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I’d like to share a few notes with you before I get into my suggestions for what sort of gear you should bring on your adventure in Costa Rica. Please don’t hesitate to email us with any questions.

How’s the weather?

First of all, it’s generally going to be hot during the day. Highs are usually in the mid-eighties to low nineties. It will be cooler at night, but you probably won’t need anything warm.
Bug spray is a good idea! Some folks have more problems with bugs than others, so pack accordingly if the mosquitoes usually like you. Be wary of using too much Deet and handling your camera. There is an all-natural bug repellent that I get in Costa Rica that works really well and doesn’t dissolve the rubber bits on your camera (like Deet can).
The other big question is always about the rain. We usually have about an hour of rain each day. Our shooting schedule is set up to be flexible in case of bad weather, so it has not been an issue in the past. You will definitely want a rain jacket or poncho.

Camera Gear Suggestions

The following list is what I consider the minimum setup you will want in order to take advantage of all of the incredible photo opportunities you will encounter. You are welcome to bring whatever additional equipment you like.

For Micro Four Thirds shooters, Olympus is providing loaner lenses for the event. If there is a particular lens you would like to borrow please contact Rob to make sure it is available.

Renting lenses is a great way to have the gear you need without spending an arm and a leg. and are two popular rental sites.

  • An interchangeable lens camera. The brand name on your camera gear doesn’t matter to us. Rob uses Olympus gear, but he is well versed in all of the popular camera brands.
  • Bring your battery charger and AT LEAST two batteries
  • It is not a problem if you only have one camera, but a backup camera body offers a little peace of mind on a trip like this.
  • Suggested Lenses-
    • Standard Zoom- ie. 24-70mm 
    • Long Telephoto- at least 300mm
    • Wide angle zoom- 24mm or wider
    • Macro- close focusing lens for frogs, etc.
    • I recommend a circular polarizing filter. 
  • Hot-shoe Flash. If you’re not already using your flash for wildlife photography, you will be by the end of this trip. We will show you how and why to use it. We also consider a Better Beamer or Mag-Mod flash extender an essential piece of gear for shooting wildlife. A flash diffuser like a Lumiquest softbox can come in handy for macro shooting. Don’t forget extra batteries!
  • Tripod. Our advice: bring the sturdiest tripod that you will actually carry. Travel tripods are easy to pack, but some are not very stable. A big sturdy tripod that is too heavy for you to carry is just as useless. I recommends a medium size carbon fiber tripod for the best combination of stability and ease of travel. The Gitzo Mountaineer is my current tripod of choice.
  • Camera bag. We recommend a backpack or shoulder bag that has just enough space for the gear you will actually use. We will not be on any long strenuous hikes, but there will be times when you will be carrying your gear. Don’t bring the kitchen sink if you don’t need it. If your laptop goes in your backpack, you should leave it in the hotel while we are out shooting. We can arrange to leave your computer in the hotel office if you are concerned about leaving it in your room. I use the Tenba AXIS backpacks.

What to Wear.

Please do not bring more than 1 large suitcase and two carry-on sized bags per person!

Seven days is a lot to pack for! I like to travel as light as possible while still having everything I need. There is laundry service available for a small fee, and I find it easier if you plan to have some clothes washed at some point. That way you can pack for four or five days instead of seven and have more room for camera gear 🙂

Most of the clothes I wear these days are from Kuhl, but there are many products in each category that work just as well.

