Recipe for Sweet Plantains, a Costa Rican Favorite

October 17th, 2015

A larger and starchier cousin of the banana, plantains are a staple in most Central American homes. In Costa Rica, plantains are enjoyed in a number of ways, and at different levels of ripeness. One time-honored dish in many households is “platanos maduros,” which literally translates to ripe plantains. The dish is so deliciously sweet it could be served for dessert, but usually ends up as a side for lunch or dinner. This simple recipe can be adjusted according to personal preference and yields 6-8 servings.

Ingredientscosta-rica-ripe-plantains

4-5 ripe plantains (the skin must be black)
1½ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon  ground cinnamon
½ cup of unsalted butter or margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup water
1 lime

Directions

    1. The blacker and riper the plantain, the sweeter it will be. Platanos maduros is wonderful on its own, but is great served with salad, mashed potatoes, rice and beans or an accompaniment to any meal.Cut the ends off the plantains, then peel and cut evenly into one inch slices.

    2. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and slowly saute the plantains until they take on a golden color.

    3. After the plantains are golden brown, flip over gently with a spatula  repeating on the other side.

    4. Add 1 cup of brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla and juice from one lime. Stir together and let sit for one minute.

    5. Add water and slowly sprinkle remaining half cup of sugar over the plantains.

    6. Turn down the heat and let the plantains simmer until the liquid has reduced and the sugar has caramelized.

    7. Serve immediately while hot!

      Platano Maduros

 

Nutritional value of plantains

Pound for pound, plantains are higher in calories (about 125 calories each) compared to bananas, but are still considered very healthy. Rich in iron, magnesium, potassium and phosphorous, plantains are also an excellent source of fiber and B complex vitamins. In Costa Rica, plantains are sold year-round in grocery stores and farmer’s markets, and they are becoming more widely available in the United States.

 

Souvenir Shopping in Costa Rica

October 10th, 2015

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!

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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

Miniature ox-carts of SarchiFrom 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.

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

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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.

 

Day Trip to La Paz Waterfall Gardens

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

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

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

September 20th, 2015

Need inspiration planning your Manuel Antonio beach vacation? From wildlife watching and jet skiing to sipping fruity cocktails at sunset, there’s no shortage of things to do and see in this dreamy beach town. And if you’re searching for a villa with ocean views, Escape Villas has an extensive portfolio of luxurious Manuel Antonio rentals – some with direct views of the park! Here’s a few of our favorite things to do in this Central Pacific hamlet, where jungle meets sea.

Banana boat rides – not just for kids!

parasail-manuel-antonio

Hang on to your friends and fellow guests as you traverse the warm Pacific waters in an inflatable banana boat. Equal parts relaxing and adrenaline-pumping, this tour jumps into high gear as riders – who are always wearing life vests –occasionally get bucked off the boat. A fun and exciting trip for both the young and young-at-heart.

Monkey watching in Manuel Antonio National Park

A budget-friendly $10 gets you entrance into one of the world’s most beautiful national parks (according to Forbes magazine). And within these boundaries live hundreds of curious and playful primates, among other interesting creatures. You don’t have to be super sleuth to discover the park’s crafty white-faced monkeys, which love to hang around Espadilla Beach. In fact, the park is home to three species of monkey –white-faced, squirrel and howler monkey – which scour the canopies in search of their favorite leaves, fruit and insects.

Giddy up, partner – explorations on horseback

Horseback riding is a national pastime in Costa Rica and the secluded backcountry roads and plantations surrounding Manuel Antonio make the perfect backdrop for an equine excursion. Tours are available for riders of all levels and ages, and typically include a pit stop for lunch and a swim at a hidden waterfall.

Up, up and away – Parasailing

Take flight on this popular tour that is sure to get the adrenaline surging.  Parasailing tours in Manuel Antonio take guests a staggering 600 feet above the beach, offering jaw-dropping views of the coastline and adjacent islands. This 15-minute tour will be one of the highlights of your trip!

sunset-drinks-manuel-antonio-beach

Pool or beach side relaxation

There’s no shame in enjoying a little relaxation during your beach getaway, and Manuel Antonio has three gorgeous beaches from which to sunbathe, people gaze, snorkel or snooze. Choose a shady spot beneath a sea almond tree or rent a comfy beach chair with umbrella for the day. Delicious snacks, cooling drinks and massages will come to you.

