Archive for the ‘Ecology’ Category

Famous birds of Costa Rica

Wednesday, July 4th, 2018

Costa Rica is possibly the number one eco spot to visit worldwide. This country is amazing for its diversity and one of the biggest attractions is Birding or Bird watching. With so many different species this is really a birders dream come true. The latest estimate shows Costa Rica holds over 921 different bird species. Here are some of the more common birds you will see.

Bird Watching while on your National Park Tour

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Toucans and Toucanets

There are 6 different species of toucans and toucanets, this includes the Keel-billed Toucan, the Black-mandible toucan, Yellow-eared toucan, Fiery-billed Aracari, Collared Aracari and Emerald Toucanet. The traditional toucan we normally think of is the Keel-billed. They have a beautiful rainbow of colors all over there beak. You will see toucans all over Costa Rica but mainly in the Coastal areas like Manuel Antonio.

Parrots and Parakeets

By far one of the most well-known birds of Costa Rica and worldwide is the Scarlet Macaw. These Gorgeous birds are one of the smartest birds in the wild also one of the most colorful. You can find them all up both coasts Pacific and Caribbean. It is truly amazing to be walking on the amazing beaches of Costa Rica and see two or more Macaws flying overhead. A few others you will find include the Crimson-fronted Parakeet, the Blue-Headed parrot, the Brown-Throated parakeet and more.  

Costa Rica humming BirdsHummingbirds

There are over 57 different species of Hummingbirds in Costa Rica. They may be the smallest birds in the world but they make up for this in colors and variety. There are many areas you can go to see Hummingbird and one being the La Paz waterfall gardens, they have 25 of the species found here. One of the most famous hummingbirds found here is the Violet Sabrewing. Each hummingbird has an almost iridescent paint job on its feathers which glimmers different colors in the light.

Tanagers

Tanagers are more of your average shaped bird similar to many birds you see in the United States or Canada but with a much larger variety of colors. This type of bird is found throughout the whole country, with over fifty different species. It seems these birds are in direct competition with a rainbow and are winning. You will see spots, stripes, and all kinds of different shades, and shapes.

With so many different birds it really is best to get a guided tour. An experienced guide is the best way to spot all the different birds you want to see. Ask about the different wildlife and jungle tours we offer

40 years of Isla Del Coco

Wednesday, June 27th, 2018

Isla del Coco National Park located about as far away as an island can get from Costa Rica in the Pacific. This stunning piece of beauty is celebrating 40 years of amazing achievements including the ecological blue flag for beaches, a Unesco world heritage site, a Ramsar important wetland, and more.

Protecting Isla Del Coco

Isla del Coco side view. Being so far away from Costa Rica serves as more than just a little problem though. The island is just as close to Panama, Nicaragua, Columbia, and Ecuador. This provides a little bit of controversy as to who actually should be controlling the island. Costa Rica has put a lot of time and energy into how they control and take care of the island. Taking care of Coco island is no joke being 500 kilometers from the coast provides a challenge that only a few can do.

The island is certainly amazing and more than worth the effort of taking care of. With the large amounts of sharks and fish that swim these waters, this can attract the unwanted attention of Illegal fisherman. To counteract these fishermen a protective barrier of 24 four square kilometers is enforced on the island. This is all with the help of brave park rangers keeping needed surveillance. Fishing in Costa Rica is allowed but of course in the proper way

Illegal fishing isn’t the only problem that the Coco island faces we also have the worldwide problem of pollution in the waters. It is a shame to see unwanted garbage and plastics floating up onto the shores, even things like straws getting stuck in sea turtles nostrils and fish being trapped in plastic bags. A major way you can help out is by refusing to use plastic straws opting for a metal or bamboo version, recycling your waste, and choosing materials that are properly disposable.

Species of the Island

Manta Rays of Isla del cocoThis all contributes to the well being of the many marine species living around Isla del Coco. This includes wildlife like 14 species of sharks, Manta Rays, Sea turtles, Dolphins, and a stunning amount of fish over 300 different types. On the island, you will find even more species, with 235 known species of flowering plant life, 400 known species of insects, and 90 different bird species. You will also find a few different land mammals including lizards, pigs, deer, goats, and cats. This amazing amount of wildlife makes Coco popular for Diving.

Having everyone put in a little effort can go a long way. This will help preserve the island for future generations of us and animal species. The island is very popular for scuba diving. If you are an avid scuba diver contact us about some amazing tours you surely won’t forget. Please contact here info@villascostarica.com for more information about the island and how you can visit or support its well being.

