The New Universal trail at Manuel Antonio National Park

February 27th, 2018

The Manuel Antonio national park has been an iconic nature preserve in Costa Rica for years. This is because of how accessible it is to the public. Being located just outside of Quepos on the Pacific side of the Country. In the park, you will find amazing attractions including unique wildlife, breathtaking scenery and some of Costa Rica’s best Beaches.

Manuel Antonio Costa RicaThe Universal Trail

If you have visited recently you will have noticed that a lot of construction has been going on inside the park. This is all apart of the new universal trail now completed and soon ready for use by the public. The entire trail was donated by the Engineering and Construction Department of ICE. This trail won’t just be for your avid hiker, it is so much more than that, as it applies to the Equal Opportunities Law to helping People with Disabilities. Along the trail, you will notice ten different sections with braille signage.

The New trail is named El Manglar or the Mangrove. They have located the trail over the mangrove part of the park recently not accessible in the past. Now it will have plenty more visitors with the new trail. It is 2 and a half meters wide and just under one Kilometer long. This will give visitors plenty of walking space and all will have a fun time exploring this elavated trail. It leads to Espadilla Sur Beach as well other adjoining trails.

3 toed sloth very common in Costa Rica wildlife

More About Costa Rica and What It Offers Here

Other Park Upgrades

In the past, the park had several sewage problems but not anymore. It was noted that in some areas a bad smell lingered because of the sewage problem. The old system hadn’t been upgraded since 2007 and was not maintained well leading to the problem. To fix this the park installed a totally new sewage treatment plant costing a total of $27,000.00 USD. This is well worth it as the park serves over 450 thousand visitors each year.

With all the new upgrades to the park, when will you come visit Costa Rica/Manuel Antonio.? Come for a relaxing vacation in Manuel Antonio and spend some time at the beaches or walking the beautiful jungle trails of the national park. For more information please contact us here info@villascostarica.com

Facts about the Red-Eyed Tree Frog

January 29th, 2018

The Red-Eyed Tree Frog is a favorite among many people all over the world. This is because of their unique coloration and beautiful big eyes. Check out some of the most interesting facts about this unique tree frog.

tortuguero-national-park-frog

It’s Camouflage

Even though you may think it would be hard for this frog to blend into the surroundings, this is far from true. The Red-Eyed Tree Frog may be colorful but when folded up into a huddle position you can barely see them. This is perfect for when the frog wants to rest and be left alone for awhile. It folds it legs up and all you see is a leafy green color. Normally they curl up under a leaf for protection from the elements.

The amazing colors

So it can camouflage but the more obvious attribute to this frog is of course how colorful it is.  The first thing you will notice is its brightly colored red eyes. Sometimes they have an orange hue because of the lighting.  Also, they are truly enormous, probably some of the biggest eyes in the animal world compared to its body. Then you will notice the brilliant blue on its sides and legs, lastly the orange toes. These toes allow them to climb just about anywhere.

They love to climb

The long limbs give them an astonishing climbing ability. Not to mention the ability to hang just about in any position. This gives them a great advantage over predators and anyone that would want to hurt one. The suction cups on their toes give them this amazing climbing attribute.

There nocturnal

Our red-eyed friend likes to come out and play at night. During the day you will find them mostly lazing around but at night is when all the action begins. This is when they go in search of food and possibly a mate during the mating season also known as the wet season in Costa Rica.

Red eye tree frogSize

This frog is actually one of the larger species you will find here in Costa Rica. Other frogs such as the poison dart frog just can’t match its size. They range from 1.5 – 2.5 inches in body length and weigh roughly half an ounce.

So the next time you visit Costa Rica make sure to keep your eyes out for the amazing Red-Eyed Tree Frog. Why not ask us where to find them, and make them apart of your travel plans, contact us here info@villascostarica.com.

Top Waterfalls of Costa Rica

December 30th, 2017

The la Paz waterfall gardens in Costa RicaThere are so many waterfalls in Costa Rica, almost too many to count. They come in all shapes and sizes ranging from hundreds of feet tall to having colorful pools below the cascading falls. We have reviewed some of the finest of Costa Rica’s waterfalls all so you get a better idea of which ones to visit when you come.

1, La Paz

La Paz is by far one of the greatest waterfalls in all Costa Rica not only because of its beauty but also the amazing nature reserve around it. The reserve has some amazing animals including Jaguars, Monkeys, an array of Birds, Snakes and so much more. There are three falls in total each getting better as you go down the stairs. At each stopping point, you can take beautiful pictures and depending on the day will get sprayed by the mist of the waters. Note that swimming isn’t aloud at this waterfall. Another perk of visiting the La Paz waterfall is the Poas Volcano nearby.

2, Rio Celeste

Rio Celeste is located in the Tenorio Volcano National Park. What a unique waterfall having a gorgeous blue tinge to the water. This is due to the volcanic rock mixing with the water creating this wonderful color. The waterfall is 20 meters tall spilling into a pool of blue water. You will love visiting this falls, it is a great day trip from a number of our villas in Guanacaste.

3, La Fortuna Waterfall

This is one of the most famous waterfalls of Costa Rica. It is located nearby the majestic Arenal Volcano. This is a great spot for many different tours, you definitely won’t have enough time to visit this whole area in one day. Also, the La Fortuna waterfall is one of the tallest in Costa Rica standing 75 meters tall. It’s pools and stream make for a great swim on a hot day.

The Nauyaca waterfall in Costa Rica4, Nauyaca

The Nauyaca waterfall is located near Dominical Costa Rica. It is the best for swimming having the largest pool of any other falls. Also nearby you will find amazing beaches including Uvita and Dominical. This waterfall has a 2 level drop totaling 60 meters tall.

5, Montezuma

Montezuma waterfall has 3 stages before it reaches its last pool. Each step has a pool for swimming and is a very popular swimming hole among locals and tourist. This falls is close to Montezuma town and beach in the Nicoya Peninsula.

