Costa Rica Nature & Culture Expedition

Study giant leatherback turtles and hatchlings, explore the rainforest, see how chocolate is grown, visit an indigenous reserve, a butterfly farm, and much more in this action packed conservation trip. This trip will be led by SEE Turtles president Brad Nahill in partnership with Portland Community College. Profits from this trip will help save 500 hatchlings per participant at a leatherback nesting beach.

The leatherback is one of nature’s truly unique creatures. Their immense size boggles the mind; these turtles can average more than 6 feet long and 800 lbs. But that’s not the only thing that makes them unique. Their softer shell allows them to dive deeper than any other sea turtle and their size and dark color allows them to inhabit cold waters. The leatherback has had an impressive recovery over the past decade but human activities like consumption of their eggs and getting caught in fishing gear continue to threaten these extraordinary reptiles.

2020 Date: May 23 - 30

Price: $2,295 per person double occupancy. $300 deposit to register.

Includes: In-country transport, meals, lodging, activities, guides, and a donation to turtle conservation.

Excludes: Airfare to Costa Rica, personal items, and tips for the guides.


  • Minimum recommended age is 8 years old, under 18 needs to be accompanied by an adult.

  • Group size is limited to 16 people maximum.

  • Monthly payments are available until 3 months before departure.

Contact us to:   

  • Request private dates

  • Ask a question

  • Register by mail

Name *

Call us at 800-215-0378 to register by phone.


Why Travel With US?

  • All profits support conservation efforts

  • Work directly with local researchers

  • Unique experiences

  • Personalized service


May 23rd: Arrive to San Jose

Fly into San Jose International Airport (SJO) anytime on the 23rd. Our guides will pick you up from the airport and take you to Rosa del Paseo, a comfortable hotel in downtown San Jose. Dinner the first night is not included. Get a good night’s sleep tonight, as the adventure starts early the next day.

May 24th: Drive to the Caribbean Coast

After breakfast, board the private bus for a 4 hour ride to the Caribbean coast. You’ll pass through the country’s largest national park and then descend to the Caribbean lowlands, where we will visit a fascinating butterfly farm, a great introduction to the rainforest. We will have lunch along the way and then meet a boat to take us to the research station (20 minute boat ride).
When we arrive, you’ll have time to settle in and get an orientation to the research station. Later, the researchers will give a presentation on sea turtles and the more than a decade of work that has gone into protecting this nesting beach. After dinner, you will head out for your first night of patrolling, accompanied by researchers who will guide you along the beach, spot the turtles, and help with the data collection.

May 25th – 26th: Sea Turtle Research

For the next two nights, we will spend four hours each night walking the nesting beach in search of the giant leatherbacks. Years of hard work protecting these turtles has resulted in increases in nests in the Caribbean, but despite this success, their worldwide numbers are still declining and protecting their nesting beaches is vital to their survival.

Tasks involved in the research include measuring the turtles’ length and width, moving the eggs to a hatchery (where they are protected until hatching), and observing the condition of the turtles. There is also a possibility of working with hatchlings, helping to do some basic research (measuring and weighing), and releasing them to the water. We will be there the best time of the year to see both nesting females and hatchlings.

During the day, there is plenty of downtime to catch up on sleep, read a book, or walk along the beach. Planned daytime activities include a boat ride on the rainforest canals to look for wildlife including birds, sloths, monkeys, & caiman, a visit the turtle museum, and a beach cleanup activity.

May 27th: Cahuita National Park

This morning, we head out from the station to visit the Southern Caribbean region (2 hour drive). We will arrive in time for a picnic lunch and swim and beach time in a beautiful national park. We’ll look for monkeys, sloths, and other wildlife and then head for dinner on the town. Overnight at Goddess Garden (2 nights).

May 28th: Yorkin Indigenous Reserve

Today we head into the Talamanca Mountains for a boat ride upstream to visit a remote indigenous reserve. Here we will see how they grow and make organic chocolate and bananas, learn about their history and culture, and have a traditional lunch. We’ll return for dinner and evening rest.

May 29th: Return to San Jose

This morning, we will have some free time to explore the beach or nearby towns for souvenir shopping and then board our private bus back to San Jose. We’ll have lunch en route and arrive to San Jose in the late afternoon to relax before a final celebratory dinner.

May 30th: Depart

Return home with a new appreciation for the hard work of conservation and to share your experiences or extend your stay and explore other parts of this beautiful country. You will be taken to the airport in plenty of time to catch your flight. (B)


"A well-run and unforgettable trip! For any one who is looking to make a difference in conservation, explore a new culture, and/or go on an adventure in the process, then this trip is for you." - Noelle R.


Is This Trip Right For Me?

Costa Rica is a safe and beautiful country that receives more than 1 million international tourists annually. This trip goes off the beaten path for 3 nights at the rustic and remote Las Tortugas Research Station. This is an active trip that requires a level of physical fitness and an ability to manage sometimes challenging conditions including weather and heat, bugs, and a schedule that can affect sleeping patterns. Electricity at the station is limited (solar panels) which means no air conditioning or hot water, there is no access to wifi or cell phone service, and meals are simple and basic and vegetarians can be accommodated.

Click here for our full terms and conditions.

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Photo credits: Neil Ever Osborne, Hal Brindley