Venice certainly has its charms and there is no doubt that Amsterdam is amazing; but for a truly unique vacation on some of the world’s most beautiful canals, consider traveling to Costa Rica instead.
Costa Rica’s Tortuguero National Park
Nestled on the Caribbean coast in Limon Province, Costa Rica’s Tortuguero National Park is home to some of the most amazing canals on earth. The nearly 50,000 acres of protected forest and canals have an incredible diversity of wildlife and nature, with areas of rainforest, lagoons and swamps.
Several species of endangered sea turtles make their homes in these canals, including leatherbacks and loggerheads. Manatees live in the canals, as do crocodiles and caimans. In the trees along the canal banks, there are communities of spider monkeys, howler monkeys, frogs, parrots and toucans. There are more than 400 kinds of trees here, and more than 2,000 species of plants.
If you want to visit these spectacular canals, there are no roads into the area. Getting here is half the fun. You can only reach Tortuguero National Park by boat or by plane. However, there are many incredible tours and packages available that can bring you into and around one of the most important eco-systems in the Americas. Its nickname is the “Amazon of Costa Rica”.
Getting to Tortuguero by Boat
Your starting point is the coastal community of Puerto Limon, which is rapidly becoming a popular port of call for cruise ships visiting the Caribbean. Tortuguero park and its signature canals are just over three hours from Puerto Limon by boat.
On your way into the park, you travel up the Canal de Tortuguero, where the tall rainforest casts shadows across the narrow strips of water, and birds call at you from the dappled forest canopy.
Many of the tours here include a stay at one of the eco-lodges or hotels in the area. These facilities range from budget to luxury and you can find any kind of tour and accommodations to suit your needs. At night, you can fall asleep to the sounds of the jungle and the delicate rain.
Boat Tours in Tortuguero
During the day, you can take a boat tour on the massive network of canals, spotting the tropical birds, monkeys, crocodiles, and of course, turtles. Tours on the canals use boats with silent motors, allowing you to get close to shore, and to the incredible wildlife, for the best pictures possible.
There is a 14-mile stretch of beach in the Tortuguero National Park which is one of the world’s most important nesting grounds for the Green Sea turtle. If you visit in July, August or September, you can come to the beaches here and watch thousands and thousands of turtles come ashore to lay their eggs in the sand.
Make sure you book your tour and hotel well in advance, particularly if you plan to visit in the height of turtle nesting season, because visits to Tortuguero’s canals are popular.
More Fun in Tortuguero
Aside from getting up close and personal with an incredible variety of natural wonders, there is also a museum here, and a visitors’ center, not to mention many ways to spend your day on your tour, or at your lodge.
You can spend your time resting in a hammock, listening to the sounds of the jungle, or you can take advantage of many of the wonderful activities available here. Go hiking through the park, play beach volleyball, fish for tarpon and spend an afternoon sea-kayaking on the canals.