Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Flowers of Costa Rica

Wednesday, October 31st, 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.

Amazing wonders of Costa Rica

Thursday, October 11th, 2018

green flashGreen Flash

Imagine sitting on one of Manuel Antonio‘s restaurant patios at sunset enjoying a refreshing beverage and cool ocean breeze when suddenly the sky turns green.
It’s called the green flash, a phenomenon that occurs when conditions are just right as the sun disappears below the horizon. The flash only lasts a second or two, but what a moment!
The green flash is one of many unexpected delights for you and your family.

Water Stars

It’s called bioluminescence, a mostly tropical occurrence when plankton, jellyfish and other marine organisms glow a ghostly blue. You can experience this unforgettable Spheresencounter when you book an Escape Villas Vacation Rental.

Spheres

Costa Rica is a beautiful country. It also has its share of mysteries. Perhaps the greatest mystery was the discovery of thousands of perfectly round stone balls ranging in size from that of a baseball to 7 feet in diameter and weighing 16 tons. Archeologists say the spheres were made by humans 1600 years ago. Yet no tools were ever found and the quarries where this type of rock exists were 50 miles away. How do you roll a 16-ton ball of rock through dense, mountainous rainforest?

Howlers

You’re likely to hear a howler monkey before you see one. And what a sound! The male’s long, deep growl has been compared to everything from a lion’s roar to an enormous angry bullfrog trapped in a trash can. In truth, the howler’s intimidating growl misrepresents the gentle nature of these mostly leaf-eating monkeys. The big sound of a howler monkey is produced by the hyoid bone, a hollow bone near the vocal cords that amplifies sound. This bone in the male is 25 times larger than monkeys of a comparable size. The roar of the male can last several seconds and can be heard for 2 miles. The sound is primarily used to locate other members of the troop, but howlers will also “go off” if disturbed or confronted by predators or more aggressive monkeys.

The Cocos island

Cocos Island has been rated one of the planet’s top 10 scuba diving destinations for good reason. This uninhabited island, some 340 miles off Costa Rica’s shores, draws hundreds of scalloped hammerheads sharks that feed in its nutrient-rich currents. Swimming with hundreds of apex marine predators is a truly amazing and surreal experience!

flower-8Colorful plants

If you have ever traveled to Costa Rica during the green season you will certainly find out why it is called that. Greenery overflows almost everywhere including the roadways, which require regular maintenance, you will notice the large crews with weed whackers grooming the sides.  Of course, a lot of these plants are just tall grasses but many of them are unique and colorful flowers you didn’t know existed. Costa Rica is well known for its well known for its large variety of plants.

Costa Rica Rainforests

Monday, October 1st, 2018

flowerThe Costa Rica Jungle and Costa Rica Rainforests make up the biggest part of the country. They are the reason we have national parks and such a diversity of flora and fauna. They are the reason why animals are in such abundance here. It’s a blessing to have these gorgeous natural wonders in our backyard. The wild things roam free here, and it is only a plane ride away to enjoy the scenery. We are going to examine the diversity and what type of rainforests there are within Costa Rica. But firstly, Where are they?

Where Are they?

Costa Rica Rainforests are all over the country not just secluded in a few parts. You will find these diverse wonders In Manuel Antonio, the Osa Peninsula, Monteverde, and Tortuguero, etc. In fact, in each region the forest types are different. You will find the normal rainforest we hear about all the time in the Osa Peninsula and Tortuguero. Whereas on the northern Pacific side, or Guanacaste to be exact we see the Dry forests. Lastly, not far from San Jose there is the Cloud forest of Monteverde. Each type is beautiful in its way and gives a broad diversity to Costa Rica.

You might be tricked into thinking that there isn’t much to do, but that is all wrong. See the nature for yourself or let us set up a custom tour. From Zip lining in The Cloud forests of Monteverde or Kayaking through the rivers and rainforests of Tortuguero. Go birding throughout the Dry forests of Guanacaste or even relax at a tropical Lodge in the Osa Peninsula.

Birding Tour by Segway in Manuel Antonio Costa RicaDiversity

Rainforests of every type, form an excellent base for life to thrive.  Six percent of the world’s biodiversity (Plants and Animals) call these rainforests home. Costa Rica is home to 500,000 species, about 300,000 of them being insects. Canopies of the forest can grow to 200ft in height or 60 meters giving lots of shelter for animals to roam.

Also, worth mentioning is the difference between a Rainforest and a Jungle. A rainforest has a large canopy protecting the forest floor from sunlight, and not allowing excessive growth of vines shrubs or small plants. On the other hand, a jungle has less of a tree canopy and lets lots of light to the forest floor allowing these little plants to grow all over creating a chaos of life.

Wildlife

The wildlife of these parts is very diverse. For example, Jaguars, Butterflies, Monkeys, Iguanas, and many colorful birds. Not to mention the countless amount of insects. Costa Rica Rainforests also hold some of the most endangered species of wildlife, Including the Jaguar. The Jaguar is sleek and beautiful it makes you fear for your life and be awe-inspired all at the same time.  Due to deforestation or destruction of habitat, they, unfortunately, have dwindled in the past years.