There are so many more waterfalls in Costa Rica but these are some of the best. If you have any questions about activities or villas to stay at when you visit these waterfalls don’t hesitate to contact us. Email us here info@villascostarica.com

Five of our favorite Beaches

December 20th, 2017

Costa Rica holds so many different beaches to have fun in the sun. Literally, thousands of Kilometers of the beautiful coast for you to sit back relax and enjoy a beach day. We have some favorites to, and to give you an idea of some great spots, here are our five favorite beach locations in Costa Rica.

Manuel Antonio Costa Rica1. Manuel Antonio

Manuel Antonio has a few awesome beaches, but the one we are talking about is right in the national park. It will take you about 30 to 45 minutes of walking to get to, but worth it. This is one of the most famous beaches in Costa Rica because of its famed whale tale shape. Also, you get the chance to experience two beaches on either side of the tale. Not only that but it truly is a gorgeous spot for you and the family to enjoy.

2. Tamarindo

Located in the province of Guanacaste Tamarindo, is held as one of the top surfing destinations of this little country. If you haven’t ever surfed before than don’t be too shy as Tamarindo is a great place to learn. And there are quite a few places to take lessons. The small town of Tamarindo only adds to the flavor of this spot after a long day at the beach it can be good to wind down and have a drink or eat at one of the local restaurants.

3. Flamingo

Flamingo beach is yet another great spot, having pinkish sand giving it the name of flamingo. You might like a few of the villas that we have in the area of Flamingo check them out here. Ths beach also has an endless array of activities that you might be interested in including scuba diving, snorkeling, sports fishing, surfing, golf and even some great national parks in the area.

Flamingo Beach Costa Rica4. Dominical

We also have some unique villas in Dominical if you are looking to stay here. This particular beach holds some fun options for you. It is also a little bit further off the beaten path than other beaches on the list. You will love the perfect surfing conditions here and if you’re not into surfing than just sit back in your chair in the warm sand and let the breeze blow your stresses away.

5. Ostional

Optional Beach is somewhat unique for the fact that sea turtles come to visit it every single year. You can first see the mothers laying eggs and also see the babies hatch and rush out to sea. This site is a great attraction for anyone to see. Honestly, you will love every minute of it.

So whether you are a pro surfer or just came to relax, Costa Rica has some of the best beaches in all central America. If you have questions about where you should visit let us know info@villascostarica.com.

Top Things to pack for Costa Rica

December 12th, 2017

So you made the decision, you have all your money saved up, and you are ready to visit Costa Rica. That is why we have put a list together of things you will need when you come here.

Well, let’s get started first things first.

Health

It is an excellent idea to get health insurance no matter the situation but especially when you’re the adventurous risk taker that you are. Never cheap out when it comes to getting insurance it might sound great to save 20-30 dollars, but that can also be the difference between you or your insurance company paying the bills.

Talking about health insurance why not bring a little of your own, traveler’s first aid comes in handy when hiking camping and other riskier activities, make sure it’s full so you don’t run out of anything you need. Bug repellent and netting can be a miracle all year round as the bugs do die down a bit during the dry season but never underestimate them they will eventually find a way to bite. Also, bring sunscreen and eye protection, the sun is no different here than back home other than maybe a bit stronger.

Money of Costa RicaMoney

Don’t forget to pick up a bit of the local currency, Colones before you come. Normally it’s best to pick it up at your local bank back home, as the exchange rates here can be dangerous. The exchange on average is 500 – 600 colones to 1 American dollar.

American dollars are accepted here but not everywhere in Costa Rica, mainly at restaurants and hotels. Visa is also accepted here but once again it’s not as common in the smaller communities.

So play it safe and bring some cash, a lot of times when you pay for things in cash they give you a discount.

Clothing and footwear

The weather here is funny so bring the proper clothes. Travelling in Costa Rica can be hot and humid, so shorts and t-shirts are a great idea as well as flipflops or sandals. It’s another thing to go into the rainforest, the last thing you would want to do is where flipflops on a hike. Snakes and creepy crawlies rule that domain.

The best you can do when on a rainforest trek is wear comfortable hiking shoes and high socks that cover part of your leg. Pants and long sleeve shirts are recommended and depending on how deep you go into the rainforest a good jacket for rain.

Electronics

Unless on a business trip, we don’t suggest bringing any more than your phone, tablet, and camera. Your phone camera can do amazing things, but then again if you want some better photos, it pays to bring a decent camera for either videos or pictures. If you’re into taking cool videos of your whole trip you can’t go wrong with the GoPro series there inexpensive and have a million different accessories for whatever kind of daredevil you are.

Varying on what you are doing on your trip waterproof cases provide excellent protection for those expensive phones and tablets. And of course, don’t forget your chargers and possibly external batteries for when you’re away from your Villa.

Valuables

Rings, watches, and expensive jewelry are not recommended to bring unless you keep it in a safe and dry place. If you are near the ocean, the salt spray can ruin valuable things including electronics if not kept safe. A good travel watch instead of the fancy gold can be very helpful wherever you go.

The obvious documents you need are your passport and insurance information, but not many think to make copies just in case. Never hurts to have a copy of your passport in your bags or car if your passport gets stolen it can be a nightmare to replace. Your driver license you might not think is valid in another country but actually, it is valid for the duration of your passport stamp of 90 days.

Travel bags for Costa RicaTravel Bags

Whether you are, a backpacker or just like hanging at the beach the type of bags you bring is a world of difference. For the adventurer at heart, we recommend a good daypack they cost anywhere from 50 – 300 dollars but are worth it for hikes, camping, whale watching, beach days and whatever else your heart desires. A good suitcase for airport relieves a lot of the stress at lineups, the bags with four wheels glide along the floors beautifully.

A fanny pack might be the last on your list but brings a whole new sense of being ready for anything. Besides there stylish in Costa Rica, you will notice every other man and women on the street wearing one.

