The islands Costa Rica are wild, untamed, and full of greenery, the perfect oasis for those of you seeking a quiet holiday in the middle of nature.
If you have been to Costa Rica before you already know that the answer to the question “is Costa Rica an island” is a big no, but besides the mainland, Costa Rica does have some of the most beautiful islands in the area.
Most of the islands in Costa Rica are inhabited, being perfect places to observe wildlife and to let yourself get lost in the lush tropical forests that cover parts of these islands.
The islands near Costa Rica are unique and it is a big mistake to think that if you visit one island you don’t have to see the rest of them, because they are not the same.
Costa Rica islands take you on a trip back in time, to the period dinosaurs inhabited Earth as the plants and wildlife give you this impression.
Costa Rica islands are national parks, nature reserves, and sea birds sanctuaries so nothing from what you see here resembles the things you saw on the mainland.
Islands off Costa Rica coast can be visited within a private or a group boat tour in a day trip from the mainland so plan at least one day to see these amazing hidden treasures.
There are more than 30 islands that belong to Costa Rica and are located in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, some of them are more popular among tourists interested in booking a tour, while others are just for scientific observation.
Among the most popular islands to visit that belong to Costa Rica I would name:
- Tortuga island or Isla Tortuga
- Cocos Island or Isla del Coco
- Cano Island or Dog Island Costa Rica
- Catalinas Island or Islas Catalinas
- Islas Murcielagos or Bat Islands
These are the new essentials you have to pack for your trip
10. First aid kit
Tortuga Island in Costa Rica
Many people say about Tortuga Island that it is one of the most scenic and beautiful Costa Rican islands, the perfect destination for a day trip from the mainland.
Tortuga Island or Isla Tortuga as locals name it is located in the Nicoya Peninsula right on the Pacific Coast is the perfect destination for kayaking, swimming, diving, and snorkeling in the crystal clear waters around it.
You can simply lay on the white sand beaches the whole day or take a canopy tour available on the island; no matter what you choose you definitely have to include this island into your travel plans.
This is the favorite place for snorkeling and scuba diving as the waters around the island are rich in marine life such as bull sharks, octopus, dozens of colorful fishes, angelfish, stingrays, manta rays, and dolphins.
There is also a very interesting place to dive with sunken boats, but access is permitted only if you are accompanied by a guide.
Most boat tours to Tortuga island depart from Playa Jaco but you can find trips to this island from Playa Montezuma or Puntarenas.
The boat ride lasts for about 1 hour and 30 minutes and the costs vary depending on the number of passengers on the boat, if you have snacks and drinks included in the price, and so on.
Book your accommodation in Playa Jaco at Isla Chiquita Glamping Hotel Costa Rica, the fanciest from the area, or in Puntarenas at Croc Resort And Casino Costa Rica, and prepare yourself for the morning tour to this spectacular island.
For more information about this beautiful island, please check our article TORTUGA ISLAND IN COSTA RICA, EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW.
Cocos Islands Costa Rica or Isla del Coco
Cocos Island Costa Rica is one of the best scuba diving locations in the world being ranked among the first places on all top 10 scuba diving destinations.
The island is extremely remote, being located in the Pacific Ocean 550 kilometers away from Costa Rican mainland but it is one of the best islands to visit for scuba diving.
The only way to reach this island is by boat and the boat ride from Puntarenas to Isla del Coco lasts for about 36 hours.
There are no hotels, hostels, or any accommodation options on the island so you can sleep only on the boat.
But this small inconvenience does not make this island less attractive for people fascinated by nature and marine wildlife.
Book your overnight stay in Puntarenas at Isla Chiquita Glamping Hotel Costa Rica hotel conveniently located in Puntarenas from where all the boat leaves for Isla del Coco and prepare for the adventure of your life.
Because most of the diving areas are in the open sea where currents are quite strong and you need really good skills and experience in diving, Isla del Coco is recommended to the experienced ones.
The waters around the island are rich in marine life and you will see here many marine species like reef fish, hammerhead sharks, moray eels, rays and dolphins, and even sea turtles.
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Because of its unique habitat and rich biodiversity, Cocos Island has been considered a biological reserve since 1978, and starting with 1997 it is also a Unesco World Heritage Site.
The great oceanographer Jacques Cousteau named this remote island from the Pacific as “ the most beautiful island in the world” and once you get there you’ll understand why.
For more information about this beautiful island, please check our article COCOS ISLANDS COSTA RICA A HIDDEN GEM IN THE MIDDLE OF OCEAN.
Cano Island Costa Rica or Dog Island
Isla del Cano Costa Rica is located near the Osa Peninsula in the Pacific Ocean and is classified as a biological reserve because of its varied marine life.
It is a great place for diving and snorkeling because of its abundance of marine life; many species of colorful fish, dolphins, sea turtles, and even whales can be seen in these waters.
Around this island, you can find the largest coral reef from Costa Rica’s Pacific coast and crystal clear waters for great visibility.
