Whenever we go on vacations to a tropical paradise, we always try to book an adventure or two throughout our week. On our most recent trip this past July to the Central Pacific coast of Costa Rica we decided that we were going to book an excursion to spend a day on Isla Tortuga. This is something that my wife and I wanted to do last year on our 10-year anniversary, but did not have the opportunity to book because we had waited so long. At that time, we decided that WHEN we came back to Costa Rica, it was a must.
The trip wasn’t too incredibly pricey, and you get quite a bit in the trip. Transportation to and from the location, breakfast with some fresh fruits, eggs, coffee, etc. A 90-minute catamaran cruise across the Gulf of Nicoya, lunch on the island, a couple of activities, and some open time to explore the area or swim at your leisure. All of this put together made for one pretty amazing day with the kids.
Start The Day With A Shuttle
When we booked our trip, we were told that we would be picked up at 6:30am at the house that we were staying at. Being from a time zone that is normally two hours ahead, we didn’t have any issues getting everybody up and ready to go by that time. Got everything packed up and went to wait for our shuttle. The shuttle picked us up, and then had to make another stop in Jaco to pick up two more guests.
From there it was about an hour drive to Puntarenas where we would start our excursion. It is important to know that if you are staying south of Puntarenas, it could be a bit of a drive to get started, so don’t be shocked and make sure you research your location in regards to where you would be heading. For us, the drive was fine. Something about driving in Costa Rica just made the time go fast and the drives seem like nothing. There is some breathtaking scenery along the way.
A Wonderful and Delicious Breakfast
When we arrived to the docks we were taken into a restaurant where there were some other folks that would be joining the trip as well. The complimentary breakfast included some of the best fresh fruits, rice, eggs, endless coffee and some phenomenal juices. There were also some pastries that you could purchase extra as well. The breakfast was a nice size portion and is a good start to the day.
Since my kids seem to NEVER eat all of their breakfast, I went ahead and became a human disposal for their food as well. Had to load up on those carbs and protein for the day! We were at the restaurant for about a half hour before it was time to hit the docs and board the catamaran.
Cruising The Gulf of Nicoya
Prior to boarding the catamaran, each crew member was introduced so we could get to know the folks helping us over the next few hours. I have to say that this group of individuals was nothing short of fantastic. Each one of them was extremely helpful and polite. Most spoke good enough English, and then the main crew member spoke VERY good English. So you would not have any issues understanding instructions that are given.
Once we board the catamaran, there are more instructions given, and essentially a layout of the day. It’s about a 20 minute talking session, but this going on while we’re cruising, and over the speakers. So this meant that you could really sit anywhere you wanted to the boat and hear what you needed to hear. Now, our day started off fairly gray and rainy, but that was OK. We were still in Costa Rica, still on a catamaran with tropical drinks, and still able to see amazing scenery. So we were not letting that get us down.
During the cruise to the island, we are treated with more fresh pineapple and watermelon (some of the best I have ever had), and a tab is able to be started for adult beverages if you would like. There is a nice bar in the cabin of the catamaran and the drinks were fantastic. The crew was constantly on the move to grab your empty glasses from you so that you didn’t have to walk around.
I still can’t figure out how they were able to move so nimbly around, while I was having trouble standing in one spot without tipping over. In addition to this, there is also a great mix of music that is being played over the speakers. While you’re cruising along, there is a chance to sign up for one or both of the activities that they have on the island. One is snorkeling, and the other was the banana boat ride. We didn’t go on the banana boat, but we most certainly signed up for the snorkeling.
Once we arrived to the island, this is where the fun really started to begin. Snorkeling was the first activity that was done, so we dropped our belongings off on the island. Then boarded the catamaran again so they could take us out to a small area to do some snorkeling for about 30-45 minutes. The snorkeling here was fantastic. The water was deep, but not too deep to where I couldn’t dive down and get some create shots with the camera. Since we were still in the gulf, the waves were not bad at all, so it made it easier to maneuver around.
The crew members are out there with you at all times. There were a couple of times where they would dive down to grab a starfish so the kids could see and touch. I even got to hold one! There are sea turtles somewhere in the vicinity of where we snorkeled, but we didn’t get the opportunity to see one. Once the snorkeling is wrapped up, you head back over the island for lunch.
Exploring the Island
Once lunch was done, we had about another 3 -4 hours where we could do as we pleased. Whether it was lay on the beach, get out in the water, or explore the areas that were open to us, we had plenty of time for it all. There’s a little gift shop of course, and then some other rentals such as jet skis that you could do that were not part. My favorite stand was the fresh coconut water with a couple of shots of rum in it.
$6 for a coconut that I had to carry with two hands and pretty much lasted the remainder of my time on the island. The island was just beautiful and the sun eventually came out for us which made it that much better. I spent the afternoon walking around, lounging in the water, and of course jumping off of rocks into the crystal clear water.
Heading Back Home
Once our time on the island was complete, we board the catamaran, say bye to the island. We headed back to Puntarenas so we can grab the shuttle back to the house we were staying in. The cruise back took a little bit of a different route so we could see some different islands and learn more about the beautiful area. We even had the chance to see a pod of dolphins while cruising back, but were not lucky enough to have them swim along the boat. Oh well.
All in all, the day trip to Isla Tortuga was amazing. Everything about the trip was magical and it is definitely something that I would do again if we make it back to Costa Rica. I can’t say enough good things about the crew that we had, as they were extremely helpful and knowledgeable, and that really helps add to the trip itself. If you ever have the chance to take this trip while in Costa Rica, I highly recommend.