Releasing Turtle Hatchlings in Monterrico

After days of lots of rain and work in Antigua, I was ready to shake things up a bit. Since the beach is my happy place, I mentioned the possibility of going to my Spanish teacher. She then recommended that I go to Monterrico as it is peak season for releasing turtle hatchlings.

That very day I made all my travel arrangements to go to a Monterrico, which is about a 2-3 hour drive outside of Antigua. The beach is famous for having black sand, which is produced from volcanic rock. There’s not too much to do there besides swim, eat seafood, drink beers and go turtle watching. It’s perfect weekend getaway.

turtle hatchlings
Turtle Hatchlings are released at Monterrico

The turtle release happens daily at 5:30 pm and is organized by the Tortugario Monterrico, which is run by the San Carlos University Center of Conservation (CECON). The nesting season is from June through December, but the peak season is August and September. Every year, the Tortugario releases 5,000 turtle hatchlings. The area is an important nesting site for olive ridley, leatherback and green sea turtles.

Sea turtles are one of Earth’s oldest living creatures, dating back to the time of the dinosaurs. However, their species now faces many challenges. According to SEE Turtles, only 1 in 1,000 turtle hatchlings will survive. They are confronted with crabs, dogs, birds, raccoons and fish. In Monterrico, locals are known to poach, sell and eat turtle eggs. In addition, since turtle hatchlings use the natural light of the horizon to make their way to the sea, other light sources, such as beachfront lighting, car headlights, street lights, and campfires can lead turtle hatchlings in the wrong direction, known as disorientation.

Monterrico beach
The sunset at Monterrico

At sundown, there was definitely excitement in the air about releasing of turtle hatchlings. For about Q10, you can release a turtle hatchling into the ocean. The Tortugario will give you your own turtle hatchling in a cup (don’t touch the turtle!). Proceeds from the release goes towards protecting the turtles. Everyone released their turtles at the same time and would clap and cheer everytime a wave swept up a baby turtle into the ocean. A few turtles were slower than the rest, but received even more encouragement from the group. We stayed until every last turtle made it into the ocean. Watching the turtle hatchlings making their way down to the ocean was definitely the highlight of my weekend in Monterrico.

Know Before You Go

  • Shuttles from Antigua are about $15 one way
  • There is only one ATM in Monterrico and often runs out of cash on the weekends so be sure to take out a sufficient amount before you go
  • The turtle release is in front of the Tortugario Monterrico (next to the hotel, Johnny’s Place) at 5:30 pm daily
  • It costs Q10 to release your own baby turtle
  • Avoid touching turtles. While touching a turtle doesn’t actually harm them, there are too many people are the world who harass turtles (especially for a photo). Below are some examples of people harassing turtles
turtle harrassment
Teenagers chase after a sea turtle for a photo. Source: unknown
turtle harassment
Man straddles a sea turtle. Source: unknown
turtle harrassment
Tourists crowd around a turtle. Source: MNS Green Living.
turtle harassment
Tourists block a turtle nesting site in Costa Rica. Source: Inhabitat.com