A Night at Parque Del Lago, San Jose, Costa Rica - May 9, 2017

Upon my recent arrival at the San Jose airport, I had the privilege of staying at the lovely Parque del Lago; a beautiful European style hotel with excellent Costa Rican hospitality. It is perfect for the business traveler or anyone wanting to stay close to the city. Parque del Lago is great choice for that first night of arrival or last night prior to departure. Just minutes from Teatro Nacional, Museo Nacional and the Gold Museum, there is a great variety of culture to discover in San Jose.

The feeling upon entering Parque del Lago is that of visiting a friend. The staff are extremely welcoming. The hotel feels safe, secure whilst retaining an artistic elegance.

Parque del Lago has several different room categories; 30 Standard Rooms with one King bed or two Queen beds.
6 connecting, Superior Rooms with one Queen bed and kitchenette, and 3 Junior Suites with a King bed, sofa and kitchenette.

All rooms are finished in dark woods and offer clean white duvets and marble showers. As an extra bonus, magnifying mirrors and extra large closets are provided.

The Restaurant, Iconos, serves a beautiful complimentary buffet breakfast from 6 am to 10 am for their hotel guests, a Business Lunch from 12 – 2 pm and enticing Dinners until 10 pm. The desserts are to rave about and the bar is very warm and comfortable.

Parque del Lago has a Conference Room available to guests as well as non guests for business meetings of up to 70 people. Coffee service and meals can be provided making your meetings complete and efficient offering a great location for people coming from all areas of the city.

There are 4 complimentary bikes available for exploring the city. Teatro de Nacional is fifteen minutes away and Central Market just ten.  La Sabana, one of the largest parks in the centre of San Jose is just a few mins walk away as well as being close to some great restaurants and bars.  International calls, Wi-Fi and parking are all complimentary.

Parque del Lago is great value for such a warm and inviting hotel in the centre of San Jose.

Macaws! The Endangered Great Green Macaw & The Scarlet Macaw - April 19, 2017

Brilliantly colored and impossible to miss when in flight, the Macaws are the largest sized members of the parrot family. Apart from their beautiful bright plumage you can also recognise these birds often before you even see them, by the shrill and very unique squawk they make.  If you are visiting the south or central Pacific you are bound to see them!

Of the 17 species that reside in Central and South America, only two species—the Scarlet Macaw and the Great Green Macaw—call Costa Rica home. Although they are family, the chance to see them together is very rare as the slightly smaller Scarlet Macaw is commonly found on the Pacific coast with the Great Green Macaw preferring the Caribbean.

Macaws, known in Costa Rica as Lapas, have large pointy beaks that can expel a tremendous amount of pressure and their scaly boned tongue helps them get inside the tough nuts and seeds that are found throughout Costa Rica. They are considered social birds and will be often seen roosting and feeding in large flocks using their unique toe structures to navigate through the branches.

Although monogamous, changing partners on occasion has been recorded in the birds’ 80-year lifespan. A pair will lay at most a couple of eggs each season in ready made cavities in trees. The young have adult plumage and will fledge the nest within approximately 105 days of hatching.


Formerly present in over 85% of the country, (1) the Scarlet Macaws have now almost completely vanished from the Caribbean coast due to the destruction of the birds’ habitat. The Great Green Macaw’s numbers have reduced to an estimated 290 individuals in 2009 (2) and there are believed to be only 25 to 35 breeding pairs left in the country at present date. Both species have been added to the endangered species list. The exploitation of these beautiful birds in the pet trade has also attributed to their reduced numbers and, due to cross-breeding in pet trade circles, almost 20 types of hybrid Macaws exist—a very controversial issue in the birding world.

Fortunately, due to excellent conservation efforts by individuals and small groups, these beautiful birds have been given a second chance and are slowly making a comeback. Most notably is the work of Margot and Richard Frisius that lead to the creation of The Ara Project. This organization has been the forerunner of releasing new populations of macaws in to the wild. They now operate in several parts of the country where they continue their efforts.

Another line of conservation is also giving the Macaws a helping hand and that is the endangered Mountain Almond tree. In 2008, after years as a target for logging due to their unique, hard wood, they were declared illegal to harvest until both tree and bird were no longer endangered.

The Great Green Macaw

Size: 90cm (3 ft) long and 1.3kg (approx 3 lbs) in weight

This Macaw is found exclusively on the Caribbean slopes preferring lowland humid forest and deciduous forest areas reaching up to an elevation of 600m (approx 2000ft.). Not as social as the Scarlet Macaw, they are often seen in pairs and in groups of 3-4. Almost all of their diet is from the almond trees, but they will reluctantly feed on other trees if needed.

