Tortuga Island… On the Caribbean the name means a pirates haven. A place where everything could happen in the colonial days. Talking about Costa Rica… It is an island.. no, actually, two islands… And one of them looks like a sea turtle. And it means… leisure, fun, beauty, relax… A great option for a day tour!
The day starts early, you have to tell the hotel reception to give you a wake up call or make sure that the cel phone has all alarms connected and sounding, as the bus will come to get you between six and seven… Usually starts in San Jose at 6:00 a.m. and usually they will make a couple of stops to get people… So everyone has to get to either… The Grand Hotel Costa Rica, or the Holiday Inn. Sometimes there are exceptions, but in general those are the hubs.
It is a good idea then to bring a light jacket or sweater… Two main reasons: Early in the morning in San Jose, temperature might drop a bit… Maybe around 17° C (68° F) but then, also in the bus. Usually the AC gets it pretty fresh to say the least, and there are two statements: One, if you are cold you can always put a sweater… and the second, said usually by the driver: We cannot go back and forth turning it up or down. So, never mind you are going to a tropical warm weather white sanded beach… Bring a sweater!
Once on the bus and after getting everyone on board the guide will start with the tour, but as a difference from all the usual tours is/her talk will start by asking about food allergies and giving you indications about the island. Most likely you will have to wear a wrist paper bracelet, he/she will tell you what’s included and what is not, and he/she will tell you what can you do, and what is better not to do.
Depending on the time of year you are going, these instructions may vary. However it is truly important that you pay attention at this part of the trip. Whatever the guide says early in the morning can save you from getting in trouble, eating late, or not knowing where the bathroom is.
If you have any sort of dietetic difference or food allergy make sure you tell your travel consultant beforehand and reconfirm with the tour guide that the crew and the cook know about it… You see, in the island there is nothing. I mean… is not like they can run to get some other food for you, or get you something according to your needs in the next beach vegetable store…. No, in Tortuga Island, there is nothing… Hardly a souvenir store and several beach chairs and banana boats. So, please, make sure they know about any food allergies or intolerance before the boat departs.
Once at the pier you will have a typical hot breakfast and get ready for departure.
In terms of changing clothes (Putting on the swimsuit) you can do it either ways… In the restaurant area or in the catamaran. In the restaurant there migh be a couple of toilet booths and on board there are a couple of places to change. It truly depends on what are your preferences. If you are urged to get to the front of the catamaran and start getting a sun tan from minute 2… Change in the restaurant. If you feel you are on vacation and you have time… Take it easy, let the dressing rooms lines pass and change afterwards.
As soon as you are on the catamaran, crew presentation and instructions follow. it is, again… very important to listen to these before running for a place at the front area. And yes, bags, shoes and stuff like that h as to stay in the lunge/bar area, under the seats please… As a guide, I saw a lot of stuff being kicked or flying to the water… and helplessly sunken. So… follow instructions, there are reasons for them.
The trip to the island is very beautiful and chances to see dolphins, sea turtles or even whales (In the whale migration season: Early January to April and September to November). For me the best areas in the Manta Ray are the front… certainly the nets, and the captain tower.
On top of that you will have a lot of fruit served all throughout the trip and the guide will be talking here and there about the little rock isles and bird havens on the way to Tortuga.
For me, as a water lover, I think that I like this part of the trip even more than the island time itself.
But oh well!
Arrival to the island: The guide will let you know fifteen or twenty minutes prior and you should certainly get ready when he/she tells you so! Once the catamaran arrives to the island is a very fast and efficient download of things and people. And then the boat departs to anchor in the bay. So, behave well, listen to instructions and get ready to disembark when they tell you so.
Once you are on the island there will be a third and last set of instructions about the island. The wheres, who, how and whys that can only be said once there… Again, pay attention… This is where they talk about the tours, the beach chairs and the bathrooms. And most importantly, island departure time.
Once on the island (And it should be around 10 a.m. by now… ) the tours operation starts almost right away. They usually include the banana boat and a snorkeling trip… However it is important to know that the snorkeling is done from a small boat to the water and back on the small boat. There are no piers, or walking involved. So, if you are afraid of water, don’t know how to swim or have any medical condition, please think about it twice before getting on it. Your feet won’t touch the bottom, and you will be wearing a floating device but is not a life saving device.
Regarding the banana boat tour… There are two types of banana boat trips… the trip where you fall to the water, and the trip that is mainly a banana boat ride… no adventure involved. Please ask the guide about it if you don’t want to be thrown to the water. And this does not mean that your friends group won’t throw you in the water… I saw once a guy with cowboy boots and jeans almost drowned because his friends decided to play a joke on him.
Depending on the amount of passengers on the tour, one or the other tour is carried in the morning and the other in the afternoon.
Tip before lunch: Every now and then there are oysters sold on the beach. They are as fresh as can be and what the fishermen do is pour lemon juice and onions on them… Mmmm! Delicious! (They cost around $2- $4 each)… And sometimes they are there… and sometimes, they are not.
Lunch! Be attentive to the conch shell call for lunch… It is quite loud and hard to miss, but be alert. It is important to be around lunch when they call as they are not going to save any food afterwards… If you didn’t come… sorry! You will only be able to eat some pieces of fruit until you get to San José. So… better be around.
If, however you are going on a separate tour, let’s say diving or horseback, tell your guide about it, and the crew might save some food for you. But tell them to do it please! Or else none will.
The afternoon usually is at your leisure, however this is the part when hearing the island instructions pay off, regardingdeparture from the island.
However if, by any chance you didn’t pay attention, when you see the crew getting boxes to the beach… it is time to give back the beach chair, and get your stuff ready to go.
Once on the catamaran, usually you will take another route back… a gorgeous one, so enjoy the colors and the water stillness, it is truly beautiful!
The rest of the trip is… well! Coming back to your hotel… tired and relaxed…
For me, this is one of the most beautiful trips there are from San José or the Central Pacific area and it is great to see Costa Rican beauty if you are on a business trip or staying for very little and you want to go out from San Jose.
Highly recommended, certainly ask about it and similar trips to any of our travel consultants.