Travel tools

Multi-tools and small multi knives come in very handy from opening beer bottles to fixing that broken zipper on your travel bag. Zip ties and black electrical tape, another obscure thing not many think to bring, but there are 1001 things they will fix in a pinch. Also, a flashlight for when the electricity goes out.

Toiletries

Bathroom essentials are a great thing to remember if you don’t want to go to the store to buy more. Your toothbrush and paste, soaps, cremes, feminine hygiene and others necessities only add to an impressive trip.

With all these things now listed, this is just a rough guideline. Before your trip to Costa Rica make sure you do your research, and the best thing you can bring here is an open mind to adventure.

For more information and travel tips please contact info@villascostarica.com

Our Favorite Animals of Costa Rica

December 8th, 2017

With the travel season just ramping up, you will be looking forward to planning that next trip to Costa Rica. There are so many questions that come to mind when we travel, but one of the most fun ones is what animals we are going to see?  So for the nature lovers out there here are five of our most favorite animals.

Number One, Monkeys

There are four different species of monkey in Costa Rica specifically the Manuel Antonio area. Here you will see the White-faced Capuchins, Howler Monkeys, Squirrel Monkeys, and the Spider Monkeys. They truly are playful and sometimes can get out of hand. You will see some different species by simply walking along the beaches of Manuel Antonio. Although the more common ones to come up towards humans are the Capuchins. The others are quite a bit shyer and tend to hide in the trees.

Three Toed Sloth hanging in the TreesNumber Two, Sloths

Sloths are a unique animal to see on the Rich Coast, and you will be happy to see them. There are two types of sloths here, firstly the two-toed sloth, and of course the three-toed sloth. Both are very hard to find, as they camouflage perfectly in the trees. This is why a guided tour is recommended as the guides are the best persons to know where they are located.

Number Three, Butterflies

The butterflies of Costa Rica will stun you with excitement. One of the biggest and most popular being the Morpho. The Morpho is well known for its brilliant blue tones and massive wingspan. Although there are others that are just as beautiful, for example, the Glasswing, Monarch, Owl Butterfly and so much more.

Number Four, Jaguars

Jaguars are probably the most elusive animal of all in Costa Rica. It is extremely rare that you will ever see one in the wild although there are some wildlife sanctuaries where you can view them. This is most likely the best place for safety as you wouldn’t want to meet one in the wild anyways.

Jaguar sitting in JungleNumber Five, Tapirs

Tapirs are another of our most favorite animals in Costa Rica. These animals are an interesting bunch as they kind of look like a pig but have a long nose and different colors. They are on the endangered list but don’t worry too much as with the help of incredible reserves, and the Costa Rica Government, funding is helping to preserve our friend the Tapir alive in its habitat.

Let us know what your favorite animal is when you book your next trip to Costa Rica/Manuel Antonio. There is truly so much diversity in one little country. You can be sure to have the exploration of a lifetime, spotting not just these five animals but many many more.

For more information please contact us at info@villascostarica.com.

Foodie Destination in Guanacaste

March 11th, 2016

Costa Rica’s Guanacaste province makesScreen shot 2016-03-09 at 9.37.05 PM up the northwest region of the country and is famed for its many Pacific Ocean resorts.  In many coastal communities around the world, once-sleepy areas beloved by locals, surfers, and a few ex-pats “in the know” sometimes turn into something louder, more expensive, and become an intrusive threat to the natural beauty that drew visitors to the area in the first place.  But all is not lost.  As Eric Lipton recently wrote in the Sunday New York Times’ Travel section, there’s an “anti-resort resort” on the Nicoya Peninsula, where “no new development is allowed in beachside conservation areas within 200 yards of the ocean,” and there are “no high-rise buildings, no fast-food restaurants, very few beach bars—there are not even chaise lounges on the beach.”

 

Screen shot 2016-03-09 at 9.41.34 PMWelcome to Nosara

This would-be Shangri-La is about 25 miles south of—and a world away from—Tamarindo. And, like Shangri-La, Nosara is a bit of a dirt-road challenge to get to. But once you’re there, you will discover a place that may be turning into the tropical Montauk of Central America, minus the day-tripping crowds and vehicular traffic. The draw? In addition to the surfing, the abundant natural beauty, and the emphasis on its preservation, the town and its beachfront areas are a gastronomic destination, with more great restaurants per square kilometer than perhaps anywhere else in the country. There are four beaches in Nosara, and culinary activity takes place in all of them. In Playa Guiones, there’s Tibidabo (whose chef was trained at El Bulli in Spain), and Burgers & Beers (precisely!), and Rosi’s Soda Tica (In Costa Rica, a “soda” is a small restaurant serving homemade, native cuisine.) In Playa Garza, there’s the mom-and-pop Bahia Garza.  In Playa Pelada, there’s El Chivo, and La Luna.  These are just a few of the many dining options in this high-bohemian paradise.

 

High Tech, Low Tech

Two of the engines of Nosara’s quiet Screen shot 2016-03-09 at 9.47.05 PMrenaissance are BuzzFeed co-founder John S. Johnson III, and his wife and business partner, filmmaker Susan Short. Johnson and Short own two small hotels, two condo resorts, and the local news weekly Voz de Guanacaste. In the Times, Lipton reported, “they are determined to prevent large-scale, resort tourism from taking hold, and have enough available capital to actually stop it.” Local activity—and what’s turned into an international “scene”—is centered at one of their hotels, which has a juice bar, day spa, yoga center, and an open-air restaurant (which does not serve junk food or sugary drinks). In the world of entrepreneurs, this kind of deep-pocket consideration amounts to a form of philanthropy. 

Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast a Top Destination, Says Lonely Planet

March 8th, 2016

Lonely Planet—the world’s biggest and most successful travel guide series—ranks Costa Rica’s lush Caribbean coast as one of 2016’s best vacation destinations. The respected publication claims the region offers unbeatable value, and a taste of everything that makes Costa Rica one of the greatest places for a family vacation or romantic escape.