  • 2 pairs of long pants. Lightweight, quick-drying cargo pants are great for traveling.
  • 3 pairs of cargo shorts. Look for quick-drying fabric and handy pockets.
  • 2 long sleeve button-up shirts. I like lightweight shirts like Colombia PFG or REI Sarah-tech shirts. They are light enough for wearing the sleeves down to keep the sun off of you, or you can roll them up for short sleeves. They are most likely warm enough for anything we will encounter.
  • 3 short sleeve button-up shirts. I like button up shirts in hot climates so I can adjust the ventilation if I need to. The Kuhl brand shirts are my favorite. They are comfortable and durable, and they don’t look like fishing shirts.
  • 3 quick-drying tshirts. I like the Haynes cool-dry or similar.
  • Shoes: I bring a pair of lightweight hiking shoes (or boots if you prefer) and a pair of Keen sandals. You won’t need any “serious” hiking boots.
  • Hat: I LOVE my Tilley ventilator hat. Something to keep the sun off of your head makes a huge difference.
  • Jacket. I have a lightweight “rain shell” jacket that is generally the only jacket I need.  
  • Naturally you will need socks and underwear, I won’t bore you with my preference.

Computer and Software Suggestions

We recommend the following equipment to take advantage of the image processing sessions. Rob will be using Adobe Lightroom CC and Snapseed on an iPad Pro, and backing up images using a GNARBOX V2.

  • A laptop computer or tablet. Any brand is fine, but if you have a PC be sure you know how it works because our instructors are Mac guys 😉 Don’t forget your power cord!
  • An external hard drive. We recommend keeping all of your photos and other media on external hard drives. We recommend the GNARBOX external drive for it’s ease of use and rugged construction. 
  • Memory card reader. We recommend you download and backup your images every day, so please bring your card reader. Using a backup drive like the GNARBOX also eliminates the need to carry a seperate card reader , since it has a built-in SD reader.
  • Software. There will be demonstrations using Adobe Lightroom CC  (

Suggestions from the Costa Rican Travel and Tourism Board

What to Pack 

Suggested items and Starred * items we consider essential:

  • *Lightweight, sturdy high top hiking boots (protection for ankles) with a good tread suggested for hiking.  
  • Walking or athletic shoes with a good tread suggested for walks 
  • *Sturdy waterproof sandals or river shoes 

I would suggest EITHER hiking shoes OR athletic shoes along with sandals (I like KEEN sandals)

  • Shirts and pants made from light weight, natural fibers. At least one outfit made of high tech fast drying material. 
  • Extra socks
  • One or two swimming suits
  • Poncho or rain gear 
  • Light jacket or sweater for higher elevations and chilly nights I bring a rain jacket that serves both purposes
  • Hat or cap 
  • Sunglasses NOTE: If you wear glasses remember to bring a croakie so you won’t loose them during activities. Polarized glasses can interfere with using your LCD and EVF on your camera
  • Personal toiletries 
  • *Insect repellantI suggest buying the natural stuff once you get to Costa Rica. DEET can dissolve the rubber bits on your camera! 
  • *Sunscreen – with high sun protection factor, such as SPF 29-40 
  • Binoculars (being in Costa Rica without good binoculars are like snorkeling without a mask) 
  • *Flashlight- A headlamp is a good idea too
  • Pocket knife
  • Walkie Talkies are a fun way to keep in touch with your group, but not essential. You’re welcome to bring these, but your instructors have communications taken care of
  • Check batteries in camera – the most often heard complaint from our guests is that their camera batteries don’t last through the day. You need AT LEAST two batteries for your camera
  • Compass (especially if driving)-see our website for driving tips.
  • *Day pack (For valuables/camera/passport-so you can carry these items with you at all times). You will probably just use your camera bag for this
  • *Container for drinking water. In most of Costa Rica it is not necessary to buy bottled water. The water in our area is pure spring water. 
  • Plastic bags – for keeping books, binoculars and other items dry and for wet clothing. Great idea! Bring a few of the big freezer bags.
  • Money in small demonations-$20’s, 10’s, 5’s and 1’s. It is hard to cash $100 bills in some places, and travelers checks are becoming a nuisance to use most places do not take travelers checks. ATM machines are commonly found in any city with a bank. Bring a back up bank card if possible. Notify your bank that you will be in traveling in Costa Rica so you won’t have trouble using your cards out of your home country. All of your meals and transportation will be taken care of, but you may want a few bucks for tips and souvenirs.
  • *Easy to carry healthy snacks, energy bars. 
  • Small first aide kit with moleskin for blisters from hiking boots.
  • Ear plugs 
  • Spanish/English dictionary There’s an App for that
  • Map of Costa Rica. Plan your route in advance. Please ask us if you have any questions. We promise you won’t get lost 😉
  • Calculator for figuring currency exchange. There’s an App for that too!
  • Birders consider ordering ‘A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica’ book for your trip. It is the bird watching Bible for Costa Rica. You may find it online at for under $20. Non-birders may find general books about the flora and fauna helpful. 

