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Holding a baby sea turtle

Turtles & Rainforest Pacuare Reserve

Pacuare - Example 8 Day Tour
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Conservation of Costa Rica's pristine nature is an important job, and this 8-day tour allows you to join biologists for two nights of research at the most important nesting ground of leatherback turtles in the country. Pacuare Reserve is located a few miles south of Tortuguero, but with a group size limited to just six travelers, it's just you, the researchers, and these unique turtles! A day of whitewater rafting on the renowned Class II-III rapids of the Pacuare River and a few days of jungle adventure, exploration, and relaxing round-out this exclusive Costa Rica travel itinerary, perfect for families. 
Day 4:  nest excavation Baby sea turtle headed towards the oceanWhite water rafting on the Pacaure RiverWhite-faced monkey--TortugueroSea turtle rescue in Costa RicaHorseback riding (at the stables)A baby sea turtle heads for the oceanHorseback ridingDigging for baby sea turtles at the Pacuare Nature PreserveCapuchin monkey in the Costa Rican rainforestWhy not relax after a day in Paradise?Mostly developed LeatherbackHummingbird nesting at Arenal ObservatoryExquisite flowers Frog-finding in Costa RicaBittersweet DepartureNight patrols on this beachHolding a baby sea turtle
  • 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
Trip Type:
  • Independent
Activity Level: Easy Active

Full Itinerary

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Day 1: Arrive in San Jose

Arrive in San Jose and make your way to your hotel for the evening.

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

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


Selva Bananito

Selva Bananito bed with unnecessary mosquito net
Selva Bananito
Why not relax after a day in Paradise?

Pacuare Reserve

San Jose - Hotels

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  • 7 Breakfasts, 5 Lunches, 5 Dinners
  • 7 Nights Accommodations
  • Accommodations as listed
  • Meals as listed
  • Ground transportation as listed
  • Professional, bilingual guide service as listed
  • Excursions and activities as listed
  • Arrival Airport Transfer
  • Departure Airport Transfer
  • Gratuities
  • Travel Insurance
  • Personal Expenses
  • Flight costs (please request a quote)
  • Additional excursions during free time
  • Local guides full-day tours: $5-$10 per traveler per day
    Local guides 1/2-day tours: $5 per traveler per day
    River guides: $5 per traveler per day
    Support staff: $2-3 per traveler per day
    Drivers: $5 per traveler per day
    Taxi drivers do not expect tips for their normal services
    Baggage Handlers: $1 per bag
    Hotel hospitality (maid service): $1-$1 per traveler per night
    Restaurants: Most restaurants include in their bill a 10% service charge, as well as a 13% sales tax.  If the service charge has been added, no additional tip is necessary; however, the wait staff is happy if the amount is rounded up. 

    USD and major credit cards are commonly used in Costa Rica, and it is very common to see higher cost items priced in USD. It is recommended to carry cash (NEW $20 bills or smaller ONLY) for taxis and restaurants. Most hotels and restaurants will accept major credit cards, as well.

    Colones are the official Costa Rican currency. It is common to receive change in colones if you pay for something in USD cash. Smaller cost items (sodas, metered taxis, etc.) will commonly be priced in colones.


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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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

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