Pura Vida! Beautiful Photography From Costa Rica

Costa Rican Sunset
Amazing Photos from Costa Rica
Costa Rica Photography

Costa Rica is a vibrant country full of incredible natural beauty like waterfalls, jungles, volcanoes, and wildlife. It provides many opportunities for stunning photography!

After exploring Costa Rica during 4 trips over the past 7 years, she has seduced me with her charms. I secretly want to keep her all to myself… but that would be selfish!

So I’ve reluctantly decided to share her with you.

The photography opportunities in Costa Rica are fantastic, and once you see these photos you’ll know exactly why I fell in love with this fascinating Central American country.

From pristine cloud forests, remote beaches, exotic wildlife and giant volcanoes — Cost Rica is extremely diverse, with a little bit of everything for the adventurous traveler or photographer.

Below you’ll find travel photography from my adventures in Costa Rica, along with a short video. I hope my Costa Rica photography inspires you to visit this wonderful place. Pura Vida!

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Corcovado National Park Costa Rica
Sloth Hanging Out in the Trees

Corcovado National Park

Costa Rica’s largest park is also its most dazzling. In a country already overrun by lush greenery, the lowland tropical rain forests of Corcovado National Park is like the natural world turned up to eleven. National Geographic labelled the Osa Peninsula “the most biologically intense place on Earth in terms of biodiversity”.

While you used to be able to explore it without a guide, that’s no longer the case since 2014. The beaches are stunningly beautiful and remote, the forests rustle with life – and rivers churn with crocodiles, caimans and even sharks. Exploring this landscape is quite an adventure!

Bridge Monteverde Costa Rica
Canopy Bridge in Monteverde

Monteverde Cloud Forest

Monteverde (“Green Mountain”) is one of a number of cloud forests you can enjoy in Costa Rica. They’re eerie, foggy places (and near-permanently blanketed in cloud, hence the name), with every branch and trunk thickly carpeted in moss and constantly dripping with water.

You’ll find Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in the northwest of Costa Rica, along the edge of the Tilaran mountain chain, and it’s well worth a trip. Keep an eye open for a flash of the piercing blue-green plumage of the Queztal, a bird once revered as a god by the Aztecs.

Volcano Poas Costa Rica
Poas Volcano Crater Lake

Volcanoes Of Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s mountainsides are alive in more ways than one. Due to its position along the Ring Of Fire, the country is dotted with hundreds of extinct volcanoes – and a few that are very much active. The Central Volcanic Range is dominated by Poas (above), Barva, Irazu, and Turrialba.

Barva last erupted 8,000 years ago, Irazu in 1994, Turrialba in 2016 – and Poas is currently closed for visitors because it exploded in April 2017. So this whole landscape is still under construction — the Earth sure takes it’s time!

Crocodiles Rio Tarcoles Costa Rica
Crocodiles in the Tarcoles River

Massive Crocodiles

Nope, that’s not a log. Crocodiles are a common sight along the banks of Costa Rica’s coastal rivers, and croc attacks on humans do happen from time to time. One of the best (and safest) places to spot these prehistoric animals is from a bridge over the Tarcoles River.

However please resist the temptation to throw food to them – illegal crocodile feeding is cited as the main reason for crocs encroaching on human territory (or vice versa, depending on how you see things).

Coastline Corcovado Costa Rica
Playa Barigona in Guanacaste

Beautiful Beaches

If a country’s wealth is counted in beaches, Costa Rica is very well-named. Every tropical cliche is here – glowing golden-white sand, palm trees swaying in the sea breeze, warm azure water lapping at your ankles.

There’s Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean side, there’s Corcovado’s rugged Pacific shoreline, and there’s another 300 ridiculously beautiful beaches to explore on both sides of the country. Many of these beaches offer great surfing opportunities too! The remote beaches along Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula were some of my favorites.

Flowers in Costa Rica
Hibiscus Flower

Colorful Flora

There’s a reason this country has the highest percentage of protected areas in the world. They’re protecting 9000 species of flowering plants and 800 species of fern – more varieties and shades of color than can be found in the whole of the United States, in an area smaller than Kansas.

You’ll find the densest biodiversity in its six types of forest: tropical rainforest (more on that below), cloud forest (see Monteverde, above), tropical dry forest, mangroves, riparian (hugging the banks of waterways) and lowland rainforests, where Costa Rica’s tallest trees can be found.

Hammock Camping on a Beach
Hammock Camping in Costa Rica

Hiking & Camping

With all the stunning views on offer, you’d assume Costa Rica is a great place to camp and hike, and you’d be right – with a few caveats. Don’t expect to be able to turn up and camp anywhere, as many protected beaches often regulate or simply prohibit camping. The same goes for off-trail walking.