 

Stand Up Paddle Boarding in Costa Rica

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

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.

Indulge Your Senses in a Costa Rica Spa Day

September 5th, 2015

 papaya-body-wrap-spa-treatmentHeading to Costa Rica for a family vacation but crave some personal pampering? If so, you’re in for a treat… Costa Rica boasts numerous award-winning spas that promise to melt away tension, make your skin glow and ease the sunburn you got while snorkeling! How does a naturally exfoliating body wrap of warm papaya sound? Or a nourishing facial with aloe, jojoba oil and honey? Indulge your senses in these exclusive spa treatments that highlight organic and locally-sourced ingredients.

Cinnamon, sugar & coffee polishing scrub

You don’t have to be a coffee lover to appreciate this spa treatment that pampers the skin in the most delicious way possible. Coffee has natural anti-inflammatory and diuretic effects, while cinnamon is known to boost the immune system. Your skin will feel hydrated and ultra-soft after this exotic scrub that awakens the senses.

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Organic chocolate body wrap – made with local cacao

Take a moment to disconnect as the rich aroma of velvety chocolate envelops you. This sensual body wrap not only relieves stress and leaves skin radiant, it can actually help trigger the body’s own fat burning process. Cacao stimulates the body to produce endorphins that act as cellulite-busters, so this tension-relieving therapy wins on two fronts.

Skin rejuvenation with organic botanicals

Silky coconut cream, avocado and sea salt are used to gently exfoliate and massage your hands and feet, removing any callouses and leaving the skin smooth and rejuvenated.

Nourishing facials for any skin type

Spa professionals can assess your skin type and damage to determine which products will do the trick. Whether you have dry or sensitive skin, you can rest assured a glowing result. Aloe, banana, chocolate, honey, mango cream and papaya milk are just some of the moisturizing options available for an unforgettable facial.

Purifying volcanic mud wrap

Costa Rica’s volcanic terrain isn’t just great for sightseeing. A soothing body wrap with warm volcanic clay is heaven on Earth for any road weary traveler. Applied over the entire body, this natural clay pulls out skin impurities and helps replenish the skin while wicking away tension and stress.  This wrap is a must during your Arenal vacation!

Dominical Beckons with Wildlife & Adventure

August 31st, 2015

Dominical’s palm-kissed beaches feel worlds away from civilization. Perched in a hammock overlooking the shore, travelers are lulled by the surging crashes of water against rock and sand. Yet this burgeoning Costa Rica vacation destination is more accessible than ever, thanks to smoothly paved roads and local airlines SANSA and Nature Air. Oft described as a sort of Robinson Crusoe type of town, Dominical lures adventurers, wildlife lovers and surfers who want to hang ten on one of the world’s longest left breaks.

Dominical at a glancehumpback-whale-watching-dominical

Location: Pacific Coast, 29 miles south of Manuel Antonio & Quepos
Major Attractions: Nauyaca Waterfalls, Hacienda Baru Wildlife Refuge and the Osa Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary
Accommodations:  Ocean view and jungle villas, all-inclusive resorts, hotels, and budget hostels
Mostly caters to: Nature lovers; couples; families and nature enthusiasts
Weather:  Dry season months (December- April); Green Season (May-October)
Temperature: Average daily temperatures 77 – 89 degrees F

A secluded beach destination 4 hours from San Jose

Driving to Dominical from the San Jose international airport (SJO) is a snap via the Caldera Highway 27 and Route 34, which meander past dense African Palm fields and the popular beach towns of Jaco and Manuel Antonio. In less than four hours (or just 35 minutes by air!) you have arrived in paradise. Most of the town’s roads are unpaved, a signal that you’re off the tourist trail and in relaxation mode.

Tree climbing and canopy tours in Hacienda Baru

The rugged mountains framing Dominical are filled with primary and secondary rainforest, tumbling waterfalls and brackish rivers that are teeming with flora and fauna of every size and shape. Two-toed sloths, toucans, howler and white-faced monkeys and vibrant poison dart frogs make their home in this biodiverse habitat. Just a mile north of the town, Hacienda Baru Wildlife Refuge offers tree climbing and zip-line tours in its massive protected area.

