Costa Rica Part I: Trip Itinerary & La Paz Waterfall Gardens

Hi everyone! We are very excited to share our photos and experiences from our recent trip to Costa Rica. This is part one of five blog entries so be sure to check out all of them as they come along. Just a reminder, if you click on an underlined word, it will link to a map, website, picture, etc. :)

We chose Costa Rica because it had a little bit of everything: adventure/photography locations for Brian and beaches/relaxation for Erin. If you know us, this makes perfect sense! With the help of a few friends who had visited and or lived in Costa Rica, we came up with a plan to experience Costa Rica as best as possible in nine days. We decided to fly into San Jose, stay the first night, and then drive to Fortuna and stay at Arenal Lodge (see map) for four nights by the volcano. After our adventure activities by the volcano, we were headed to the Pacific side (see map) for beaches and relaxation the last four days of the trip. The itinerary was perfect and we were able to see and experience a huge part of this beautiful country.

We started the trip flying into the major city of San Jose in the late afternoon, picking up our rental car, getting dinner, and checking in to our hotel. My co-worker Ryan and his wife Lidia were visiting Costa Rica (Lidia is from there) at the same time as us and were gracious enough to help us get situated the first night. We were so glad they did! The city was so busy and traffic was insane. Roads did not have street signs and getting around was very difficult. Erin and I definitely had culture shock our first few hours in Costa Rica. The highlight of the night was our dinner at  Maxi's. This place had a Caribbean atmosphere with raggae music and gave us our first taste of Costa Rican food, it was amazing. The Chifrijo was Erin's favorite dish of the entire trip. We stayed the night at the JW Marriott Hotel in San Jose and enjoyed the beautiful hotel grounds that night. We hit the road bright and early to head out to La Paz Waterfall Gardens and eventually, La Fortuna and the Arenal Volcano area. 

La Paz Waterfall Garden was about an hour drive from San Jose and was on the way to the next hotel so it was the perfect morning stop. The drive there was really pretty as we drove past many coffee plantations, yes we stopped for coffee, and local villages. Everything was so green and lush! The waterfall garden was beautiful with wildlife, rainforest, and waterfalls. We were there a few hours hiking, taking photos, and having lunch. I was so excited to take photos of the red eyed tree frog! The first photos I took on this trip turned out to be some of my favorites. 

The tree frog was my favorite local species to photograph. They have ridiculously cool colors and their eyes are creepy and cool at the same time. I was lucky enough to have a worker take a sleeping frog out of a tree and give me two minutes to take photos. The frogs are nocturnal and are high in the trees sleeping during the day time. For these photos I used my 100mm macro lens. I love the detail in the eyes of these little guys! Besides the tree frog, we were also able to see various species of the dart frog.

The hummingbird area was unbelievable. There were so many birds buzzing around and just walking though the area was neat because they would wiz right by your head and you couldn't even see them coming. At the gardens, you could hold a bird feeder and have the birds land right on you hands. It was a weird feeling having there little feet dug into your hands. Their feather colors were so vibrant! They weren't very good at sharing-they would peck each other if they wanted a turn.

The hummingbird area was unbelievable. There were so many birds buzzing around and just walking though the area was neat because they would wiz right by your head and you couldn't even see them coming. At the gardens, you could hold a bird feeder and have the birds land right on you hands. It was a weird feeling having there little feet dug into your hands. Their feather colors were so vibrant! They weren't very good at sharing-they would peck each other if they wanted a turn.

Look at his tiny feet on my finger!

The jaguar and his mighty spots

This little guy kept creeping up on us during our hike. He would get really close and then back off. This repeated a few times until he climb down the side of the bridge. 

Pumas cuddling

The butterfly exhibit provided a chance to get up close with various species. With the macro lens I was able to capture extreme details in these little creatures. 

Magia Blanca:One of the many waterfalls along our rainforest hike. 

Chestnut-mandibled toucan

Look at those wrinkles!

Thanks for checking out Costa Rica Part I :) Please like, share, or comment if you enjoyed this blog entry!

Our next entries will feature our stay at Arenal Lodge Hotel as well as our adventures at the volcano, hot springs, hanging bridges, waterfalls, and canopy tours. Stay tuned!

Erin and Brian