6 Tips and Tricks for Better Costa Rica Travel Photography

Taking Costa Rica sunset photo with phone

Try these 6 ideas for better travel photographs of your Costa Rican vacation with your smartphone

You don’t have to have specialized camera gear to get some great travel photographs on your Costa Rica vacation. With a few key pieces of affordable and easy to use and move gear for your smartphone, plus a few photographic tricks up your sleeve, you can capture travel photos that will be the envy of Instagram.

Smartphone camera lenses and equipment

TechRadar has rated its top 10 lenses. Olloclip’s XS Max Clip includes a super-wide, 15x macro and 180 fisheye lens package best suited for intermediate and advanced iPhone users. Moment Tele Lens, 60mm focal length, is a good fit for beginners and works on iPhone and Android. ExoLens with Optics by Zeiss Wide-Angle offers iPhone users an 18mm with slightly awkward casing at a price you’d expect for Zeiss optics. At the more economical end of the scale, is Nelomo Universal—with a 0.65x super-wide angle, a 15x macro, and a 230 fisheye—great for beginners on all platforms.

Check your smartphone’s camera options for advanced photography capabilities. If you can, turn on the camera’s grid, it will help you compose your shot. Newer smartphone camera features could include portrait or landscape modes and pre-set light editing options.

Adobe Lightroom works on either iOS or Android phones to make lighting corrections in your photo, add highlights, or enhance color saturation. The app’s introduction helps you with various photography terms and how to use app settings to adjust your images.

Pro tricks for better Costa Rica travel photos

Regardless of the equipment you use, knowing what makes a great travel photograph is more than half the battle. Understanding and using some of the basic rules of photography can turn your ordinary pictures into truly memorable shots.

For great shots, get up early or stay late. The best light for great pictures is known as the golden hour—the hour immediately after sunrise or before sunset. You’ll get rich, warm tones in your shot and more pleasing shadows.

Another reason for early or late is people. If you’re hoping to get a great shot of the Golden Gate Bridge wreathed in fog, you don’t want a crowd cluttering up your shot. Go when the crowd has thinned out to get your shot.

Avoid placing the subject of your shot dead square in the middle of it. Imagine dividing your composition into thirds, either horizontally or vertically and put the subject off-center. That grid feature we mentioned earlier can help you here.

Work the angles. Again, play around with different angles: shoot up or down on your subject, shoot from one side or another. The different perspective can make a good picture a great shot.

Crop your shot before you shoot. Eliminate some of the foreground or distracting elements (like the annoying telephone lines in your beautiful landscape shot) before you shoot. Likewise, fill the frame with your image.

With the right tools, a little knowledge, and some effort, your Costa Rican travel photos of the beaches, rainforests and the distinctive hotels you stayed at will be the envy of your friends.

8 Amazing Animals to Spot in Costa Rica

White faced capuchin monkey Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s magnificent mammals will make you want to pack your hiking shoes and visit now.

Costa Rica’s biodiversity is well-known, with many exotic rainforest animals that are easy to catch sight of when hiking, biking, or horseback riding through one of the many protected national parks. For an eco-adventure that is filled with interesting discovery, a hiking trip to Costa Rica is just the ticket.

Among others, here are some of the fascinating wild animals that you will find in Costa Rica’s rainforest, cloud forests, and dry forest plains.


Sloths have 3 toes with long, curved claws on each foot. The claws allow them to hang upside down from tree branches high up in the canopy. As their name implies, they move very slowly. On the ground, they can barely walk, leaving them vulnerable to predators.


Coati, or coatimundi, are related to raccoons, but smaller and with long, reddish tails. Omnivorous, they eat insects, fruit, and small reptiles. They are adept climbers and forage in the trees for food. At popular Costa Rica attractions, such as Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, these opportunistic feeders will beg food from unsuspecting tourists.

Howler Monkey

Howler monkeys have an extremely loud, booming call, which can carry as much as 3 miles. Once heard, their call is forever recognizable. Living in large troops, they’ll call all day regardless of weather.