What to Expect

1. You probably have some pre-conceptions about what your trip will be like. You may have seen documentaries, read books or articles on the flora and fauna of Costa Rica. Remember that those films and/or photographs were taken over a long period of time. The forest vegetation is thick and lush and it takes patience, a good guide and a keen eye to spot animals. We can not over emphasize the importance of a good guide to point out animals and plants in the forest. That is why you’re coming with US!

2. Part of the fun and at times the difficulty, of traveling to new regions of the world is trying to adapt to various environments and situations. Try to look at it as a positive, interesting and exciting experience. Observe and appreciate how the people of Costa Rica have adapted to their particular environment. 

3. The “Tico system” was inherited in part from their mother country, Spain, and as many “Ticos” will quickly tell you, it is even less efficient now. Try to understand and make the most of it. Translation: Be patient, things happen a bit slower in Costa Rica.

4. Mother Nature may affect your travel plans. Be patient and calm, everything eventually works out just fine. 

5. Part of the fun of traveling is trying to communicate with the local people. Whatever Spanish you know, use it! In any case smile, smiles are a major means of communicating everywhere in the world. I can’t stress this enough. You will have more fun if you try to engage the local folks. Start by learning how to order breakfast in Spanish. It really makes a difference!

6. More people have to change their vacation plans because of sunburn than any other reason. The sun’s ultraviolet rays are direct and stronger in Costa Rica because of its close proximity to the Equator (10 degrees north). Please bring sun block and use it. 

7. Cars do not yield to other cars or pedestrians! Be careful crossing our streets.

8. Make every effort to have a minimal negative impact on the natural and human environment that you encounter and to conserve natural resources both during your stay in Costa Rica and when you return home.

9. Be a safe traveler.  Statistically, you are probably safer from crime in Costa Rica than in your home country. On the other hand, tourists are better targets for petty theft than local citizens, in part because their attention often is focused on new sights and sounds rather than personal security. 

  • Leave your valuable jewelry at home.
  • Wear your day pack on your chest when walking around San Jose.
  • Don’t flash large amounts of cash.
  • Make copies of your passport before leaving home, leave one copy at home, and take one copy with you. If possible scan your passport and email it to yourself, so you will always be able to access a copy on line in an emergency. I always have a copy in my DropBox folder
  • Keep your passport in a safe place while traveling. 
  • Don’t leave any valuables in your gear in the car-ever. 
  • Do not accept any unsolicited help. Generally you will be fine if you are the one that asks for help. Costa Ricans are generous people always willing to assist a person in need. 
  • Beware of bargain guides or bargain tours. You get what you pay for. That bargain tour or guide can put you in an unsafe situation with poorly maintained equipment, unsafe, poorly cared for horses or even in the hands of a criminal.  
  • The Costa Rican government has a new police force specifically dedicated to tourism. They are there just to assist tourists and assure our tourists are safe and protected. Their presence in areas heavily traveled by tourists lets criminals know that crimes against tourists will not be tolerated by the Costa Rican government. 
  • Most of all just use common sense. 
  • Pubic phones take phone cards that you can purchase in many locations. Public phones are located all over the country. 

10. Finally, one of the justifications for travel is that cultural exchange leads to understanding and brotherhood. Please remember that things that are different in Costa Rica, not necessarily better or worse than those in your country, they’re just different. There are ideas and attitudes in all societies that might be beneficially adopted by others. Look for them!! 

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