Caribbean coast garners praise from Lonely Planet

playa-cocles-costa-ricaLonely Planet writer Tom Hall is a veteran globetrotter and knows the inherent benefits of getting off the tourist trail for a more authentic travel experience. In places like Cahuita and Manzanillo, he claims you’ll discover “a still-evolving destination that’s likely to become a big noise over the next few years.” In sum: the entire coastal region, both north and south of Limon, boasts all of the natural beauty of Costa Rica but without the heavy crowds.  Hall’s other destinations that made the cut for best value included Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City, Estonia, Galicia in Spain, East Africa, Quebec City, and Western Australia.

Ideal for surfing, snorkeling and beach lovers

While the Caribbean draws its share of visitors each year, most are independent travelers, birdwatchers or die-hard surfers who come to test their mettle on the pounding waves churning off the coast of Puerto Viejo and Playa Cocles. Beyond wild surf, the coast is dappled with gorgeous black and white sand beaches. For extraordinary underwater explorations, head to Manzanillo and book a snorkeling tour of the coral reefs. Or, swing by Cahuita National Park where tour guides offer a combo trip that includes a short hike along sandy trails followed by a glass-bottom-boat tour.

?????????Sea turtles of Tortuguero

If the reggae beats of Puerto Viejo and neighboring beaches isn’t quite your scene, set your sights northward to the river town of Tortuguero, where black-water canals and rugged beaches host incredible biodiversity. In all, five species of endangered sea turtles nest on Tortuguero’s beaches, with most of the action happening between July and October. When you’re not watching 350-pound reptiles lay eggs by moonlight, you can relax and enjoy the copious wildlife that inhabits the protected wetlands, including spider and howler monkeys, basilisk lizards, sloths, herons, toucans and spectacled caimans.

Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica

Lonely Planet pays special tribute to one notable tourist attraction—Limon’s Sloth Sanctuary near Cahuita. Admission fees go toward the veterinary care and feeding of injured and orphaned sloths. Tours feature a guided canoe ride through the sanctuary’s tropical lowland rainforest and visits with resident two and three-toed sloths, including the beloved mascot named Buttercup. Their coveted behind-the-scenes tour even includes a trip to the Slothpital clinic, and a chance to see adorable babies in the on-site nursery.

Shopping your way through San Jose – 5 Best Spots

March 3rd, 2016

San Jose is the vibrant capital city of Costa Rica – the go-to destination for a memorable day of culture, arts, and theater. The city is also fantastic for a bit of retail therapy, whether you’re picking up some souvenirs for friends or want a piece of original Costa Rican art for your home. The 10 Best series in USA Today recently extolled the capital’s best shopping spots and walking streets. Here’s a recap of the top five.

 

galeria-namu-shopping1. Avenida Central  This bustling pedestrian street has dozens of excellent cafes and restaurants that will fuel a long day of strolling, people-watching, and shopping. Browse the ever-popular Universal and La Gloria stores after taking in the Avenida’s permanent art displays.

 

2.  Galeria Namu  This little gem isn’t far from the Jade Museum in downtown San Jose. The gallery features dozens of handcrafted, fair-trade items from local artisans that are affordably priced. You’ll find lovely pre-Columbian pottery, oil paintings, woven baskets, and hand-carved masks, plus lots of other textiles and interesting home décor items.

 

3.  Boutique Annemarie  Looking for that one-of-a-kind gift on your Costa Rica vacation? Visit the lobby of Hotel Don Carlos for a wide selection of unique leather goods, handmade jewelry, crafts, figurines, clothing and specialty gifts. The shop has a distinctive old-fashioned ambiance, complete with antique photographs, memorabilia, and artwork.

 

4.  Caballo Loco Boutique  The horse lover in your family will appreciate a trip to this San Jose boutique, which stocks authentic equestrian clothing, gear, gifts, and more. Think leather chaps, cowboy and cowgirl hats, and the ever-popular bolo tie. Bonus: you can shop in air-conditioned comfort!

 

san-jose-mercadocentral5. Mercado Central  No visit to the nation’s capital is complete without exploring the labyrinth corridors of the Mercado Central (Central Market). A staple since 1880, the market encapsulates the lives and livelihood of Costa Ricans. Vendors sell everything from fresh produce, flowers, and cheeses to souvenir T-shirts and coffee socks. You can easily spend a full day wandering through the maze of shops, watching people as they enjoy a “cafecito” and catch up with friends. And be sure to go with an appetite—traditional food is sold everywhere and rumor has it the cinnamon vanilla ice cream is to die for!

Costa Rica at a Glance – Interesting Stats & Facts

March 3rd, 2016

In the context of memorable vacations,costa-rica-map Costa Rica evokes images of palm-fringed beaches, sultry rainforests brimming with wildlife, and the delighted yips of zip-line adventurers as they hurl their bodies from one platform to the next. But did you know that Costa Rica is also a model of environmental stewardship and boasts a long history of pacifist policies? Read on for interesting tidbits about Costa Rica’s people, history, and culture.

The people of Costa Rica

As of 2016, the population of Costa Rica hovers just under 5 million, with the majority of residents centralized in the San Jose metro area and Central Valley. More than 95 percent of “Ticos” are of European descent, and less than 2 percent of Costa Rican residents are of indigenous ancestry, many of whom live in the country’s remote mountain regions. More than a century ago, legislators declared that education was to be mandatory and free for all citizens, accounting for today’s high literacy rate of 97 percent.

No longer a cash crop nation

Formerly a cash crop nation reliant on coffee, sugar, and bananas, Costa Rica is now a major exporter of software technology and medical instruments. The country’s growing economy is driven by tourism, electronic exports, and some agriculture, and it enjoys robust foreign investment, thanks to highly incentivized free-trade zones. Compared to its Central American neighbors, Costa Rica has a large middle class, largely comprised of working class, highly-educated professionals.