Capuchin Monkey

Named for cowled Capuchin monks, white-faced Capuchin monkeys’ have white chests, shoulders and facial ruffs around their tan faces that contrast sharply with their black bodies. Extremely social, kinship is the dominant factor in a troops social structure.

Spider Monkey

Their long arms and tails help spider monkeys swing through the rainforest canopy. Their prehensile tails make up for the fact that spider monkeys have no thumbs. Loud, these monkeys have several different calls, screeches, and barks. They forage for a diet of nuts, fruit, and even spiders in the treetops throughout their Costa Rica rainforest habitat.


Tapirs may look like pigs but are related to the rhinoceros and horse, with small elephant-like trunks that they use to grasp their food. Also, like elephants, tapirs spread plant seeds throughout their habitat through defecation, making them an integral part of the ecosystem. The young of all 5 species are colored a light brown shade to help them remain camouflaged on the forest floor.


A smaller relative of the ocelot, the margay lives in primary evergreen and deciduous forests. Dark brown or black rosettes and streaks mark its light brown fur. The margay, a skillful climber, is also known as a tree ocelot because it can spend its whole life in the canopy chasing birds and monkeys. Notably, its flexible ankles, which can turn up to 180 degrees, allow it to descend head first and grasp branches with its fore or hind paws. It can also leap some 12 ft. horizontally.


The oncilla, sometimes called little spotted cat or tigrillo, is a small cat colored much like the margay and ocelot. Smaller and slender than its cousins, it is about the size of a housecat with thick, soft fur, colored light brown to ochre and dark and irregularly-shaped rosettes. Its coloring and spots help it blend into the mottled shade of the tropical forest floor.

So, pack your hiking boots and get ready for adventure and discovery; Costa Rica’s wildlife is just a vacation stay away.



5 Fun Things to Do with Kids in Costa Rica

Kids on tropical beach in Costa Rica

Spring break adventures for the whole family are abundant in Costa Rica!

Heading to Costa Rica for Spring Break with the family, and looking for things to do with the kids? You’re sure to be spoiled for choice, so we have some suggestions to help you see more of gorgeous tropical Costa Rica.

Central Pacific Coast

Alma del Pacifico, in Esterillos Este, Parrita, just south of Jacó, on the Central Pacific Coast, is just over an hour from Juan Santamaria Airport in San José. The lovely boutique hotel’s walking paths lead through colorful ornamental, herb and vegetable gardens to your oasis bungalow. You and the family will have all the creature comforts of home, including kitchenette and terrace.

There are several great activities for all interests and ages. Manuel Antonio National Park, on the outskirts of Quepos, is a good place to start. It’s abundant wildlife, gentle surf and gorgeous white-sand beaches are just for starters. A guide can help you locate the rainforest canopy’s residents; capuchin and squirrel monkeys, as well as sloths. Shaded and paved trails lead from the forest to the beaches—there are 3—where everyone can enjoy the sun and surf. For the more adventurous, the hike up to Cathedral Point will take you to higher ground for spectacular views of the coastline. Tip: don’t leave bags unattended on the beach because the critters will definitely investigate the contents.

The whole family will appreciate a trip to Pueblo Santa Juana for a mountain and zipline tour. Activities include a hike through the rainforest hills, swimming in a waterfall pool and a visit to an authentic Tico sugar mill. In addition, you can enjoy a traditional lunch overlooking Manuel Antonio National Park before heading off for a flight through the canopy on a zipline.

Nearby, Jacó Ropes Adventure Park offers a 155-foot zipline, a Tarzan swing through the rainforest, and creek crossing via cargo net, among other activities. The kids will enjoy a chance to work off some energy while surrounded by the rainforest and its residents.


Hotel Belmar, just up the road from Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, aims to provide guests with the very best in eco-tourism. The guest chalets take inspiration from their Austrian cousins; each one beautifully and comfortably furnished. Dedicated to eco-tourism, the 5-leaf boutique hotel’s sustainable management philosophy has supported the area’s thriving local employment market.

Costa Rica’s Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, situated on the continental divide, is made up of several different reserves, including privately-held buffer zones and parts of Arenal Volcano National Park.

It’s also one of the most bio-diverse places anywhere on Earth: 3,021 plant varieties, more than 100 different mammals, including 6 different marsupials, and 400+ bird species.

