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Holding a baby sea turtle

Turtles & Rainforest Pacuare Reserve

Pacuare - Example 8 Day Tour
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Join biologists for two nights of research at the most important nesting ground of leatherback turtles in Costa Rica. Pacuare Reserve is located a few miles south of Tortuguero, but with a group size of six travelers, it's just you, the researchers, and these unique turtles! A day of whitewater rafting and a few days of jungle adventure and relaxing round-out this exclusive Costa Rica travel itinerary.

Day-by-Day Summary

Day 1 : Arrive in San Jose
Day 2 : Pacuare Nature Reserve
Day 3 : Leatherback Turtles and River Canals
Days 4-6 : Rainforest Retreat
Day 7 : Pacuare River Rafting
Day 8 : Return Home


  • Join biologists to search for leatherback turtles
  • Hike through primary forest and learn about its ecology
  • Climb a giant kapok tree and view the rainforest canopy
  • Raft the Class III rapids of the Pacuare River

Places Visited


Trip Type

  • Independent

Activity Level

Easy Active

Trip Snapshots

Holding a baby sea turtle Day 4:  nest excavation Baby sea turtle headed towards the ocean White water rafting on the Pacaure River White-faced monkey--Tortuguero Sea turtle rescue in Costa Rica Horseback riding (at the stables)

Day 1 Arrive in San Jose


Day 2 Pacuare Nature Reserve

  • Hotel
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
This morning you’re transferred by car and boat to the Pacuare Nature Reserve. Dinner is by candlelight against the backdrop of the rolling Caribbean sea. Tonight, you can join biologists to search for your first leatherback turtle or just relax on the breezy beach house porch.

Day 3 Leatherback Turtles and River Canals

  • Hotel
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
After a late breakfast, wander along the deserted four miles of beach and study the tractor-like tracks of the previous night’s leatherback turtles. Then take an afternoon boat trip through the adjacent canals and into the reserve’s primary rainforest. Reserva Pacuara is Costa Rica’s most important nesting ground for leatherback turtles. The 1,850 acres of jungle, beaches, and canals are also home to birds such as toucans, herons, kingfishers, parrots, hummingbirds and such rainforest mammals as peccaries, two and three toed sloths, howler, spider and capuchin monkeys, the strange coatimundis, and pumas – just to name a few.

After the sun goes down, accompany one of the biologists on their turtle rounds. During nesting season, your job is to walk the beach looking for a leatherback laying eggs. When you find one, wait with the researcher until the turtle is done laying eggs. Then, have the chance to approach the turtle and assist in measuring and tagging it before the giant leatherback returns to the sea. Turtle egg poachers are a major threat to the survival of leatherbacks, so your next job is to carefully dig up the eggs and rebury them in another location so poachers cannot find the nest.

When the turtles begin to hatch later in the season, you have the chance to observe dozens and sometimes hundreds of baby leatherbacks scratching their way to the surface and making their way into the surf. The process is grueling. Hatchlings at the top of a nest often pack the sand below them so that their siblings cannot escape to the surface. This means that in the morning you might be invited to play midwife to these trapped baby turtles. By loosening the sand in certain nests, you allow hatchlings at the bottom a chance to escape to the sea to begin their lives. While the leatherbacks are hatching, 250-pound green turtles come to these same beaches to lay their eggs, and visitors can be out searching for these turtles, measuring, tagging, and hiding the nests of these endangered turtles too.

Day 4-6 Rainforest Retreat

  • Hotel
  • 3 Breakfasts, 3 Lunches, 3 Dinners
After a late breakfast, you travel to Selva Bananito Reserve for a few days of jungle discovery and adventure. Bordering Costa Rica’s largest and most pristine nature reserve, Selva Bananito is part of the same rich ecosystem as the 1.5 million acre La Amistad International Peace Park, and is alive with hundreds of species of birds and animals such as toucans, parrots, monkeys, sloths, and the elusive jaguar and tapir.

There’s an adventure here for everyone. You have the chance to climb a giant kapok tree and enter the fascinating world of the rainforest canopy. With the encouragement of Jurgen or Sofia Stein, the brother and sister team that created the reserve, even land lovers find themselves lost in a swinging world 100 feet off the ground and buzzing with life. There’s also horseback riding through the adjacent family farm to learn about the organic tropical farming techniques that their father, Rudi Stein, has developed over the past 25 years. The farm boasts a heliconia garden brimming with enormous tropical flowers, and a half day nature trail through the surrounding primary rainforest where guests can learn about the rainforest ecology. For the adventurous there’s an all-day trip deep into the jungle where a dip in a pool below a 70-foot waterfall is the just reward for the effort. At the end of each day, locally-grown food is served by candlelight before you retire to the tranquil retreat of your jungle cabana.

Day 7 Pacuare River Rafting

This morning you travel towards the Class III-IV whitewater of the Pacuare River. One of Costa Rica’s most exciting whitewater trips, the Pacuare plunges through spectacular mountain gorges and passes through virgin rainforest filled with howler monkeys, toucans, sloths, ocelots, and more. This afternoon you head back to San Jose.

Day 8 Return Home

  • 1 Breakfast
The turtle season runs from mid March to late August.
Click here for best viewing times

Reserva Pacuare

San Jose - Hotels

Selva Bananito

Per person starting at



  • 7 Breakfasts, 6 Lunches, 5 Dinners
  • 7 Nights Accommodations
    • 2 Nights Hotel
    • 5 Nights Lodge
  • 6 Days Locally Hosted Guide Service


  • Both International Arrival and Departure Transfers are excluded.
  • International Flights

Recommended Budgeting

  • $60 Meals not Included
  • $27 Airport Departure Tax
  • $140 Optional Excursions
    • Waterfall rappelling tour is an additional $125 Please let us know if you would like to arrange it.
Payment & Cancellation Policies
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headshot Kevin Moore
Kevin M

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Our guide and driver were very good with their knowledge and were very helpful with our questions. It was a very pleasant visit that would have been impossible to do on our own. Hotels and restaurants were fantastic. The special places we got to go to, like the kitchens, were great. Enjoyed the entire trip!
Meyer Smolen

When to Go

Good to ideal period to travel, and many people choose to visit at this time.
Chance for unpredictable weather but with fewer visitors.

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