Planning ahead and relying on local advice is a must. Beyond that, be prepared for all weather conditions including torrential rain, particularly if you’re arriving in the winter months. As you can see, I went for the “keep off the ground” option – always a good move to avoid jungle creatures who like to crawl (or slither) down there…

Monteverde Cloud Forest Costa Rica
Mysterious Cloud Forest Atmosphere

Tropical Rain Forests

These aren’t like forests you’ve ever seen. The combination of extremely tall trees and year-round heavy rainfall and/or cloud cover means that Costa Rica’s rainforests provide an unbroken protective canopy for birds, animals and plants that don’t require a lot of sunlight.

Worldwide, tropical rainforests contain over two-thirds of animal & plant species on the planet – and over 4% can be found right here in Costa Rica. Take a walking guide when you go – not just to avoid getting lost, but because he or she will explain what you’re looking at, so you don’t miss a single marvelous thing.

Tiger Heron Costa Rica
Tiger Heron Showing Off its Stripes

Bird Watching Paradise

Hummingbirds flit from flower to flower, even in the urbanized Central Valley. Seventeen species of parrot, including the dazzling Scarlet Macaw, chatter from the topmost branches. Long-legged herons and shearwaters stalk the shoreline.

There are over 900 species of bird in Costa Rica (as much as in the entire United States) – and a lot of the tourist industry is geared up for both casual and serious birdwatching. Your best bet is the Osa Peninsula, home of the Corcovado National Park, which contains 350 varieties alone.

Bairds Tapir Corcovado Costa Rica
Bairds Tapir in the Jungle

Rare Jungle Creatures

Looking like low-budget cross between a pig and an elephant, the Baird’s Tapir (above) is a herbivore, and one of just five species of tapir in the world. Its trunk – more correctly its proboscis – is highly flexible, allowing it to grab low foliage and explore interesting smells high in the air.

It’s a weird-looking creature – but in this biodiversity-mad country, weirdness is the norm. From the self-explanatory Strawberry Poison Dart Frog to the gold silk threads of the Golden Orb Weaver, from apathetic sloths to mini-leopards called ocelots, Costa Rica definitely has its own rulebook for fauna. Expect the unexpected.

Rafting Pacuare River Costa Rica
Rafting the Pacuare River

Adventure Activities

I’m a huge fan of Costa Rica’s whitewater rafting – but it’s far from the only adventure travel activity on offer. In some of the National Parks you’ll find zip-lining (as part of canopy tours), calmer kayak or canoe trips, or even rapelling down cliffs & waterfalls.

Horseback riding is a great way to go sightseeing, both in the jungle or on the beaches. Costa Rica is well known for it’s great surfing, kitesurfing and windsurfing too. Underwater activities are also fantastic, with plenty of snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities. Cocos Island has some awesome hammerhead shark diving!

Poison Dart Frog Costa Rica
Strawberry Poison Dart Frog

Biodiverse Wildlife

If you’re the type to jot down every time you see a new animal or bird, you’re going to need a bigger notebook for Costa Rica. Much bigger. The wilds contain over 500,000 species, formed by geography – as part of the land-bridge between North America and South America, this is where the species of two worlds intermingled for millions of years.

This huge biodiversity is fueled by twelve very distinct climatic zones. It’s the research and development wing of the natural world – and most of the prototypes are still alive and well (yet threatened), making it the most biodiverse country on the planet.

Rio Celeste Costa Rica
Rio Celeste Waterfall

Magical Waterfalls

If you love beautiful waterfalls, Costa Rica is a waterfall hunter’s paradise. Some of my favorite are the towering 300 foot tall cascades of Bajos del Toro, and the unreal-looking turquoise blue pools at Rio Celeste Waterfall. The wet jungle landscapes provide the perfect backdrop for some epic waterfalls.

If you’re more adventurous, some even have rope swings and jumping platforms! Just make sure to ask (or watch) locals to ensure the pools below are deep enough to jump into. Shallow pools and strong currents can be a real danger at some waterfalls. ★

Watch Video: Costa Rica Road Trip


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(Click to watch Pura Vida Road Trip – Costa Rica on YouTube)

Travel Planning Resources for Costa Rica

Packing Guide

Check out my travel gear guide to help you start packing for your trip. Pick up a travel backpack, camera gear, and other useful travel accessories.

Book Your Flight

Book cheap flights on Skyscanner, my favorite airline search engine to find deals. Also read my tips for how I find the cheapest flights.

Rent A Car

Discover Car Hire is a great site for comparing car prices to find the best deal. They search both local & international rental companies.

Book Accommodation

Booking.com is my favorite hotel search engine. Or rent local apartments on Airbnb ($35 discount!). Read my post for tips on booking cheap hotels.

Protect Your Trip

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance.

Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Costa Rica
Suggested Reading: Monkeys Are Made Of Chocolate

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Amazing Photography From Costa Rica. More at ExpertVagabond.com

Do you want to travel to Costa Rica for photography? Do you have any questions? Drop me a message in the comments below!

