Isla Tortuga in Costa Rica – White Sand Beach & Snorkeling

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isla tortuga from above
about us

Hi! We’re Thomas (the German) and Sarah (the US-er).

We met in Virginia, moved to Germany, and now live in sunny Costa Rica.

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Tortuga Island in Costa Rica consists of a beautiful white sand beach and turquoise waters with a palm tree backdrop. There are plenty of amazing beaches in Costa Rica, but few have such fine white sand as Isla Tortuga does.

The island is located off of the Gulf of Nicoya, near the coast of the Curu Reserve

Nobody lives on this island and there are no hotels. Instead, it exists purely as an island paradise that visitors can visit as part of a fun-filled guided day tour.

How to Visit Isla Tortuga

isla tortuga beach

It is possible to take a Tortuga Island Tour from Jaco, Paquera (the area where the ferry lands on the Nicoya Peninsula), Montezuma, or the Santa Teresa area of Costa Rica. 

There are vacation packages that offer transportation to Isla Tortuga from San Jose as well, but we feel this becomes a bit too much traveling for a day trip. You are much better off taking the tour if already at one of the beach destinations we listed above.

What to Expect on the Tour

snorkeling near tortuga

Most tours offer transportation from your hotel or Airbnb. This is often a bit more expensive than making your own way to the tour company office. 

For example, the company we used in Montezuma charged $14 per person for transportation from Santa Teresa to their office where the boat departed from. We opted to just drive ourselves and park next to their office to save a bit money.

This is of course only possible if you have a rental car.


You will then board a boat out to the island. The high-speed boat ride will last up to an hour (depending on where you are starting from). Along the way, you might get lucky and see some unique marine life. We didn’t see anything, but our guide told us that the day before they saw a humpback whale and her baby. 

Your boat will then stop at two destinations near Tortuga Island for snorkeling before heading to the island for lunch and fun.

The snorkeling was OK. The visibility wasn’t amazing and I could imagine that during the rainy season it could be much worse. However, we did see tons of bright colorful fish and a few starfish.

Once on the island, we had two hours to explore before heading back to shore.

What to Expect on the Island

isla tortuga island

Once on the island, you will likely eat lunch with your tour group. We had an option of chicken, fish (tuna), or vegetarian. 

We both opted for the fish and we were pleasantly surprised. It was a filling and good meal. The fish was nicely marinated and paired with roasted potatoes and roasted vegetables.

After lunch, we were free to do whatever we wanted for two hours. Here are some of your options….

Rent beach chairs and umbrellas

For about $5 you can rent a chair with an umbrella and relax. The guy monitoring the chairs seemed very attentive and would adjust people’s umbrellas as necessary.

Rent a kayak, paddleboard, go on a banana boat ride

isla tortuga options

The prices ranged for this depending on activity and time. However, if you want to explore the calm waters surrounding the island, this is a great way to do it.

Go swimming

The water was perfectly calm and clear. Swimming was much needed because it was so incredibly hot outside.

Go for a hike

You can pay $5 per person to take a nice hike as a way of exploring the island. This departs from the gift shop. They will give you a nice map with information about various plants you will see along the way, and you are good to go. 

The hike took us about 45 minutes and was pure hell. No, in all honesty, I’m super happy we did it because the view was great but you will be going straight uphill and there are some parts with absolutely no shade.

Hang at the bar

There were two beach bars that we spotted on the island. Here you can buy snacks, cocktails, beers, juices, and more!

Is it Worth a Visit?

isla tortuga close up

We think yes, it actually is worth a visit. We had a good time on our tour. I think it is the perfect way to spend a fun day while on your vacation. 

On the other side, I did read up on lots of reviews of various tours online and although there were many positive reviews, there were also many negative reviews.

Surprisingly, almost all of these negative reviews were about the island itself and not the actual tour.

Almost everyone loved their tour company, their guides, the food, and the overall experience. However, people felt that the island was a tourist trap and didn’t like that you had to pay for everything extra once on the island.

I think if you go into it with the mindset that you will have to pay for everything extra, then you won’t be let down and can prepare ahead of time what you plan to spend money on. 

Also, if you are traveling with a big group of friends or family, this tour could be a blast to all do together.

Our Tips

us at isla tortuga

Sun Protection is key. I was joking with Thomas that they should hand out aloe leaves to everyone when we return to the mainland. I think we were the only people on our boat who didn’t get majorly burned.

Although, it definitely looks like we are burned in the picture above, it is actually just the sunlight was on us.

Anyway, to protect ourselves from the sun we loaded up on SPF 50 and snorkeled with our shirts on. We always wear fast-drying water shirts while in the water here.

-We suggest wearing your bathing suit, a fast-drying shirt that you can swim in, flip flops, and a hat.

– We suggest bringing a towel, a water bottle (they did provide water on our tour but it was nice to have our own bottle), and as I mentioned already, tons of sunscreen.

– The best time to do this day tour is during the Costa Rican dry season. This means between late December and mid-April. At this time of year, you will have sun (no rain) and better visibility while snorkeling. However, this is also the most popular time of year to visit Costa Rica, so the island may be more crowded. 

We visited on a Tuesday in March and there were a decent amount of people on the island, but it wasn’t as crazy as we expected. I think it also tends to be busier on the weekends when more locals come with their own boats. 

During the rest of the year, you may experience some rain in the afternoon and less visibility in the water. However, that doesn’t mean you need to completely write it off. It might still be a great activity. 

Book an Isla Tortuga Tour

isla tortuga from above

Would you like to book your Isla Tortuga tour?

There are several companies that offer this day trip for various prices. Some of the boat tours are super basic and some are done on big catamarans. It all depends on what you would like.

Here are some great suggestions!  

Please feel free to leave us any questions in the comment section below. W are always happy to help you out! Also, if you have taken an Isla Tortuga tour and have suggestions for fellow travelers, we would love to hear them.


Isla Tortuga in Costa Rica - White Sand Beach & Snorkeling
Isla Tortuga in Costa Rica - White Sand Beach & Snorkeling
Sarah McArthur

Sarah McArthur

Sarah McArthur is the co-founder and main writer of Costa Rica Vibes. She is originally from the United States. but has lived in sunny San Jose, Costa Rica since 2016. She has traveled all over the country as a Costa Rica travel expert and has helped thousand of people plan their perfect Costa Rica vacation.

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About Us

We’re Thomas (the German) and Sarah (the US-er).

We met in Virginia, moved to Germany, and now live in sunny Costa Rica. It was a spontaneous decision to move here, but it was the best decision!

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