Anyone been to Cosa Rica?

Started Jan 12, 2013 | Discussions
JiminDenver
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Anyone been to Cosa Rica?
Jan 12, 2013

We need a break from the cold and have decided to taker a trip to Costa Rica and stay a week at the La Foresta Nature resort situated in side of the Manuel Antonio National Park. It looks as there will be many bugs, birds and other critters to shoot, so I might even have something for the WCU when I get back.

http://laforestanatureresort.com/

Has anyone been to the area and have advce? I know the humidty was so bad for the few hours we were in Panama that I couldn't get a shot off.

My gear will be as follows

E5, E 3, 50-200, 7-14, 50mm, 35mm, EC 20, EC 1.4, ring flash, FRF and a FL50r and a mono pod. I'm still considering the 12-60 and FE but have to watch the weight as my 50 year old back doesn't exactly like long periods of stress and other things have to go in the back pack like chargers, batteries, a netbook, etc.

Any advice as to safety, renting a car/ GPS, shooting at night in the rain forest, whatever will be appreciated.

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Craig from Nevada
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Re: Anyone been to Cosa Rica?
In reply to JiminDenver, Jan 12, 2013

I have been to Costa Rica a couple of dozen times (my wife is Costa Rican)  I have been to Manuel Antonio, but not to the place you are staying.

Loose,comfortable clothes, hat, sun screen and bug repellent.  It will be humid compared to Denver, but, it tends to be a bit drier and warmer at this time of the year, compared to say November.  Rain, should not be a problem, but bring a pancho anyway.  I prefer closed toed shoes to the sandals or opened toed tevas.  Bring band aids and neosporin.  Latin America can be tough on gringos.

In terms of currency, the Colone is the currency but the dollar works just fine.  The dollar is widely accepted and people gladly accept it from the smallest shops to the supermarkets such as Automercado. In the more rural areas, this may not hold true.

A car rental is a mixed bag. A car brings flexibility.  It is expensive.  Car rental agencies look at every dent and ding.  You will be charged and the deductible is very high.

A car is a ball and chain in the San Jose area or any urban area.  Driving is a pain.  Streets and highways are congested.  Parking is tough and vandalism is common.  Once you get out of town it gets easier.  Street crime is common in the big cities but rare in rural areas.  A GPS is really helpful.

Toursit shuttles and trips are available and competitively priced.  A shuttle from the airport in San Jose is costly, but so is the car rental.

The natives are friendly and gracious. In the tourist areas, such as Manuel Antonio, English is widely spoken.   Most of the people you will come in contract with in the Quepos area will not be Costa Ricans but tourists. Lots of Canadians and German. I would not be surprised if the place you are staying is owned by an ex-pat.   The area is rural, but do not be lulled into a false sense of safety.  Use the same sense you would use in the US and you will be fine.

As is the case in Denver, altitude is everything in Costa Rica. The flora and fauna is very specific to where you are in altittude and whether you are windward or leeward.  It tends to be very accessible in terms effort to reward.  There should be a pretty good selection of life around the lodge.  You will need to change altitude to see more diversity.

Enjoy your trip.

Pura Vida.

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Craig from Nevada
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Re: Anyone been to Cosa Rica?
In reply to Craig from Nevada, Jan 12, 2013

If I were going to Manuel Antonio--I would take my E-5, 12-60mm, 50mm, 50-200mm with the EC-14, a flash and mono/tripod.  I would pick up a cheap rain cover--just in case of a downpour.

The EC-20, 7-14mm and E-3 would stay home.

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dave gaines
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Travelling to Cosa Rica?
In reply to JiminDenver, Jan 12, 2013

Ask Tim Davis, aka Timskiis. He's been to Costa Rica with his Olympus gear. I got an email from him last week. He's still lurking around the forum. He's posted in the last month. Do a search and send him an email or PM. Or PM me with your email and I'll connect you two.

As for humidity and lens fog, you have to be carefull about getting your camera cool in an air conditioned room and then taking it out into the warm tropical air. Try putting it in a plastic zip lock bag or tight plastic box until it warms up. Use something that allows it to warm up without getting damp. Once it's at the ambient temp you can take it out.