Guided tours are some of the best ways to experience the Reserve. Monteverde Sky Adventure Park, is another, with many family-friendly tour choices: The Sky Tram, Sky Walk, or Sky Trek. Each offers a unique experience of the area’s cloud and rain forests, from a leisurely stroll over the trails to canyoneering and rafting. There’re adventures for everyone, regardless of ability or interest.

Spring Break never looked so good! Even the Littles in the family will have a blast when you travel to Costa Rica for Spring Break. Reach out today and talk to one of our advisers; you’ll be sure to have the perfect Costa Rica family vacation.

Exploring Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Costa Rica Guanacaste sunset and sea

Costa Rica’s Northern Pacific Beaches of Guanacaste Province

On Costa Rica’s Northern Pacific coastline, Guanacaste’s famous Gold Coast, life is indeed a beach. If you’re staying at Capitán Suizo, these are the best and most well-known beaches of the Northern Pacific coast to visit, each a gem.


Playa Tamarindo

What was once a small fishing village has grown to become a vibrant multicultural community centered around beach life. The beach is wide, long, and beautiful, perfect for long walks on the beach. The water is warm and it’s also a surfing hot spot, but still forgiving of beginners. Playa Tamarindo also received Costa Rica’s Blue Flag award in 2018, confirming the quality of the area’s services and facilities. Playa Tamarindo is next door to Las Baulas Marine National Park, where leatherback turtles (las baulas) lay their eggs.

Playa Flamingo

Part of Costa Rica’s Gold Coast, Playa Flamingo is a stunningly beautiful beach: blue crystalline waters and tree-lined beach. The beach, a crescent-shaped mile of white sand. The beach has attracted global attention for its beauty and the lavish lifestyle.

Playa Grande

The Matapalo River marks the beginning of Playa Grande in Marino Las Baulas National Park. This is where the leatherback sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs during the nesting season. Their numbers have been drastically reduced from times past, but it’s still an awe-inspiring sight.

Playa Langosta

Playa Langosta is south of Tamarindo, a 5-minute drive. The white sands on this long beach are a beachcomber’s dream. Access is via Hacienda Pinilla, making this beach less crowded than Tamarindo. If you wade across the estuary at low tide, there’s a great stretch of nearly deserted beach.

Playa Avellanas Beach

Like Langosta, access to Playa Avellanas is through the Hacienda Pinilla Beach Club, as well as a public access point near Lola’s. At Lola’s, which is practically world-famous, the beach is shaded by palm trees and food and drink are available. There are some world class surf breaks here and spots for beginners and boogie boarders, depending on area and tides.

Playa Conchal

Playa Conchal on Brasilito Bay, south of Playa Flamingo is worth the drive from Capitan Suizo’s. The beach and its setting conjure up every TV commercial ever seen. The turquoise water, white sand, and not-too-distant Catalina Islands make Conchal seem like a tropical paradise.

Playa Hermosa

Guanacaste’s Playa Hermosa is one of Guanacaste’s best swimming beaches with beautiful clear blue warm water and plenty of beautiful natural scenery to go with the laid-back vibe. Though Playa Hermosa has seen some development, it’s still a favorite with swimmers and retains its charm. The weather is nearly perfect year-round. Don’t confuse this one with the surfer’s beach further south near Jacó.


If you are planning a beach vacation, Guanacaste’s Northern Pacific beaches should be on your list of places to visit in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica’s Best Tours and Activities

Three-toed Sloth in Costa Rica

Exciting tours and activities mean high adventure and fascinating discovery in Costa Rica

Never a dull moment, the abundance of eco-adventure tours and activities in Costa Rica means a vacation to remember.

The early months of high season, January through March, are some of the best months to visit Costa Rica. The green season, with its daily rains, has left the rain and dry tropical forests green and still lush. Still, any time of year is a good time of year to visit Costa Rica.

No matter what you’re up for, there are plenty of things to do for everyone: adventure tours, such as whitewater rafting and zip lining for the adrenalin addicts among us,  and the more leisurely pursuits of guided nature hikes and coffee plantation tours for those who prefer to keep their feet on the ground.