Family-friendly ride to Nauyaca Waterfalls

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Giddy-up partner, it’s time for a leisurely and scenic horseback ride to some of the area’s most stunning cascades at Nauyaca Waterfalls. Cool, mountain water flows over three tiers in this 130-foot natural wonder. The excursion includes pit stops for wildlife watching and a hearty, tropical breakfast before arriving at the falls where you can swim in the natural pools or climb up for a jump.  The horses are well-trained and suitable for riders of all levels including children as young as five.

Dolphin & whale watching at Marina Ballena National Park

This privileged part of the country enjoys nearly year-round whale watching in nearby Ballena National Marine Park, where humpbacks come to breed and bare their young. Depending on the weather conditions, tours may offer snorkeling in addition to sightseeing.

To enjoy this transcendent setting in the lap of luxury, please contact us about our available Dominical vacation villas – and be sure to ask about low season specials!

Tortuguero — the Ultimate Spot for Viewing Nesting Sea Turtles

August 27th, 2015

sea-turtle-nesting-tortuguero A recent feature in Forbes magazine extolls the many charms of Tortuguero, the crown jewel of Costa Rica’s northern Caribbean coast. Author Sherrie Nachman was enamored with the sloths, howler monkeys and toucans of this authentic hamlet, but was truly dazzled by the dozens of nesting sea turtles that return to its shores year after year. In fact, Tortuguero is the Western Hemisphere’s largest nesting site for the green sea turtle, one of several endangered species that frequent this unique area of Costa Rica.

Green sea turtle nesting period

Green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) are the most common species to nest in Tortuguero, though loggerhead, hawksbill and leatherback also frequent its protected beaches. The official nesting season for green sea turtles is July 1st through October 31st, but visitors may witness females lumbering ashore into the early weeks of November. Turtle tours, led by professionally-trained naturalist guides, are only held at night when the bulk of the action is happening.  Turtle sightings are never guaranteed, but if you visit during the nesting season, you’re likely to view anywhere from 2-5 ancient-looking reptiles with the help of eagle-eyed turtle spotters.

Evening turtle tours unveil the miracle of life

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Guests are asked to wear dark clothing, leave their flashlights and cell phones at the lodge, and follow the quiet footsteps of their guide as sighting information comes in. Unobtrusive infrared lights are used to watch these magnificent creatures (some weighing more than 400 pounds!) as they use their powerful flippers to dig deep holes in the soft sand. Each female then deposits roughly 100-110 eggs, which will be incubated under the warming rays of the sun. Interestingly, the future sex of the hatchlings will depend on the ambient temperature of the sand that surrounds them. Incubation typically lasts from 50 to 70 days.

Conservation efforts to protect endangered marine turtles

The green sea turtle, like most other marine reptile species is listed as endangered and is therefore protected in Costa Rica and many other countries. The community of Tortuguero has made great efforts to promote turtle conservation over the last 50 years through surveys, tagging, protecting nesting sites, and general data collection. A portion of all turtle tour proceeds goes toward these critical preservation efforts to help maintain sea turtle populations for future generations. At present, the Sea Turtle Conservancy estimates a worldwide population of between 85,000 – 90,000 nesting females.

2015: Costa Rica Ranked the Happiest Country in the World

August 21st, 2015
Costa Rica people known as Ticos

Check Here For More About Costa Rica

 

Want to live in one of the greenest, happiest places on Earth? Then you may want to consider moving to Costa Rica!  Once again, Costa Rica tops the list as the world’s happiest country, according to results from The Happy Planet Index (HPI). While most measures of national progress focus primarily on economic growth, the HPI analyzes what matters most: the sustainable well-being of an intrinsically happy population. And year after year, this tiny Central American nation outranks dozens of more industrialized countries in terms of environmental impact, life expectancy and levels of well-being.

Costa Rica scores #1 out of 151 countries

With a population of just 4.7 million people, Costa Rica achieved 64 points (out of a total of 100) on the HPI index, which factors in ecological footprint, life expectancy and experienced well-being. For many across the globe, the HPI serves as an accurate gauge of how well a country is doing in terms of producing healthy, happy people both now and into the future.

Costa Rica has high level of well-being

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Falling just behind Denmark, Costa Rica scored 7.3 out of 10 for experienced well-being, which draws on responses to a Gallup World Poll that sampled 1,000 individuals aged 15 or older in all of the 151 countries included in this year’s HPI.  Costa Rica was trailed by Thailand, Ecuador and the Philippines in this important indicator.