Security in Costa Rica is an issue. Don't show off your camera gear. Use an old backpack or beat up trunk to carry it around in. A Pelican box is great for protecting it from moisture and damage. But disguise it with stickers or something to make it look old?Try packing the accessories that won't be stolen in your checked bag. There's less to carry and you can fit all the expensive lenses into your carry on.

Have fun.

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Stefan Kaben
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Re: Anyone been to Cosa Rica?
In reply to Craig from Nevada, Jan 12, 2013

Craig from Nevada wrote:

If I were going to Manuel Antonio--I would take my E-5, 12-60mm, 50mm, 50-200mm with the EC-14, a flash and mono/tripod. I would pick up a cheap rain cover--just in case of a downpour.

The EC-20, 7-14mm and E-3 would stay home.

I agree that the 12-60 will probably serve you better than the 7-14.

My 2 cents.

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JiminDenver
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Re: Anyone been to Cosa Rica?
In reply to Craig from Nevada, Jan 12, 2013

Great post Craig, thank you.

I think I need to change some of the plans that I can. Honey just pointed at a web site and I got to make it happen. No mention of the fact that it takes 2-4 hours to get from the airport to resort. We went all over the Yucatan with nothing more than a map I couldn't read so I figured I could do it there with a GPS. Now I think it'll be better to spend a night on each end in San Jose and arrange travel. At least we would travel during the day and see things.

Thank you also for the gear recommendations. I didn't even think of a poncho. We saw lots of rain but have usually had heavy coats on at the time.

I know I carry a lot of gear but there is usually not much time to change lenses and if I've been on my feet for very long, I'm too tired to take off the pack and change the lens anyways. I will have the E 5 with the long set up and the E 3 will have either the 7-14 or more importantly macro. I just can't go there and leave that gear home. The 35mm, FL 20 and ring of foam doesn't add much to the bag , the results however make for a very happy bug whisperer. Most of the time I can carry the two cameras and not the bag.

I may have more questions as I research and prepare. I have a whole two weeks! lol

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JiminDenver
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Re: Travelling to Cosa Rica?
In reply to dave gaines, Jan 12, 2013

Thanks Dave

I'll send you a PM.

I've used the bags to get the gear from the house to the butterfly pavilion in freezing weather. Sounds like they will help there too. My poor back pack has been abused in so many ways and places that it looks pretty beat up by now.

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JiminDenver
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Re: Anyone been to Cosa Rica?
In reply to Stefan Kaben, Jan 12, 2013

I may add the 12-60, it certainly has it's place. Usually as a walk around I prefer the 7-14 or the 11-22 as I'm always on the wide end of things and love that perspective. (you know ...up close and personal )

It's on trips like this that I can see the value in the micro system.

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Craig from Nevada
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Re: Anyone been to Cosa Rica?
In reply to JiminDenver, Jan 12, 2013

JiminDenver wrote:

Great post Craig, thank you.

I think I need to change some of the plans that I can. Honey just pointed at a web site and I got to make it happen. No mention of the fact that it takes 2-4 hours to get from the airport to resort. We went all over the Yucatan with nothing more than a map I couldn't read so I figured I could do it there with a GPS. Now I think it'll be better to spend a night on each end in San Jose and arrange travel. At least we would travel during the day and see things.

Thank you also for the gear recommendations. I didn't even think of a poncho. We saw lots of rain but have usually had heavy coats on at the time.

I know I carry a lot of gear but there is usually not much time to change lenses and if I've been on my feet for very long, I'm too tired to take off the pack and change the lens anyways. I will have the E 5 with the long set up and the E 3 will have either the 7-14 or more importantly macro. I just can't go there and leave that gear home. The 35mm, FL 20 and ring of foam doesn't add much to the bag , the results however make for a very happy bug whisperer. Most of the time I can carry the two cameras and not the bag.

I may have more questions as I research and prepare. I have a whole two weeks! lol

JimB
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San Jose is in the middle of the country but not centrally located for many tourists.  There isn't much to see in San Jose, except my in-laws.  Other than that most everything is a few hours away.  Spending a night each way in San Jose is okay--but mandatory the last night as travel can be dicey at times.