You may also be interested in finding a place to stay while visiting Costa Rica, we have some absolutely beautiful villas and discounts all over the country.

Attractive areas for Expats to live in Costa Rica

Wednesday, June 20th, 2018

Costa Rica boasts so many wonderful things, including a green initiative, animal conservation, no army, a true democracy, and many other things. This makes it an ideal country to live in if you are an expat. Pura Vida is the way of life and here are a few of the popular areas that expats like to settle down in Costa Rica.

Several Costa Rica beach areas offered by Escape Villas

Check Here For All Costa Rica Vacation Destinations Offered By Escape Villas

#1 Manuel Antonio

Manuel Antonio is a busy little part of the country located on the Pacific. It is a true tourist town and has so many things in close proximity including restaurants, bars, shopping and even more in the coastal city of Quepos not far up the road. Another aspect about Manuel Antonio is the amazing beaches and national park. As an expat, this is the perfect spot to settle down. Although housing can be a bit pricier because it is such a sought after area. Check out some of our rentals in Manuel Antonio.

#2 Tamarindo

Tamarindo is very similar to Manuel Antonio in that it is very touristy and has everything close by.  It is situated on the Northern Pacific coast. And is surrounded by many many other gorgeous beaches.  This area is great for surfing and isn’t quite as expensive.

#3 The Central Valley

The central valley consists of almost everything you might need as an expat, malls, stores, all conveniences you might think of.  It is also a little more climatized, as in, it isn’t nearly as hot as the coast and stays a warn 25 degrees Celsius year round. There are many cities to choose from ranging from Escazu, San Jose, Heredia, Alajuela, Cartago, and many other areas scattered about. You can’t beat the views of this area,  the entire valley is surrounded by mountains and three major volcanos, Poas, Irazu, and Turrialba.  Although there are many perks there are also the downsides, including the traffic, amount of people in one area, and city life. but if you can put up with that then you will do just fine.

Arenal Volcano one of Costa Rica's most visited destinations

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#4 La Fortuna

Another beautiful tourist area is La Fortuna or Arenal, this area is a choice point of the map for retirees. Close by to many stores, restaurants, and shopping. Also, nearby is the Arenal Volcano, Lake Arenal, and La Fortuna waterfall. All these give you many fun things to do and the large community of expats means you have lots of people to make friends with that speak your own language.

#5 Puerto Viejo

This beautiful little community is located on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. It is not far from the Panama border making border crossings that much easier. Also, we can’t forget to mention how gorgeous this place is,  it is your typical Caribbean town. There is all kinds of wildlife to see, Birds, sloths, Monkeys, plus endless flora and fauna. You will also find stunning beaches to relax, or just take a dip in the Caribbean waters.

Where ever you choose to settle down in Costa Rica make sure you make the right choice, each area has its own idiocracies and it doesn’t hurt to travel around a bit in each area before you choose.

For more info on traveling in Costa Rica please contact us here at info@villascostarica.com

The New Universal trail at Manuel Antonio National Park

Tuesday, 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 Manuel Antonio National 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 to 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 elevated trail. It leads to Espadilla Sur Beach as well other adjoining trails.

3 toed sloth very common in Costa Rica wildlife

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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 to 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

Monday, January 29th, 2018

The Red-Eyed Tree Frog is a favorite among many people all over the world this is especially true of us here in Manuel Antonio. 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 its legs up and all you see is a leafy green color. Normally they curl up under a leaf for protection from the elements in the Rainforest.

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.

They are 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.

Our Favorite Animals of Costa Rica

Friday, 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 Butterfly. 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. You might want to visit some of the enchanting butterfly gardens.

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

Friday, 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

Tuesday, 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.

Costa Rica at a Glance – Interesting Stats & Facts

Thursday, 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

Wednesday, 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

Thursday, 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

Saturday, 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!

 

Responsible Travel in Costa Rica

Sunday, 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.

 

Day Trip to La Paz Waterfall Gardens

Saturday, 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

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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

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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.

 

Diving with Sharks at Cocos Island

Friday, September 25th, 2015

cocos-island-hammerhead-sharksSituated 340 miles off the coast of Costa Rica, Cocos Island is one of the world’s greatest spots for scuba diving with sharks. A 34-hour boat ride takes thrill seekers to this lush and secluded island, where scalloped hammerheads and whitetips school in billowing masses amid the nutrient-rich currents. This UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site was declared a national park in 1978, and offers divers unparalleled opportunities to swim with large numbers of marine predators.

