San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Sea Turtles

Mob of tourists at Costa Rica's Ostional Beach prevents sea turtles from nesting

Last weekend hundreds of tourists crowded the beach at Ostional Wildlife Refuge in Guanacaste, preventing several olive ridley sea turtles from nesting along the coastline, as they do every year.

The Environment Ministry’s Workers Union (SITRAMINAE) reported on its Facebook page that hundreds of tourists stood in the way of the turtles, causing many of them to return to the sea without laying their eggs.

Refuge administrator Carlos Hernández, told the daily La Nación he had never seen that many people at the beach, located in the canton of Santa Cruz. Some tourists touched the turtles, others stood on top of the nests, and parents placed their children on top of the turtles to take photographs, the group reported.

Ostional receives massive turtle arrivals, known as arribadas, almost every month. But September and October are the peak months of the season, and tourism companies increase tours to watch the turtles’ arrival and nesting.

This particular arribada occurred during a weekend, increasing the number of visitors, SITRAMINAE members said.

The lack of rainfall affecting the northern region also helped attract more visitors. September and October usually register the most rainfall of the year, and rains at Ostional can cause large river swells that prevent visitors from reaching the beach.

The refuge is guarded by only two park rangers, and last weekend they received help from only three National Police officers, who were unable to control the situation.

Hernández said that although visitors may only enter the beach with a licensed tour guide, many entered the refuge via unauthorized access points from nearby locations. He said that in coming days officials will meet with National Police officers, local tour guide associations and community leaders to better implement control.

Hundreds of tourists stand in front of olive ridley sea turtles at Costa Rica’s Ostional Beach, preventing them from nesting.


Community benefit

Ostional is among the top four most important sites in the world for nesting of olive ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea). Hundreds of thousands arrive each year along this 7-kilometer stretch of beach.

The number of turtles during September and October and the amount of eggs they lay at each arribada is so high that when new groups of turtles arrive, they often end up destroying the eggs from earlier nesting.

Residents of this small community are the only people legally allowed to harvest turtle eggs for consumption and sale. They can take only eggs deposited within the first 72 hours of the arribadas.

Turtle nesting observation tours are regulated by national law at Ostional and other popular destinations, both on Pacific and Caribbean beaches.

Regulations state that tourists may only enter the beach with a licensed guide in small groups, carrying only special flashlights and following guide instructions at all times to avoid disturbing the turtles.

Contact L. Arias at

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Dan Gibson

Not withstanding the fact the tourists are/were idiots — the main problem is/was — they ”delayed” the local ticos from stealing the eggs and killing some of the turtles —
All over the Pacific Coast — you can walk on the beach — see where the turtle left the sea — come up the beach and laid her eggs — you will also see a set of human footprints right alongside the turtle tracks — those being the ticos — who then dig up the nest and steal the eggs — and — in some instances — kill the turtles — the greatest threat to the turtle population are the Costa Rican people — at least some of them!!!

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Fanny Flores Quesada

I live in Costa Rica, it’s a shame for my contry. Many many people in our contry are outraged by such an act. I feel the need to explain that not all Ticos support these behaviors and we’re denounced.

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Carolyn Lyford Catalano

Why wouldn’t some one put up a fence line and a poster that explains to the tourists and others that the turtles NEED THEIR SPACE>>> I really don’t know who’s ignorance is more to blame..

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A Close-up of the destruction of paradise. Soon we’ll be wondering what Pura Vida was all about. Let the turtles alone. Their destruction is our destruction. All those tourists whether Tico or Norte Americano should use their energies to PROTECT the turtles rather than gawk and exploit them.

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It’s no secret that the government doesn’t have enough manpower patrolling the parks, let alone anyone with experience to do it right but do we need to be policed to do the right thing? Humans are the biggest threat to the planet! We know right from wrong and still decide to do the wrong thing. And everyone wonders why some of the locals have disdain for some visitors to their country.

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Staci Tippins

I couldn’t agree more! I work with sea turtles in Florida, and I want to rip my hair out daily when people act like turtles only exist to be photographed. Like they’re here just for our enjoyment. I feel like there are responsible and respectful ways to experience turtles, but idiots like these people ruin it for everyone. If you can’t take 15 minutes to educate yourself on sea turtle etiquette and to understand why they’re protected, you don’t deserve to see one. And sadly, if this kind of behavior continues, Ostional may need to be closed to the public during nesting season to protect the turtles or they’ll end up like the more endangered Kemps Ridley.

