Isla Tortuga: The Best Kept Secret of Costa Rica
January 1, 1970
by Andrea Sécola
In the early months of 2017, my life took an unexpectedly good turn when I decided to look for a change in my everyday life and landed in having the incredible opportunity to quit my boring and monotonous job at a bank as a credit analyst and become a travel designer for a local sustainable inbound tourism company.
Thanks to the new job I was able not only to advise people on how to plan their vacations in this amazing country according to their needs and help them create lifetime memories of their adventures and luxurious relaxation here but to also experience Costa Rica by myself from a tourist point of view.
Because of that, I was lucky to have the chance to get to know almost every touristic destination inside the country, including hotels and tours for every budget as well, so I had a little bit of trouble overthinking about which place I could write about in this article because I really wanted to show something original about this exotic paradise.
Why I chose Isla Tortuga:
Recalling my last year memories, an important remark came to my mind: of all the places that I had the opportunity to visit, one of my favorites by far was Isla Tortuga. Composed of two little islands that resemble the shape of a turtle, this blissful land located in the Gulf of Nicoya is also located nearby to Isla San Lucas, a former prison that has now become a touristic place of interest for the country’s history in the Central Pacific, and after my visit I can consider it one of Costa Rica’s best-hidden secrets.
The story of how I got there is kind of simple, my journey first started with an invitation that was made by the tour’s pioneer company to the company I worked for, followed by a call from my former boss asking me if I was interested in participating, the idea was to get together some of the sale agents of the local inbound tourism companies for a familiarization trip to Isla Tortuga.
I didn’t think twice to say yes and the next thing I know is that I was waking up early with an eager enthusiasm on a Saturday morning to pack my swimming suit and tanning lotion and getting ready, so the bus tour could pick me up in a nearby hotel.
The departing point to Isla Tortuga it is mostly from the Port of Puntarenas, a town where the second most important harbor of the country is located, but there are also tours available from other parts of the Central Pacific like Herradura and Jaco Beach and Manuel Antonio National Park. (Pro tip for this part: If your tour indeed departs from Puntarenas too please do yourself a favor and search for a place to taste a Churchill, a typical dessert that includes Ice Cream, shaved ice with kola syrup, condensed milk and a typical sugary milk powder called Leche Pinito, you will probably have a sugar rush for the day, but I promise is totally worth it).
My type of transportation for the rest of the day was a Catamaran, it was an entertaining boat ride full of calypso music that added some 90s tropical vibes and luckily, we were able to watch dolphins joining us for the trip and giving us a show by swimming in their natural habitat, it was an amazing experience and can be enjoyed in the seasons from July to November or from December to March.
And then, when I finally arrived at Isla Tortuga I found a pristine, hidden treasure, it was so full of nature and clear waters that I almost couldn’t believe that I had been living in Costa Rica for almost ten years and never had imagined that a place like that existed and that a day trip to visit it was so easy to make.
The white sand and turquoise, calm, crystalline waters of the places really do makes it an ideal place to relax and swim all day, but if you’re looking to have a little bit of adventure as well there are banana boats and snorkel tours available that look really fun to make.
Also, the best part is that is almost untouched by humans, it has a beach volleyball field, little ranches with restrooms in the shadows that can be used for picnic and two or three information spots for the tours, but other than that is has no big constructions whatsoever, it too has two short trails in which you can walk around and get to know more of the Costa Rican tropical nature and wildlife or just go hunting the perfect spot for sunbathing and relaxation to spend the day or head back to the shore while watching one of the most breath-taking sunsets of your life on board.
The only recommendation or tip I can give besides what I have previously told is to discover and enjoy the unexplored places of the country as much as the typical touristic attractions, Costa Rica has many amazing places with short traveling distances and undiscovered paths worth visiting and as for Isla Tortuga my only advice left is to wear sunscreen always, take extra clothes for changing and a camera to take photos.
Also, please remember that we should take care of places we visit, so take only pictures and leave behind your footprints in the sand only, there are places in the returning points in which you can throw the trash, because since no one lives there or is allowed to spent the night it does not have a recycling program.
And last but not least, the one thing I liked the most about Isla Tortuga is that even though the first company to offer the tour started its activities in 1975 and has now become a famous destination for the local elite, the island is not as popular as some of the other promoted touristic spots in the country, which makes it a little more interesting since it’s inhabited and not really crowded even on peak season, so if you’re looking to disconnect from the world and just go for a little fun and leisure time in crystalline waters and a splendid sun that works amazing for creating Instagram material, this is the place to go.