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Beaches Best Known For Turtle Watching Around the World

Beaches Best Known For Turtle Watching Around the World

According to Sea Turtle Conservancy, there are several turtle nesting beaches around the world with varied number and species of sea turtles. Here are some of the best spots to watch marine turtles around the world since they are having the largest population there.

Sea turtle species to see

All seven species of marine turtles: Flatback, Hawksbill, Green turtle, Kemp’s Ridley, Olive Ridley, Loggerhead, and Leatherback are on the red list of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources). It means that all are endangered, vulnerable, or critical.

Watching turtles ethically and respectfully is crucial. This includes maintaining a safe distance, being quiet, avoiding flash photography, refraining from touching, and leaving no trace. This latter also means not to interrupt the natural order of life between hatchlings and predators.

Turtle nesting vs Turtle hatching

Turtle nesting is when adult female turtles under the cover of night are digging nests, laying in average 100 eggs, and covering them with sand to shield their future offspring from predators. When they are ready, the turtles return to the sea. They usually pick the same beach where they were born.

Turtle hatching starts after a period of incubation in average 60 days. the sand stirs once more, this time the baby turtles, or hatchlings, break free. They wait until it is dark to make their move and stay hidden as much as possible from predators. Using the moonlight to find their way, these tiny turtles rush towards the ocean.

To witness the most spectacular arribadas, or mass hatching events, you should aim for areas frequented by Olive Ridley or Kemp’s Ridley turtles. These are the only two turtle species known to gather in the largest numbers. Your best bet for Olive Ridley is Costa Rica, and for Kemp’s Ridley it is Mexico.

Costa Rica (largest Olive Ridley nesting)

Tiny turtle hatchling in the sand.
Photo credit: Mitchel Lensink via Unsplash.

5 out of 7 species: Green Turtle, Olive Ridley, Leatherback, and Hawksbill (Loggerhead rarely)

Costa Rica is not only a prime location for birdwatching, but for turtle watching as well. 60(!) beaches along both Pacific and Caribbean coasts welcomes typically one or more of the four sea turtle species. It is the largest aggregation in the Wider Caribbean Region.

Situated on the northeast Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, Tortuguero National Park is a sanctuary for approx. 20,000 green turtles, which nest along its beaches from July to October. Along the Caribbean costs several beaches are used as nesting spots by mostly leatherbacks and hawksbill turtles from March to May.

Olive Ridley turtles keep to the Pacific side. They appear alongside green turtles at beaches along the shores of Nicoya Peninsula (in larger numbers at Playa Ostional and Playa Nancite) between August and November. The two beaches are estimated to welcome approx. 150,000 nests.

Osa Peninsula and Corcovado National Park also welcomes a mix of Green, Olive Ridley and Hawksbill Turtles albeit on a smaller scale.

Panama

Palm trees, white sand beach and light blue water.
Photo credit: Camilo Pinaud via Unsplash.

2 out of 7 species: Green, Hawksbill, and Leatherback Turtles.

Right next to Costa Rica, Bocas del Toro in Panama is also a hotspot for hawksbill and leatherback turtle nesting. Every year, the Sea Turtle Conservancy counts more than 2,000 hawksbill and over 5,000 leatherback nests in the area.

Hawksbill turtles prefer to nest from May to October, with a lot of action in July and August. Leatherbacks nest from mid-February to July, and May is the prime time to spot them. Green turtles join the nesting party from May to November.

If you are looking to see these amazing turtles, head to places like Humedal San San Pond Sack, Playa Chiriqui, Playa Bluff, Bastimentos National Park, and Isla Escudo de Veraguas. These spots are the best turtle watching destinations in Panama.

Mexico (largest Kemp’s Ridley nesting)

Tiny turtle hatchling in the sand.
Photo credit: Mitchel Lensink via Unsplash.

5 out of 7 species: Kemp’s Ridley, Green, Loggerhead, Leatherback, and Hawksbill Turtles.

