Costa Rica is a photographer's dream. Brimming with vibrant colors, smiling animals, secluded beaches, lush waterfalls, dense jungle, and rich countryside, there is no shortage of inspiration. As my husband and I roam the land of rich coasts, we have captured some pure photo magic.
Costa Rica is a special place, as it has stunning beaches along the Pacific Ocean, as well as the Caribbean Sea. With over 800 miles of coastline, and over 300 unique beaches, there exists the perfect beach paradise for everyone. The beaches are one of the main reasons we moved to Costa Rica.
BEACHES OF COSTA RICA...
Playa Manzanillo (Caribbean Coast)
Playa Chiquita (Caribbean Coast)
Playa Matapalo (Guanacaste)
Costa Rica is packed with abundant wildlife, which is another reason we fell in love with this country. One of our favorite animals to see in the wild is a sloth.
SLOTHS OF COSTA RICA...
A baby two-toed sloth.
An adolescent three-toed sloth waving and smiling at us after we saved his life as he tried to cross a busy highway.
A three-toed sloth mother and her baby.
Costa Rica has an immense variety of exotic birds and will make a birdwatcher out of anyone. Since moving here we have become avid birders and dedicate most of our days to birdwatching.
BIRDS OF COSTA RICA...
A ribbon of pelicans.
A top destination for surfers, the beaches of Costa Rica are known for their intense wave breaks. We love sitting on the sand and watching the surfers read the ocean like a book, carving their own path through the powerful water.
SURFERS OF COSTA RICA...
A young surfer at Playa Pavones on the Osa Peninsula.
Two surfers sharing a wave at Playa Dominical.
A surfer surfing the famous Salsa Brava wave break in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, on the Caribbean side.
Two competing surfers at Playa Barrigona, on the Nicoya Peninsula.
A surfer at Playa Dominical.
Famous for it's diverse variety of wateraflls, Costa Rica does not disappoint in this category. We have enjoyed many of the spectacular waterfalls in this country, but still have a lot more left to visit.
WATERFALLS OF COSTA RICA...
Catarata Llanos de Cortes
Catarata El Pavone
A 300-foot waterfall near our home in Osa Mountain Village.
The monkeys of Costa Rica have gifted us hours of entertainment during our time here.
MONKEYS OF COSTA RICA...
A mom and baby howler monkey.
A tiny squirrel monkey flying through the trees in our yard.
A young spider monkey.
Two white-faced capuchin monkeys making jungle love. (Jeesh, get a room.)
Costa Rica is overflowing with all kinds of animals, besides monkeys, birds and sloths. We are always ready with our camera to capture a new species.
ANIMALS OF COSTA RICA...
A pizote (coatimundi).
A green and black poison dart frog.
A colorful insect.
Our miniature dachshund Sophie, aka dogia Sofia, aka The Sophinator, aka Crab Killa, is soaking up every second of her pura vida days while they last.
IT'S A DOGS LIFE IN COSTA RICA...
And to round off our photo tour, Costa Rica is famous for it's rich sunsets over the ocean, layering the Earth below in a radiant hue of blinding colors. And no two sunsets are alike.
SUNSETS OF COSTA RICA...
Sunset at Playa Carrillo.
Sunset from our balcony.
Sunset at Playa Ventanas.
Sunset over Playa Uvita: the famous Whale's Tail beach.
Sunset from our balcony.
Pelicans flying into the sunset at Playa Samara.
My husband Andy and I, at sunset, on our favorite Costa Rican beach: Playa Carrillo.
After a night of rain beating furiously down on our roof, we awaken to a new world. The power of the rain is a force to be dealt with, the water has carved new paths into the sodden Earth. The torrential downpour has washed away old patterns, replacing them anew.
“What is the scent of water? Renewal. The goodness of God coming down like dew.” ~ Elizabeth Goudge
Dawn shines on a different world today. Everything is changed. The rain has cleared out the old, stagnant energy that lingered and suffocated. What was before, is now gone. What never was, now is. The world is starting over, painting a new beginning. The rain is cleansing. It washes away the past while making room for the future.
Can you feel it? The change? The change that comes with the rain?
The Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica averages between 200-300 inches of rain per year. (To help you put that number into perspective, Seattle is known as one of the rainiest cities, but only averages 38 inches of rain per year.) But in Seattle it can be a constant drizzle, with no sign of the sun for days, or even weeks at a time.
Even during rainy season in Costa Rica, it is rare to have more than a day or two without sunshine. Most mornings start out sunny and clear, with the rain hitting in the afternoon/evening.
But the rain is different here. When you get caught in a downpour of sideways jungle rain, no umbrella or rain jacket will keep you dry. These extreme, powerful downpours can cause flash floods, landslides, swollen rivers, swift currents, and other hazards.
