Las Baulas National Marine Park

Las Baulas National Marine Park, Playa Grande: Hours, Address, Las Baulas National Marine Park Reviews: 4/5

Las Baulas National Marine Park

Las Baulas National Marine Park
9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
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This National Park protects the main nesting beaches for the leatherback turtle of the Tropical Eastern Pacific. This place is also an important spot for migratory birds, the american crocodile and other wildlife. We are a Ramsar Site, of international importance.
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255 reviews
Very good

Christopher V
1 contribution
We (with boys 8, 13 and 16) made last minute plans to canoe through the mangroves and extra hiking with Jonathan (Hotel Las Tortugas). We went down some remote paths (both on land and river) and saw amazing wildlife - howler monkeys, birds, crabs covering the paths, crocodiles (including a once in a lifetime fight between two crocs fighting over a territory), and lots of different trees and plants. Jonathan took the time to explain everything. The tour was about 2 hours 30 minutes. Jonathan even picked us up in Tamarindo. At the end of the tour, we hiked for a few minutes back to the north side of the river and took a river taxi across (USD $1 per person) and walked back into Tamarindo (less than 10 minutes to our hotel). Jonathan was on WhatsApp 8534 8664. Such as amazing experience - highly recommended. One regret is that we visited in June, which was not turtle season.
Written June 24, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Lynn H
Anchorage, AK105 contributions
Playa Grande is one of the world's best beaches. When we were first here 20 years ago, 4 of us went out with a park ranger to see a leatherback turtle lay eggs. It was a magical experience. Then there were hundreds of turtles that nested every year. In 2015, there was one. Tourism was almost non-existent in Costa Rica 20 years ago.

The turtle tour we took in November 2016 was the most exploitative (of the animals) experience I have ever had. There were 30 noisy tourists snapping photos with bright iPads and phones and trampling on the turtle's path (one black turtle). It was a really unsettling experience. The guides not only made no effort to control their clients' behavior but contributed to it.

Don't be misled by the folks on the beach hawking the tours when they say there are only 6 people on the tour -- that's 6 people per guide and, in our case, there were 5 or 6 guides.
Written December 5, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Boston, MA40 contributions
The morning after arriving in Tamarindo, we decided to head to the office of the Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas, on Playa Grande. This is the office to contact if you are interested in seeing the area where leatherback turtles come to lay their eggs. I was of course gaga to see this, and as we were visiting in their nesting season I wanted to get over there right away. Our hotel offered an excursion package for about $35 a person which includes their getting all your registration taken care of, then transport to the beach at night to see the turtles nesting. But a lady I met the previous day in Arenal told me that if you have a vehicle and don’t mind doing a bit of legwork yourself, you can save over 50% by doing it yourself. We drove to the office with our passports, and registered in the morning around 9:30 am (you have to leave your passport number there). Then they tell you what time to come back in the night. They had told the lady in Arenal to return at 10 pm, and you have to wait a long time till they see a turtle land on the beach and then a guide brings you out – she had to wait 4 hours. She recommended we bring a book or something, and I thought wow, what a good idea! But the park office told me and my husband to return that night at midnight – perhaps b/c they had noticed the turtles were only coming in around 2 am that week.

We got to the park office again around 12 midnight. We sat out in the waiting area for about 20 minutes while the park officers showed a brief video to half the group of people waiting there, who were all Spanish speakers. Then they brought in our group to watch it in English. This video looked SO interesting! I wish I had asked if they sold it, I would have bought a copy. Fortunately and unfortunately (as I didn’t get to finish watching it, but oh well) – our video was interrupted when a guide came in to tell us that hurrah, some turtles had landed and were beginning to nest – a mere 30 minutes after we got there! Lucky us!!! :) The guides had given us specific instructions not to shine ANY flashlights, take any pictures or make lots of noises while on the beach. We were to walk in a single file line behind the leading guide. Then they equipped themselves with some very dull red-bulb flashlights and we took off. It was eerie, awesome and beautiful to walk down a pitch-dark beach at midnight, with nothing but millions of stars overhead to guide you. As we walked, we could see the faint silhouettes of other groups of people in single-file lines walking past us – so eerie and cool! Finally the guide took us to an area of sand which was clearly marked by a broad swath of sand like a path - - this is the path the turtle had made, climbing onto the beach - - and lo and behold, here was a GIGANTIC leatherback mommy turtle in front of us!!! She was using her back flippers to dig a deep hole in the sand, then she laid 107 perfectly round, white, golf-ball sized eggs in it, then covered the hole back up. AAAH!!!!! It was as if someone just hit the “reset” button in my brain, and the entire universe just opened itself up to me as this amazing, beautiful place. A “religious experience” as my husband put it – I was just speechless with wonder.