Both the Sea Turtle Conservancy and the IUCN documented an approx. 97% decline in sea turtle population in the wider Caribbean due to several reasons. But Mexico remained a key area of Kemp’s Ridley Turtles which is the smallest sea turtle species in the world and also the only endemic species in the Gulf of Mexico.

Kemp’s Ridley Turtles are unique in a sense that they nest during the day and not at night like the other species. Despite traveling along the North Pacific Coast as high up as New England, they go back to two primary nesting beaches: Tamaulipas (95% of all nestings) and Veracruz.

What about other parts of Mexico?

  • The beaches in Veracruz are also the home of other turtle species, but green turtles are the largest number after Kemp’s Ridley.
  • In smaller numbers, the beaches in Campeche also welcomes four species, but mainly Hawksbill.
  • Yucatan and Quintana Roo is not only known for its cenotes, but they also have several nesting sites for most species (except for Kemp’s Ridley), albeit in smaller numbers.

Florida, United States (largest Loggerhead nesting)

Sea turtle staying between rocks and marine flora.
Photo credit: KGrif via Canva Pro.

5 out of 7 species: Loggerhead, Leatherback, Green, Kemp’s Ridley and Hawksbill Turtles.

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is a delight for more than just snorkeling and swimming. This string of islands along with both shores of the Florida Peninsula invites 3 different sea turtle species Loggerhead, Leatherback, and Green turtles.

The world’s largest Loggerhead Nesting is happening every year along Florida beaches. Female turtles spend comes to shore to nest between April through October.

Trinidad and Tobago

Large black sea turtle is in the sand in front of a rainforest.
Photo credit: Rawlinson_Photography via Canva Pro.

3 out of 7 species: Leatherback, Hawksbill, and Green Turtles.

The islands of Trinidad and Tobago welcomes giant Leatherback Turtles as high tides bring them to the shore, where they spend the months of March and September to lay their eggs. The appearance of the other two species are rather sporadic.

The best places to see turtles in Trinidad and Tobago are Matura Bay, Fishing Pond, and Grande Riviere and Turtle Beach. Combined, these beaches host the nesting of the largest population of Leatherback Turtles in the Wider Caribbean Region and the third largest in the world.

Antilles

Brown yellow sea turtle swims in blue water above the sandy bottom.
Photo credit: blueorangestudio via Canva Pro.

4 out of 7 species: Green, Loggerhead, Leatherback, and Hawksbill Turtles.

From Cuba all the way to Venezuela, almost all Antilles Islands welcomes one or more species of sea turtles along their shores.

Treasure Beach on Jamaica’s southwest coast, along with Guadeloupe and Barbados, serve as sanctuaries primarily for Hawksbill Turtles. Meanwhile, beaches in Cuba and the Cayman Islands are renowned for the nesting and hatching of Green Turtles. Although Trinidad and Tobago is the prime spot for Leatherback Turtles, the surrounding islands also host smaller populations.

Puerto Rico is not only known for its bioluminescent bays, but also as a nesting place for primarily Leatherback and Hawksbill Turtles.

French Guiana

Small turtle hatchling in the sand looking towards the sea.
Photo credit: Max Gotts via Unsplash.

3 out of 7 species: Leatherback, Olive Ridley, and Green Turtles.

In its prime, in 2009, almost 17,000 Leatherback Turtle nests were observed in the beaches of French Guiana. Compared to that only 500 nests remained in 2021 due to erosion and getting caught as bycatch in fishing and trawling.

Still, it is the second largest nesting population after Trinidad and Tobago that arrives to Awala-Yalimapo region from February until August.

Cape Verde

A sea turtle is swimming in blue waters.
Photo credit: Schnapps2012 via Canva Pro.

5 out of 7 species: Loggerhead, Leatherback, Green, Olive Ridley and Hawksbill Turtles.

You’ll find plenty of opportunities to turtle watch in Cape Verde since most of its coastline welcomes these marine creatures. You will have the highest luck with Boa Vista, Maio, Santiago, and Sal. Here, loggerhead turtles make themselves home, with nesting season lasting from July to October.

