Where to Watch Sea Turtles Hatch in Central America

Photo of Jack Guy
10 February 2018

Sea turtles make their nests up and down the coasts of Central America, both in the Pacific and the Caribbean. Here are the best places to watch them hatch.

Hatchling turtles | © skeeze/pixabay

Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica

The clue is in the name with this place. “Tortuguero” translates as “place of turtles,” so you know you’re in with a chance of spotting some marine mammals. You’ll find giant leatherback, hawksbill and loggerhead turtles on the Caribbean coast, around 80 kilometres north of Puerto Limon. Hatching season runs from July to October and March to May.

Ambergris Caye, Belize

Green, hawksbill and loggerhead turtles come to Belize to lay their eggs, and some spend time feeding in the Mesoamerican reef. Head down between June and October to see the babies hatching, and scuba dive with the adults.

Sea turtle | © Laszlo Ilyes/Flickr

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

It might be more famous for surfing and partying, but Nicaragua’s backpacker central is also home to large sea turtle nesting sites. The Pacific beaches are used by four different species (Pacific greens, hawksbill, leatherback and Olive Ridley), although you’re most likely to see some of the 10,000 Olive Ridleys that visit this beach each year. Visit between July and December to make the most of nesting season.

Monterrico, Guatemala

This sleepy beach town is becoming increasingly popular for weekend trips among residents of Guatemala City, but it has been home to sea turtle nesting sites for much longer. Olive Ridleys visit the black sand beaches from July to October, while Leatherbacks can be spotted in November and December. Make a trip to the reserve at Hawaii, where eggs are protected until they are hatched.

Turtles | © GE Keoni

Sipacate-Naranjo National Park, Guatemala

Further up the Pacific coast from Monterrico lies this national park, home to feeding and nesting sites for Eastern Pacific green turtles. You can watch them feed in the estuary and lay their eggs on the sand, before hatching season begins. The season runs from June to November, but things are busiest in August and September.

Jiquilisco Bay, El Salvador

Four species visit this biosphere reserve on the Pacific coast, which includes some of the most important natural habitats in the country. Hawksbills, Olive Ridleys, leatherbacks and greens come to nest here, while interestingly there is a permanent population of hawksbills in the estuary.

Bluff Beach, Panama

On the Caribbean coast near Bocas del Toro, Bluff Beach is home to nesting sites for leatherbacks and hawksbills. The season lasts from June to November, and there is plenty of surfing and partying to keep you busy in Bocas del Toro.