A postcard-perfect paradise of white-sand beaches, swaying coconut palms, and sapphire-blue water rife with marine life, Tortuga Island (Isla Tortuga) is an ideal spot to swim, snorkel, or bask in the sunshine. The island is only accessible from Costa Rica’s main cities via a scenic boat ride across the Gulf of Nicoya—an extra perk for your vacation.
While a mix of activities, such as hiking, canopy tours, and pickup volleyball games keep visitors well entertained on land, most travelers visit Tortuga Island for its waters. The volcanic reef surrounding the island is home to diverse wildlife, such as moray eels, spinner dolphins, and octopi—plus three shipwrecks—which make it a great spot to snorkel or dive.
Tortuga Island is an ideal day trip destination, with day trip cruises typically running from San Jose and Jaco on mainland Costa Rica and allowing visitors to glide past some of the 23 islands scattered around the Gulf of Nicoya. Opt for a glass-bottom boat or sea kayak tour for a chance to admire the underwater scenery without getting wet
Things to Know Before You Go
- Beach chairs and umbrellas are available for rent.
- Bars, restaurants, and local vendors offer food and drinks.
- Bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen for protection from the sun.
- Tortuga Island is kid-friendly, and the day cruises to the island are popular among families.
How to Get There
Tortuga Island is located just off the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, close to the Curu Wildlife Refuge, and is only accessible by boat. Operators depart from a variety of ports, including Jaco, Montezuma, Puntarenas, and San Jose. Most boat trips include snorkeling, meals, and hotel pickup and drop-off.
When to Get There
Tortuga Island is open year-round, with peak season running from late December through January. The island is only accessible via day tour, as there is no lodging on Tortuga. Though the official average of 120 visitors per week seems delightfully low, be aware that on weekends and in December and January, those numbers spike.
Tortuga Island is actually comprised of two islands, Alcatraz and Tolinga, but just about everyone refers to them as Isla Tortuga, or Turtle Island, named after the area’s most popular wildlife resident.