“Chris was the perfect trip leader. His knowledge of the country and its history is vast and he enthusiastically wanted to share it with us along with his years of experience as a photographer… He’s talented, interesting, accessible, and fun to travel with. Plus, he really did seem to care about each of us — if we were okay, getting good images, too tired, too hot, etc. I would certainly travel with him again. He certainly kept up the high standards of a Jim Cline Photo Tour.” – Judy B., Colombia 2018
On this trip we will experience some of the finest photo destinations that Costa Rica has to offer. Christopher P. Baker has been writing about and photographing this diverse country for almost 30 years—including the National Geographic Traveler Costa Rica and Moon Costa Rica guidebooks, plus stories for publications from National Geographic Traveler to airline in-flights. He knows every part of the country like the back of his hand.
Since Costa Rica is known above all for its ecological diversity, and as a nature-lover’s paradise par excellence, he’s selected a variety of environments that maximize the best locations for photographing the stunning landscape and wildlife. But he’s also keen to show you Costa Rica’s hidden traditional culture with venues and opportunities to capture slice-of-life images that few visitors ever experience.
TOUR DATES: APRIL 22-MAY 3, 2020 (plus optional 3-day extension)
ITINERARY (SUBJECT TO CHANGE):
We’ll meet at the Hotel Bougainvillea, a lovely property set amid lush gardens in Santo Domingo de Heredia, surrounded by coffee fields on the outskirts of San José. A shuttle runs to and from the capital for early arrivers who may wish to explore downtown San José. We’ll meet this evening for dinner and spend the night away from the noisy bustle of the city.
We’ll journey this morning to Santa Bárbara de Heredia and Finca Rosa Blanca, an organic coffee plantation where we’ll learn first-hand about traditional coffee production, cupping, etc. The setting is lovely, and we may get to meet with the finca owner, Glenn Jampol—a close friend of Christopher’s—and perhaps even visit the finca’s photogenic boutique hotel. Then we head east to Sibú Chocolate, an artisanal chocolate producer and café where we’ll lunch, followed by, a fascinating presentation about chocolate culture. We overnight at the exquisite Hotel Bougainvillea, in Santo Domingo.
A short distance north of our hotel, the community of Barva is one of the most historic towns in the highlands, famous also for its huge mascaras (masks). We’ll visit the basilica then photograph at a mask-making workshop. We then wind through the coffee fields westward to Sarchí, Costa Rica’s premier artisan center. Here we’ll photograph at the only taller (workshop) still making Costa Rica’s iconic painted carretas (ox-carts), which it does in the traditional manner, powered by a giant waterwheel. We overnight amid coffee fields in the highlands near Llano Bonito.
After visiting a local farm we go further into the mountains to Zarcero, with an impressive setting and a famous plaza adorned with fantastical topiary. Then we’ll head sharply down into the Northern Lowlands to La Fortuna, an agricultural town and adventure center with Arenal Volcano as a sensational backdrop. We’ll enjoy a superb view of the volcano from the Arenal Observatory Lodge, on the slopes of an extinct volcano overlooking Arenal. The Lodge will be our home for the next two nights.
This morning we’ll explore along the trails around our hotel, with countless opportunities to photograph birds, butterflies and, hopefully, mammals such as capuchin monkeys, sloths, and coatis. Your afternoon will be at leisure: a chance to relax, further explore the grounds, or to partake in the many activities available locally. This evening we’ll descend to a local hot spring to soak in thermal waters. We’ll spend the night at Arenal Observatory Lodge.
Today we venture around the superbly scenic north shore of Lake Arenal and descend to Guanacaste. This dry lowland region (once part of Nicaragua) is quintessential cattle country and we’ll find time to visit a working cattle farm to photograph. After lunch overlooking the Corobici River (popular for whitewater rafting), we’ll stop in Liberia to photograph the historic colonial quarter before continuing to Guaitíl. The tranquil village is famous as a center for Chorotega ceramics, providing opportunities to photograph every stage of production. We overnight at Rancho Humo, in the heart of the Tempisque wetlands.
We’ll dedicate today to exploring the wetlands—a superb birding venue, where we have a strong likelihood of seeing roseate spoonbills and jabiru storks close up—and the shoreline of Palo Verde National Park on a boat tour, accompanied by a naturalist guide. Keep your camera at the read for crocodiles and all manner of other wildlife. We’ll spend tonight at Rancho Humo, Guanacasta.
This morning we pass through the village of Las Juntas de Abangares and climb back into the Meseta Central. We’ll take advantage of any opportunities to photograph as we meander past dairy farms to reach Monteverde. Founded by U.S. Quakers in the 1950s, this world-famous mountain community, and its sister community of Santa Elena, is the gateway to several cloud forest reserves and is today a center for adventure activities. We’ll have the afternoon free to explore the community at leisure. We’ll spend the night at Poco a Poco Hotel, in Santa Elena.
Up early this morning to explore Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve at the peak hour for birding. We have a very good chance of photographing the Resplendent quetzal—an unforgettable treat! The trails also offer opportunities to focus up close on insects, plus orchids and other flora. We’ll also visit the Hummingbird Gallery, named for the many hummingbirds drawn to the feeders. The afternoon is again free for you to relax, or take advantage of the many venues (from a Serpentarium to The Bat Jungle) and activities (from horseback riding to ziplines). We’ll spend the night at Poco a Poco Hotel, in Santa Elena.
After breakfast, we’ll drive via Atenas and La Garita and the old carreta route (followed in olden days by carts hauling coffee beans to the Pacific port of Puntarenas). We’ll break to photograph at the Botanical Orchid Garden. Following lunch, we’ll continue to our hotel, at the base of Poás Volcano. We’ll spend the night at Villa San Ignacio, El Cacao, Alajuela.
We’ll rise early to take advantage of the best weather conditions as we drive up the mountain to Poás Volcano National Park, where we hope to photograph the massive crater from the viewing platform (NOTE: The park frequently closes due to volcanic activity.) We’ll also hike amid a photogenic dwarf forest, plus enjoy the spectacular scenery as we descend again past strawberry and dairy farms. This afternoon is at leisure, with an option to visit downtown San José. We’ll enjoy a farewell dinner and image sharing, then spend the night at Villa San Ignacio, El Cacao, Alajuela.
We’ll transfer to the airport for your flights home.
Optional extension to Tortuguero National Park (additional charge):
Morning flight from San José to Tortuguero. Transfer to Tortuga Lodge. This afternoon enjoy a boat tour of Tortuguero National Park. Wildlife you can expect to see includes sloths, howlers monkeys, spider monkeys, neotropic otters, toucans, plus caimans and crocodiles.
Early morning wilderness tour in the lagoons and canals of Tortuguero. In the afternoon explore Tortuguero village and spend the remainder of the day relaxing by the pool. Tonight, conditions permitting, visit the beach to view Green turtles nesting.
Transfer by boat and bus to San José and overnight at Hotel Grano de Oro.
Return home today..