Shortly after we arrived at our hotel, Luna Azul (which I would recommend, by the way), one of the owners (Andres) advised us that we were there toward the end of the arribada, and not at the peak as we had hoped.
I knew that during the new moon during rainy season was generally the best time to see turtles come ashore at the Ostional Refuge to lay their eggs at night, but I didn't know that it was best just before and at the start of the new moon, as opposed to a day or two later.
Andres suggested we go by in the early evening instead of waiting 'til the crack of dawn like we had planned. He said that if there were likely turtles to be seen, that there would be guides at the entrance; if there were no guides, there were likely no turtles. And if we didn't get to see turtles in the evening, we could always return in the morning.
We drove south, past Playa Ostional and the Refuge, to Nosara for a late afternoon meal, and decided to try our luck on the return.
We arrived around 6, and there were guides. (If there are guides, you are required to use them, and then there is a fee for their service -- though not much -- I think we paid about $12 for two adults & the kids were free.) Our guide expressed concern that there wouldn't be many turtles, and said that later in the evening would be better. He indicated, though, that if we were disappointed in our visit that we could present our receipt and return later on or in the morning without having to pay again.
Our guide was right -- there weren't many turtles -- at first. But there were turtles, and after awhile, more and more started to come ashore, and you could see even more heads bobbing in the water about to come ashore -- all under a gorgeous sunset. We may have only gotten to see a couple dozen, but they were amazing and we got amazing photos/videos. We left just as a couple of tour vans were arriving with many more tourists, and while I'm sure they saw many more turtles than we did, I doubt they could see them as well or get clear photos to capture their memories (neither flashlights nor flash photography is allowed at the Refuge). And they missed the sunset.
I'm sure a visit a day or two earlier would have been even better, but we were more than satisfied and didn't set an alarm or wakeup call for the morning.
FYI, you likely NEED a 4WD SUV to visit the Refuge during this time. In addition, depending upon how much rain there is, you may not be able to visit via Nosara (south) at all, instead of approaching from the north. We did rent a 4WD SUV, and crossed one "river" between Luna Azul and Ostional, but crossed much more water between Ostional and Nosara -- and August is just the start of the rainy season. We were told that the long way around is about 3 hrs each way, instead of the ~1 hr it took us in the rain (faster on our return when there was no rain but still a lot of water on the road).
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