The small village of Tortuguero (translated as “Region of Turtles”) lies on the northeastern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, approximately 50 miles north of the principal Port of Limon. the village is comprised of a variety of cultures: Hispanic, Miskito Indian (Nicaragua), and Afro-Caribbean. Both Spanish and Creole English are spoken. The region surrounding Tortuguero is called the Tortuguero Plain, which is a vast low lying area of little topographic relief still covered by a large expanse of tropical rainforest.
Tortuguero beach is the most important nesting site of the endangered green turtle in the Western Hemishpere. Giant leatherback, hawksbill, and loggerhead turtles also nest here. The green turtle population is believed to have come perilously close to extinction in the 1960s when nearly every female turtle arriving to nest in Tortuguero was taken for the export market for turtle soup. STC was established in 1959 specifically to study and protect Caribbean green turtles. Working closely with the Costa Rican government, STC helped establish Tortuguero National Park in 1970, a move that offered protection to the turtles and strictly limited the number of turtles that could be taken.
With the park established, development along the coast would never stretch much beyond the existing village, and the presence of STC researchers and park guards would discourage poaching. The park now includes over 19,000 hectares (46,900 acres) and protects 22 miles of nesting beach from the mouth of the Tortuguero River south to Parisimina. The park, and the Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge to the north, comprise the largest remaining adjoining tract of lowland wet tropical forest on Costa Rica’s Atlantic Coast.