"There’s always a period of curious fear between the first sweet-smelling breeze and the time when the rain comes cracking down." ~Don DeLillo
My husband Andy and I are sitting on top of this mountain of jungle, watching the rain change the land before us, witnessing the jungle come down around us, one tree at a time. Out with the old, in with the new.
I know we must weather the storm, embrace the new, bend flexibly into the breeze of change. But it was a sad day for us when one of our favorite bird watching trees took it's last breath, fell, and crumbled into the Earth, with a solemn sigh.
Two Scarlet macaws sharing our favorite tree with a Mealy parrot.
Two Black-mandibled toucans enjoying the tree.
Late one evening we were startled by a thundering boom, as a tree across the road from our house viciously uprooted itself, ripping its veins from the dirt, and toppling over in the ruthless downpour surrounding it. The eerie silence that followed seemed to honor the life of the tree. The heavy rain paused for a moment, acknowledging the sacrifice. The silence is followed by more ripping sounds, as another tree crashes to it's death. And another. And another.
Our walls begin to shake as the thundering sound builds with anger. The ground caves in and a landslide of mud, trees, and debris melt into a horrifying river of turmoil. A tsunami of jungle is rushing down the side of the mountain, toward us, and the sound is deafening. Fear floods my veins and my body goes numb with terror. After 30 never-ending seconds, the sound stops as suddenly as it began...our ninth life, in Costa Rica, spared.
We head outside at first light to examine the destruction. The landslide came to a stop at the bottom of the valley, just across the road from our house.
Hiking up the road, we photograph the sheer drop-off the landslide left behind.
The gaping hole where the trees used to stand now opens up to a stunning, panoramic ocean view. Clearing out the old, making room for the new.
I've never been good with change (says the girl who moved to Costa Rica without a plan). But the only constant in life is change. We must bend, or we will break. Change only means what was before wasn't meant for you. Learn to let things go, for the simple fact they are heavy. Change is inevitable, progress is optional.
Beneath the renewal of the rain, while surfing life's waves of change, we will find our new direction...
"Good night. I have said my prayer with the forest; stood to the dark and the rain; cast my voice on the storm. Though my body shall lie in heavy slumber, my petition has gone on, caught and carried in the surge of the trees, whirled in high vortex over the mountain, drifting in black mists through the fertile night. Acknowledged, answered, in the drip of the rain."
~Virginia Garland, "The Rain," Out West: A Magazine of the Old Pacific and the New, February 1908
Costa Rica is a country famous for it's abundant monkey population. Of 250 species of primates in the world, 68 of these species are located in the Americas, and there are four kinds of monkeys native to Costa Rica:
1) Mantled Howler Monkey
2) White-faced Capuchin Monkey
3) Central American Squirrel Monkey
4) Geoffroy's Spider Monkey
The Southern Pacific Zone is the only section of Costa Rica in which you can see all four monkey species in the wild. The only national park where all four species exist together is the Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula.
All of the Costa Rican monkeys are active during the day and live in the treetops. You can observe them munching on fruit, leaves and insects, and swinging between the trees using their prehensile tail like a fifth limb. My husband Andy and I have been lucky in our travels across Costa Rica, and we have witnessed all four monkey species in the wild.
1 - THE MANTLED HOWLER MONKEY
The booming roar of a howler monkey can be heard from over 3 miles away and is the reason this monkey was gifted it's name. Howling loudly at dusk and dawn, the males call to each other across the jungle, to claim their section and warn others away. Known for being the loudest land animal, the chilling sound of a howler monkey is startling and I will never forget the first time I heard it.
Here is a video I took of one howling:
Howler monkey howling in Samara, Costa Rica
Howlers are the 2nd largest monkey species in Costa Rica. Adult males average 16 pounds and adult females 12 pounds. Despite their booming howl and large size, they are known to be a gentle breed with a calm, peaceful nature about them.
Infants are silver to golden brown and in adulthood become black with brown or blonde saddles. Howler monkeys are sedentary foragers and live on a diet of plants and fruit.
*fun fact!*: the call of the howler monkey was used in Jurassic Park as the sound of the T-Rex.
2 - WHITE-FACED CAPUCHIN MONKEY
The white-faced capuchin monkey is the 2nd smallest monkey species in Costa Rica. Adult males average just over 8 pounds and females around 6. Known to be the most curious monkey, they will get down on low branches to carefully examine you as you photograph them. But watch out, they may throw a stick or two at you when you're not looking, as they are known to be one of the more aggressive monkey species.
Capuchin monkeys will eat absolutely anything and are notorious for robbing tourists. One friend of ours had her M & M's stolen from her purse, by a capuchin monkey, while she swam in the ocean. And another friend of ours was nearly attacked by one as he ran up her legs to grab her granola bar from her hand.
We have come across the capuchin monkeys quite a few times in the wild, but the most memorable experience was the time we stumbled onto some accidental white-faced monkey porn:
*fun fact!*: capuchin monkeys are thought to be the most intelligent monkey species in the world and have even been trained to assist paraplegics.