Small ecological footprint

The ecological footprint (amount of land necessary to sustain a country’s normal consumption) of Costa Rica is 2.52 global hectares per capita. If others had the same environmental impact as the average person in Costa Rica, the globe’s eco footprint would be 5 percent lower.

Costa Rica’s average life expectancy is 79.3

The nation with highest life expectancy is Japan (83.4 years), but Costa Rica still ranked higher than the United States, whose residents have a life expectancy of 78.5. Data was gleaned from the 2011 UNDP Human Development Report.

Enjoying the “pura vida” that is Costa Rica

Surveys and polls aside, Costa Rica’s palpable happiness may be attributed to a number of basic factors. A lot of residents enjoy a simple life that is tune with nature. Heavy emphasis isn’t placed on material possessions, and locals truly embrace the pura vida, or pure life  that values family, friendship and life’s small but meaningful pleasures.

 

Facebook Teaser: Costa Rica again ranks #1 on the Happy Planet Index (HPI), which has drawn worldwide attention as an important barometer of a country’s sustainable well-being. Find out why this small nation is one of the greenest and happiest on Earth!

 

Ceviche Festival Returns to Manuel Antonio This November

August 14th, 2015

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

Manuel Antonio looks forward to Ceviche Festival

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

Event highlights the region’s numerous seafood offerings

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

Innovative ceviche creations feature green banana, mango

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

ceviche-festival-quepos

Traditional ceviche recipe

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

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

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

 

Costa Rica Vacations – Perfect for Every Traveler

August 7th, 2015

costa-rica-family-vacation

Whether looking for the perfect family vacation spot, honeymoon destination or your next girls’ getaway, Costa Rica fits the bill and then some! The relaxing, tropical ambiance of Costa Rica sets the perfect backdrop for a romantic anniversary or honeymoon, while national parks and wildlife reserves promise nature lovers of all ages exciting animal encounters. Find out why the land of Pura Vida offers something for everyone!

A safe and stress-free family-friendly vacation

Costa Rica prides itself on its peaceful nature, having abolished its standing army in 1948. It’s one of the safest countries in Latin America for family travel, with modern infrastructure, good roads, first-rate medical care facilities, and a largely bilingual population. Moreover, families can take advantage of Costa Rica vacation rentals that were practically made to accommodate and entertain children. Game rooms, private pools, DVD and entertainment centers and fully-equipped kitchens for meals on the fly are some of the key benefits of renting a villa during your family getaway.

Flights are easy to this exotic destination

Why spend 8 hours on a plane to Europe, when exotic landscapes are practically in your own backyard? Many people don’t realize how accessible a Costa Rica honeymoon or vacation can be – we’re less than 3 hours from Miami!  Delta, United, Frontier, JetBlue and other carriers are offering increasing numbers of non-stop flights to the Liberia and San Jose airports, at fantastic rates.

Adventures galore for the thrill-seeker

Stand-up paddle surfing, canopy zip-lines, whitewater rafting, horseback riding and waterfall rappelling are just a few of the standard adventure tours on offer. From Tamarindo beach to Puerto Viejo and everywhere in between, travelers will find outdoor activities and adventures that suit their interest and level.

Costa Rica honeymoon – ideal for rest & relaxation

costa-rica-beach-vacation

Couples have countless opportunities to revel in the romantic backdrops of Costa Rica, from bubbling volcanoes to white-sand beaches. And there’s no better place to sequester yourselves than a luxurious ocean view villa. Indulge in a private hot stone massage for couples; long walks along a palm-fringed shore; a dreamy sunset cruise with champagne toast, and gourmet meals prepared by highly talented international chefs.

Facebook Teaser:  With its balmy weather and gorgeous white-sand beaches, Costa Rica invites you to get lost in this natural paradise. Costa Rica offers something for travelers of all walks – whether you’re planning a girls-only escape, family vacation or romantic honeymoon.

Costa Rica Garners Accolades as Top Travel, Honeymoon Destination

August 1st, 2015

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

river-rafting-costa-rica

Recent awards and accolades for Costa Rica

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

  2. Most popular eco-friendly destination, TripAdvisor

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

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

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

  6. Most Popular Adventure Travel Destination, TripAdvisor

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

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

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

  10. Central America’s Happiest Country, Travel Channel

Recreational opportunities abound

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

A place for health & wellnesscosta-rica-yoga

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

 

7 Reasons to Visit Costa Rica in the Green Season

July 24th, 2015

Want to immerse yourself in ecotourism at its finest?  Costa Rica offers unmatched opportunities to explore the wild wonders of its tropical jungles, lowland estuaries and biodiverse cloud forests, largely in part to its extensive national park system. With May already here, the tourist ‘high season’ is winding down, and afternoon showers are popping up every few days. Locals already know that Costa Rica is at its most beautiful during this period – and here are 7 reasons why this is the best time to visit!

