La Arribada “The Arrival” of the Olive Ridley Turtles to Ostional

To see turtles lay eggs is one thing. But to see literally hundreds lay eggs at the same time is another experience all together.

The famous “Arribada” or arrival, is a must-see event. It’s truly an event that leaves you in awe. There is something magical about seeing the massive arrival of the Olive Ridley turtles to Ostional Beach scurrying in desperation to lay their eggs and then head back off to sea as quickly as they arrived… in a flash.

Turtles lay eggs in Ostional year round, but the peak season to see this amazing phenomenon is September and October. The largest arribada to date was recorded back in September 1995 when an estimated 500,000 females turtles came ashore.

While we didn’t see that many, it sure seemed like thousands. The turtles tend to arrive at night during high tide, but we were lucky enough to see so many of them during the daylight hours.

We arrived at 5 PM and were able to get a good hour of sunlight in to really appreciate the experience. It’s even more amazing to see the hundreds of little turtle heads poking out of the distant surf swimming as hard as they can to make it ashore!

Once onshore, the turtles make the trek past the high tide line, dig their nest and lay anywhere from 80-100 golf ball sized eggs, cover them up and head out to sea. I can only imagine what an exhausting voyage this is for them!

Not only is coming to see the arribada an amazing experience, but it’s also inexpensive and great for children however, a certified guide must accompany you. My sons and their friends were so excited to see so many turtles.

Elijah, my younger son, was busy fighting off the buzzards trying to eat some of the turtle eggs, while my older son Kian was more interested in watching the turtles come ashore to build their nests. Unfortunately the fact of the matter is that many of those eggs will never make it to the ocean.

The birds and dogs eat a good bunch of them and some get kicked out by the turtles themselves who dig a nest in a place one was already existing.

Amazingly, Ostional is the only beach in the world where harvesting turtle eggs is legal. Scientists found out that most of the eggs deposed in the first nights of an arribada are destroyed by subsequent turtles who dig their nests. Therefore, since 1987, the government of Costa Rica allows the community of Ostional to harvest the doomed eggs on the first three days of an arribada.

In return, the villagers protect the turtles, clean debris from the beaches and patrol day and night for poachers.

Coming back to see the turtles hatch:

Small turtles hatch after around 50 days. The baby turtles hatch within 45-54 days depending on incubation temperatures, which will also determine if they will become male or female. They face varying degrees of success in each of the clutches that are laid in large groups to increase their success of surviving.

In general the baby turtles hatch at night, but it may also happen that you are sitting in the afternoon on the beach and suddenly, next to you the sand becomes live and small heads pop up.

How to get there:

Ostional is a short drive from Nosara. From the Beaches of Nosara, drive 2 kms until the turnoff to Santa Marta to the left. From here it is 7 kms to Ostional.  Most hotels in Nosara arrange tours to Ostional when there is an arribada.

(This is the way I came, through Junquillal, now fully paved until that point. It took about 1 hour 15 minutes from Flamingo): Coming from the north, a road goes to Ostional south-west from Santa Cruz or south from Junquillal via Marbella and San Juanillo. For most of the year this road is in rather good condition, but Sept/Oct a 4×4 is advisable.

From Santa Cruz a bus runs daily at noon time to Ostional (3 hours) and returns to Santa Cruz at 5 a.m.

As the arribadas occur during the peak of rainy season it is sometimes not possible to get to Ostional or to leave from there.

The Arribada is a truly amazing experience that you should not miss!

La Arribada “The Arrival” of the Olive Ridley Turtles to Ostional

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