Visiting in September and October will do the trick for those hoping to see the largest number of nests as well as tiny hatchlings rush to the sea.

Sao Tome and Principe

Tiny black turtle hatching from above in the sand.
Photo credit: DOUGBERRY via Canva Pro.

4 out of 7 species: Hawksbill, Green, Loggerhead, and Olive Ridley Turtles.

San Tome and Principe has multiple beaches where adult female turtles are coming to lay their eggs at night. Because of their unique diversity, these turtles can be seen laying eggs from November until February. Turtle hatching ends at the end of March.

Northern Cyprus (Turkey)

Beach with grass
Photo credit: Alina Tulum via Unsplash.

2 out of 7 species: Green and Loggerhead Turtles.

According to Cyprus Turtles Conservation around 3000 Loggerhead Turtles and 400 Green Turtles nest in the Mediterranean region every year. They estimate that 10% of Loggerheads and 30% of Green Turtles choose beaches in North Cyprus.

Multiple turtle conservation sites are set up in Alagadi Beach and Ronnas Bay (Karpaz) to offer ethical turtle watching for tourists who want to observe various turtle species without disrupting their habitat.

Nesting season starts in late May and lasts just a month until late July, but on surrounding beaches, tourists might even find the process lasting as late as August.

Turkey

Yellow brown turtle head up close as it about to go in the ocean.
Photo credit: passion4nature via Canva Pro.

2 out of 7 species: Loggerhead and Green Turtles.

Located inward on the southwest coast of Turkey, Dalyan is a famous breeding ground for Loggerhead Turtles. They have been visiting Dalyan for decades, so the Turkish government and international conservation organizations closely monitor the area and close the beaches at night.

During peak nesting season, from May to October, tourists can visit the beaches if they go on guided tours.

Greece

Small brown sea turtle swimming in the sea next to a giant rock.
Photo credit: stocklapse via Canva Pro.

1 out of 7 species: Loggerhead Turtles

Dedicated to turtle conservation, Kalamaki Beach on Zakynthos Island is an excellent spot for turtle watching, especially from May to August. When Loggerhead Turtles nest or being born and making their first steps toward the shore, the beach are closed at night to protect them.

Last year, volunteers of Archelon counted and protected more than 10,000 nests along all beaches in Greece: Kalamaki Beach and Laganas Beach, in Zakynthos, Glyfada near Athens, Lakonikos Bay, Kyparissia Bay, and Koroni in the Peloponnese, and Chania and Messara Bay in the island of Crete.

Oman

A sea turtle covered with wet sand is moving towards the sea.
Photo credit: nimu1956 via Canva Pro.

4 out of 7 species: Green, Loggerhead, Olive Ridley, and Hawksbill Turtle.

Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve is the only place to watch turtles legally in Oman. In total, the country is estimated to welcome about 20,000 adult female turtles that lay approx. 50-60,000 eggs after a population decline by 79%.

From May through September visitors can watch turtle nesting and turtle hatching at the shore of Ras Al Jinz. Depending on when you visit, you most probably catch green sea or loggerhead turtles burrowing in the sand to lay their eggs or tiny baby hatchlings breaking free and sliding into the ocean.

Maldives

Sea turtle is swimming in dark sea.
Photo credit: Nuture via Canva Pro.

5 out of 7 species: Green, Hawksbill, Loggerhead, Leatherback, and Olive Ridley Turtle.

14 islands are selected by the Maldive Government as primary sea turtle nesting place. One of them is Kuredu Island, where a significant number of Green Turtles go to lay their eggs from November to January, during the Northeast monsoon when there’s less rain. Hatching can happen any time, usually at night, 50 to 70 days after the turtles lay their eggs.

The other location is Gaadhoo Island, where following a 40% decline from 1,400 nests per year and a subsequent ban to take eggs, the number of nests are on the rise.

