Cañas Island Between Mangrove Swamps and Turtles

mangroves in Cañas Island

Once we were in Pedasi, we went to Cañas Island to the Turtles Nesting tour, our guide, Daniel is native of the Island, he calculated our arrival just after the rain stopped and before the tide went too low, why?

The Turtles Nesting tour starts by the boat at Cañas Port, it takes about 10 minutes but if the tide goes too low, the boat can’t pass, and you have to go to another port or hike in the mangrove swamp.

Getting off the bus and putting on the repellent, there is no option because the mosquitoes are on the attack.

It is a short trip by boat, which the mangrove is crossed, the trip is very beautiful, I would like to have done it early, to have more light.

Cañas Island Port
Repellent and the boats before the tide goes down more.

The Dinner

We got off at Cañas Island, it was about 6:45 p.m. so we went straight to dinner, we thought it was going to be in at restaurant, but it was a house that offer dinner for the tour.

In this way, it helps the local economy, you have direct contact with the locals.  

They offered us yuccas with chimichurri at the beginning and it was the best I have ever eaten in my life, we were all fascinated, and asking if there were more.

Arriving to Cañas Island
Arriving at the Port in Cañas Island.

Once we had dinner, Daniel gave us an explanation of the turtles and directions for the tour, after, we went to the beach.

We walked through the Cañas Island town, I thought it was an uninhabited island and that one could no live on it, but I was surprised, there is a school, a police station, a grocery store and of course, a bar.

Devouring the best chimichurri.

At the beach, Daniel gave us another explanation of the Turtles Nesting Tour, it was about the trace that the turtle leaves on the sand, so we can know if there was one arriving.

Then we started to walk towards the Vivarium of the Visitors Center, which is where they take care for the eggs so they are not eaten or destroyed by predators.

How do they take care of the turtles’ eggs?

The turtles lay 100 eggs on average and there are people in charge of watching when turtles arrive.

Once the lay the eggs, they are moved as carefully as possible to a protected area, it is fenced.

The eggs are buried again in the sand, and an antacid mesh is placed on them, in this way it is avoided that animals and humans take them out. The nests are identified with the name of the species number of eggs and date. There they will be about 65 days in incubation.

Daniel explaining sea turtles
Daniel explaining sea turtles.

The nests are measured by a thermometer, if the temperature is very high they put a tarp on them to stabilize them.

The Turtles Nesting Tour

Turtle lay their eggs in the dark.  We had the visit with full moon, so the possibilities to see one, went down.

If Daniel detected something that could be a turtle he went near to verify it, it is very important to be behind the guide and pending, most of all because everything is dark and he knows the way.

Walking through town, on the way to the beach
Walking through town, on the way to the beach.

You cannot use a flashlight neither flash, this can affect to the turtles, also there are people watching and you can have problems for this.

Daniel indicated us when we can take photos he will tell us, but it was not like we were going to do a photo session.

For this reason, I think it is very important to go with an authorized guide.

Unfortunately, no turtle could be seen, the next day we were noticed the turtles arrived at 4:00 a.m.

The good thing is everything one learns from this place, Daniel explained us, years ago they lived from the selling the eggs, when he was a child, they took the eggs out and they were to sell them to be able to subsist, but one day, while he was doing a tour, he saw there was another option to have money and it was better than taking the eggs out, since then he changed his business.

Daniel giving one last explanation before starting the tour on the beach
Daniel giving one last explanation before starting the tour on the beach


We took a boat to go back, this time bound for the port of Cañas, since the tide had lowed a lot and it was not possibility to return to the previous port.

However, some of the boys along with the guide returned by hiking through the mangrove swamp, one option that was it can take.

They loved it, I realized that they did it when I arrived to the port, I am not sure if I were gone with them, because of I was wearing long pants and sneakers, Andres told us that the deepest out of the water was knee deep.

About Cañas Island

Since 1994 it is a Wildlife Refuge, it has 14 kilometers of beach and 1,200 hectares of Mangroves.

It is located in Los Santos Province in Tonosi District.

To the island arrives 5 species of turtles to spawn: leatherback, hawksbill, green, loggerhead and olive ridley.

Interesting Facts

  • The temperature in the eggs is what makes the turtles to be male or female.
  • With the process that Cañas Island do, all the little turtles reach the sea. With the natural process, without external care, 60% of the little turtles reach the sea and only 1% reaches and adult.
  • To Cañas Island can arrive until 10,000 turtles, which means that about 100,000 turtles are born.

The Turtle Nesting Season

The turtle nesting takes places between July and November, in this time, they lay their eggs and the turtles are born.

It can happen that some eggs are not ready yet to lay them in hatching (in the sand) so they just lay the ready eggs and other day they come back to lay the others eggs.

Nursery, under each mesh there is a nest of turtles on Cañas Island
Nursery, under each mesh there is a nest of turtles.

Where to lodge?

Talking with Daniel, of Isla Cañas Tours, about the advices to visit it, he told that is better to book on the Island.

So, you can know the Island, enjoy it, and because the tour is at night, you will be closer to your bed at the end of it. 

You can go on your own, but the logistics would be hard and you must know the indications to do the watching.

I stayed in Pedasí at Doña Maria Hostel, I recommend a lot, now Pedasí is at one hour to Caña Island, but as I did not drive and we were (the passengers), half asleep so we didn’t feel the travel.


  • Repellent, repellent and repellent,
  • Patience, you may have to wait for a long to see a turtle,
  • Attentive to the guide and always to be behind him,
  • If you want to see turtles lay eggs, go between July and September, and if you want to see the turtles born then you have to go after September and book in the island,
  • Tour operator: Isla Cañas Tours, this is my 3rd tour with them and it has gone very good for me, also Daniel, the guide, is a local who knows first-hand everything about the Island. With them I did the Whale Watching and I went to Iguana Island.

Also, in Cañas Island, you can do

  • Kayaks,
  • bodyboards,
  • surf,
  • mangrove tour,
  • paddle,
  • diving
  • and snokerling.
Back on the boat to Cañas.

Spawing Tour Hours

  • From 5:00 p.m. and it can be extended until dawn.


  • $40.00 tour from Cañas Port- there is an option to transport from Pedasí, extra charge.
  • $80.00 tour with accommodation, double room.
  • On your own: accommodation $40.00 in private room + boat + meals.

My guide

The guys of ICT. Experiencias (before, named Isla Caña Tours) +507 6718-0032.

Tour in Spanish and English.

How to get to Cañas Island?

By car, take the Panamericana highway to Divisa, then go by the street that goes towards Las Tablas, left side street.

Take Las Tablas-Tonosi road (passing by Las Tablas bus Station).

Continue until the road end, when the street look like a T, take the street on the left, Belisario Porras road and take street on the right about 9.2 km to the end of the road.

Where you will reach Cañas Island Port, it is about 5h. if you are in Pedasí, follow the road to Playa Veano, it will take you 1 hour to get there.

Updated: 2021.

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One of the turtles that has reached Cañas Island
One of the turtles that has reached Cañas Island. Photo courtesy of Daniel.

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