If you're planning a trip to Isla Tortuga, Costa Rica, I share what to do on Isla Tortuga as well as my personal experience of this fab little island!
Types of Girl about the Globe – Island GatG, Ocean GatG
My time in Costa Rica was limited. Having only been stamped for 10 days entry meant that I was on a whistle stop tour.
One of the highlights that I simply had to do was snorkel at Isla Tortuga, Costa Rica, an island near the Nicoya Pennisular named after a turtle because of its shape, not because it was a habitat for turtles. Snorkeling here was meant to be some of the best snorkelling in Costa Rica and I wasn't going to miss out.
Trips operate directly from Montezuma on the Nicoya Pennisular so staying here was the perfect departure point to visit this stunning little island. As morning came I walked down to the beach and hopped aboard our boat ready to cruise along the gorgeous coastline to Isla Tortuga.
Stopping at Rainbow Rock, I could see the white sands of Tortuga Island in the distance, lined with coconut palms along its shores. We had two opportunities to snorkel with 45 minutes in each. Opting for the inflatable jacket for extra protection, I climbed down the steps as everyone else gracefully jumped from the boat.
Not being a lover of water, I tailed at the back, floating around and admiring the odd fish that swam past as every else headed towards the rocks. A few minutes later I heard a word that you really don’t want to hear when you’re floating around in deep water.
Visions of the horrifying Jaws movie came flashing back. A lone swimmer bobbing in the middle of the ocean as a large silhouette ventured out from the dark depths of the water.
Instead of everyone panicking and swimming away from the person who screamed the scary “S” word, everyone headed towards the rocks where they were pointing.
I couldn’t shake the jaws scene (I swear that film has scarred me for life), so I began a subtle retreat and began floating back to the boat, keeping myself calm as I swam back.
I climbed on the boat to a surprised crew member and was greeted by “That was quick!”
“There was a shark,” I spluttered.
“Oh that!” he replied. “There were 4 reef sharks spotted here last week. They must still be here.”
I had snorkelled with reef sharks in Belize in the past (at a distance though) but just hearing the “s” word when you weren’t expecting it has a completely different effect.
As everyone came back full of excitement about seeing the reef sharks, we moved to our second snorkel stop where I stayed near the boat (I was taking no chances).
Ten minutes later, we pulled up to stunning Tortuga Island for a lunch of barbecued fish and vegetables on the white sandy beach. The group dispersed as some swam, others took advantage of the water sports, and some shopped in the only gift shop on the island. I laid out my sarong and soaked up some rays, thankful that I was back on land.
Until it was time to leave, I was doing nothing. I had had enough action and excitement for one day…
Things To Do on Isla Tortuga
Snorkelling is one of the reasons why I visited Isla Tortuga! It is a must-do activity on the island. Many tours offer the option to snorkel and will provide the equipment as well as instructions on how to snorkel. It is truly an experience. Enjoy seeing the exotic and colourful fish and other underwater creatures, but don’t be surprised to see a shark, as I did!
2. Discover The Shipwrecks
Did you know there are several shipwrecks in Isla Tortuga? They are rich in history! You will find it very interesting to hear the stories behind these shipwrecks and the events that took place. The three shipwrecks to check out near Isla Tortuga are Caroline Star, Coronel Alfonso Monge and Franklin Chang Diaz.
3. Simply Relax on The Beach
The beaches in Isla Tortuga are spectacular. The sea colour, the white sand and the vegetation make you feel like you are in paradise. Thankfully, beaches on Tortuga Island are protected, and it isn’t uncommon to see dolphins, whales and turtles. Enjoy the tranquil atmosphere and beautiful views, swim or watch the sunset.
4. Go On a Hiking Trail
Isla Tortuga is home to beautiful hiking trails with abundant trees and wildlife, so pay attention to your surroundings to discover unique birds. There are two main hiking trails. The first hiking trail lasts about 30 minutes, and the second 45 minutes. Both hiking trails offer stunning views of the island.
5. Try Costa Rican Dishes
Another thing to highlight about Tortuga Island is the food. Although you can try Costa Rican dishes in other locations across the country, the island has a good reputation for food. Eat casado, a typical dish with rice, beans, peppers, fried bananas and meat, ceviche, and tamales, among other delicacies.
In addition to these dishes, the locals in Isla Tortuga know how to make a good BBQ. Many beach restaurants offer delicious and fresh BBQ fish and meat.
Tips For Visiting Isla Tortuga
- Visit Isla Tortuga during the dry season (December to April). This way, you will guarantee sunny and clear days perfect for relaxing on the beach, snorkelling or doing other water activities.
- Take cash with you. It is the primary payment method on the island.
- Wear reef-safe sun cream. It is better for your skin and helps protect ocean life.
Tortuga Island Tour
Costa Rica Tortuga Island is beautiful and this trip is a definite must if you visit Costa Rica. There are no currents here which make it very safe to dive and snorkel. If you're unsure how to get to Isla Tortuga Costa Rica, you can reach the island on one of the Isla Tortuga Tours from either Jaco, Montezuma or San Jose. They also run tours from Puntarenas but I wouldn’t advise staying in Puntarenas as it is not a safe port town.
The trips cost from $110 and include a snorkel tour, soft drinks, lunch which is either fish, chicken or vegetarian and your transfer to the island. Depending on where you're staying, they can also pick you up too. I've included two recommended Tortuga Island Tour below.
- Check prices & availability for Tortuga Island tour from Jaco
- Check prices & availability for Tortuga Island tour from San Jose
Frequently Asked Questions About Tortuga Island
- Where is Tortuga Island Costa Rica? Isla Tortuga is southeast of the Nicoya Peninsula.
- Is it possible to stay in Isla Tortuga? Unfortunately, there aren’t any accommodations on the island. Therefore, you will need to stay in nearby locations, such as Santa Teresa or Montezuma.
- Is Tortuga Costa Rica worth visiting? Yes, Isla Tortuga is a fantastic day trip with snorkelling opportunities and beautiful beaches.
- How much does it cost to go to Tortuga Island? A Tortuga Island tour from Montezuma usually costs around 50 USD.
- Are there turtles on Tortuga Island, Costa Rica? Yes, you can spot turtles in Isla Tortuga.
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