Several resorts in the Maldives teamed up with volunteers and the government to operate various conservation and rescue projects like the Marine Turtle Rescue Center at the Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu Resort, the Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center at the One and Only Reethi Rah Resort or the Sea Turtle Conservation Project at Six Senses Laamu.

Sri Lanka

Tiny turtle hatchlings climbing out of a hole in the sand.
Photo credit: Shakeel Sha via Canva Pro.

5 out of 7 species: Green, Hawksbill, Loggerhead, Leatherback, and Olive Ridley Turtle.

Hosting Hawksbill and Green Turtles, the Sri Lankan beach of Rekawa and the town of Kosgoda welcome tourists during nesting season, which falls between April and July. Tourists can observe small groups of turtles approach the sand and pick out the safest spots to lay their eggs.

The Sri Lanka Turtle Conservation Program shows all turtle watching locations. Most of which located at the Southern part of the island.

The beaches at the Kalpitiya Peninsula host Olive Ridley turtles to nest and lay eggs. Bio Conservation Society monitors their numbers.

Malaysia

Sea turtle is swimming above rocky bottom in a dark blue ocean.
Photo credit: Jesse Schoff via Unsplash.

4 out of 7 species: Leatherback, Green, Olive Ridley, and Hawksbill Turtles.

There are quite a few spots for turtle watching in Malaysia, but you will have the best luck in the Turtle Island Park in Sabah and Talang Satang National Park in Sarawak that hosts hundreds of Green and Hawksbill Turtles.

Amazingly, Borneo is one of the few places where turtles frequent daily, so you can catch them nesting or hatching anytime. Still, peak tourist season is between July to October.

Philippines

Sea turtle swimming above rocky bottom in shallow waters.
Photo credit: Daniel Toryfter via Canva Pro.

5 out of 7 species: Green, Hawksbill, Loggerhead, Leatherback and Olive Ridley Turtles.

Turtle Islands in Sabah, Malaysia, isn’t just a standalone haven; it’s part of a broader conservation zone that stretches into the marine areas of the Philippines, near the quaint municipality of Tawi Tawi. This idyllic spot is a nesting paradise for Green Turtles across its six major beaches, with Hawksbill Turtles also calling it home. Additionally, the area has earned a spot on the tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage, highlighting its global importance for conservation.

In addition to that Palawan beaches welcomes Olive Ridley Turtles for nesting and hatching.

The peak season falls from April to October when conservationists host guided night watch tours to help tourists observe these endangered turtles cautiously. All conservation attempts are carefully made to ensure these turtles’ safety.

Australia (largest Green and Flatback nesting)

Sea turtle swimming close to a reef
Photo credit: Chad Taylor via Unsplash.

6 out of 7 species: Flatback, Green, Hawksbill, Loggerhead, Leatherback and Olive Ridley Turtles.

Australia is celebrated for its rich Aboriginal culture, stunning tropical beaches, and mesmerizing pink lakes. Above all, it’s famed for its distinctive endemic wildlife, including koalas, kangaroos, and a unique species of sea turtle.

Flatback Turtle is an endemic species in Australia, meaning it is the only place they live, nest, and hatch. Furthermore, there are approx. 290 nesting sights along the coast of Western Australia, Northern Territories and Queensland. Largest rookeries are in Mon Repos, Barrow Island, Mundabullangana Beach, Eighty Mile Beach, and Cape Dommett.

Raine Island hosts the largest Green Turtle nesting in the world. In 2020, they recorded 64,000 Green Turtles flocking to the Great Barrier Reef. The best time to visit is from November through March when most of these turtles lay eggs than small hatchlings emerge from their burrowed homes and head to the sea.

A woman sitting on a mountain. Behind her is a lake.
Travel Writer | Website

Emese Maczko is a travel blogger behind Eco Lodges Anywhere. Having explored several destinations around Europe, the US, Indonesia, and Australia, and resided in Germany, the United Kingdom, and Luxembourg, Emese possesses a keen understanding of diverse cultures and an appreciation for the beauty of each destination she visits. She advocates for sustainable travel and ecotourism.