There’s an air of the Thai islands about little Tortuga.
Fragmented off the south side of the Nicoya Peninsula, a 90-minute boat trip out of Puntarenas, it draws thousands of city slickers from big San José with the promise of powdery white beaches framed by jungle-topped rocks that lurch straight out of the Pacific.
Idyllic is the keyword.
Tortuga is surrounded by some seriously immersive ocean territory. Scuba aficionados and snorkelers will have loads to choose from. There’s the El Aquario reef, which teems with rainbowfish and angelfish and stingrays and all manner of strange underwater corals.
You’ve got the Bye Bye Reef and its colossal submerged volcanic rocks, a favorite hangout for sea turtles and manta rays. Then there’s the Caroline Star shipwreck, where you can go to encounter formidable, white-tipped reef sharks.
When you’re done exploring the seas and soaking up the rays on the sand, there’s more fun to be had in the forested hills behind. Tortuga boasts its very own zipline course, along with some challenging jungle hikes that have lookout points over the tops of the canopies.
Up there, it’s possible to meet tapirs and strange iguanas and much, much more.