Also, the Quetzal and Scarlet Macaw these species of birds are gorgeous. Birders the world over come to see these two but are often disappointed. Lastly, on our list, the Baird’s Tapir. These cool creatures are something else, kind of like a wild pig with a long nose. Also, these lovely guys are dwindling in population. Programs and sponsorship from the Costa Rican government are in place to help each and every form of wildlife here. It is refreshing to see that at least people do still care.

Facts about the Costa Rica Independance Day

Sunday, September 16th, 2018

196 years
Costa Rica flag

This year, Costa Rica celebrates its 196th year of independence from Spain on Sept. 15. The country shares its independence day with Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. All over the country from Manuel Antonio to San Jose to Limon people will be celebrating in there own way.

Complete Independence

Costa Rica finally became a completely independent nation in 1838, when it separated from the Central American Republic.

It’s a national holiday

Sept. 15 is a national holiday and businesses, banks and government institutions will be closed. Since it is a national holiday and this year with it falling on a Friday, most people will take advantage of the long weekend for a vacation.

Marching bandsMarching Bands

School marching bands, color guards and folkloric dancers parade through nearly every town on the morning of Sept. 15. Schoolchildren practice for several months in preparation. Traditional foods are usually sold by street vendors. You will enjoy the colorful outfits and traditional music.

Traditional clothing

Costa Rica traditional clothing for men is usually white cotton pants and a white button-up shirt with a red sash belt, a red handkerchief tied at the neck, and a straw hat. Women wear long, flowing, vivid multi-colored skirts in layers, with a white, ruffled, sleeveless blouse (usually embroidered or with ribbons), a choker band necklace, and their hair pulled up in complicated braids or a bun and decorated with a big flower.

CrowdsThe Flag

There have been eight versions of Costa Rica’s flag since it was first created in 1823. The current version has been in place since 1964.

The Torch

Starting on the 9th of September in Guatemala people light the “Independence Torch” and then by foot carry it through Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and ending in Cartago, Costa Rica on the 14th, the eve of Independence Day. The torch has now become an important national symbol for Costa Ricans.

Cuisine

On this day Costa Ricans break out all kinds of their famous cuisines including Gallo Pinto, Empanadas, and Tamales alongside there favorite national beers Imperial and Pilsen or some settle for coffee or Aqua Dulce.

Whatever you are doing on this day next year you may want to come visit on your next vacation for this one of a kind experience of culture.

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. 

The Different Fruits and vegetables of Costa Rica

Sunday, August 5th, 2018

Visiting Tropical Countries is a unique pleasure, Especially with visiting Costa Rica. This country, in particular, produces the majority of its own fruits and vegetables and the varieties may surprise you. The different shapes, sizes, tastes, and textures give you an endless possibility of things to try.  Also because the majority of the countries produce is grown here you can be sure that it is the freshest produce.

Fruit in Costa RicaAll these fruits of Costa Rica will give you a chance to explore the country a little more. Take a farm tour, walk through the expansive markets, and open up your pallet to new tastes.

The list seems endless and to some extent it is. Although we do get a lot of the same fruits shipped into our home countries. It really is not the same to experience the taste of fresh fruits ones that haven’t been shipped for weeks on end and that rely on chemicals for ripening.

Pineapples

A very popular fruit here is of course pineapples, there are many farms in Costa Rica and it is one of the main exports out of the country. Pineapples are grown from a stock in the ground and take roughly two years to complete its growth.

Guanabana

Guanabana is another uncommon fruit in North America and Europe, It also goes by the name of soursop. They are large like a melon but green and spikey with a white flesh.

Mangos

Mangos are yet another fruit in Costa Rica, they grow on trees and can be eaten as ripe or unripe. The ripe ones are more commonly known for its sweet taste and yellow texture. Although the unripe ones aren’t common in North American markets, they are delicious and taste much more sour but go great with a little bit of salt or hot sauce.

Sugar cane in costa RicaSugarcane

A plant that is very uncommon in North America and Europe is sugar cane. There are farms all over the country including the central valley area. Although the industry might not be nearly as big as other countries this industry is large in Costa Rica. The uses of cane of are nearly endless, you can make it into sugar, Agua Dulce (sweet water), Alcohol, Ethanol, plastics, or simply just chew it for its sweet juices.

So what are you waiting for? Come and experience some new tastes and have great new experiences today.

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

More About Costa Rica and What It Offers Here

Other Park Upgrades

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

With all the new upgrades to the park, when will you come 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

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.

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.

 

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.

costa-rica-travel-apps

Currency conversion made simple

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

Never get lost with WAZE

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

Get the scoop on weather changes

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

 

5 Tips for Whitewater Rafting in Costa Rica

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!

 





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