The guides took us back to the office, where we said nothing to each other, just got into the car and drove off in silence – just in awe of what we had seen. I had completely lost track of time while watching the turtle, and only looked at the clock once we got back – at 2:30 am. Not bad at all, we were soo lucky that we had a turtle come up right away. Evidently visitors the following night waited patiently till 5 am, and no turtles ever came in that area, so they went home without seeing one at all. Again, we feel so fortunate to have seen this amazing wonder of nature. I will remember it for the rest of my life!
Written November 18, 2007
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Richmond, VA38 contributions
Let me say that I am a fan of turtles (my license plate says Trtly), so when we went to CR we made Playa Grande a particular destination just for the chance to see nesting Leatherback Sea Turtles (Baulas). We did get to see one, and ended up wishing we hadn't!

We read about how to sign up with the National Park there to be one of 60 nightly visitors, called and reserved, then showed up at midnight as instructed. When we got there, about 60 sleepy tourists were milling around, and continued to do so for about an hour with no information given by the people working there. Most of the guides spoke VERY little English, and most of the visitors spoke no Spanish (we spoke a little bit, but not enough to ask our specific questions about Baulas). It seemed like most of the guides didn't know much of anything about the turtles anyway, when people were able to ask questions.

There was one guide who spoke fair English and he finally invited everyone into the auditorium at about 1 am. We watched the pretty lame powerpoint-style presentation and a semi-interesting video. We were told very quickly "no flash photos, no flashlights, um... walk in line behind the guard, and um.. try to be quiet." Then we waited around for a turtle to show up.

I napped in the back of the car and at about 3:00 am the volunteers got word that a turtle was on the beach. They all suddenly sprung into excited action - to collect the $25 fee that you only pay if you do see a turtle (and which was $6 more than the posted amount on the tickets they gave us..???). All the people who were still there hurried into cars and drove to the other end of the beach. There was a lot of chaos and more milling about in the dark. We were put into 2 lines which quickly fell apart as we hurried along after the guide to see the turtle. There she was - having hauled herself up onto the beach but not yet started nesting! We were told to stand about 15-20 feet away from her and then given no further direction, and a bunch of people started talking, louder and louder. After about 10 minutes the turtle hauled herself back into the sea, having failed to dig a nest and lay her eggs. Several people in the group asked the guides if our being there had caused her to abort her mission, and the only answer anyone got was "who knows?"

I think there was no actual park guard there that night, only local volunteers, so I don't know if our experience was the usual or not. The nestings have decreased by 90% there since 1995, and we really wondered if it was because groups of 30-plus poorly-regulated tourists come and stand nearby turtles as they try to nest! I suppose it is better than the locals actually taking the eggs as they used to, but it seems like there could be a better system: 1)only allow people to come anywhere near the turtles after they begin to nest, when they apparently go into a trance-like state and are not bothered by anything. 2) don't make the pay of the local guides contingent on seeing a turtle, so that they rush everybody out before the nesting begins. 3) make a few nights each week off limits to everyone except the biologists and take data on successful nestings then vs. when tourists are present. 4) better training for the guides and better regulation of the visitors.

There are only estimated 200 of these turtles in the Pacific, and we felt like we hurting rather than helping them.
Written January 3, 2009
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Delray Beach, FL112 contributions
I was told by a CR friend that if I signed up at the station just before the beach that they would call me if a turtle appeared. The good news- you only pay if one is spotted! Bad news- I signed up, gave in my passport # and phone #. I asked if they would call. I was told to arrive at 6. Got there the night I had signed up for. Waited. One hour later the crowd of about 14 was shown the excellent explanatory video. We were escorted outside to wait. The lights and ac continued in the auditorium. Would have been lovely to wait here rather than in the hot humid dimly lit deck. I asked when the last turtle was spotted on the beach. Unbelievably the attendant answered "No hay English!" I tried in my poor Spanish but was not understood although I know I used the right words. I waited another hour and figured the odds weren't good since only 35 turtles nested in 2017. The whole time the two attendants sat in the office acting quite bored, making phone calls and talking to each other. I felt this whole scenario was a poor reflection on what is meant to be a worthwhile cause. I have donated here before but this night's experience was so disappointing I just left. My CR friend was surprised to hear this since he had just been there a few days before and did get a call when a turtle was spotted. Perhaps there are two procedure sets? One for natives (excellent) and one for tourists(bad)? I hope someone from Caravan (who built this facility) or the Park Service will see this and understand my experience may not be unique and definitely counterproductive to the purpose of this facility. Even a bit of hospitality on the part of the workers would have generated goodwill.
Btw Playa Grande remains our favorite CR beach, this was our third visit. As a beach it gets a 5 rating. This review pertains only to the Turtle Station folks.
Written January 15, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