Green policies and environmental focus

In 2012, Costa Rica was rated the planet’s 5th Greenest Country by the Environmental Performance Index (EPI). This tiny nation has demonstrated what many have found inconceivable: achieving nearly 100 percent renewable energy through natural resources. A winding river system and substantial rainfall provide hydroelectric power, which accounts for 80 percent of all energy production. The remaining is made up of geothermal, solar, and biomass power. With renewable-energy targets being met, Costa Rica continues a steady path toward becoming entirely carbon neutral by 2021.

costa-rica-no-armyNo army since 1948

You’ve probably heard (or learned first-hand) that Costa Rica is one of the most biologically diverse nations, housing an astounding variety of flora and fauna. Biologists claim that you’ll find more than 600 species of animal for each 10,000 square miles—compared to 104 in the U.S.! But did you know that Costa Rica abolished its standing army in 1948? This bold feat was ordered by then-President Jose Figueres Ferrer, who announced the country’s military spending would be directed toward education, health care, and environmental protection. Nearly 70 years later, it’s obvious that this bold decision has paid off.

Costa Rica Ranked Among Top Whale-Watching Destinations

March 2nd, 2016

Costa Rica has garnered numerous accolades for its earth-friendly policies, pristine beaches and incredible biodiversity. 2016 is shaping up to be another banner year for this popular eco-tourism haven. According to a recent article in National Geographic magazine, Costa Rica’s Bahia Ballena (Whale Bay) is among the world’s top ten destinations for dolphin and whale watching.

 

Bahia Ballena scores 7th place on the list

The lovely Bahia Ballena,humpback-whale-breaching located on the southern Pacific coast, is one of the planet’s crucial habitats for the humpback back whale, which migrates twice a year to the bay’s warm waters to mate and calve. Bahia Ballena was ranked seventh for whale and dolphin sighting by the venerable publication, which added that manta rays, sea turtles, bottle-nose dolphins and other marine species also enjoy protection in the sanctuary of Ballena National Marine Park. Australia’s Hervey Bay, the Valdes Peninsula in Argentina and South Africa’s Hermanus also made the list for top whale watching locales.

 

Costa Rica whale-watching season                             

Seeing a 45-foot whale breach in the ocean with a tremendous splash is on a fair number of bucket lists. Travelers to Costa Rica are especially fortunate in that whale season is happening virtually year-round. In Bahia Ballena, humpback whales are frequently spotted plying the shallower coastal waters from December to the end of April and again from July through September.  Powerful swimmers, humpbacks can weigh more than 40 tons and are easily recognized by their long pectoral fins and distinctive knobby heads. Their entertaining surface displays make them a superstar in the whale-watching community, though scientists aren’t sure what motivates breaching. Some speculate the aerial twirls are a form of communication or a means of marking territory, while others say breaching is nothing more than play.


whale-watching-costa-ricaOff the beaten path in Uvita

Bahia Ballena lies just south of Dominical and encompasses a string of uncrowded yet breathtaking beaches, including Uvita. While the area is easily accessed by car, bus or plane, it has remained relatively tranquil and undeveloped. If you’re looking for a gorgeous beach to dig your toes in soft sand, enjoy a little surfing, and watch one of Mother Nature’s most incredible marine mammals, add this spot to your Costa Rica vacation itinerary.  Boat tours depart daily during peak whale-breeding months, and afford ample opportunity to see playful dolphins and humpbacks doing what they do best. In addition, travelers to the Dominical region can also book everything from zip-line and horseback-riding tours to private yoga lessons.

Wildlife Photography Tips from the Pros

February 25th, 2016

Opportunities for amazing nature photography abound in Costa Rica – whether you’re trekking through Manuel Antonio National Park or meandering the dark river canals of Tortuguero. Follow these tips and tricks to ensure plenty of captivating wildlife shots during your next foray into the mountains, rainforests and scenic landscapes of this bio-diverse nation.

1)  Lighting Conditions in Costa Rica – foodapp_12.JPGCosta Rica lies practically on the equator, so, for most of the day and throughout the entire year, the sun is perpendicular to the earth’s surface. If the day is cloudy that is not an issue, but being a tropical country, you will have sunlight most of the time.  This creates a condition where you will have extreme light and shade – a very challenging situation for any photographer, as you will always be dealing with harsh shadows. The best way to manage this is to take photos in the early morning as the sun is rising or late afternoon as it is setting. Of course, this shouldn’t stop you from taking photos during the remainder of the day. One trick of the pros is to expose for the highlights and then bring out detail in the shadow using your image editing software.

 

2)  Play it Safe – If traveling on your own, keep your camera gear as inconspicuous as possible in order not to make it tempting for someone to try to snatch it from you. This is a good practice with all valuables.

 

costa-rica-wildlife-photography  3)  Focus on the eyes – Whenever possible, try to photograph animal subjects from eye level, which helps diminish feature distortion. And for  the best chances of capturing a superlative image of that frolicking capuchin monkey or brilliant morpho butterfly, remember to shoot  continuously.

 

4)  Importance of timing – To make a wildlife photo truly interesting, the experts recommend observing the animal’s behavior and waiting      for the right moment when the animal looks up, opens its wings, makes a turn, or catches the light. Luckily, most nature tours in Costa Rica afford  plenty of time for lengthy interactions with exotic and interesting tree-dwelling and marine creatures.