Here are 5 Costa Rica tours and activities that we think are well worth your while:

The Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve is, perhaps, the most unique in all of Latin America. It straddles the continental divide, and is the result of two separate climatic influences: Caribbean moisture-laden winds provide the mists while the Pacific side is somewhat drier. Its biodiversity is unmatched by few other places on the planet. In fact, about a third of the country’s indigenous flora is found here—more than 3,000 species; especially orchids. Monteverde is also a beacon for birdwatchers, with more than 400 species, mostly insectivores and frugivores. The well-named resplendent quetzal calls this beautiful Costa Rica cloud forest home. The best way to enjoy the canopy is a guided walk along the hanging bridges of the reserve.

Coffee lovers will appreciate a coffee plantation tour. It’s fascinating to see the process from beans on the tree to coffee in the cup. You’ll learn about coffee culture and its importance to the country. The Doka Estate, near Peace Lodge and La Paz Waterfall Gardens, is the largest coffee plantation in Costa Rica and they offer a choice of three tours (one includes La Paz).

Catch sight of turtles nesting on Costa Rica beaches. Olive Ridley and Green sea turtles begin nesting in January for the next 3 months and leatherbacks are just winding up their nesting season, meaning you may have a chance to watch eggs being laid and hatchlings make their dash to the surf.

California’s humpback whales and their calves are a common sight off the southern Pacific coast in January and February. By the end of March, they’re beginning their northern migration. There are a number of wonderful tours to enjoy Costa Rica whale watching; just ask your concierge!

Rainforest canopy zip line, tram, and hanging bridge tours are an excellent mix of adrenaline and awe. The rush from flying from platform to platform just may be as exhilarating as parachuting, only safer. You get a bird’s-eye view of the rainforest canopy and its colorful inhabitants, such as scarlet macaws and toucans, as well as monkeys and sloths. Zipline tours are available all over the country; no matter which distinctive hotel you’re staying in, you’re likely to be able to schedule this exciting tour.

Not up for being harnessed in and flying over the canopy tops? Ask about sky tram aerial rides or skywalk hanging bridges; you can leave the thrill-seeking behind and still enjoy the sights and sounds of the forest canopy.

Running the rapids while white water river rafting on Rio Naranjo or Rio Savegre is a possibility for even the most novice beginner. For really exciting rapids, go river rafting right as the green season is coming to a close- anytime in November and December. As the dry season develops, water flows tend to be lower, so January through April is a good time for those who want a more tranquil experience.

Other rivers that are part of Costa Rica’s hydroelectric infrastructure, such as the Balsa, Toro, and Sarapiquí rivers have more reliable flows due to water releases.

No matter which river rafting tour you choose, every Costa Rica river offers an exhilarating and wile ride.

The concierge staff at your hotel can help you organize any number of tours and activities. They’ll know who the reliable tour operators are and can even book for you.


All About Costa Rica’s First Ladies-Only Billfish Tournament

women sports fishing Costa Rica

Lady anglers compete in Costa Rica for the first ladies-only billfish tourney; here’s what you need to know.

Los Sueños Resort & Marina, with Chantilly Air, have announced Costa Rica’s first Ladies Only Tournament, scheduled for January 15, 2019. The billfish tourney is a one-day contest with prizes totaling $27,500 for the top 3 teams: 1st place ($13,750), 2nd ($8,250), and 3rd ($5,500).

With no professionals allowed, 4-woman teams aboard individual boats will compete in a catch-and-release billfish contest. Sailfish net 100 points, while marlin are worth 500 and the highest point total wins. In addition, each lady angler’s individual points are added to individual points in the Triple Crown.

Team registrations must be submitted prior to the welcome cocktail reception at 5:30 p.m., Jan. 14th, and the competition begins at 6 a.m. on January 15, 2019 when boats may leave the marina once their observer is aboard. Lines in at 8 a.m.; lines out at 4 p.m.; and scorecards need to be turned in by 7 p.m. The awards ceremony is set for 5 p.m., Jan. 16.