Cocos Island fast facts

  • The island is uninhabited

  • Cocos receives approximately 275 inches of annual rainfall

  • Best time to see large numbers of hammerhead sharks is May-November (rainy season)

  • Visitors dive from a custom live-aboard boat for the 10-day trip

  • Accessible via San Jose to Puntarenas, where live-aboard boats depart

  • Named the world’s most beautiful island by Jacques Cousteau

  • Recommended for advanced divers due to strong currents

  • Most of the dive sites are volcanic islets with a max. depth of 130 feet

  • Average water temperature is  72-83 degrees; wetsuits required

Diversity of aquatic life

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Circling masses of hammerhead sharks are the main draw of Cocos Island, but divers can also expect to cross paths with other species including tiger, silky, Galapgos, blacktip and whitetip reef sharks that scour the underwater seamounts for food. Though slightly less common, whale sharks – some reaching over 18-feet in length –also swim through the strong currents surrounding Cocos Island. Divers often glimpse graceful manta rays, marble and eagle rays, as well as green sea turtles, dolphins, parrotfish, moray eels, jacks and snapper.

Popular dive sites

There are nearly 20 dive sites around this volcanic seamount, which is home to some 260 species of fish. Pelagic sea life among the submerged pinnacles is especially abundant between 60 and 90 feet. Bajo Alcyone is the most notable site for massive manta rays and scalloped hammerheads, which can number in the hundreds at this cleaning station. Dirty Rock is another dynamic site known for its pelagic marine life and thriving masses of hammerheads and other apex predators. Night dives at Manuelita promise close encounters with unbelievable numbers of whitetip reef sharks as they hunt their prey.

Top 5 Activities in Manuel Antonio

Sunday, September 20th, 2015

Need inspiration planning your Manuel Antonio beach vacation? From wildlife watching and jet skiing to sipping fruity cocktails at sunset, there’s no shortage of things to do and see in this dreamy beach town. And if you’re searching for a villa with ocean views, Escape Villas has an extensive portfolio of luxurious Manuel Antonio rentals – some with direct views of the park! Here’s a few of our favorite things to do in this Central Pacific hamlet, where jungle meets sea.

Banana boat rides – not just for kids!

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Hang on to your friends and fellow guests as you traverse the warm Pacific waters in an inflatable banana boat. Equal parts relaxing and adrenaline-pumping, this tour jumps into high gear as riders – who are always wearing life vests –occasionally get bucked off the boat. A fun and exciting trip for both the young and young-at-heart.

Monkey watching in Manuel Antonio National Park

A budget-friendly $10 gets you entrance into one of the world’s most beautiful national parks (according to Forbes magazine). And within these boundaries live hundreds of curious and playful primates, among other interesting creatures. You don’t have to be super sleuth to discover the park’s crafty white-faced monkeys, which love to hang around Espadilla Beach. In fact, the park is home to three species of monkey –white-faced, squirrel and howler monkey – which scour the canopies in search of their favorite leaves, fruit and insects.

Giddy up, partner – explorations on horseback

Horseback riding is a national pastime in Costa Rica and the secluded backcountry roads and plantations surrounding Manuel Antonio make the perfect backdrop for an equine excursion. Tours are available for riders of all levels and ages, and typically include a pit stop for lunch and a swim at a hidden waterfall.

Up, up and away – Parasailing

Take flight on this popular tour that is sure to get the adrenaline surging.  Parasailing tours in Manuel Antonio take guests a staggering 600 feet above the beach, offering jaw-dropping views of the coastline and adjacent islands. This 15-minute tour will be one of the highlights of your trip!

sunset-drinks-manuel-antonio-beach

Pool or beach side relaxation

There’s no shame in enjoying a little relaxation during your beach getaway, and Manuel Antonio has three gorgeous beaches from which to sunbathe, people gaze, snorkel or snooze. Choose a shady spot beneath a sea almond tree or rent a comfy beach chair with umbrella for the day. Delicious snacks, cooling drinks and massages will come to you.

 

Stand Up Paddle Boarding in Costa Rica

Sunday, September 20th, 2015

sup-costa-rica-arenalStand up Paddle (SUP) boarding is making waves in Costa Rica, where this burgeoning sport has proven an excellent way to explore scenic waterways while improving your balance. If you’re new to SUP, don’t fear. Paddle boarding is a fun and relaxing way to walk on water (so to speak), and can be as easy or challenging as you’d like. Placid waters are a dream to meander and for those who yearn for more heart-thumping action, Mal Pais, Nosara and Pavones offer bigger waves for the advanced. Hopefully, your Costa Rica vacation will include some water sports, and if SUP is on your list – follow these five handy tips for beginners!