Galleria Nemu--a block or two from the Holiday Inn  in San Jose, has the best shopping for crafts and gifts--not cheap but your get what you pay for.  Don't stay at the Holiday Inn.  There are better choices at some smaller places.

San Jose is your typical Latin American city, crowded, ugly and congested, but the climate is superb--3000 ft above sea level and a constant breeze. Tenps go down to about 60 at night a rarely rise above 80 during the day.

Note--as is common in Latin American cities, street names and numbers are rarely used in San Jose. Everything is some place name or landmark. GPS software can guide you, but don't stop and ask for directions unless you speak Spanish and know the landmarks.

If you want to see some nature--fly into San Jose and connect  down the the Osa Peninsula--the most remote and wild part of the country.  stay at a place called Bosque del Cabo.

Lots of people fly into Liberia, Guanacaste Airport, rent a car and do the beaches, Arenal and Monteverde.  Liberia is about 7 or 8 hours west of San Jose.  You can spend a week doing this productively.  Flights into LIR are availabile from gateways in Houston, LA, Miami, and Atlanta.

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JiminDenver
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Re: Anyone been to Cosa Rica?
In reply to Craig from Nevada, Jan 14, 2013

So the resort changed our check in and out days with out a fee but to change the flights to come back 2 days later was a $300 fee. Oh well, what started out being a restful easy trip using miles and a time share swap has turned into a money pit. Those bugs better be worth it. lol

I'm still looking for a reasonable hotel near the airport in San Jose. We don't get in until 7:30 pm and leave a week later at 7:30 am so there wont be much time to see much.  Even a clean hostel like we did on the way down to Galapagos would do. What is it about these places that always take two days to get there?

Renting a car in San Jose is looking less and less appealing. I'd be the driver and it would be nice to have the freedom to stop on the way down now that we have most of the day, it's also a pretty stressful way to start a vacation. A flight is faster if not pricy, I'm just worried about luggage restrictions. So maybe arrange for transport to the lodge and rent a car once we are there.

Yeesh, at this rate I may even have it set up by the time we leave. lol

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Craig from Nevada
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Re: Anyone been to Cosa Rica?
In reply to JiminDenver, Jan 15, 2013

http://www.bergerachotel.com/

This place is a little out of your way--figure 45 or 50 minutes from the airport in the suburb of Los Yoses.

Excellent service.  They will get you where you need to go safely.  Good place to have dinner.

If you do a domestic flight be sure to make sure which airport you are departing from.

If you are flying on Nature Air, they do not use the main airport, but a small airport located to the southeast of town.  Nature Air flies to Quepos.

If you are flying Sansa, they fly from Juan Santamaria--the main airport is northwest of San Jose.

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Craig from Nevada
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Re: Anyone been to Cosa Rica?
In reply to JiminDenver, Jan 15, 2013

JiminDenver wrote:

What is it about these places that always take two days to get there?

I always take a night flight from Reno to Houston and then a morning flight from Houston to Costa Rica

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Craig from Nevada
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Re: Anyone been to Cosa Rica?
In reply to JiminDenver, Jan 15, 2013

Hotel Don Carlos in the city isn't a bad choice.  Safe, secure and a decent ride from the airport.

It is on a quiet street.

There are some choices near the airport--the usual chain hotels you would find at airports here.

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Timskis6
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Sent you an email, too
In reply to JiminDenver, Jan 15, 2013

Hi Jim - just sent you an email (thanks Dave!).  Hopefully it helps!

A couple of points I didn't address in the email is regarding photography (conditions, technique, etc.).

I used the E-3 and 150/2 + EC20 for the majority of my wildlife photography.  I used fill flash (FL-50R) in both TTL (when possible) and FP-TTL when 1/250s wasn't possible.  My preference for flash use on this trip was to shoot based around the sync speed - 1/250s - and modify settings from there.  Inside the rainforest the lighting varies quite significantly (5 stops or more) and it's necessary to change flash settings for just about every shot.  I shot at 1/250s and adjusted the ISO and/or aperture to match the guide number (subject distance).

When 1/250s wasn't possible due to ambient lighting, I switched to FP-TTL and ISO100 and hoped for the best.  For most of my photography I found that anything faster than 1/1000s and I wasn't able to use fill effectively with FP-TTL.  YMMV.