Where to stay during the Women’s Only Los Sueños, Costa Rica Billfish Tournament

Closest to Los Sueños Marina, Villa Caletas is ideally situated atop a hill overlooking the rainforest, Playa Jacó and the Pacific Ocean beyond. From spectacular sunsets to a curtained gazebo on private Caletas Beach, this boutique hotel is known for top-notch facilities and services. The hotel’s neoclassical colonial architecture highlights Costa Rica’s past in comfort and elegance. Serenity Spa is the perfect way to ease tired muscles and restore sun-soaked complexions after a day on the water. A leisurely hike down the Friends of the Forest trail, or take the 4-wheel drive shuttle, to the beach is also an opportunity to spot local wildlife: iguanas, agoutis, macaws and monkeys. Villa Caletas’ location close to Jacó makes it easy to enjoy dinner and dancing at the local restaurants and clubs.

20 minutes south of the marina, Alma del Pacifico  sits right on the beach. With just 20 luxury villas, this pretty little resort is an eclectic mix of European and Costa Rican cultures. Each spacious villa takes advantage of the hotels beachfront setting or lush tropical gardens. Villas include large private terraces and showers that open onto private garden settings. Charlene Broudy’s original artworks add panache throughout the hotel. Alma’s spa offers massage and luxurious skin treatments to ease aches and stress. The hotel sits on stunning Playa Esterillos Este, one of the best on the Central Pacific.

After a day on the salt battling billfish, Villa Caletas and Alma del Pacifico each offer a luxurious haven to restore the most avid angler.

Spot This! Costa Rica’s Fiery Billed Aracari

Costa Rica is home to one of the most beautiful toucans in the world- the Fiery-billed Aracari.

Costa Rica is a bird watcher’s paradise with nearly 900 species, but even if you’re only a casual birder, you almost can’t help catching sight of the Fiery-billed Araçari (ARA-sah-ri) when you’re on vacation on the Pacific coast of this beautiful country.

Part of the toucan family, the Fiery-billed Araçari roosts socially year-round, in groups of up to 10 birds. You can easily identify its large, distinctively shaped bright orange-red upper beak. The massive beak’s hollow structure makes it lighter than it looks.

Adult males and females look alike, while juveniles are duller in color. An adult is about 20 inches long and weighs about 9 ounces. Look for a bright red band on a brilliant yellow chest with glossy black feathers of its back and neck. Its rump also sports yellow and red feathers, while its yellow eye stands out against its black-olive head. The Fiery-billed Araçari has a dark spot on a field of yellow, just above the red band across its breast that its close cousin, the collared araçari (which also has a thin rufous collar on the back of its neck), doesn’t have.

Although mostly tree-dwellers that eat fleshy fruits found in the canopy, the Fiery-billed Araçari will sometimes descend to the forest floor for berries. Because it passes the seeds undamaged, the Fiery-billed Araçari contributes to biodiversity. It will also eat insects and, sometimes, small pigeon or woodpecker nestlings.

Fiery-billed Araçaris will often evict woodpeckers and nest in their treetop cavities 20 feet and higher in the canopy, where they lay two white eggs that hatch after about 16 days. The parents share incubation and chick-rearing duties and often continue to feed young fledglings with occasional help from other araçaris. Fiery-billed and Collared Araçari interbreed occasionally.

You can find Fiery-billed Araçaris in humid lowland forests along the Pacific slopes of southern Costa Rica, to an elevation of about 6,000 feet. They’re pretty common from Herradura,  down the Costa Rica Pacific coast, and on into western Panama. Sadly, their numbers may be declining; formerly you could also find them in eastern Panama and on close, offshore islands.

If you ’re staying at the distinctive Hotel Villa Caletas, you’re bound to spot them aplenty in the surrounding trees, as you lounge on your jungle surrounded balcony, enjoy pool time, or sunset drinks and bocas the Anfitreato Bar Restaurant.

In flight, Fiery-billed Araçari makes a sharp, two-noted call that sounds similar to pseek or keeseek. Between the sound of their call and the brilliantly flashing plumage, you’ll have no trouble spotting a fiery-billed araçari in the forest while you’re on vacation in Costa Rica.