The largest flock of wild Green Macaws are found in Sarapiqui and there is a small population of released Macaws in Manzanillo aided by the Ara Project.

National Parks: Maquenque National Park, Tortuguero National Park

The Scarlet Macaw

Size: 85cm (2 ft 9 in) long and 900g (2 lbs) in weight

The Scarlet Macaw is more commonly found in lowland humid forest, deciduous forest and tropical evergreen forest areas on the Pacific coast. They are often seen in pairs, groups of 3-4 and occasional larger flocks of up to 30. With a more varied diet than the Great Green Macaw they can feed from various palms as well as fruits, nuts, seeds, flowers and small invertebrates. Scarlet Macaws are also known to eat clay for the reason that it allows them to digest unripe and poisonous fruits that could otherwise be fatal.

National Parks: Corcovado National Park, Carara National Park, Palo Verde National Park.

1 – Forbes; 2 – Chassot et al

Costa Rica Photography Workshop - April 10, 2017

You love to travel and you’re excited about your new camera and you want to learn how to create some amazing landscape images. What a perfect opportunity to try out a photography workshop in Costa Rica!

Jansen Photo Expeditions has teamed up Costa Rica Vacationing to create a unique and interesting photo workshop in beautiful Costa Rica, December 5 – 12, We will be highlighting the wildlife, the landscapes, the beaches and the unique colors and contrasts of Costa Rica.

About us

Jansen Photo Expeditions has 10 years experience guiding photographic tours and workshops throughout the world. We partner with experienced guides in the local countries to give a flavor of the country from those who know and love it. We are traveling with our guide, Lisa Koppelman from Costa Rica Vacationing, an American who has lived in Costa Rica and knows the area well. Our group sizes are small and intimate, maximum 8 clients plus your guides and driver. That way you will be immersed in the area and have the best possible experience.

What to Expect

Photography workshops take you to the best places to shoot, and most importantly, an experienced guide will get you to the right place, at the right time, in the right light. In our photography expeditions, you have experienced professionals helping you with composition and camera settings and you will come away with knowledge of photography and a stunning set of images from your dream destination.

Where do you want to go?

During our 7 day Costa Rica Photography workshop, we have fine tuned the itinerary for the photographer in mind. We will be up early for the golden morning light and shoot late into the afternoon. We will be visiting and shooting these areas: Tortuguero, La Paz Waterfall Gardens, Sarapiqui, Arenal Volcano La Fortuna waterfall, Rio Celeste National Park, as well as a night tour of the Cloud Forest.

We also have an optional 5 day extension to Aguila de Osa, 28 acres of protected rain forest only accessible by boat. Tropical wildlife abounds such as giant iguana, colorful birds, alligators and howler monkeys. Please inquire about an itinerary to what is considered the most biologically intense place on the planet!

Our small exclusive groups give you the best value to see and photograph the country. You will have the opportunity to work closely with your workshop leaders and photographic instructors and be able to easily move from one location to another as well as develop a camaraderie with your fellow attendees.

What type of instruction to expect

Our workshops give you a hands on approach, giving you the type of feedback you are looking for or leave you to be creative and come back to us for help when you need it. We have clients that shoot both their digital SLR or their iPhone / Smartphone. We provide instruction in both genres of photography.

Be ready for early mornings and late evenings. Sunrise in Costa Rica during our workshop is 5:30am and sunset around 5:45pm. The best light for a photography workshop is always early morning and late afternoon. Depending on the location and weather, sometimes a sunset or sunrise photo shoot isn’t possible, so be flexible. In our workshop, if the weather or conditions are bad, we will offer instruction on photo editing programs or find another location as an alternative.

Part of a great photography workshop is instructors who will not only help you with the basic settings on your camera, but will also help you with creative concepts and help you create intentions for your shot. Only an experienced photography teacher can give you that type of instruction.

How to prepare

Know the basic functions of your camera. You need to know how menu functions work, what type of exposure metering to use and how many focus points you have. If you are not familiar with this information, we can help you. Bring your camera’s manual with you, or better yet, download your manual to your smart phone so you always have it and it won’t take up space in your camera bag.

We will provide you a list of lenses and camera equipment to bring on your trip. Think about your favorite type of shooting.

