Take a Day Cruise to Isla Tortuga off the Nicoya Peninsula

Shallow water surrounds a narrow golden beach studded with palm trees with a yacht visible in the distance.

Stunning beaches, warm turquoise waters, and plenty of water sports await passengers on day cruises to this gorgeous little isle. Photo © three sad tigers, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

This stunningly beautiful 320-hectare (790-acre) island lies three kilometers (2 miles) offshore of Curú. Tortuga is as close to an idyllic tropical isle as you’ll find in Costa Rica. The main attraction is a magnificent white-sand beach lined with coconut palms. Tortuga is a favorite destination of excursion boats. Cruises depart from Puntarenas; it’s a 90-minute journey aboard any of half a dozen cruise boats.

You’ll normally have about two hours on Isla Tortuga, with a buffet lunch served on the beach, plus options for sea kayaking, snorkeling, volleyball, and hiking into the forested hills.The cruise is superbly scenic, passing the isles of Negritos, San Lucas, Gitana, and Guayabo. En route you may spot manta rays or pilot whales in the warm waters. Even giant whale sharks have been seen basking off Isla Tortuga. You’ll normally have about two hours on Isla Tortuga, with a buffet lunch served on the beach, plus options for sea kayaking, snorkeling, volleyball, and hiking into the forested hills. It can get a bit crowded on weekends.

I recommend Calypso Cruises (tel. 506/2256-2727, U.S. tel. 866/887-1969), which runs daily trips from Puntarenas aboard the luxurious Manta Raya catamaran, with a full bar, a fishing platform, and two whirlpool tubs. Trips depart from Puntarenas (adults $139, students $119, including transfer from San José).

The company also has cruises to Punta Coral Private Reserve (tel. 506/8346-8218), where snorkeling, sea kayaking, and other activities are offered, and monkeys and other animals abound in the adjacent forest, with trails. It offers Paradise Weddings in a South Seas setting.

Bay Island Cruises (tel. 506/2258-3536) offers cruises aboard the Bay Princess cruise yacht. It has a sundeck and music, and cocktails and snacks are served; a recent visit, however, left me less than inspired.


Excerpted from the Ninth Edition of Moon Costa Rica.


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