OC
posts: 1
reviews: 5
Tortuguero or Manuel Antonio?

I am going to Costa Rica for 9 days starting at the end of this month, 10/30. I have 3 days 2 nights and am trying to decide between Tortuguero and Manuel Antonio. Any advice on which would be better and more worthwhile during this time of year? I much prefer seeing wildlife over hanging out on a beach. (Other places I will go are Monteverde and Arenal.) Thanks for any input!

San Jose, Costa Rica
posts: 42,848
1. Re: Tortuguero or Manuel Antonio?

If you are loking for a nice palce...with some nice chances to see wild life and great water canals and green vegetation...TORTUGUERO!

Nice weather during this time of the year!


Houston, Texas
Destination Expert
for Arenal Volcano National Park, La Fortuna de San Carlos
posts: 4,099
reviews: 105
2. Re: Tortuguero or Manuel Antonio?

I think it really depends on what you're looking for. If you want a kind of magical place with canals where you'll travel mostly by boat, go with Tortuguero. Our time there consisted of boat trips to travel the canals and see wildlife, and there's lots of it. Since it's kind of isolated, most people buy packages through their lodges and eat most of their meals there. Manuel Antonio is a lot more developed, has the beautiful beach inside the park, easy access to fairly tame wildlife, and lots of hotel and restaurant choices. If you're not a beach person, I'd lean towards going to Tortuguero. It will be the tail end of turtle egg laying season.

Cahuita, Costa Rica
Destination Expert
for Cahuita
posts: 2,203
reviews: 9
3. Re: Tortuguero or Manuel Antonio?

As volcanogirl says, it all depends whether you are looking for the beach or not. Could you leave out Monteverde and replace it with both Tortuguero and Manuel Antonio. If not, then Tortuguero is very special and would be a memorable place to visit whereas Manuel Antonio would fulfil the picture-postcard tropical beach ideal - sandy beaches, palm trees, monkeys, clear blue ocean...

Chicago, Illinois
Destination Expert
for Costa Rica
posts: 5,596
reviews: 22
4. Re: Tortuguero or Manuel Antonio?

Agree with the others. Also consider that AC, televisions and luxury accommodations are easy to find around Manuel Antonio but not the typical lodging standard in Tortugeuro. Also while there is a beach in Tortugeuro where turtles nest, it is not safe for swimming due to bull sharks and rip currents.

Tortuguero, Costa...
posts: 78
5. Re: Tortuguero or Manuel Antonio?

I live in Tortuguero, so I think I'm a bit biased, but I recommend Tortuguero. It's known as Central America's Amazon, and for good reason. The island has no cars, and you can only get here by boat or plane. I recommend the plane ride on the way out, but the road/river route is kind of fun on your first time in to Tortuguero. You will most likely see three species of monkey, hundreds of bird species, and many reptiles including caiman, crocodiles, the "Jesus Christ" lizard that runs over water, and the magnificent sea turtles that come here to nest.

The great thing about coming at the end of October is that you can have the chance to see turtles hatching, and possibly nesting as well. The season officially ends the 31st of October, but there is always some activity into November, and this year has been very good for turtles.

I would recommend against the all-included packages. They are overpriced and most have sub-par food, plus you have no liberty to decide on your own schedule. The tours are structured and scheduled, as are the meals. There are plenty of dining options in town (including my restaurant!), and several mid-range hostels and B&Bs. Casa Marbella and Hotel el Icaco are two of my favorites, both include breakfast. Lodging in town is simple, but is actually very similar to all but the most expensive all-included lodges.

Just one thing I like to remind people of: If you come during turtle hatching season, you should not, by any means, dig up nests. Some locals try to make money by helping tourists find nests, which they then dig up to "help" the turtle hatchlings, and some even "help" the turtles by carrying them to sea. Both of these activities can be extremely harmful to the hatchlings, so please don't encourage them by paying someone to help you find nests. Even if you don't see them actively digging, sometimes they do that ahead of time and then call the tourists over.

You can simply walk on the beach from very early in the morning and you are likely to see a nest hatching.

Telluride, CO
posts: 82
reviews: 10
6. Re: Tortuguero or Manuel Antonio?

Tortuguero will have much better weather during that time. It can really rain in Manuel Antonio. I personally love Tortuguero, I really like the national park. It's a little less traveled than Manuel Antonio. Plus the chances to see turtles it totally worth it. I have worked with Mawamba and Pachira and they both do a great job. I like that they included roundtrip transfers from SJO, lodging, tours, meals, entrance fees to the park and english speaking guides.

I would save Manuel Antonio for another trip when the weather is better.

Brooklyn, NY
posts: 145
reviews: 11
7. Re: Tortuguero or Manuel Antonio?

I just got back from Costa Rica, spent a day in Toruguero, totally awesome, had I realized this before I went I would have definitely stayed for 2 days.

And while you can't swim, you can still hang out on the beach so you can even do that.

Cahuita, Costa Rica
Destination Expert
for Cahuita
posts: 2,203
reviews: 9
8. Re: Tortuguero or Manuel Antonio?

Thanks for the feedback, Tener!

posts: 17
reviews: 12
9. Re: Tortuguero or Manuel Antonio?

I am taking my 11 year old graddaughter to Tortuguero in July, 2013--would you recommend the Tortuga Lodge or the Mawamba???

Tortuguero, Costa...
posts: 78
10. Re: Tortuguero or Manuel Antonio?

Tortuga has been very highly rated on TripAdvisor, and I have only heard great things about the service. I believe their restaurant is a la carte rather than buffet style. Their grounds are some of the most beautiful in town as well. They are located on the far north end of the area, across the river from the airport. In order to get to the village, you would require aquatic transport.

Mawamba is more of the Tortuguero standard, but having eaten at their buffet I can tell you that the food is a step above the Pachira group. Nothing fancy, but tasty. Mawamba also has a pretty butterfly garden and a frog garden and is within walking distance of the village.

If I'm correct, there is a substantial price difference between the two, and for good reason. If I am mistaken, and the prices are similar, then it would be safe to say that Tortuga gives you more for your money.