Being a biological reserve you cannot enter these waters as you wish but you have to register yourself and take a guided tour to dive around the island.
Mysterious stone spheres lay on the bottom of the sea, hiding a wide range of marine wildlife; stone spheres about archeologists don’t have any clue regarding their significance.
It is believed that this place was used by indigenous tribes as a burial ground, but no one knows for sure the origin and usage of these stones.
The boat ride from the mainland to this island lasts for about 45 minutes and most of the tours depart from Drake Bay.
Book your overnight stays at Sunset Lodge Costa Rica from Drake, a beautiful hotel located in the middle of nature as you are close to the port from where you have to take the tour to Cano Island.
For more information about this beautiful island, please check our article EXPLORING CANO ISLAND BIOLOGICAL RESERVE, A HIDDEN GEM.
Catalinas Islands Costa Rica or Isla Catalinas
Catalinas Islands en Costa Rica is a group of islands and islets that are located extremely close to Costa Rica’s mainland, just 2 to 16 miles away from the mainland, which is about 30 minutes from the mainland.
The islands are not inhabited by people and they are accessible only with daytime trips that leave from Tamarindo, Flamingo, Playa del Coco, Conchal, or Papagayo.
The simplest way to reach this island is with a boat and we strongly recommend you to book a snorkeling or scuba tour that lasts half a day or the full day, as you prefer.
Because of its proximity to the mainland, Catalinas Islands are considered the most accessible and the best places for scuba diving, and many tourists rush to this island to dive in the crystal clear waters and observe the marine life.
You will spot here many species of reef fish, sharks, eels, and turtles as well as whales, octopuses, and dolphins.
What I like most about this island is that Cano Island is not just a paradise for marine life but also for birds and you can also take a birdwatching tour to admire and photograph the beautiful sea birds from the area.
There are almost 10 different diving places spread around the island with depths between 40 to 120 feet, places where giant manta rays, sharks, and other interesting species can be spotted in their natural habitat.
As you cannot sleep on the island and only day tours are available, we strongly recommend you book your hotel as close as possible to the port so that you don’t have to walk a lot in the morning.
The hotel features 5 restaurants, a spa, 4 bars, and a casino where to relax after a long day of exploring this wonderful country and its hidden islands.
For more information about this beautiful island, please check our article CATALINAS ISLANDS COSTA RICA: ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT IT.
Islas Murcielagos or Bat Islands
The Bat Islands or Islas Murcielagos are located close to Guanacaste and are part of Santa Rosa National Park.
These islands are famous for being one of the very few places on Earth where you can spot bull sharks so close to the shore.
Bat Islands are accessible only by boat and there are plenty of scuba diving tours that leave from Playas del Coco.
It is a 1.5 hours boat tour from Playas del Coco, the place from where most of the boat tours depart.
Book your overnight stay in Playas del Coco at Coco Breeze Pacific Costa Rica a beautiful apartment complex with an outdoor swimming pool, fully equipped kitchen, and a sitting area.
Be the first to get on the boat to choose the best seat for your trip to the island.
The island is very popular among experienced divers as the currents are quite strong and you need some experience to dive in here.
Besides the famous bull sharks, you will be able to spot humpback whales, dolphins, pilot whales, rays, and many beautiful sea turtles.
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These are the best islands Costa Rica has and you definitely need to take a boat trip at least to one of these places.
Most of them are protected areas and biological reserves and are perfect for scuba diving and snorkeling is ranked among the best places for such activities in the world.
Prepare for at least one and a half hours boat tour to the islands and don’t forget to take with you insect repellent, sun cream, and water to stay hydrated as well as some clothes to change after a long day in the water.
Logistical tips and tricks for your trip
Book your accommodation
We always use Booking.com as they have the best price-quality ratio and they offer a wide range of hotels, guesthouses, apartments, and villas to choose from.
You will find here all types of accommodations, from the cheapest ones to the most luxurious.
Don't forget travel insurance
Travel insurance will always protect you against unexpected events and cost like illness, COVID, injury, theft, or travel cancellation.
We never go on any trip without travel insurance and there were many cases when we had to use it.
Renting a car
We like to explore a country on our own and a car gives us the mobility and freedom to do that.
We always rent our car from Discovercars as they have free cancellation 48 hours prior to starting date and a wide range of car rental companies and options to choose from all over the world.
Tours and attractions
When we are looking for some adventure or we simply want to break up the monotony and discover new places, we always use GetYourGuide.
We love it because we always find the most amazing experiences, with free cancellation and a large variety of activities and tours to choose from.
Airplane tickets and holiday packages
Expedia is our ally when searching for the best price for airplane tickets as it works as an aggregator for a huge number of airlines and we always find the best price for our flights.
Travel tip: use Expedia when you are searching for holiday packages as they have many last-minute offers and great discounts for hotels, flights, and even the whole holiday packages.