3 - CENTRAL AMERICAN SQUIRREL MONKEY
The smallest of the Costa Rican monkey species is the adorable squirrel monkey. They typically average around 1.5 pounds and are similar in size to a squirrel. These tiny guys will eat mostly anything but prefer insects. Very entertaining to watch, they fly through the trees and forage for food, while squeaking, chirping and playing amongst each other.
Here is an entertaining video I took of them flying through the trees in our yard:
Squirrel monkeys in Costa Rica: MONKEY CROSSING!
The squirrel monkey, aka the Titi monkey, is making a comeback after near extinction, and is no longer considered "endangered". As their population continues to grow they have been upgraded to "vulnerable" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
*fun fact!*: squirrel monkeys are known to have the largest brain to body mass ratio of all monkey species in the world.
4 - GEOFFROY'S SPIDER MONKEY
The spider monkey is the largest of the Costa Rican monkey species, averaging around 18 pounds. They are easily recognized by their long, slim arms and large size. A bit more elusive than the other monkey species, they are somewhat rare to spot in the wild.
The IUCN has rated the Geoffroy's Spider monkey as endangered. Spider monkeys are the first animal to vanish from an area once deforestation has occurred, as they require large, lush areas to reproduce. The presence of a spider monkey in a particular forest is a strong indicator of the success and health of that particular area.
*fun fact!*: spider monkeys do not have thumbs, they maneuver through the trees using only their prehensile tail and their arms.
But of all of our monkey sightings in Costa Rica, there is nothing quite like getting lost in the pure, innocent eyes of a baby monkey. Seeing a monkey baby is always my favorite experience.
How many monkey species did you see on your trip to Costa Rica? Which one is your favorite? Tell us in the comments!
Do you ever feel like there are guardian angels watching over you? Like they are invisibly floating above you, arranging parts of your life like a game of chess, pulling strings and making moves, to maneuver you into the right place at the exact right moment in time?
A recent series of mishaps and setbacks led up to the most epic, serendipitous moment of our Costa Rica experience. It began with our miniature dachshund Sophie becoming violently ill, projectile vomiting every hour until we took her to the vet. After checking her vitals and doing a blood test they still weren't sure what was wrong with her. The vet decided to hook her up to an IV, due to her severe dehydration, and keep her overnight for observation.
The next day the vet said she was feeling better and that we could pick her up that afternoon. We scheduled a departure time and in true "Tico time" fashion we were running behind schedule by over an hour. Finally we head to the car just as a worker shows up to work in our yard. He parked his motorcycle directly in front of our car, like the universe was deliberately shielding us from our intended departure, once again.
Finally we hit the road and as we are almost to the town of Uvita we notice a furry blob on the side of the road, as we speed by. My husband Andy decides to turn around to check on it, just incase it is an animal in need. We put on our hazard lights and pull up to an adorable, smiling sloth trying to slowly cross the busy Costanera Highway.
Many sloths die each year in Costa Rica when they are hit by vehicles. They are slow moving animals and if one tries to cross a busy road, the chances of it being hit are very high. 18-wheelers are barreling toward us in both directions, just as the sloth makes it from the side of the road, into the south-bound lane, directly into the line of traffic.
Andy stands there blocking him from moving further into the road, trying to nudge him in the opposite direction, as we signal to the truckers. One of the trucks slows down, honks his horn and gives us a double thumbs up. Everyone in Costa Rica supports the wildlife here, as it is a huge part of what makes this country so special.
Eventually we decide he needs to be carried away from the dangerous highway, just as he continues trying to cross the road and we see another truck barreling toward him. Andy makes an instant decision and delicately picks him up and carries him across the road.
It takes a real man to stop traffic to help a sloth safely cross a busy road. Here is a video I took of the heroic, touching sloth rescue:
Helping a sloth safely cross a busy road in Costa Rica
Spotting a section of trees off the highway, we decide he will be safest in that area. Andy picks him up again to make sure we leave him in the safest spot possible.
The friendly little guy shows us his appreciation with a happy wave and a smile. He brings tears to my eyes with his joyful spirit and genuine gratitude.
A heart-warming video of him smiling at us:
A sloth smiling at us from a tree after we saved his life on a busy highway in Costa Rica
If we had been even 60 seconds later, or earlier…I cringe to think of the results. It occurs to me in this moment that maybe Sophie took one for the sloth team and became violently ill to save an innocent sloth's life, and to give her parents the most epic, humbling, touching experience of their Costa Rican adventures so far.
Muchas gracias mi perro, dogia Sophia, who is now feeling much better. And thanks to my hero of a husband for being such a good, helping, compassionate person who always does the right thing. How many people can say they helped a sloth cross the road?
Kari Pinkerton Silcox
It would be a tragedy to die, having never really lived. Which is why my husband Andy and I quit our jobs, sold our house and decided to chase our dreams. We moved to Costa Rica without a plan, and this is the story of our adventure.