This stunningly beautiful 320-hectare island lies three kilometers offshore of Curú National Wildlife Reserve . 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 Puntarenas . It’s a 90-minute journey aboard any of a half dozen cruise boats. 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 cramped on weekends.
I recommend Calypso Cruises (tel. 506/2256-2727, U.S. tel. 866/887-1969, www.calypsocruises.com ), which runs daily trips from Puntarenas  aboard the luxurious Manta Raya catamaran with full bar, a fishing platform, and two whirlpool tubs. Trips depart from Puntarenas ($99 high season, including transfer from San José ).
The company also has cruises to Punta Coral Private Reserve (tel. 506/8346-8218, www.puntacoral.com ), 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, www.bayislandcruises.com ) 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.