Costa Rica has a global reputation for being one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet. With a dozen different microclimates, Costa Rica boasts dense jungles, volcanoes, sandy beaches, rolling green mountains, and stunning islands.
One of those gorgeous islands is Isla Tortuga or Turtle Island. We heard that this island was gorgeous and a really fun place to spend an afternoon.
So, we booked a day trip and packed our beach bags (and copious amounts of sunscreen). Take a look at our day trip from start to finish!
Booking a Tour
There are loads of different tours that run to Isla Tortuga from around Costa Rica. We chose Gava Tour as it came highly recommended from people we know in Costa Rica. The price was reasonable too, at about $90CAD for the entire day trip, transportation, two meals, and a snack.
Our tour guide was named Alejandro and he was awesome! Super friendly, knowledgeable, and did everything he could to make sure we had the best day possible. Honestly can't recommend this company enough!
To find out more about Gava Tour and see their other excursions click here.
They offer trips to other islands, national parks, and volcanoes, so there are lots of options to choose from if a remote island isn't your cup of tea.
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Our pick up location was Atenas and we had to meet the bus at a grocery store in the center of town. Our pickup time was 5:30 AM. If you're staying in San Jose your pick up time will be more like 4 AM. It was a very early start to the day for me (aka NOT a morning person), but the bus was comfortable and once we got on the road we were able to relax and doze off for a little while.
We stopped for breakfast in San Ramon at a restaurant called El Jardin. Breakfast was included and it was a typical Costa Rican breakfast done lunch counter style. We had time to grab some food, coffee, and chat a little bit. People also used this point in the trip to go to the bathrooms and change into bathing suits. We wore ours on so we were all set. All in all, we were at the San Ramon stop for about 30-45 minutes before we got on the road again.
Next stop on our journey was Puntarenas, where we were to catch our boat to the island. We arrived at 8 AM and had about 30 minutes to kill before the boat arrived. We walked up and down the main drag along the water while we waited. Our boat ended up arriving about 8:45 AM and we loaded up and hit the high seas!
The boat was similar to the one shown in my picture, but not that exact one. It had forward facing seats at the front of the boat and then a long canopy with bench seating underneath it. There were about 20 of us on the door and the boat was full with us all on board. Life jackets and water were available for the trip and it was pretty smooth and went by fast too.
It took about 45 minutes to an hour to get out to the Island. We circled around a couple of times looking for dolphins but weren't fortunate enough to see any. The water was smooth as glass on the day we went, so the ride was super calm. I am the motion sickness queen, so this was great news!
On the way, we stopped at another island to see some monkeys which definitely made up for the lack of dolphins on the trip over.
Once we got to the island we were asked to take our belongings off the boat and make our way to our meal area to drop our things. We had a few picnic tables designated for our group under a shaded tent, with an outdoor kitchen in which our lunch was being prepared.
The island is isolated so everything needs to be brought in. The outdoor kitchens line the tree-covered area of the beach and each provides food for their respective groups of tourists.
After about 30 minutes of time on the island, we boarded another little boat which took us out to the snorkelling area. We had about 45 minutes to snorkel which was really the perfect amount of time. The water was pretty murky in the snorkelling area as there were lots of boats and other tourists already there. We did see a few different varieties of fish though which was cool.
I also learned how incredibly awkward it is to move gracefully with flippers and a mask on. This was my first time snorkelling and it was a lot of fun once I got the hang of it (aka managed to keep the salt water out of my eyes).
After snorkelling we had about an hour until lunch so we used this time to walk the beach, take photos and drone footage, as well as a grab a beer at the beach bar.
Once we sat down to eat we had a nice meal. It included potatoes, rice, salad, and either chicken or fish. I am on a low carb diet so I pawned the rice and potatoes off on my husband. I was still hungry, so we asked if there was any way I could have extra chicken and salad and they were able to give me seconds which was amazing. Hanger avoided.
After lunch, we had about 2 hours until our departure at 3 PM. We used this couple of hours to swim in the ocean waves, walk the beach, shop at the gift shop, and take some last drone footage and photos.
It was a really lovely beach with soft white sand. Perfect for hanging out, people watching, and soaking up some sun.
At 3 PM we all assembled on the beach, boarded our boat and headed back to Puntarenas. The boat didn't stop anywhere on the way back, which was nice and made the trip a little shorter. From Puntarenas there was a short stop for people to shower and use the bathrooms, then we got on the road.
Things to Know
The drive is long and winding, so if you are prone to motion sickness keep this in mind. If you would prefer to drive yourself to Puntarenas and catch the boat there you will save a lot of time and avoid the windy route the bus takes. Supposedly, there is parking in Puntarenas where you can leave your car, but we have not done this ourselves. Something we will look into for next time.
The prices on the island are high, so bring money. Beers were about $4 which is reasonable, but more expensive than the mainland, as you'd expect on an island. There are lounge chairs on the beach, but they cost $7 to rent in order to sit on them. There is also a $1 fee to use the bathrooms. Mildly annoying, but not the end of the world. Just make sure you go prepared to spend some cash.
Bring snacks for the drive home. The drive home on the bus had us back in our town by 7:30 PM, but the others heading to San Jose would have been home closer to 8:30 PM or 9 PM. There was a quick bathroom stop on the way home, but no dinner stop per se. If you're heading all the way back to San Jose on the bus, take a snack with you so you can eat on the road.
Plan Your Visit
I would highly recommend this day trip! It was a long day, but so fun and relaxing. Alejandro was awesome and everyone on our tour was really nice.
If you're visiting Costa Rica and can fit it into your plans it's worth a visit. It gives you that beachy island feel, which for us, was a nice change from the mountain town in which we are living.
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