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HomeTravel articles & guidesArribada in Costa Rica

Arribada in Costa Rica

07 October, 2019
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Arribada, Costa Rica

Costa Rica is known for its population of different sea turtles that visit its coasts all year round.

Arribada is a special natural phenomenon that shows just how marvellous nature can be.

Read about arribada in Costa Rica below.

Sea turtles in Costa Rica

Olive ridley

Costa Rica truly is a paradise for turtle lovers. The country is a breeding ground for several species.

The sea turtles lay their eggs in the sand all year round on some of Costa Rica’s beaches, and you can experience different species in different places and at different times of the year around the country.

In Costa Rica, you can experience the the green sea turtle, the leatherback, the hawksbill, the loggerhead and the olive ridley sea turtle. The latter is at the centre of an absolutely amazing natural phenomenon: arribada.


Arribada is Spanish for “arrival”, and the word has been used to name to an exciting natural phenomenon.

Arribada is the name used to describe what happens when thousands of olive ridley sea turtles crawl ashore to lay their eggs at the same time. This phenomenon happens in several places in Latin America, but one of the best places to experience it is in Costa Rica.

What happens during arribada?

In the days/weeks leading up to arribada, the turtles begin to gather offshore before swimming ashore at just the right time to dig holes where they can their lay eggs before returning to the sea.

The special thing about arribada – besides seeing so many sea turtles at once – is that the turtles return to the same place year after year. Even the turtles born on the beaches of Costa Rica return when it’s time to lay their own eggs.

When is the best time to experience arribada?

The best time to experience arribada is between June and December, when the olive ridley sea turtles build their nests. However, it peaks from August onwards, when arribada can take place 1–2 times per month.

Although little is known about this mass arrival, the theory is that arribada is closely related to the tide and full moon.

Arribada typically occurs a few days before the new moon (up to 7–10 days). The turtles arrive at night and in the early hours of the morning, and if you’re to experience the phenomenon with your own eyes, you’ll have to get up early. Arribada can go on for up to 5 days.

One arribada in Costa Rica can include up to 150,000 olive ridley sea turtles, and the largest recorded arribada occurred in November 1995 when up to 500,000 female turtles landed.

Where can you experience Arribada?

In Costa Rica, you can experience arribada on the Pacific coast.

The sea turtles return to some very specific beaches here, including Playa Nancite in Santa Rosa National Park and Playa Ostional near Playa Sámara. The latter is known to be one of the best beaches to see the olive ridley sea turtle, which has been returning to this beach every year since the 1930s.

Discover sea turtles in Costa Rica:

If you are uncertain about when to travel, please contact our travel consultants who are on hand to help you.

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