Archive for the ‘Manuel Antonio’ Category

Where to eat the best pizza in Costa Rica

Friday, February 22nd, 2019

IL Piacere pizza in Cartago Costa RicaDo you like pizza? That is a silly question as so many people worldwide love pizza, each person has there favorite pizza restaurant and flavor whether it be meat lovers, vegetarian, Hawaiian, or whatever you might like.

It is the same for Costa Rica. Costa Ricans also have there favorite pizzas and restaurants and we have put together some of the best restaurants that you may want to try out when you come here for vacation.

In Manuel Antonio Area

The Manuel Antonio area is one of Costa Rica’s main tourist areas and has all kinds of different restaurants, you can dine with amazing views of the Pacific Coastline. So come and taste some of the best pizza in the area.

Victoria Italian Restaurant: This restaurant is great for fine dining and has amazing gourmet pizzas although it is higher priced than most.

Mercado del Porta: Located up by the Pez Vela Marina, you have a great view of the Marina and some delicious pizzas to choose from.

La Dolce Vita: This Family owned restaurant in Quepos, specializes in Lazagna and Pizza, this particular restaurant, in particular, is a treasure to the area.

Miguelitos Pizza: This Pizza place is a local favorite, and they conveniently deliver to the region, also look out for and wings

Zamir Pizza: Inexpensive and delicious, although they only deliver.

Pizza Costa RicaSan Jose Area

San Jose is Costa Rica’s capital it is the main hub of the country and offers some great conveniences you don’t find near the beaches. You will also find some of the best pizza restaurants in the country.

Il Piaceri: Located in Cartago city by Walmart. This restaurant uses very fresh ingredients and is by far the best in the area.

Sapore Trattoria: Homemade pasta with delicious Italian wine the perfect place for a date night or just enjoy your favorite pizza.

The Corner Pizzeria: This Pizza place is vegetarian and vegan-friendly, also moderately priced.

In Tamarindo

Tamarindo is another beautiful beach located in the Northern Pacific. Enjoy the simple things in life like warm weather, a cold beverage, and great pizza.

Crazy Monkey Bar and Restaurant: For some fine dining this restaurant is perfect they have great pizza and an amazing sunset view you are sure to love.

El Sapo Ristopizza: Located opposite of the Langosta beach you will also have a great view and taste some very fresh ingredients in your pizza.

So now you are ready to come to Costa Rica and enjoy the best pizza in our country. These are just a few of the pizza places you will find from one coast to the other but also some of the best. To find your favorite pizza place here, you have to come to visit and do some taste testing.

The Quepos Pez Vela Marina

Thursday, November 22nd, 2018

Pez Vela Marina Bright LightsThe Pez Vela Marina located in Quepos is the largest and by far the best marina on the Central Pacific side of Costa Rica. The Marina has 195 wet slips available, 91 of them being newly added. They accommodate vessels that are up to 200 ft long and an operating depth of 14 ft. Additionally, there is 40 dry-rack spots available with a dry-lift forklift onsite. On top of this the Marina itself is uniquely shaped with a Cofferdam, this protects the wet slips from strong waves and currents, especially during a storm.

The Marina is so much more than a spot to dock your boat, unlike most Marinas, this one is actually pleasant to the eyes. With beautiful walkways and spots to relax it is more of a nice spot for tourists than you might think. A lot of thought and time was spent by the locals and businesses making it the place it is today. All this beautifying of the marina has brought a good image to the small town and draws thousands of tourist each year. Also, this is a place you can feel safe while on vacation, crime is to a minimum and the cleanliness of the town makes it that much better. One event that the Marina puts on each year is the Bright Lights Boat Parade, Normally in November, this event is one of pure lights and celebration. Each year the whole Marina lights up like a Christmas tree along with the boats.

Activities and Tours

The Marina is the main spot for the majority of water-related activities. Sports fishing is one of the biggest and most popular tours that vacationers and locals do here. Fishing in Costa Rica is all catch and release, this helps to prevent overfishing and preserves many species. Although you will still enjoy the thrill of the catch with some extra large fish waiting for you out in the waters, including Dorado, Marlin, Roosterfish, Sailfish, and Yellow-fin Tuna. There are also several different tournaments that the marina puts on throughout the year including, the Quepos Billfish Cup, Marina Pez Vela Open, Dorado Derby, Rockstar Offshore Tournament, and Billfish Championship.