Flat water is a SUP beginner’s best friend

Stand up paddle boarding is a bit like yoga in that it demands a certain degree of balance and flexibility. If this is your first time on a board, consider taking a SUP tour on Lake Arenal, where the waters are calm and the winds usually whip up baby waves that won’t throw your balance.  Plus, you’ll be paddling in full view of Arenal Volcano – an extraordinary backdrop for any visitor!

Falling is normal (and fun)

Unless you’re a pro, you can expect to take a tumble or two on your first paddling foray. Everyone’s learning curve is different, but it usually takes a few tries to get the hang of paddle boarding. A life jacket and ankle leash are important safety gear to use, no matter where your adventure takes you.

Go with experience

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There are tons of trusted operators who offer SUP adventure tours in Costa Rica, complete with veteran tour guides who can show you the ropes. An experienced instructor will show you how to take a wide stance, keep your paddle in the correct position and maintain stability in choppy waters. If you’re already an expert at SUP but want to travel light, you can rent gear in popular surf towns including Jaco and Tamarindo.

Keep your eyes on the horizon

In your quest for a Zen-like yoga pose on the SUP board, many paddlers say that looking at a fixed point in the distance really helps keep your balance.

Popular SUP destinations in Costa Rica

Learn the basics of stand up paddle boarding or test your mettle on Costa Rica’s epic waves in these hotspots:

  • Lake Arenal near La Fortuna

  • Playa Herradura, on the outskirts of Jaco

  • Playa Avellenas, near Tamarindo Beach

  • Manuel Antonio

  • Pavones – home to one of the world’s longest left breaks

 

Dominical Beckons with Wildlife & Adventure

Monday, August 31st, 2015

Dominical’s palm-kissed beaches feel worlds away from civilization. Perched in a hammock overlooking the shore, travelers are lulled by the surging crashes of water against rock and sand. Yet this burgeoning Costa Rica vacation destination is more accessible than ever, thanks to smoothly paved roads and local airlines SANSA and Nature Air. Oft described as a sort of Robinson Crusoe type of town, Dominical lures adventurers, wildlife lovers and surfers who want to hang ten on one of the world’s longest left breaks.

Dominical at a glancehumpback-whale-watching-dominical

Location: Pacific Coast, 29 miles south of Manuel Antonio & Quepos
Major Attractions: Nauyaca Waterfalls, Hacienda Baru Wildlife Refuge and the Osa Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary
Accommodations:  Ocean view and jungle villas, all-inclusive resorts, hotels, and budget hostels
Mostly caters to: Nature lovers; couples; families and nature enthusiasts
Weather:  Dry season months (December- April); Green Season (May-October)
Temperature: Average daily temperatures 77 – 89 degrees F

A secluded beach destination 4 hours from San Jose

Driving to Dominical from the San Jose international airport (SJO) is a snap via the Caldera Highway 27 and Route 34, which meander past dense African Palm fields and the popular beach towns of Jaco and Manuel Antonio. In less than four hours (or just 35 minutes by air!) you have arrived in paradise. Most of the town’s roads are unpaved, a signal that you’re off the tourist trail and in relaxation mode.

Tree climbing and canopy tours in Hacienda Baru

The rugged mountains framing Dominical are filled with primary and secondary rainforest, tumbling waterfalls and brackish rivers that are teeming with flora and fauna of every size and shape. Two-toed sloths, toucans, howler and white-faced monkeys and vibrant poison dart frogs make their home in this biodiverse habitat. Just a mile north of the town, Hacienda Baru Wildlife Refuge offers tree climbing and zip-line tours in its massive protected area.

Family-friendly ride to Nauyaca Waterfalls

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Giddy-up partner, it’s time for a leisurely and scenic horseback ride to some of the area’s most stunning cascades at Nauyaca Waterfalls. Cool, mountain water flows over three tiers in this 130-foot natural wonder. The excursion includes pit stops for wildlife watching and a hearty, tropical breakfast before arriving at the falls where you can swim in the natural pools or climb up for a jump.  The horses are well-trained and suitable for riders of all levels including children as young as five.

Dolphin & whale watching at Marina Ballena National Park

This privileged part of the country enjoys nearly year-round whale watching in nearby Ballena National Marine Park, where humpbacks come to breed and bare their young. Depending on the weather conditions, tours may offer snorkeling in addition to sightseeing.

To enjoy this transcendent setting in the lap of luxury, please contact us about our available Dominical vacation villas – and be sure to ask about low season specials!