Annual Envision Festival Epitomizes Costa Rican Pura Vida

February 6th, 2016

Seeking an Enlightenment of Consciousness

Screen shot 2016-02-06 at 2.59.10 PMSince 2011, the Envision Festival, set to kick off February 25th, has brought thousands of people seeking an enlightenment of consciousness mixed with fun and excitement to Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast. The venue, located near Uvita, is a celebration of music, the arts, self-expression, and the bringing together of different cultural backgrounds. For 4 days, activities run virtually 24/7, and vary from music by Central America’s best artists, interpretive dance, and fire and juggling performers, to numerous workshops on yoga, meditation, and healing. All of these activities are set amid a backdrop of beautiful beaches, unspoiled rainforest, and, of course, the indigenous wildlife so plentiful in Costa Rica.

All are Welcome!

People from all walks of life and from around the world come to the festival to be challenged to raise their consciousness of their relationship to the environment, learn valuable lessons to improve their health and well-being, and simply have fun doing it. It’s a party with a purpose! Children are welcome, making this a great family experience. (Children under 12 are admitted free with their parents, and anyone under 18 must be accompanied by an adult parent.)

Screen shot 2016-02-06 at 3.01.12 PM For the Adventure Seekers

For those who want to add some adventure to their time at the festival, Costa Rica offers a multitude of activities  for attendees. For water buffs, the area boasts some of the world’s best snorkeling, diving, and surfing. If dry land  is your thing, then zip-lining along the canopy of virgin rainforest, hiking or riding horseback to magnificent  waterfalls, or even hopping on your own ATV and riding along the backtrails of the rainforest and along the  mountain rivers are some of the available ways to see the beauty of Costa Rica.

Provisions and Accommodations

Food—including locally grown organic fruits and vegetables—is available on the festival grounds, and water is provided free (as long as it holds out). A store (mercado) is set up for essentials, so it’s not necessary to leave the venue for the entire 4 days in most cases. Sleeping arrangements range from tents and hammocks on the beach to large vacation rental homes and villas for a VIP experience.

Don’t Miss this Great Event!Screen shot 2016-02-06 at 2.47.20 PM

According to officials, this year’s Envision Festival is nearly sold out.  Check the website http://www.envisionfestival.com/ for last-minute availability. And we can help you plan for Envision 2017. There are a lot of intriguing areas to explore and enjoy in Costa Rica. Come and see for yourself. Pura Vida!

 

Souvenir Shopping in Costa Rica

February 1st, 2016

Your Costa Rica vacation is everything you’d ever hoped for, but what about some keepsakes for friends and family back home…or a little token to remind yourself of the Pura Vida you enjoyed.   You will find great Costa Rican souvenirs throughout your travels, and our advice is to snap them up as you go rather than waiting until your airport departure. Here’s a small sampling of our favorites!

costa-rica-souvenir-wooden-bowl

Fresh roasted coffee

You don’t have to be a connoisseur to appreciate Costa Rica’s rich, award-winning coffee, which flourishes in the nutrient-rich volcanic soil. Doka’s Tres Generaciones and Café Britt offer both whole bean and ground coffee in several varieties, whether you prefer a light roast or deep espresso. You’ll find these premium brands on their coffee plantation tours, as well as select tourist shops. Other tasty options include Café Milagro and Café Monteverde, which are sold in local supermarkets. Your luggage will smell delicious and your friends will thank you!

Indigenous art

From gorgeous ceramic pottery to colorful masks and delicate textiles, Costa Rica’s indigenous peoples – including the Boruca and Chorotega Indians – showcase their talent in myriad ways. Unique Guaitil pottery , hand-made in a wood burning kiln, makes a wonderful gift as do Boruca masks made of balsa wood. You can pick up authentic creations in San Jose-area galleries as well as other shops that promote artisan crafts and indigenous tourism.

Miniature ox-carts of Sarchi

Oxcarts, known as carretas in Costa Rica, were originally used to transport coffee from the Central Valley to the coast.  They have since become a symbol of the culture of Costa Rica. Featuring vibrant blues, yellows, reds and greens, each oxcart is a piece of art, hand-painted by talented artisans in the town of Sarchi. These artisans also create mini-reproductions for souvenirs – a terrific gift for someone who enjoys table knick-knacks.

Handmade wood crafts

oxcart-souvenir-costa-rica

Fine woodworking is somewhat of a tradition in Costa Rica, where you’ll find exceptional bowls, jewelry boxes, salad spoons, cutting boards, vases and other items made from exotic timber. For the best selection of hand-crafted items, head to Biesanz Woodworking in Escazu. If the San Jose metro area isn’t a part of your itinerary, tourist gift shops usually stock these items in popular areas like Jaco, Arenal, Tamarindo and Manuel Antonio.

Remember that haggling over prices is not the norm in Costa Rica. If vendors are negotiable, they will immediately lower the asking price if they sense some real interest. And you’ll always do best when paying cash in the local currency.

 

Responsible Travel in Costa Rica

January 10th, 2016

Costa Rica aims to become the first carbon-neutral nation by balancing its carbon dioxide (CO2) inputs and emissions. This lofty goal, which is set for 2021, will undoubtedly require cooperation by industry officials, the government and individuals – both residents and tourists. Travel plays a crucial role in sustainability, as every choice made and dollar spent has a lasting impact. Consider the following tips on how to be a responsible traveler on your next vacation to Costa Rica.

Look for eco-friendly accommodationsresponsible-tourism-costarica

Escape Villas is proud to offer a number of luxury vacation villas throughout Costa Rica that employ sound ecological practices. Solar panel heating, recycling programs and energy-efficient insulation are just a few of the green features in our Manuel Antonio rentals.

Support the national park system

More than one-quarter of the nation’s land mass is dedicated to national parks, biological reserves and wildlife refuges. Support these conservation efforts by organizing a tour to one of Costa Rica’s amazing parks.

Be mindful about energy &water conservation

If your vacation rental or hotel emphasizes sustainable practices, such as linen or towel reuse, take advantage of the opportunity to be a green traveler. In this line, remember to turn off lights or the air conditioning before leaving your room for the day.