Marina Seating AreaAnother activity tourists mainly love doing here is scuba diving and snorkeling. Diving, you will be able to see a lot more wildlife and explore the deeper part off of the coast, although you do need a divers license. With Snorkeling, this is more of an activity that the whole family can enjoy, you can still see amazing marine life while sticking closer to the surface. On top of all the colorful fish you might see, there are many Dolphins, Manta Rays, Whale sharks, and several types of Whales. This brings us to another activity out of the Marina, Whale watching. Year round you will be able to spot mainly Humpback whales, also Blue Whales, Orcas, Sperm Whales, and others on occasion.

There are many other activities you can do in the area including Kayaking, White Water Rafting, Sailing Tours, Canopy Tours, Jet Ski tours, and Wave Runner Rental, take a look at all the tours here.

Restaurants and shops

Quepos is also known for is small shops and many restaurants. You will notice many seafood restaurants in the area, but there is a large variety of foods and cuisines you can eat. Quepos is a bustling little tourist town with almost everything you might need. Banks, Shopping centers, Grocery Stores and neat little tourist shops. Just down the road, you will come upon Manuel Antonio having even more touristy things to do including beaches and the National Park.

Air view of marinaWhere to Stay

Depending on what you want to do in Quepos or Manuel Antonio you may be looking to stay nearby. Escape Villas offers many of the best villas and vacation homes for you to stay in. If you have a large group, you should look at the Casa Fantastica, Casa Las Brisas, and the famous Tree House, check out some of the Villas in Manuel Antonio.

To show your support for the development of this amazing Marina, the best thing you can do is show up as a tourist and check out some of the events or have fun on any of the tours. When will you be visiting?

Saving the Titi Monkey

Saturday, November 17th, 2018

Titi monkey familyVisiting Costa Rica you will come to see that there are four different types of Monkeys, the lengthy Spider Monkey, the Howler, the Capuchin Monkey, and of course the smallest but cutest Titi Monkey. Each has outstanding traits and unique features, but one trait that has haunted our little friend the Titi monkey since 1996 is that it is Endangered. The area you find these monkeys also called the grey-crowned squirrel monkey is all along the Central Pacific, when you visit Manuel Antonio area you will be able to spot them in the trees.

What threatens the Titi Monkey

There are all kinds of things that have contributed to the little monkey’s predicament. Mainly though the problem lies in habitat loss. Ever since the start of the thriving banana industry in the 1930s, the Titis habitat has exponentially decreased. Once beautiful forested areas have been transformed into farmland. This deforestation has brought the population down to very small numbers, estimates in 1983 of over 200 000 have been brought down to 4000 individuals of the total species in Costa Rica. Some even say they have come down as far as only 2000 individuals of the Titi monkey.

Other things threated them as well, herbicides, pesticides, and the illegal pet trade.

Titi monkey on treeHow are we helping

In 2001 the Titi Conservation Alliance was created by a group of business owners in the in the Ecotourism industry. This organization helps out the Titis by helping tourists get to know what the problems are that the little monkeys face and how we can help out. They have reforested over 77000 native trees back to mainly private property areas but with a 95% success rate. This truly helps out the monkeys because it is a start to bringing their habitats back.  The best way to help out is to educate the public about these beautiful creatures. All of this wonderful effort doesn’t just help out the one species of monkey but thousands of other animal species as well. Check out the other species of Monkey in Costa Rica

So the next time you come to Costa Rica, think about how you can help, possibly with donations, volunteering for appropriate organizations, or even just by helping others to know about the growing issues that animals like the Titi monkey face every day.

Costa Rica is a place that drives ahead conservation and innovation for helping keep the earth alive. When is the next time you are visiting Costa Rica? Perhaps we can help you find your own piece of paradise while you are traveling.

Flowers of Costa Rica

Friday, November 2nd, 2018

The Flora of Costa Rica is astonishing the number of different species of plants that live here, give a new hope for this earth and what will be happening in the near future. Costa Rica includes a whopping Nine thousand different species of flowering plants and over 800 different species of ferns. You will also find many other different varieties of Costa Rica’s Flora throughout the country.

Costa Rica national flowerThe National Flower

The flowers of Costa Rica are really its pride and joy who doesn’t love looking at the vibrant shapes and colors that make up the many different species you will find here. One of the most famous flowers you will find is called the Guaria Morada. This is also Costa Rica’s National flower, this particular flower was chosen on June 15, 1939, as the national flower. You will see this flower used particularly during holy week and easter as a decoration. Traditionally Ticos would decorate there inner courtyards and roofs with the Guaria Morada.

 

heliconiaHeliconia

Since there over nine thousand different flowering plants you may be wondering what some of the more popular ones are. One famous type of flower here is called the Heliconia there are several types you will see both hanging upsides down and pointing upward in many different colorations.