Tortuguero — the Ultimate Spot for Viewing Nesting Sea Turtles

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

sea-turtle-nesting-tortuguero A recent feature in Forbes magazine extolls the many charms of Tortuguero, the crown jewel of Costa Rica’s northern Caribbean coast. Author Sherrie Nachman was enamored with the sloths, howler monkeys and toucans of this authentic hamlet, but was truly dazzled by the dozens of nesting sea turtles that return to its shores year after year. In fact, Tortuguero is the Western Hemisphere’s largest nesting site for the green sea turtle, one of several endangered species that frequent this unique area of Costa Rica.

Green sea turtle nesting period

Green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) are the most common species to nest in Tortuguero, though loggerhead, hawksbill and leatherback also frequent its protected beaches. The official nesting season for green sea turtles is July 1st through October 31st, but visitors may witness females lumbering ashore into the early weeks of November. Turtle tours, led by professionally-trained naturalist guides, are only held at night when the bulk of the action is happening.  Turtle sightings are never guaranteed, but if you visit during the nesting season, you’re likely to view anywhere from 2-5 ancient-looking reptiles with the help of eagle-eyed turtle spotters.

Evening turtle tours unveil the miracle of life

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Guests are asked to wear dark clothing, leave their flashlights and cell phones at the lodge, and follow the quiet footsteps of their guide as sighting information comes in. Unobtrusive infrared lights are used to watch these magnificent creatures (some weighing more than 400 pounds!) as they use their powerful flippers to dig deep holes in the soft sand. Each female then deposits roughly 100-110 eggs, which will be incubated under the warming rays of the sun. Interestingly, the future sex of the hatchlings will depend on the ambient temperature of the sand that surrounds them. Incubation typically lasts from 50 to 70 days.

Conservation efforts to protect endangered marine turtles

The green sea turtle, like most other marine reptile species is listed as endangered and is therefore protected in Costa Rica and many other countries. The community of Tortuguero has made great efforts to promote turtle conservation over the last 50 years through surveys, tagging, protecting nesting sites, and general data collection. A portion of all turtle tour proceeds goes toward these critical preservation efforts to help maintain sea turtle populations for future generations. At present, the Sea Turtle Conservancy estimates a worldwide population of between 85,000 – 90,000 nesting females.

2015: Costa Rica Ranked the Happiest Country in the World

Friday, August 21st, 2015
Costa Rica people known as Ticos

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Want to live in one of the greenest, happiest places on Earth? Then you may want to consider moving to Costa Rica!  Once again, Costa Rica tops the list as the world’s happiest country, according to results from The Happy Planet Index (HPI). While most measures of national progress focus primarily on economic growth, the HPI analyzes what matters most: the sustainable well-being of an intrinsically happy population. And year after year, this tiny Central American nation outranks dozens of more industrialized countries in terms of environmental impact, life expectancy and levels of well-being.

Costa Rica scores #1 out of 151 countries

With a population of just 4.7 million people, Costa Rica achieved 64 points (out of a total of 100) on the HPI index, which factors in ecological footprint, life expectancy and experienced well-being. For many across the globe, the HPI serves as an accurate gauge of how well a country is doing in terms of producing healthy, happy people both now and into the future.

Costa Rica has high level of well-being

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Falling just behind Denmark, Costa Rica scored 7.3 out of 10 for experienced well-being, which draws on responses to a Gallup World Poll that sampled 1,000 individuals aged 15 or older in all of the 151 countries included in this year’s HPI.  Costa Rica was trailed by Thailand, Ecuador and the Philippines in this important indicator.

Small ecological footprint

The ecological footprint (amount of land necessary to sustain a country’s normal consumption) of Costa Rica is 2.52 global hectares per capita. If others had the same environmental impact as the average person in Costa Rica, the globe’s eco footprint would be 5 percent lower.

Costa Rica’s average life expectancy is 79.3

The nation with highest life expectancy is Japan (83.4 years), but Costa Rica still ranked higher than the United States, whose residents have a life expectancy of 78.5. Data was gleaned from the 2011 UNDP Human Development Report.

Enjoying the “pura vida” that is Costa Rica

Surveys and polls aside, Costa Rica’s palpable happiness may be attributed to a number of basic factors. A lot of residents enjoy a simple life that is tune with nature. Heavy emphasis isn’t placed on material possessions, and locals truly embrace the pura vida, or pure life  that values family, friendship and life’s small but meaningful pleasures.

 

Facebook Teaser: Costa Rica again ranks #1 on the Happy Planet Index (HPI), which has drawn worldwide attention as an important barometer of a country’s sustainable well-being. Find out why this small nation is one of the greenest and happiest on Earth!

 





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