Transportation considerations

Several car rental agencies in Costa Rica now have reforestation and unique carbon-offset projects that make their vehicles more eco-friendly. If flying to your destination, consider Nature Air, the nation’s only regional carrier that has been carbon neutral since 2004.

carbon-neutral-costa-rica

 Shop responsibly

Buying locally grown and sourced foods will lessen your carbon footprint. When picking up trinkets or souvenirs, steer clear of products made from endangered hardwoods or animals. Look for locally-made items such as bamboo clothing, body salts, soaps, lotions, candles, and creams using organic and earth-friendly products.

Keep paradise pristine

When hiking through or touring one of Costa Rica’s many natural attractions, be mindful about carrying out your trash.  And remember, potable water is available virtually everywhere, so fill up your Nalgene as you go rather than buying water bottles.

 

Must Have Apps for Your Costa Rica Travels

December 2nd, 2015

Be prepared for every contingency with this year’s best travel apps that put critical information at your fingertips. Installing a few of these on your smartphone may prevent hassle and headaches, which nobody wants to deal with on their much anticipated vacation.  From tracking itinerary details to navigating Costa Rica’s roads, these apps are worth checking out!

TripCase collates itinerary detailstravel-apps-costarica-vacation

As you book your flight, car rental and begin to schedule tours and accommodations, you may need a little assistance organizing and managing all the details. TripCase consolidates confirmation emails and the most essential travel information like addresses, pertinent data and dates, listing everything in a chronological itinerary.

Learn local phrases with Costa Rica Idioms

Your high school Spanish will serve you well on your Costa Rica travels, but it won’t help with local slang and idioms that are a part of the daily Tico lexicon. Developed by a Costa Rica couple, this handy app instantly translates Costa Rican slang – phrases not found in textbooks — into English, giving you the upper hand in communication.

costa-rica-travel-apps

Currency conversion made simple

The Costa Rican colon usually hovers around 530 to the US Dollar, which makes on-the-fly conversions a little challenging. For exact exchange rates every time, download the OANDA Currency Converter app.  It features a simple interface and stands out from the pack for its ability to factor the typical credit card or ATM rate (usually 2 to 3 percent) into conversions.

Never get lost with WAZE

While it’s true that road signage in Costa Rica has come a long way, even the most seasoned of travelers can use a little navigating help from time to time. WAZE to the rescue! This practical app provides real-time traffic information, and is ideal for first-time drivers in Costa Rica who are headed to parts unknown. Sourced from other drivers, this app gives you a heads up on traffic jams, detours and road closures in addition to step-by-step GPS navigation advice.

Get the scoop on weather changes

With Costa Rica’s many micro-climates, temperatures can fluctuate by as much as 15 degrees in the span of a few hours drive.  Be prepared with weather alerts, hourly and daily forecasts as well as boating and beach conditions with the Weather Channel app. Just enter your next destination for customized alerts on your smart phone.

 

5 Tips for Whitewater Rafting in Costa Rica

November 25th, 2015

Costa Rica’s frothing, wild rivers have been rated among the best in the world for whitewater rafting and kayaking.  Whether you’re tackling Class IV rapids on the Pacuare River or taking a more leisurely paddle down the tamer Sarapiqui, you’re guaranteed an unforgettable experience filled with adventure and unspeakable beauty. Water levels are typically higher during the green season (late May through October), when afternoon downpours swell the rivers, providing even more of a challenge!costa-rica-rafting

Before setting off on this epic excursion, heed these practical tips:

1. Expect to get drenched! Leave all valuables at home (this includes fine jewelry, purses and cell phones) and don’t carry anything onboard that isn’t waterproof. Your guides may offer to safeguard must-have items in a water-tight bag.

2. Wear quick-dry clothing and sturdy river sandals instead of sneakers. Even if your raft doesn’t tip, the occasional sprays and gushes will soak you from head to toe if you’re paddling on Costa Rica’s more advanced Pacuare and Reventazon rivers.

3. Consider a waterproof GoPro camera for amazing footage. Strapped to your helmet, this tiny camera captures every action-packed second of your journey past towering waterfalls and through lush, dramatic canyons. And since you’re wearing a helmet, don’t bother with a hat but don’t forget to apply plenty of water-resistant sunblock even on overcast days.

whitewater-rafting-costa-rica

4. First-time rafters or those who are anxious should confirm with guides about difficulty levels before the tour. Some rivers, such as the Sarapiqui, Naranjo and Savegre Rivers, are better suited for beginners, and feature mostly Class II and III rapids, with small stretches of Class IV. Though more challenging, the Reventazon and Pacuare are still popular options for travelers of all ages and abilities, but it’s important to know your comfort zone first.

5. Listen to your guides, they are seasoned pros and can help you master any situation on the water. A pre-tour safety talk will outline the basics, and you’ll be wearing a lifejacket for the duration of the trip, which can last anywhere from three to six hours, depending on location and currents. And most importantly of all, have fun and enjoy the ride!

 

Recipe for Sweet Plantains, a Costa Rican Favorite

October 17th, 2015

A larger and starchier cousin of the banana, plantains are a staple in most Central American homes. In Costa Rica, plantains are enjoyed in a number of ways, and at different levels of ripeness. One time-honored dish in many households is “platanos maduros,” which literally translates to ripe plantains. The dish is so deliciously sweet it could be served for dessert, but usually ends up as a side for lunch or dinner. This simple recipe can be adjusted according to personal preference and yields 6-8 servings.

Ingredientscosta-rica-ripe-plantains

4-5 ripe plantains (the skin must be black)
1½ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon  ground cinnamon
½ cup of unsalted butter or margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup water
1 lime

Directions

    1. The blacker and riper the plantain, the sweeter it will be. Platanos maduros is wonderful on its own, but is great served with salad, mashed potatoes, rice and beans or an accompaniment to any meal.Cut the ends off the plantains, then peel and cut evenly into one inch slices.

    2. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and slowly saute the plantains until they take on a golden color.