 

 

The Bird of paradise flowerBird of Paradise

The Bird of paradise is aptly named for its bird-like shape and beautiful colors, this photo was taken in the central valley of Costa Rica. This flower takes a little while before it takes root and starts blooming, from three to five years before it starts fully blooming.

 

 

Hot lips plantHot Lips Plant

First finding this particular flower you may question whether it is real or not but it sure is. This is not a very common plant but you will certainly know it once you see it. You can find this plant in Manuel Antonio though you might have to ask around.

 

 

Trumpet umbrella plantTrumpet Umbrella Plant

This is yet another very unique flower, this one grows on a small tree or bush and as the name details it is shaped conically like a trumpet and hangs upside down in an umbrella fashion.

 

 

Purple passion flowerPurple Passion Flower

The Purple Passion Flower is something else. It looks like a psychedelic scene you would see in a kaleidoscope. With vibrant purples and a light red in the center, then little white squiggle lines, and a few yellow sprouts in the center.

 

 

Dutchmans PipeDutchman’s Pipe Flower

The largest flower in Costa Rica is called the Dutchman’s Pipe. It measures from 10 – 20 centimeters in size. This may not be the most colorful flower but certainly deserves to be on this list for it shear size.

 

 

Now, these are only a small selection of the flowers and flora in Costa Rica.  To truly experience the colors and smells you will need to come and find out for yourself. All over the country, you will find these gorgeous works of art just waiting for you to take pictures, but please be kind and leave these plants where they are growing so other vacationers can appreciate their beauty as well.  Why not book a villa today we have lots of space for you and your family to stay whether its a large group or just a small family we can help you.

Affordable trails of Costa Rica

Sunday, August 12th, 2018

Costa Rica has many great trails and paths for walking adventures, here are just a few.

Manuel Antonio Costa RicaManuel Antonio

One trail you will enjoy is through the Manuel Antonio National park. There are several kilometers of trail you can enjoy a beautiful hike and get some refreshing exercise. On the way, you will see a waterfall, 3 different types of monkeys and at the end of the trail you will be able to enjoy the stunning beaches. You have two beaches to choose from in the National Park both equally great for relaxing or swimming.

Tenorio Volcano

The next hike you will love is the Tenorio Volcano National Park, you will pass by the River Celeste Lagoon and walk along two crystal clear streams coming together to form the Rio Celeste. Here the clear waters mysteriously change into a beautiful bright, light-blue color (hence the name “Light-Blue River”). The stunning colored Rio Celeste Waterfall where you can enjoy a refreshing swim in its natural pools will be waiting for you at the end of the path.

Arenal Volcano

For those who are very interested in natural life of the rainforest, the Arenal volcano and La Fortuna waterfall are great to explore. As you walk through the forest, you have the possibility of spotting three species of monkeys, sloths and a large variety of birds, including the Toucan. Be prepared for an uphill hike on the Arenal Volcano trail, this trail isn’t for the faint of heart and is recommended you bring good hiking shoes and a walking stick. Once you reach the top of the trail you will have a great view of the volcano, it is best to start your climb around 11-12 am so you can have a clear view of Arenal.

La Fortuna waterfallLa Fortuna

Another great hike is to the La Fortuna waterfall where you can enjoy a refreshing swim. This unique hike combines nature’s beauty with a great opportunity to observe the wonderful flora and fauna. Making your way down the trail there are roughly 500 steps, but the end result is great for a swim and some amazing pictures. 

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

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

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#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

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.

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!

 

Souvenir Shopping in Costa Rica

Monday, 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

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.

 

5 Tips for Whitewater Rafting in Costa Rica

Wednesday, 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!

 

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!

parasail-manuel-antonio

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

stand-up-paddle-boarding-costa-rica

 

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

 

Ceviche Festival Returns to Manuel Antonio This November

Friday, August 14th, 2015

ceviche-festival-manuel-antonioA memorable weekend bash will celebrate the many flavors and varieties of ceviche this November, in the second annual Ceviche Festival. The event is scheduled to take place November 13 – 15 at the Marina Pez Vela in Quepos, where locals and tourists are welcome to stop by and enjoy some mouthwatering food along with plenty of family-friendly activities.

Manuel Antonio looks forward to Ceviche Festival

The festival is the brainchild of the Costa Rican Institute of Pacific Ports and the Travel Show Expo, which saw great success with last year’s event. Besides plenty of ceviche to sample, guests can expect live music performances, games and activities for children, and stands selling locally-produced wares and goods. The festival brings focus to cultural identity through food and aims to celebrate cuisine in Costa Rica, particularly the Central Pacific’s abundant fresh seafood.

