Beyond The Ocean: Can Sea Turtles Live On Land?

can sea turtles live on land

Sea turtles are unique marine reptiles that are some of the most interesting animals on the planet.

They are perfectly adapted to life in the ocean but unlike fish, they have lungs and are required to breathe oxygen.

In this post, we’re going to take a closer look at sea turtles and where they live their lives. We are going to specifically answer, can sea turtles live on land?

Yes, but only for a limited amount of time, usually around 1-month. Sea turtles come onto land briefly to lay eggs, but they rely on the ocean to feed and survive.

Can Sea Turtles Truly Live On Land?

A sea turtle on land would be like humans in the ocean. Yes, they can visit the land, but not for long periods and they must ultimately return to the ocean.

Unlike tortoises that live on land permanently, sea turtles have webbed feet that allow them to swim through the ocean effortlessly in search of food.

Sea turtles are vulnerable once they leave the water, which leaves them open to attacks from predators. The water offers sea turtles protection, which is why they rely on it so heavily.

In some areas of the world, humans take Leatherback turtles off the beach when they come to lay their eggs and eat them.

This is why in some areas of the world, species such as the Leatherback are endangered and their numbers are declining.

Can Any Turtles Live On Land?

Turtles are perfectly adapted to life in the water. There are not many species of turtle that can live indefinitely on land.

Tortoises, which are turtle subspecies are semi-aquatic animals, which means they spend a lot of time on both land and water.

Unlike turtles, tortoises can survive and live on land permanently. Instead of webbed feet, they have round and stump feet that are adapted for walking across land.

That said, land turtles also known as box turtles can be found all over the United States and often be found in woodland areas as well as near swamplands.

How Long Can Sea Turtles Stay On Land?

Sea turtles like many mammals have lungs, which means they need to come up from beneath the ocean every once in a while to breathe.

Many sea turtles have the ability to slow their heart rate down and stay submerged for hours at a time, but they ultimately must surface for oxygen.

On average, a sea turtle can stay on land for about a week, however, many will never do so due to the risk of being eaten by predators and the vulnerability.

Without taking health consequences into account, a sea turtle could survive on land for around 1 month, and even up to 6 months when hibernating.

It’s important to keep in mind that these numbers are just averages, and the chances of any sea turtle staying out of the water for longer than a few days is very slim.

Can Turtles Survive Out Of Water?

Sea turtles can survive outside of the water as they are marine mammals that do not rely on the water solely to breathe.

That said, there are a few factors to consider which can sometimes lengthen or shorten the amount of time a turtle can stay out of the water.


Humidity refers to the amount of water that is in the air. The more water that is in the air means the humidity level is higher.

This is an important factor for turtles to consider before leaving the water, as the higher the humidity level the better for them as this keeps them moist whilst on land.

Whilst there are no studies showing the impact of humidity levels on turtles, it’s clear that it has a significant impact on the turtle population in some areas.

For example in the United States, the east coast is much more humid than the west and southwest.

In some areas on the east coast, the humidity level is between 70 – 80%, and this is where you’ll find a lot more turtles than say the southwest where humidity levels can be as low as 20%.


Another important factor that impacts the length of time a turtle can come out of the water is the temperature.

The hotter it is, the less time turtles will be able to stay out of the water as they will overheat and need to cool down.

A turtle’s makeup is between 70 – 80% water, which means they are affected just as much by the temperature as we humans are.

We all know how much some of us struggle to withstand the heat at times, so imagine what it’s like having a shell on your back and having poor maneuverability.

You would likely consider staying in the water as opposed to sunbathing on land and risking overheating as well as being eaten by predators.


The average life expectancy of a sea turtle is somewhere between 30 – 50 years, but some larger turtle species can live well over 100 years old.

One key aspect of turtles being on land is that the older they are, the larger they are and the more water they are able to store in their bodies whilst they visit the land.

Adult turtles can go without water for around 1-week, whereas juvenile turtles will struggle to go 1-day without water.

This means that it’s not wise for juveniles to risk being caught out on land and struggling to find their way back into the ocean.

Where Do Turtles Live On Land?

Land turtles can be found on every continent of the world, except for icy Antarctica. They can be found often in woodlands, swamps, and even grasslands.

In North America, the Eastern Box Turtles inhabit woodlands habitats, whereas the Ornate Box Turtle can be found in many grasslands across the country.

Despite these turtles being names turtles, they resemble that of a tortoise as they have stumpy legs and do not rely on the water as much as turtles, especially not sea turtles.

Final Thoughts

So can sea turtles live on land? No, they certainly can not. Sea turtles rely heavily on the ocean in order to survive as this is where they feed.

They do come on land every now and again in order to lay their eggs, but they quickly return to the ocean where they are safe from predators.

The land is a dangerous place for sea turtles, and although they are able to survive there for sometimes months, they rarely risk doing so.

It’s rare to find a sea turtle out of the ocean for even a few days unless they are laying eggs, the ocean is a sea turtle’s habitat and their lifeline when it comes to survival.

Hopefully, this post has been helpful and you’ve learned something new today about sea turtles and why they rely on the ocean so much.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and feel free to stick around to learn more about sea turtles and other marine life.