One option is to set out from the port of Puntarenas. A 90-minute drive from Jacó Beach, the coastal town serves as a departure point to some of the most idyllic seaside spots on and around the Nicoya Peninsula. Visitors often enjoy breakfast along the oceanfront promenade in the historic town before setting off on a modern catamaran that offers snacks, drinks and a full bar for adult travelers. The cruise through the Gulf of Nicoya takes about 90 minutes to reach Tortuga Island. Along the way, you are likely to spot sailfish, dolphins and perhaps even humpback whales in the calm Pacific waters.
You can also disembark from Los Sueños Marina. Along with catamarans, private charters make the cruise across the bay with state-of-the-art power boats in about an hour.
Beloved for its powder-white sands backed by swaying palm trees, Tortuga Island has long been a favorite for daytrippers from the mainland. Calm turquoise waters make it a must-see spot for dive and scuba enthusiasts.
You can snorkel almost upon arrival. Ease into the tropical waters right off the beach and behold an amazing underwater world. While there isn’t a reef, the shallows still teem with brightly colored fish such as yellowtails, parrotfish and angelfish. You are likely to spot seahorses, octopus, spotted eagle rays and an assortment of eels in the crystal clear waters above a sandy sea floor. To snorkel around the island’s outer reefs, take a quick boat ride. As you float among massive natural formations, you’ll be rewarded with sightings of dolphins, porcupine fish and the famed sea turtles after which the island is named.
Looking for something more adventurous? There are three shipwrecks to discover along the offshore reefs. Accessible for most certified divers, the wrecks of the Coast Guard ships Franklin Chang Diaz and Coronel Lafonso Monge lie at depths between 10 and 23 meters. More suited for advanced divers, the wreck of the Caroline Star lies at 30 meters. The deep dive takes you to a hull where you’ll likely find reef sharks surrounded by a multitude of tropical fish. You could also come across whale sharks, gentle giants of the sea that get up to 35 feet in length.
Beyond wrecks, there are more than a half dozen great dive spots. Keep an eye out for massive schools of jacks as you navigate Acuario's channels. There's almost no telling what finned friends you'll come across lurking in La Cueva (or "The Cave"). Wind through wonderous rock formations in The Labyrinth and do some deep drifting at La Punta. All along you'll encounter a wide variety of tropical fish including giant pufferfish and massive pelagic fish.
Undersea adventures are one of the best things to do in Costa Rica and Tortuga Island is one of the best places to snorkel and dive during your adventure-filled visit to Costa Rica.