Several beaches in Nicaragua, both in the Pacific and in the Caribbean, are among the few sites in the world where sea turtles arrive, often in huge numbers, to lay their eggs. This fascinating event occurs several times per year.

Throughout the whole world, there are only seven species of sea turtles. Five of those species are present in Nicaragua including the Green Turtle, Hawksbill Turtle, Leatherback Turtle, Loggerhead Turtle, and the Olive Ridley Turtle.

The Green Turtle is on the endangered list. This turtle grows to approximately 100 cm in length and weighs up to 180 kg. It is located on both the Caribbean and Pacific Coasts. Sadly, many Green Turtles are caught for meat consumption and roughly 11,000 are killed per year. It takes the Green Turtle from 20 to 50 years to reach sexually maturity.

The Hawksbill Turtle is on the critically endangered list. This turtle grows to approximately 80 cm in length and weighs up to 80 kg. It is located on both the Caribbean and Pacific Coasts. The shell of the Hawksbill Turtle is often used to make souvenirs and other items.

The Leatherback Turtle is on the critically endangered list. This turtle grows to approximately 155 cm in length and can weigh up to a whooping 700 kg. It is located on both the Caribbean and Pacific Coasts. The Leatherback Turtle is the largest sea turtle in the world.

The Loggerhead Turtle is on the endangered list. This turtle grows to approximately 92 cm in length and weighs 115 kg. This sea turtle lives on the Caribbean Coast.

The Olive Ridley Turtle is on the endangered list. This turtle grows to approximately 58-74 cm in length and can be found only on the Pacific Coast. Olive Ridley turtles lay their eggs during arribadas which are mass sea turtle arrivals that take place on the beaches of Chacocente and La Flor. During these times thousands of Olive Ridley turtles arrive on the beach to lay eggs. Because of the arribadas both sites have been declared Wildlife Refuges. These beaches are placed under regulated supervision preserving the ecosystem without interference.

The most common turtle at the Pacific beaches is the Olive Ridley Turtle. The Leatherback and the Hawksbill Turtle, however, can also be found here in much smaller numbers.

The Nicaraguan Caribbean coast boasts islands and islets that are surrounded by coral reefs. These reefs which provide feeding grounds in which four of the seven turtle species reside: the Green Turtle, the Hawksbill Turtle, the Loggerhead Turtle, and the Leatherback Turtle. While the turtles at the Pacific coast only visit the area to spawn, in the Caribbean the turtles live and feed in the Nicaraguan waters and form part of the ecosystem in which they can be frequently observed. There are no specific beaches on the Caribbean side where arribadas occur, but you can find many turtles feeding or spawning in various locales.

Along with natural predators, the sea turtles also face serious threats from humans. The threats have become very serious, particularly on the Caribbean coast.

In Nicaragua, the Caribbean coast has been and still is populated by a diverse number of ethnic groups like the Mayagnas, the Miskitos, and the Ramas that for centuries have used the sea turtles as a basic food source. The hunt for turtles and turtle eggs had become so widespread and reckless that it has been declared illegal. However, there has been virtually no enforcement of this law by the authorities. A lack of regulation regarding the capture and exploitation of sea turtles has lead to all the sea turtles in Nicaragua being listed on endangered or critically endangered species.

There are some indigenous communities who have the right to hunt turtles in their territory for their own consumption. There are many people, however, who come from different places to hunt at those areas, and there are also local residents who do hunt the turtles in order to sell instead of eat them.

In the Pacific, the major problem is the turtle consumption and mostly the commercial egg consumption. The coastal dwellers, generally very poor due to the low income that their fishing activities bring, have found an additional food source in the eggs and above all they found there was a very high demand for the eggs. The eggs are easily sold to seafood restaurants or simply to people on the street.

At the beaches of La Flor and Chacocente, the regulated protection of the turtles and turtle eggs is managed by organizations like the Cocibolca Foundation as well as the Nicaraguan Army. At these sites tenuous agreements have been made with the local residents which stipulate that the residents can take a certain number of eggs in exchange for collaboration regarding the protection of the turtle nests.

An attitude change in the people residing near the turtle-nesting territories is required to prevent the extinction of sea turtles.

Environmentally sensitive tours to La Flor to watch the arribadas can be booked in San Juan del Sur.