Costa Rica’s Prettiest Island – Isla Tortuga

isla tortuga costa rica

Discover Isla Tortuga, Costa Rica, with Adobe Rent a Car

Costa Rica’s stunning coastline offers more than just pretty beaches and surf. Numerous islands dot the horizon and offer popular day trips for visitors looking to explore the country’s fascinating marine habitats.

One Costa Rican favorite is the tiny, yet pristine, Isla Tortuga. Also known as Turtle Island. The small cluster of islands is home to shimmering white sand beaches, coral reefs, and verdant jungle foliage. A small locally-run zoo features some of the country’s colorful birdlife.

Isla Tortuga is one of two island groupings that make up the Islas Negritas Biological Reserve. The island is uninhabited apart from a small number of local residents who guard its wellbeing. Yet thousands of national and foreign tourists visit the island every year on day tours.

Where is Tortuga Island?

Isla Tortuga Sunsent – Photo by Greenmediacr

Isla Tortuga is located off the southeastern shoreline of the Nicoya Peninsula on the North Pacific Coast. The island is only accessible by boat and overnights are not permitted.

Tours of Turtle Island consist of day trips that generally depart in the morning and return in the afternoon. Visitors can also book scuba and snorkel tours to explore the waters and marine life around the island.

Turtle Island, Costa Rica Map

Getting to Tortuga Island – Day Tours

Tours to Isla Tortuga depart from Puntarenas, Montezuma, and Jaco (Marriott Los Sueños Marina). Occasional trips also leave out of the Pez Vela Marina in Quepos.

The boat ride across the Gulf of Nicoya takes less than two hours and is a great way to see the coastline. Transportation is either by passenger boat or on one of the Tortuga Island Catamaran Cruises.

The larger Catamaran tours leave from the Puntarenas Marina near the ferry dock. One of the most popular catamaran cruises is the Bay Island Cruises Tortuga Island Tour.

To get to Puntarenas take Route 27 from San José to Caldera, then Route 23 to 17 into Puntarenas. From there follow your tour operator’s directions to the boat launch.

Passengers are likely to see ocean creatures during the boat trip, including dolphins, manta rays, turtles, and even whales. And a stunning Pacific sunset will be waiting for the boat ride home.

For people visiting Isla Tortuga who wish to rent a car, there is an Adobe Office in Puntarenas, Jaco, and Quepos, among 13 additional locations. Adobe Rent a Car is Costa Rican owned and operated and dedicated to the country’s conservation efforts and sustainability.

Isla Tortuga
Isla Tortuga – Photo by Greenmediacr

Things to do – Playa Tortuga, canopy tours, snorkeling, and scuba diving

There’s as much to do in the water as there is on land at Isla Tortuga. Snorkeling and scuba diving tours are some of the most popular. The reefs around the island are home to a fascinating variety of fish species and crustaceans. Larger species like manta rays, dolphins, octopus, and even the occasional shark.

Three shipwrecks are located near the island. Snorkeling or scuba diving among their ruins is an exciting excursion for the whole family. It is also an opportunity to glimpse some of Costa Rica’s maritime history.

Visitors can swim and play in the calm and clear turquoise waters in front of the white sand beach. Lounge chairs and umbrellas are available for rent for a low cost. As are kayaks and canoes. Jet skiing is also an option and can be rented by the day or hour.

Children love to ride on the famed “Banana Boat” around the bay. Glass-bottom boat tours are also offered for those preferring to stay dry while enjoying a glimpse into the underwater world.

Isla Tortuga is all about fun and relaxation. Most tours include beverages and a hot lunch of grilled fish or chicken prepared by the tour company’s staff.

Visitors can also hike the island’s one mountain or take an exciting canopy tour or zip-line. A large array of wildlife, bird, and reptile species live on the small island, including peccaries and iguana.

The island’s residents also take care of a small collection of exotic bird species such as peacocks and other unusual fowl. There are also a couple of tame peccaries that can be found sleeping in the shade or trotting among the tourists. A gift shop sells artisan crafts, souvenirs, drinks, snacks, sunscreen, and other necessities.

When to visit – the best time to enjoy Isla Tortuga

The best time to visit Turtle Island, Costa Rica, is during the dry season between December and April. The dry and sunny weather provides great visibility when snorkeling or scuba diving around the reefs and shipwrecks.

Tours to the island are also available during the rainy season. Water visibility may be somewhat cloudy due to rains and river runoff. However, it is still likely that visitors see plenty of marine life and enjoy the experience.

Whale sightings also increase during the rainy season months as they coincide with the migration and breeding periods of numerous species.

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