One of the most-scenic islands off of Costa Rica, Tortuga offers a sublime getaway that reminds of Caribbean escapes and ranks as one of the best places to visit in Costa Rica. Atypical powder-white sands meet turquoise waters against a backdrop of soaring palm trees amid an expanse of tropical foliage. It’s all just a 90-minute trip from Jaco Beach in a deluxe catamaran with stunning vistas all along the way.
While commonly referred to as Tortuga Island, the isle is actually named Tolinga and is the largest of the islands that make up Las Islas Tortuga. Along with neighboring Alcatraz Island, the spot was once a haven for pirates that raided Costa Rican towns in the 1600s. Today, visitors from across the globe are apt to get welcomed by a local sea shanty that honors the site’s swashbuckling history.
Scuba and Snorkeling Paradise
In keeping with the pirate theme, you can dive to explore sunken ships just off the coast of the isle. The wondrous undersea life you will encounter is abundant and diverse. Float past angelfish, manta rays, octopus and frolicking spinner dolphins. You're likely to come across moray eels, colorful parrot fish and small white tip reef sharks, which are often curious about divers but not aggressive. Dive spots around the island traverse dramatic undersea canyons, volcanic rock walls, and watery labyrinths. Snorkeling is great year-round, while diving is best in the green season from May to November.
Tortuga’s calm turquoise waters welcome a variety of over-sea excursions. You can rent a kayak and set off on a journey to explore the coast. For more high-octane exploration, hire a jet ski to tear through the shimmering sea. Or have a splashing good time on a banana boat ride. If you’re interested in something more sedate or group outings, board a glass-bottom boat for a unique look at the myriad of marine life. Of course, the warm waters are also great for simply swimming.
The sugary sands of Tortuga beckon you to take long walks as you soak in the island’s tranquility. For a small fee, you can rent an umbrella-shaded lounger and relax amid the tropical surrounds. You’re just a short stroll to savory barbecue that’s prepared at laid-back eateries along the shore. Perhaps a game of beach volleyball before a dip in the ocean.
Although Tortuga is renowned for beach and water activities, it’s worth checking out its rainforest-covered terrain. You can hike the hills of the island along paths that wind through lush foliage that’s home to a variety of wildlife and brilliant tropical birds. A trek to the isle’s summit rewards with magnificent views over land and sea. The more adventurous land explorers might want to check out a zip line that takes you on a wild ride over the thick canopy on your whizzing way to the base of the forest.
As you consider places to visit in Costa Rica, a catamaran cruise to Tortuga Island should be high on your list.