If you appreciate exotic wildlife and stunning landscapes, Costa Rica is location that will surely interest you. Larry Kimball and Barbara Magnuson, a married couple that has been working together for more than 25 years, have spent a great deal of time in Costa Rica, and have even written a book on the plants of the country. They have graciously agreed to share their thoughts and experiences of Costa Rica, along with their photos, for Loaded Landscapes readers. All of the text and photos below are from Barbara and Larry.
Travels in Costa Rica
After a hiatus of about 12 years we felt that it was time to return to Costa Rica. We had spent a good deal of time traveling around in the country starting back in 1990. By 1992 we started on a project that, after 14 years, became the book “A Field Guide to the Plants of Costa Rica”. We needed to see if the magic of CR was still there for us so we headed back down a couple years ago. We knew that much had changed over the years but we didn’t have any real idea how considerable that change was.
Some places seem timeless. Things change but at a pace that seems reasonable, maybe in ways that aren’t noticeable, and then… Of course 2 million tourists a year are going to transform any place, particularly a small country that had an economy based on agriculture. Places on the tourist circuit have changed and not always in good ways, still very nice but certainly not the “way it was”. Fortunately not every place in Costa Rica is on that circuit.
Circuit or not, you’ll not be disappointed by the photo opportunities available to you. From exotic insects to reptiles and amphibians in every color of the rainbow; from small rodents to howler monkeys, tapirs or even jaguars; from gorgeous beaches on two coasts with awe-inspiring sunrises and sunsets to active and extinct volcanoes; from lowland dry and wet rainforests to misty cloud forests and high mountain paramo (alpine vegetation); all in a diverse landscape with over 10,000 documented and undocumented species of plants in as many as 12 ecological zones and of course as many as 918 species of birds that attract avid bird watchers from all over the world; I guarantee you will not be without something to photograph. Costa Rica is a nature lovers paradise and no matter where you choose to go, there are national parks, refuges and research stations to take it all in.
Planning a Trip to Costa Rica
The best way to plan a trip to Costa Rica is to decide first what it is that interests you and then educate yourself on all the options with any number of good travel guide books that are available. Tours are an easy way to join others in your quest but if you like to explore on your own, you can easily reserve and rent a car or four-wheel drive online or in country and pick a direction. Dependent on where you want to go most paved highways are fine between your major cities but should you venture off the beaten path, the rainy season can render dirt roads impassable. In all the years we traveled in Costa Rica, we have always had a 4 x 4 but as plant trackers and wildlife photographers it just made sense.
Some of our favorite places, and there are many, are Arenal Volcano National Park, one of the most well known active volcanoes; Volcan Irazu or Poas near San Jose also more visited, any of the lesser known like Volcan Tenorio near Bijagua and further to the west in Guanacaste Province, Rincon de la Vieja National Park. Monte Verde Cloud Forest, Pacific Coast Manuel Antonio National Park and on the northeast Caribbean Coast Tortuguero National Parks are on the tourist circuit but they are each well worth a visit for their diversity and abundant wildlife. There are 26 national parks with another in the works and numerous wildlife refuges and sanctuaries in a country no larger than West Virginia. Travel further away from San Jose, the capital city and you’ll find fewer tourists and the larger national parks of Corcovado on the Osa Peninsul and La Amistad which straddles the Panamanian border making an international park.
As you may have guessed by now, we still love Costa Rica. The people are as friendly as ever and they have made a serious effort to preserve their environment and its wildlife through setting aside as much land as possible and using tourism to its advantage.
Connect with Barbara and Larry
If you would like to see more photos from Barbara and Larry or get in touch with them, please visit their website. They are based in Colorado and their portfolio includes a great variety of landscape and wildlife photos.
Many more photos from Costa Rica are below.
All photos are © Larry Kimball and Barbara Magnuson, used with permission.