Archive for the ‘Tours’ Category

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?

The Poas Volcano Reopening

Saturday, September 1st, 2018

Poas Volcano National ParkPoas Volcano is certainly one of the most iconic Volcanos in Costa Rica and Latin America. This perfectly shaped Volcano was closed in April of 2017, and due to this closure caused a difficult economic situation for residents and store owners in the are

Due to this tough situation, the legislator has approved a law to give up to ten percent of the Poas National Parks entrance fee to be used for developing the surrounding municipality. This development will help with projects and strategies to promote sustainable tourism in the Poas area.

The national park is slated to open the third week of August, bringing back the much-needed tourism to the area. Poas should certainly be in your travel plans when you come to Costa Rica. There are roughly two hours of trails at the top of the volcano, giving you lots to do when you visit. Make sure to check out the amazing views before hiking on the trails. You may even want to plan a day trip to Poas and the area. There are many things you can do including visiting the La Paz Waterfall Gardens.

Crater at Poas Volcano National ParkEven though the park will be opened access with be limited to 50 people at a time. To access the park you will be able to purchase tickets online. Visiting the crater will be opened for twenty minutes at a time. The Botos lake trail is closed for the time being.

Poas Volcano National Park is also still under remodeling of two existing structures and the new construction of three buildings. This renovation of the structure of the national park with revitalize the trails and give visitors a better experience.

It certainly is worth the time to visit this amazing volcano, let us know if you would like to visit the Poas Volcano National Park or need a place to stay in the area. Crater atPoas Volcano National ParkCrater atPoas Volcano National Park

 

 

 

 

 

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. 

Staying Safe in Costa Rica

Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

Safety while on vacation is a considerable concern in Costa Rica, and that dream vacation can be ruined if something silly happens. It isn’t just theft we are talking about either. It is also just as important to keep your health safe and make sure you are practicing safety while on tours.

Policia of Costa RicaKeeping safe against crime

This is largely one of the biggest concerns for families and solo travelers. Tourists are walking targets it seems. One of the biggest tips we can give you is to make sure you do your research about what areas you are going to visit. Costa Rica, in general, is a very safe country but just like any place, there are areas that have a much larger crime rate than others. Also, use common sense, walking around San Jose at 1 am in the morning as a foreigner is just asking to get mugged.  Things, like carrying your valuables out in the open, or traveling alone late at night, are not recommended.

Safety while site-seeing

Costa Rica is full of amazing places to see, especially ecological areas. In these areas, you will find all kinds of beautiful creatures, but also in these areas, you can find some very dangerous animals. Including venomous snakes, spiders, large wild cats, and more. So if you are going to be in areas off the beaten path, it is advised to use a guide that knows the area. Or stick to the sites that are well traveled and frequented, areas known to be safe.

It is also well to keep in mind that you will want to use reputable tour operators. Use ones that have good reviews and are well kept up with government regulations. Check out some of the more popular areas and Activities in Costa Rica.

Health safety

Health safety is another large concern. First things first make sure you have travelers insurance. Traveling without this is just silly, there are so many companies that offer it. Costa Rica is not like other countries where you have to get a bunch of shots before traveling, but make sure you do your research. The water here is generally safe to drink, tap water is filtered and you can be sure to drink it in larger hotels, restaurants, and any of our Villas. For peace of mind, there is bottled water at almost any convenience store here.

One thing about Costa Rica is it is rather famous for people traveling for medical and dental reasons. This is because Costa Rica has such a good health care system with many doctors being trained in North America, and the cost of healthcare here is much cheaper.

Driving in Costa RicaDriving Safety

One of the biggest concerns here is driving. If you do choose to travel in a rented vehicle study up on the locations and geography of the country before coming. Majority of driving rules are the same as the United States and Canada. Although people actually following them here can be a different story. If you are a hesitant driver, it might be best to be shuttled, take public transportation or even a Domestic flight. Keep in mind not all roads here are paved, and some of the roads that are can be just as bad or worse than the gravel ones. Always use GPS and stick to the main routes, no matter the traffic, that shortcut that google maps offers is not always the best way.

Truly no matter where you travel, it is good to keep these reminders. Costa Rica is actually a very safe country to travel in, much more so than others in Central America. The best tip we can offer is to practice common sense while you travel.

Top Things to pack for Costa Rica

Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

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

Well, let’s get started first things first.

Health

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

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

Money of Costa RicaMoney

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

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

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

Clothing and footwear

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

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

Electronics

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

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

Valuables

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

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

Travel bags for Costa RicaTravel Bags

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

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

Travel tools

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

Toiletries

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

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

For more information and travel tips please contact 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.

Shopping your way through San Jose – 5 Best Spots

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Costa Rica at a Glance – Interesting Stats & Facts

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.

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.

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 Shop responsibly

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

Keep paradise pristine

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

 

Must Have Apps for Your Costa Rica Travels

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015

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

TripCase collates itinerary detailstravel-apps-costarica-vacation

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

Learn local phrases with Costa Rica Idioms

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

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Currency conversion made simple

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

Never get lost with WAZE

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

Get the scoop on weather changes

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

 

5 Tips for Whitewater Rafting in Costa Rica

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.

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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!

 

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.

 

Relocating to Costa Rica? FAQs and Answers

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

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

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

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

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

    relocating-to-costa-rica

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

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

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!

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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

 

Statistics Indicate another Banner Year for Costa Rica Tourism

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

The Costa Rican Tourism Board (ICT) reports that tourism is up this year, with 4.4 percent more visitors arriving in the country’s two international airports during the first six months of 2015. The bulk of travelers hail from the United States, Canada and European nations, say tourism officials. These numbers reflect an increase in the number of flights and routes offered by international carriers to meet the rising demand for Costa Rica vacations.

Average stay is just over 12 days

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During the first half of 2015, travelers stayed an average of 12.4 nights, which according to ICT officials, is one of the lengthiest stays in the realm of travel. Visitors are also spending more money during their holidays in Costa Rica. Travelers arriving via the San Jose international airport spent roughly $1,635 during their vacation contrasted by $802 for tourists who flew into the Liberia airport in Guanacaste.

More flights and strategic routes offered by airlines

Costa Rica Tourism Minister Mauricio Ventura attributes the uptick in travelers to enhanced promotion efforts abroad as well as the availability of new non-stop flights from a number of carriers. Acclaimed airline British Airways announced it will begin a direct London to San Jose route in May of 2016, which will surely boost numbers of U.K. visitors. Costa Rica takes the honor of the first Central American destination for this prestigious airline.  Budget carrier Spirit Airlines made headlines this year when it began non-stop connections between San Jose and Houston, Texas, offering flights four times a week. And United Airlines announced they will start direct flights between both San Jose and Liberia and Denver, Colorado.

Local airline expands fleet

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One of Costa Rica’s premier regional carriers, Nature Air, is also taking measures to accommodate larger numbers of travelers. The company recently purchased four new aircraft (seating 19 passengers each), which will take to the skies this coming December. Nature Air currently flies to 15 destinations within Costa Rica, including hot spots like Tamarindo, Manuel Antonio/Quepos, Tortuguero, Arenal , Nosara and Drake Bay. In addition, this carbon neutral airline also connects to popular destinations in Panama and Nicaragua. Most domestic flights last only 20 to 45 minutes, saving tourists two to five hours of driving time to beach destinations.





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