    3. After the plantains are golden brown, flip over gently with a spatula  repeating on the other side.

    4. Add 1 cup of brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla and juice from one lime. Stir together and let sit for one minute.

    5. Add water and slowly sprinkle remaining half cup of sugar over the plantains.

    6. Turn down the heat and let the plantains simmer until the liquid has reduced and the sugar has caramelized.

    7. Serve immediately while hot!

      Platano Maduros

 

Nutritional value of plantains

Pound for pound, plantains are higher in calories (about 125 calories each) compared to bananas, but are still considered very healthy. Rich in iron, magnesium, potassium and phosphorous, plantains are also an excellent source of fiber and B complex vitamins. In Costa Rica, plantains are sold year-round in grocery stores and farmer’s markets, and they are becoming more widely available in the United States.

 N

Day Trip to La Paz Waterfall Gardens

October 3rd, 2015

Often described as “Disney-esque” for its majestic qualities, La Paz Waterfall Gardens is a great spot to experience magnificent waterfalls and the flora and fauna of Costa Rica. Equal parts wildlife refuge,  nature park and conservatory, La Paz makes for an excellent day trip from San Jose or Alajuela, and its animal exhibits, butterfly and hummingbird gardens are a special treat for young children.

An eco-attraction in Vara Blanca

la-paz-waterfall-garden-costa-rica

La Paz encapsulates the lush scenery, diverse wildlife and spectacular waterfalls of Costa Rica in one 70-acre park. With altitudes ranging from 4,200 feet to more than 5,000 feet, the park can get a little chilly by Costa Rica standards, so be sure to bring a lightweight jacket and poncho if you plan on hiking to the waterfalls. Most visitors spend at least three to four hours exploring La Paz, which features more than 3.5 kilometers of nature paths and nearly a dozen wildlife exhibits to enjoy.  Situated in the tiny hamlet of Vara Blanca, the park is a scenic one-hour drive from the San Jose international airport.

Butterflies, hummingbirds, frogs and big cats

The gardens feature more than 1,000 animal species, including native monkeys, rescued jungle cats, snakes, and frogs. To give you a taste of what to expect, La Paz has a massive butterfly observatory (roughly the size of a football field), an outdoor aviary with some 40 avian species, a serpentarium, a frog pond and a spring-fed trout lake where kids can catch their own meal and have it cooked up at the onsite restaurant. Plus, a fantastic hummingbird garden where fearless hummers land right on your hand to feed! For the full-on experience, you may want to block out the whole day for this incredible eco-attraction.

The waterfall experience

la-paz-butterfly-garden

Hiking trails to the park’s five waterfalls are beautifully landscaped but do include several long stretches of steps, so wear comfortable walking shoes and be prepared for some exercise. Photo opportunities abound as you encounter five towering cascades, with viewing platforms so close your skin is gently misted. If your travels take you here between May and October, pack a rain jacket or umbrella in the event of an afternoon shower. Self-guided tours are certainly fun, but if you’re a first-time traveler to Costa Rica, take advantage of the knowledgeable guides, who offer great insights into the biodiversity of this incredible country.

 

Relocating to Costa Rica? FAQs and Answers

September 30th, 2015

costa-rica-livingConsistently ranked one of the happiest, greenest and healthiest places on Earth, it’s no wonder Costa Rica has evolved into one of the world’s top vacation and retirement destinations. Drawn by the country’s verdant landscapes, low cost of living, pleasant weather and first-rate health care system, expatriates (expats) have settled in droves, embracing the pura vida lifestyle.  If you’re thinking about permanently relocating to paradise, it’s wise to test out your potential home first. As they say, it’s wise to try before you buy, and there’s no shortage of vacation rentals in desirable spots like Jaco, Tamarindo, and the San Jose metropolitan area.  The following are some frequently asked questions about living in Costa Rica; we hope you find them helpful!

  1. What are Costa Rica’s most popular retirement locations? Thanks to its enviable Spring-like weather, which eliminates the need for air conditioning, the Central Valley is the definite winner. Atenas, situated on the western edge of the valley, has one of the largest enclaves of American and Canadian retirees, and is praised for its blissful climate (the world’s best, says National Geographic!). Grecia, slightly cooler than Atenas, is another popular town, as are Escazu and Santa Ana – both suburbs of San Jose. Beach lovers typically beeline for Tamarindo and Jaco, renowned for their epic surf, modern amenities and wide range of housing options.

  2. How easy is it to get residency? These days, with the help of a skilled immigration lawyer, most folks can qualify for one of four categories of residency in Costa Rica: pensionado (retiree), rentista (annuity), inversionista (investor), or those given to executives and scientists who possess special work-related skills. Additionally, temporary residency can be secured through marriage to a Costa Rican national, or having a child in the country.

  3. Is there access to quality health care? Costa Rica has a model health care system, rated one of the best in Latin America and among the world’s top 20.  Residents have access to both the public hospitals and private facilities, which are staffed with highly-trained, bilingual specialists. Clinica Catolica, CIMA and Clinica Biblica are some of the nation’s best private hospitals and are affiliated with U.S. facilities. And costs for medical care are generally 1/3 to 1/2 less than that in the States.

    relocating-to-costa-rica

  4. Can I stay as a tourist? If you hail from the United States or Canada, you’re welcome to stay in Costa Rica for up to 90 days, at which time you can leave the country for 2-3 days and return for another 3 months. Since perpetual tourism is largely frowned upon, prospective residents should invest the time and money into securing temporary residency, which eliminates this hassle. After three years as a temporary resident, you’ll then qualify for permanent residency.

  5. Should I ship my stuff down or buy new? That is largely a personal decision, depending on the sentimental value placed on your belongings. Rest assured, you can furnish an entire household with flair in Costa Rica, though the selection of furniture, appliances and finishes may not be as expansive. Plenty of companies will ship your entire household for you, but this may prove a lengthy and somewhat expensive undertaking.





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