Are you going to be shooting on the street where you would need an inconspicuous 50mm lens, or in a landscape environment where you might need a variety of lenses from wide angle to a telephoto to capture the scene.

Think of what your subject matter is going to be and bring appropriate lenses. If you don’t own the right equipment, you don’t always have to go out and buy it.  There are a lot of rental options through companies like LensRentals.com

Be sure you have a STURDY tripod – the key word here is sturdy. I can’t tell you how many people have shown up at workshops with a beautiful $2000 camera and a flimsy $50 tripod. This will not hold your expensive camera or be sturdy enough to produce the results you want. If you don’t know what to get, ask us for recommendations.


All of our accommodations are eco-friendly lodges close to the workshop locations. In order for us to secure these accommodations, be sure to book your workshop with us early.


Be open to new ideas – that’s why you came to the workshop. Listen to what we have to say. You might think you have a good handle on your photographic technique, but you never know, you might pick up a few gems that will help you become a better photographer.

Every pro photographer has a different work flow and by shooting with a pro, you can be exposed to a different shooting method and how we get those great shots. At Jansen Photo Expeditions, both my husband and myself teach with a little different approach to landscape photography and photo editing.  By being exposed to different techniques, it only helps a student to see options that work best for them.

Be ready to make new friends

On our workshops, our small groups often create a camaraderie of like-minded creative individuals.  That’s part of the whole photography workshop experience. If you prefer to not be social, that is fine, you are welcome to shoot on your own or option for a private workshop.

Many clients are focused on just one thing, to capture the ultimate landscape shot. But you may be bypassing some stellar opportunities. Look for unanticipated moments when you are on a workshop. If you are focused on the landscape, what if an interesting macro shot presents itself? What about interesting textures and abstract compositions. Costa Rica is full of bright colors and interesting photo opportunities. Bring your camera bag with you and be ready to change lenses and explore other opportunities.

One thing you don’t want to forget to bring is your excitement and passion. You will have a whole lot of fun, learn a lot, and go home with an incredible amount of quality imagery to add to your collection.

If you’d like to learn more about Jansen Photo Expeditions photography workshops, please explore our website or contact us directly for more information. JansenPhotoExpeditions.com. Our December 5 – 12, Costa Rica Photo Expedition is booking now for 8 adventurous creative individuals.

My Favorite Cultural Tour At Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica - March 15, 2017

Cooking class and dinner with a Tico Family!

After being very warmly met by Hanzel at Desafio HQ, we were given the task of securing some local ingredients for tonight’s cooking class showcasing some essential dishes on a Tico menu. Jumping on one of Desafio’s large fleet of minivans, we were driven 20 minutes out of town to a small village that seems to run around a local hero called Don Antonio. His large farm has a great array of local veg but his organic pork is what he is known for. Alongside this he seems to have an important part in the community, supplying a few local houses with eco-friendly sourced gas from the pig farm. Even after all of the above, his proudest product seemed to be his Guaro (sugar cane alcohol), that he was very generous with.

Once we were warmly greeted by Don Antonio and his lovely wife Guiselle, we donned our aprons and got to work. First, we chopped some of our local vegetables bought at the start of the day to make one of my favorites – Picadillo. We put our chef hats on and got to work adding various parts to the pot all under the careful direction of Guiselle. Then came the real test for any Tico wannabe – the perfect tortilla! We all got our hands dirty making the mix and after a demonstration, we were spinning our own tortillas and we were ready for the big test – if they puffed once on the traditional stove.

After some impromptu salsa dancing we were given some sangria to cool down and sat to eat some of our earlier creations, fortunately it was accompanied with a combination of Don Antonio’s organic pork and an array of other side dishes from Guiselle that made a memorable ‘authentico’ meal, finishing a wonderful evening.

Pura Vida at its best!

10 things I hate about you Costa Rica - March 15, 2017
  1. Small planes always taking the ‘scenic’ route!
  2. Pesky birds keep flying round!

Rick / Via animalspot.net

  1. Rooms with a view!

4. The Sunsets are really distracting!

  1. Blue Morpho Butterflies are pro photo bombers!

6. Sometimes the beaches are so busy you can’t even get a towel down!

enchanted CR / Via enchanting-costarica.com

7. People are always stationary on these bridges watching wildlife – GET MOVING!

Via costaricavacationplanning.com

8. The rainforest hides away lots of small beaches!

9. The unusual & beautiful Flora!

10. Cheeky monkeys will steal your breakfast from under your nose!!!!

Pura Vida!