Event highlights the region’s numerous seafood offerings

Ceviche, traditionally made with fresh fish, is a light, refreshing dish common on many restaurant menus. In Costa Rica, this popular seafood cocktail may feature any one of various types of locally-sourced fish (snook, mahi mahi, white seabass) but may also be made with shrimp, octopus or squid. The seafood is marinated in lime or lemon juice for several hours, which “cooks” the meat, and is served with diced bell peppers, mixed spices, cilantro and onions. Ceviche variations and recipes are virtually endless, with some chefs adding ginger ale for added zing, and others spicing things up with tabasco and hot chili peppers.

Innovative ceviche creations feature green banana, mango

The event will also feature ceviche dishes made with green bananas, mangoes, peaches and other ingredients that are vegetarian-friendly. The festival will culminate in a ceviche competition, in which a panel of select judges has the distinguished honor of awarding winners in one of several categories. So bring your appetite and head over to the Marina Pez Vela for an afternoon of delicious eats and family fun.  Organizers hope to make this an annual event for many years to come!

ceviche-festival-quepos

Traditional ceviche recipe

To make your own ceviche at home, try this traditional recipe and don’t be afraid to make substitutions or changes according to taste.

Ingredients:
1 pound of white sea bass (corvina)
1 cup of freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
1 small white onion, diced
½ bell pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
1 handful of cilantro, chopped finely
Salt and pepper to taste
(optional – 1/4 cup ginger ale )

Directions:
1. Put all ingredients in a large bowl and let fish marinate for at least 2 hours. Hint – the longer the fish “cooks” the more intense the flavor.
2. Serve cold on a bed of lettuce with tortilla chips or crackers. Garnish with cucumber or avocado slices.

 

Costa Rica Garners Accolades as Top Travel, Honeymoon Destination

Saturday, August 1st, 2015

Featuring lush landscapes, smoking volcanos and exceptional beaches, Costa Rica is one of Central America’s most visited vacation destinations. Mysterious caves, majestic cloud forests, mineral-rich hot springs, virgin rainforests and rugged mountains are just some of the natural wonders travelers can enjoy in this ecotourism haven. With more than one quarter of the country protected, it comes as no surprise that sustainable tourism has become the cornerstone of Costa Rica.  Here are some of the latest awards and accolades praising the many virtues of this incredible nation.

river-rafting-costa-rica

Recent awards and accolades for Costa Rica

  1. First place for best wildlife watching destination, Fox News

  2. Most popular eco-friendly destination, TripAdvisor

  3. First place for the sexiest and most romantic honeymoon destination, 15th Annual Readers’ Choice Awards

  4. Top 5 Best Vacation Destination in the World, Travel & Leisure

  5. Manuel Antonio National Park ranked one of the most beautiful in the world by Forbes

  6. Most Popular Adventure Travel Destination, TripAdvisor

  7. One of the 10 Best Wellness Destinations in the World, Successful Meeting

  8. Nosara Ranked the World’s 4th Best Surf Spot, National Geographic

  9. One of the Top Birdwatching Spots in the World, Travel Pulse

  10. Central America’s Happiest Country, Travel Channel

Recreational opportunities abound

Costa Rica occupies a prime location in the heart of Central America, which is easily accessed by U.S. and Canadian visitors in one of the country’s two international airports situated in San Jose and Liberia. Spanning 19,730 square miles – roughly the size of West Virginia – this comparatively small country holds plenty of surprises, whether you’re into surfing, nature tours, or a relaxing getaway with your loved one. And while exotic creatures draw many tourists (sloths, monkeys and toucans, to name a few), Costa Rica’s main claim to fame is its heart-pounding adventure activities. A land of towering waterfalls, frothing rivers and dense jungle, Costa Rica is a virtual playground for white water rafting, ATV tours, scuba diving and snorkeling and, of course, the requisite canopy tours.

A place for health & wellnesscosta-rica-yoga

Need a break from the daily grind? De-stress and unwind in one of Costa Rica’s famed spas, which promise to rejuvenate the mind, body and spirit. Wellness tourism is growing by leaps and bounds, with several retreats and spas offering everything from yoga classes and organic food to relaxing massages, body wraps and other complementary therapies. You’ll find plenty of inviting spas and wellness retreats in places like Manuel Antonio, Nosara, Dominical and Tamarindo.

 





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