THANKS FOR READING

Hi, I’m Matthew Karsten — I’ve been traveling around the world for the last 9 years as a blogger, photographer, and digital nomad. Adventure travel & photography are my passions. Let me inspire you to travel more with crazy stories, photography, and useful tips from my journey.
Matthew Karsten
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43 thoughts on “Pura Vida! Beautiful Photography From Costa Rica”

  1. If you are considering an extended vacation ( more than a month); how do you go about finding reasonably priced accomodations? Thx

  2. Great pictures! I agree! We have taken some stunning pictures all over Costa Rica. Too bad it’s such an expensive place to travel or we would have done more there. We loved the Osa Peninsula and took some of our favorite pictures there.

    • Osa was one of my favorite parts of Costa Rica too! The diversity of the wildlife there is awesome. So many animals! Great place for wildlife photography.

  3. I spent two weeks volunteering in Costa Rica last summer and it is the most vibrant country. A simply incredible country and these pictures really capture that. Love it.

  4. Hey, Matt. I know you’re using the 7Rii now, but what lens were using on this trip to snap the frog pic? I’m taking this trip in October and have an A7ii. Great blog, also.

  5. I fell in love with Costa Rica 10 years ago. So deeply my wife and I purchased property, built a house and are now living an working here. It’s wonderful! Pura vida!

  6. You’ve brought back good memories from a trip to Costa Rica years ago that included th Corcovado Peninsula. I’m going again on Saturday for 10 days – and am looking forward to exploring Rincon de la Vieja National Park and climbing a volcano. Wonderful, wonderful photos.

  7. I’ve never been to Costa RIca, but it is high on my bucket list. My husband and I have been traveling full-time for the past 6 years, and 3 of those years have been spent sailing the cost of Mexico in our boat. Costa Rica is so close — but there are some treacherous waters between here and there!!!

    • You can soak the hammock in Permethrin (or spray it on). Stays on for like 6 weeks. I’ve also used organic bug spray on the bottom. DEET can melt nylon though, so don’t use that.
      Usually I’ll sleep on a cotton sheet or with a light sleeping bag, which provides extra protection.

      • That’s a very good tip, I didn’t know about permethrin. Thanks, I’m going to do that for sure. The mosquito thing has been my only hammock annoyance.
        Happy Travels:)
        -calvin

  8. Such beautiful images, thank you for sharing them. I plan to go to Costa Rica soon and from what I have seen until now it seems to offer beautiful places whererver you go.

  9. Stunning photos! I went to Costa Rica earlier this year and only stayed for a few days, but I was seduced by her beauty as well. Love the shot of that volcano crater lake! It reminds me of the lake at the base of the towers at Torres del Paine in Chile, have you ever been? It’s got that same eerily beautiful quality.

  10. I love these photos — stunning! Maybe I need to move Costa Rica up a few notches on my to-visit list. As for the “Don’t even know what this is” image, I saw the same flower growing on a tree in Rio de Janeiro. Could it be that?

  11. I was looking through your post to try and find some ideas for our Costa Rica leg of our RTW trip. The picture of the Rio Celeste Waterfall looks amazing, is there a decent bus route to get over to the park to hike to the falls?

    You are braver than me camping in the jungle, I would worry I would wake up 10 of those purple bug and a frog or two.

    keep up the great stories!

  12. Those are some beautiful photos, I just cannot get past the expense of Costa Rica compared to Southern Nicaragua or Northern Panama.

  13. I love those poison dart frogs and saw some myself. Great shots and recognize a few of the places.

    How long did you camp in the jungle? That’s pretty bada$$.

  14. I have never considered Costa Rica as one of the main destinations that I have to visit when I set foot on Central America. But it has changed now. Thanks to your pictures, I am aching to go!

  15. Awesome pics. I love the red bridge one. I’m planning a trip to CR in January on as tight a budget as possible. Do you have any tips on saving money or know of any good articles on the subject? Any help would be much appreciated.
    P.S. I don’t mind camping/roughin’ it.

    • Hi Garrett. For general advice, just use the bus system to get around, stay at little family guest houses, and eat street food. Remember that you don’t always need to pay for guides/tours, walking around on your own works great.
      Camping helps too. I averaged about $32 a day for the month I was there.
      Maybe my trip-report will help you out: https://expertvagabond.com/costa-rica-travel-budget/

  16. Great photos! The tapir is my favorite, I am dying to see one! Where did you see that one – on the Osa peninsula? We had such a great time here in 2011 that we returned for a housesit that was offered to us – the wildlife is just spectacular … haven’t been anywhere else where there is so much wildlife like in Costa Rica.

    • Hi Dani! Yeah, I found him at Corcovado. Came crashing through the trees as the sun was going down. He began munching on leaves at the edge of the beach. Scared the crap out of me at first. They are huge!

  17. I’m partial to the coati, but in truth all of your images paint a gorgeous picture of Costa Rica. You captured CR very well and saw so much more than I did many years ago that it makes me want to go back! :)