Animals are most active (present) in the very early early morning.  If you're shooting mostly animals, expect to wake up before dawn, meet your guide, and arrive at the location right after dawn for the most animal activity.  Rare birds and monkeys fall into this category.  Many monkeys and sloths can be seen at all times of the day.

In some national parks they "don't allow you to use flash," though in my experience you just keep your flash in your pocket and put it on once you've started your rainforest walk.  They claim it harms the animal's eyes, well, it doesn't unless you're shooting at 1/1 power at 5ft.  Considering most of the animals are barely seen at 300mm, any flash power you choose is not going to do them harm.

Cheers,

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JiminDenver
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In reply to Timskis6, Jan 15, 2013

Tim
Thank you so much for the reply and email. The info is really appreciated. And if you ummm want to let me "borrow" your 150 f2 for the trip...... lol
I think we will be sticking around the Quepos area this time. Possible stop a few places if we were to rent a car and drive down but that's all. We put 1200 miles on a rental in the Yucatan in six days and most of the time I felt too rushed to stop and take a shot when I saw something besides planned stops. I think what you did in two weeks in Panama and Costa Rica might just kill us. lol
I wondered about flash in the forest. I've had guides look at my set up with the FL50r and insist I couldn't use it. Of course every other person with a P&S will use flash the rest of the day. I have found auto ISO very useful at times in changing light.
I get up at dawn daily so that's not a issue for me. I did tell Honey if sleeping in is preferred, you can find me in the forest when you wake up. Bugs, birds and wildlife is always best in the morning.

Talk to you more in the email.

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JiminDenver
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Re: Anyone been to Cosa Rica?
In reply to Craig from Nevada, Jan 15, 2013

I'll check into the Hotel Don Carlos, the first place looks nice but too far away for the short time I'll be there.

I'll call on the air lines and rentals today and decide. take off is only 10 day away now, great planner aren't I. lol

Thank you for all the help.

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Craig from Nevada
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In reply to JiminDenver, Jan 15, 2013

Enjoy your trip.

I am looking forward to you posting some pics.

BTW--weight restrictions on Sansa and Nature Air is 26lbs.

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Barr1e
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Re: Anyone been to Cosa Rica?
In reply to JiminDenver, Jan 16, 2013

Hi Jim -

I haven't, but I've missed you over on ft-u.

Have a great trip and warm those bones up.

Kindest regards and a Happy New Year.

Barrie (Barr1e)

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SirSeth
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In reply to JiminDenver, Jan 17, 2013

I'm excited for you. I lived outside San Jose for a summer and more recently my wife and I traveled the Caribbean coast by bus and backpack just shy of Panama.

Here's what I have found.

1. Get out of San Jose as fast as you can. Watch your stuff very very closely in San Jose as that is where it's likely to get lifted. The people in Costa Rica are very pacifistic and violent crime is lower than most american cities, but I'm a country boy so I just get out of San Jose as soon as I can.

2. Lodging is pretty inexpensive. Our accommodations ranged from 12$ for a basic room (outdoor kitchen) to $75 for a really luxurious stay.

3. Travel is cheap and the bus system is on time and efficient. Buses go everywhere. We backpack, so taking buses was easy and cheap. It's was like $16 to travel across the country by bus. Most hops between towns were a couple bucks. I wouldn't want to rent a car because the driving there is dangerous compared to here. They drive pretty crazy and the mountain roads are intense. Definitely get a GPS if you rent a car though.

4. Costa Ricans are super nice people and they generally like Americans (surrounding countries are not quite as kind).

5. Getting into parks and hiring guides are some of the more expensive things we do down there, but it's all worth it. We travel very economically, so that's a matter of perspective.

The 50-200mm + TCs will be great. As will the 50mm and 7-14mm. I don't use flash down there as the lighting is good most times of day where I have been.

Have a great time!

Best,

Seth

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JiminDenver
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Re: Anyone been to Cosa Rica?
In reply to Barr1e, Jan 17, 2013

Barrie

It's great to see you my friend.

I am hoping my arm will be strong enough for normal shooting this trip and stronger next summer. Foe a while there I thought the hood falling on it was going to cost me things like bowling and photography but it's improving slowly.

I'll stop in and say hi to the gang.

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