London, UK11 contributions
It's a great way to see crocodiles, birds, iguanas, porkupines, and so many other animals.

We had the best time on a boat tour with Pizote, a local guide we ran into on the beach. He approached us and offered a tour we were considering already. We were a bit skeptical at first but decided to go for it. It was amazing. Pizo, the boat owner and guide, did an excellent job. Other guides were following us because he was the one spotting all the crocodiles and wildlife. You could tell other tourists were gutted they didnt get on his boat instead. He also charged $10pp less that booking the tour via hostel/hotels/agency.
If you need to contact him, you can ring him on +506 6103 1452 or just go to the Tamarindo beach, walk over to the estero (river mouth) and ask for him. He also goes as Victor Hugo.
Written November 8, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Boston, MA529 contributions
What an amazing experience we got to see both a leatherback and Black Sea turtle nesting! The national park accepts reservations 8 days out for their evening turtle tours and I advise you make them early to get in the first group. I was surprised by the large interest in this activity there was about 50 people booked for Christmas Eve. You arrive at the beach where you wait as spotters look for turtles. You are given a number based on when your reservation was made. If they find the turtle it is a mad rush for the first group ( in our case anyone with numbers 1-20) to go pay your $25 and get your ticket to go on the beach. They wait for everyone to pay then you speed walk to the beach and to where the turtle was (in our case about a 1/2 mile down the beach). You are doing this in the dark as no light is allowed. Where closed toe shoes to avoid hurting yourself on debris on the beach. We stayed with the turtles watching them dig and lay eggs for about an hour. It was a once in a lifetime experience. Obviously they can't guarantee you'll see turtles but we were lucky enough to see 2.
Written January 6, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Toronto, Canada18 contributions
This park embodies what is wrong with tourism. Motor boats down the estuary are ILLEGAL because they pollute and the water is too shallow, the operatots harass the wildlife. DO NOT CONTRIBUTE by giving them tourist dollars. Say no and tell them why, you would pay for canoe or guided walking tour. There are free trails across the estuary and you can find canoe trips that are eco responsible if you look.
Written October 20, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Herndon, VA2 contributions
For the last ten years, I have been privileged to spend months in this beautiful part of Costa Rica. While it is true that las baulas come to nest here - and you will see them with any luck. It is also true that their population is dwindling. Be a part of the solution on your trip and help leave this natural park better than you found it. One way you can accomplish this is by choosing to tour the remarkable estuary by canoe versus a motor boat.

Jonathan, from Hotel Las Tortugas, can help you with this venture. Call him at 8534 8664... After 7 years of friendship, I can assure you that you are in great hands that truly embrace the "Pura Vida" mentality. Enjoy!!
Written September 29, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

10 contributions
This was the most awful experience you can ever imagine, we have been fooled twice. Firstly, the first scam is located in Tamarindo, those guys attract tourist with a big sign that says " las baulas national park". In fact they are taking you in a different place-not the park- when we realize it was a scam we stopped the car an got our money back.
On our way to the park we stopped a second time in front of an office with AGAIN a sign that says - las baulas national park. Here there was a bunch of tourist cars waiting to take off- in the opposite direction of the park! The people in this office assured me it was the official guides and that we were going in the park. It turns out we ended up in the same direction. They took us in a regular beach located 45 min from las baulas. After a very long road unpaved we arrived in that beach, of course there eas nothing. The guide - old man speaking spanish only- completely ignoree us. After 15 min he asked if we wanted to go to the other beach - supposedly 10 min walk- We ended up doing a strenuous hike in the trees- Second beach was empty- we waited and waited - nothing!
Stay away from those people, they will take advantage of you- they are completely irresponsible! Such a shame for the goverment to let that happen!
Written February 16, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Las Baulas National Marine Park

Las Baulas National Marine Park is open:
  • Sun - Sat 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
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