One of Costa Rica's most important natural areas is Las Baulas National Marine Park. The word "baula" in Spanish means leatherback sea turtle, and hundreds of this critically endangered species come to the preservation area every year to nest.
In the protected area, it's also common to find a vast array of birds, howler monkeys, crocodiles and fish.
Las Baulas National Marine Park
Leatherbacks are the biggest turtles in the world and can live to be more than 50 years old. Their appearance is very different from other types of sea turtles which have hard shells; instead, the leatherback has a ridged leather-like covering on its back, made of skin and oils rather than bone.
From November to April, hundreds of female leatherbacks return to Las Baulas National Marine Park, where they were born, to dig deep holes in the soft sand and lay hundreds of eggs. After the incubation period of 3 weeks, it's common to spot dozens of baby leatherbacks scuttling their way back to the sea – a perilous journey because of vultures, dogs and humans which impede their task.
This national park is home to the biggest nesting population of Pacific leatherback turtles in all of Costa Rica, and stretches over more than 54,000 acres of land and water.
The national park includes Playa Grande especially, as well as the nearby beaches Playa Carbon and Playa Ventanas, plus Playa Langosta.
Although Tamarindo isn't included in the national park, it's a great place to book a tour to explore Las Baulas, which can be accessed either by land or by boat.