Bright and sunny Pavones one of many Costa Rica beaches

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Mornings are sunny for outdoor activities

The green season is named for the luxuriant foliage that is spurred by the rains. But don’t be put off by a little H20 — mornings are still clear and warm, with plenty of time for a surf lesson, a canopy tour or some R&R by the pool. Even better, the clouds often dissipate in time for spectacular sunsets. Read the rest of this entry »

Snorkeling Cano Island

July 22nd, 2015

Second only to Costa Rica’s Cocos Island, Cano Island (Isla del Cano) is widely considered one of the country’s top diving and snorkeling destinations. Its unspoiled beaches, rainforest spilling down to the shoreline, and lack of infrastructure remind you of a long lost paradise… one that is surprisingly accessible to travelers eager to explore its underwater mysteries.

Cano Island Costa Rica national park

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Cano Island quick facts

  • Location: 10 miles offshore from Drake Bay; 7 miles from Corcovado National Park
  • Area: 6,669 maritime acres and 496 land acres
  • Height: 123 meters above sea level
  • Protected status: Biological Reserve
  • Tourist facilities: none other than a basic ranger station; no restaurant or restrooms
  • What to bring: hat, plenty of high SPF sunscreen, T-shirt, towel, dry change of clothes, and camera. Remember to re-apply sunscreen even on overcast days. Read the rest of this entry »

When in Costa Rica, do as the locals do

July 8th, 2015

You know the old adage, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” If you’re traveling in Costa Rica, why not embrace a few local customs and do as the Ticos do… Try the simple but surprisingly delicious cuisine, practice a few words of Spanish and don’t be afraid to let loose and celebrate the Pura Vida that makes this country so unique!

Traditional Costa Rica food

More About Costa Rica Culture Here

On your Costa Rica vacation, be sure to:

  • Eat like a local – there’s no better access to local culture than through its food! Wherever your travels take you, be sure to try a plate of the the day at your local “soda,” which offers mouthwatering specials like black bean soup, chicken with rice and fresh ceviche. The eats are tasty and you’ll be supporting family-run establishments in the process! Read the rest of this entry »

5 Classic Arenal Adventures

May 22nd, 2015

The adventure town of Arenal aims to please with no shortage of opportunities to get your heart racing. When you’re not rocketing above the treetops or plunging into the depths of a 5 million year-old cavern, you can bask under the grandeur of its near-perfect volcano, which occasionally comes to life with deep rumbles and spurts.  Arenal has been a bit sleepy for the past five years, but was once one of the world’s most active volcanoes. Tourism in the region hasn’t been diminished by this recent slumber, as travelers continue to enjoy a host of unique outdoor adventures. Be sure to give these a try during your next Costa Rica vacation!

Arenal Volcano adventure activities including Canyoning

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Canyoneering

Also known as canyoning or rainforest rappelling, this sport is somewhat unique to Arenal. Ready yourself for the journey of a lifetime as you rappel down 200-foot waterfalls with the aid of skilled guides. Ideal for adventurous travelers ages 6 and up, this tour takes you to remote rainforest canyons tucked away in the outskirts of Arenal. Read the rest of this entry »

5 Best Apps for Your Costa Rica Vacation

March 27th, 2015

Even if this is your second vacation to the sun-kissed shores of Costa Rica, it’s always better to have practical info at your fingertips before you land and during your travels. From quick Spanish translations to instant flight alerts, these popular travel apps are your new best friend!  Read about our top five recommendations for your smart phones.

Travel Apps For Your Costa Rica Vacation

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FlightTrack Pro

FlightTrack Pro has garnered tons of praise for its user-friendly interface that lets you manage international flights, with updates in real time of delays and cancellations. The app has nifty maps and tracks more than 1,300 different airlines across thousands of airports.  Even better, the app boasts terminal maps, flight alerts and lets you know about any weather-related delays. FlightTrack Pro costs $9.99 and is compatible with Androids, Blackberries and iPhones/iPads. Read the rest of this entry »





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