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Shame on CR officials for allowing this to happen, by failure to protect the beach and to inform tourists by way of posted signs!
And shame on uneducated, hedonistic tourists for their senseless act of selfishness and disregard!
Sadly, everyone is a loser in this story!

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Have never been to Costa Rica and I’ve been planning to visit because I’ve heard how beautiful your country is. I still plan to but don’t wish to add to such a tourism boom at this time.

Protect your natural resources, these tourist have the mentality of children. They’ll destroy what you hold dear, as they stand around snapping selfies. Unfortunately the children of the world need to understand there are consequences for being bad guests in your country.

This behavior speaks to a much larger issue of lack of education but it’s indefensible what is shown in these photos. When Costa Rica holds the value of her natural resources up on a pedestal, so will your guests.

Eco Tourism is huge revenue generator, have to protect those resources.

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Texas Vulcan

This is not right. I really hope this can be rectified. Where can donations be made that are not funneled through government coffers?

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Laura Navarrete

This is sickening and heartbreaking. How was this allowed to happen? These beaches should be protected . Arrogant ignorant selfish idiots.

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Shannon Powell


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Lorie Marcoux

This is heart breaking.. the joy in the womans face in the above picture sickens me.
This really is about being decent humans.. When will people start caring more about
the earth and the beautiful animals that we have than their own pleasure..

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Ivonne Poisson

Where is the government to prevent from this happened?? They should close the park for these days… DO SOMETHING! There’s so many ways… Is amazing that we all know we are killing our ecocistem little by little going to the desaster

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Heidi Stevenson

Freakin retards wtf

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Isabella Rocha

Deberian tambien multar a las companies de tour que son complices de esto. muy irresponsables.
They should also fine the Tour companies that are part of this. very irresponsible.

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Isabella Rocha

That is the most stupid thing I’ve ever seen!!! all those idiots are so retarded they don’t have a clue they’re affecting the natural process of mother nature. I’m sick to my stomack!! they ALL should be either fined or jailed!!!! Hijos de la madre!!!! TODOS.

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Sylvia Spix
Under this link you can find an example how other countries handle the ‘crowd problem’ . Pictured is the “Penguin Parade” in Australia. Tiny penguins coming back to this beach at night from the ocean and walk to their nests on land. They are still quite shy and it is a beautiful scene to watch them landing FROM FAR. The Australian authorities built view platforms for that.

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Sylvia Spix

Costa Rica government should understand that tourism has to be channeled. It’s not just about making money. A country cannot promote itself as an eco-destination and on the other hand fail to invest in the protection of its nature gems. Just my humble opinion… Pura Vida!

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Lisa Virga Shepherd

This is horrendous! It really doesn’t matter who is on the beach, the turtles can’t get there! I know CR doesn’t have the resources to battle the tourists, poachers and every other threat to the wildlife. And I think the criminal threat is far more violent than anything the U.S. Wildlife officials battle. This is food, medicine and income for the citizens. For centuries the people have taken what they needed and maybe some just don’t know how dire the consequences of their actions are in this ecological environment.
I don’t know anything about how to organize volunteer groups, but perhaps a new Eco destination “vacation” could be providing higher caliber, trained volunteers during the season to police and protect the beaches.
The volunteers would need real training and to hold real authority. If they can keep tourists off the beach (which is the only way to truly secure the safety of the turtles), they are being rewarded, in return, by having the closer encounter with the turtles. This may be far more complicated than it is worth, but it’s an idea.
I do think flooding schools in the countries that visit most often, with both the images of the almost surreal mobs and educational media promoting the best practices for sustaining the population of the turtles in a way that can be utilized in science class or another class may be a good long-term attack on the problem.

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Geez, what an interesting turn of words in a couple days ~~ earliest reports all over social media said that the crowds were nationals/Costa Ricans/ ticos all crowding along with their kids tearing all over the beach, and a big bag to collect eggs.

Now the headline blames tourists ~ Costa Rica’s Big Green Lie continues to perpetuate itself…. not to worry though, the early images have made their way around the globe.

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Isabella Rocha

The vast majority were tourist!!! I was there!!!

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Tara Griffith

TOURISTS??? Are you counting those lighter skinned folks from San Jose, Tourists? I tried to go on Sunday… there were hundreds on TICOS there, getting bags for eggs. That they were given by the conservation project. I was the only non Tico on the road and from what I could see of the beach.. I would have been a minority there too.

There are signs..

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