Isla Tortuga, Costa Rica

Isla Tortuga, Costa Rica

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.

Isla Tortuga, Costa Rica

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.

Isla Tortuga, Costa Rica

Isla Tortuga, Costa Rica

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).

Isla Tortuga, Costa Rica

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…

Isla Tortuga, Costa Rica

Isla Tortuga, Costa Rica

How To Get To Isla Tortuga 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. You can reach the island on a day trip from either Jaco or Montezuma as well as Puntarenas but I wouldn’t advise staying in Puntarenas as it is not a safe port town. My day tour was with Zuma Tours and cost $55 including lunch, drinks and fresh fruit on the boat.

To plan your Costa Rica solo female travel, read our solo guide

Isla Tortuga, Costa Rica

N.b. Photos by the lovely Jennifer Smith who I met on the snorkelling tour. 

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