Spectacular photo opportunities are scattered throughout Costa Rica, and in the verdant Central Valley, one of the best locations is La Paz Waterfall Gardens. This well-developed attraction is home to five powerful waterfalls and an animal sanctuary with over one hundred species of wildlife. Here you can mingle with thousands of blue morpho butterflies, feed toucans, and photograph the iconic red-eyed tree frog, snakes, monkeys, and large jungle cats.
Another fantastic Central Valley location is tucked away in the cloud forest of Juan Castro Blanco National Park. Bajos del Toro is one of the tallest waterfalls in Costa Rica and plunges 300 feet into an ancient volcano crater below. Red, orange, and gold mineral deposits scar the rock walls and bright green moss blankets the landscape, adding dynamic color to the soaring cascade. Hundreds of colorful hummingbirds whizz through flower gardens scattered with orchids and wandering walking trails, and monkeys can be seen swinging from tree branches on the journey to the bottom of the falls. Due to the high elevation, conditions can change rapidly at Bajos del Toro, providing many opportunities to use creative compositions to accentuate the changing weather patterns.
In Costa Rica's rural Northern Highlands, the flourishing small town of La Fortuna is one of the most-visited Costa Rica destinations and there are plenty of reasons why. La Fortuna hosts an endless supply of outdoor activities including zip lining, hanging bridge tours, and natural hot springs, as well as excellent hotels, restaurants, shops, and remarkable views of the iconic, cone-shaped Arenal Volcano. Twenty minutes west of La Fortuna, the massive Lake Arenal provides excellent windsurfing, kitesurfing, wakeboarding, and stand-up paddle boarding opportunities and produces extraordinary tropical sunsets.
Also in the Northern Highlands, Tenorio Volcano National Park is home to the magnificent turquoise water of Rio Celeste. Ancient legend has it that while painting the sky, the gods dipped their paintbrushes into the river, causing the water to turn turquoise. More recently, it was discovered that the colorful water is caused by rocks on the river bottom covered with aluminosilicates - a combination of aluminum, silicon, and oxygen - that absorb all colors, except blue, present in sunlight. The reflected blue rays of sunlight are what actually create the stunning visual sensation.
In stark contrast to the rainforests of the Central Valley and Northern Highlands, the northwest province of Guanacaste has a hot, dry, arid climate. Within those desert-like conditions, it’s hard to believe that a breathtaking waterfall could survive year-round, but there is one that does. Standing sixty-feet tall and plunging into a shallow pond, Llanos de Cortez is nearly as wide as it is tall. Lush vegetation and flowers adorn the waterfall with bright colors, and after shooting for a couple hours in the high temperatures, the cool, golden-green pool is a pleasant refreshment.
Along the Pacific Coast in the southern portion of the province of Puntarenas, Manuel Antonio is one of Costa Rica’s most popular national parks and home to over one hundred species of mammals and nearly two hundred species of birds. The small community boasts dozens of shops, galleries, hotels, restaurants, and prime beaches, as well as sport fishing, parasailing, kayaking, zip lining, and hanging bridge tours.
An hour outside Manuel Antonio, the sensational Nauyaca Falls makes every list of best waterfalls in Costa Rica. This gorgeous natural wonder consists of an upper tier of three colossal 135-foot chutes that drop onto gigantic, sedan-sized boulders, and a lower tier with two incredible 60-foot cascades. Many visitors scale the rocks of the lower falls and jump into the sparkling green swimming hole below.
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