How to Choose the Best Costa Rica Photo Tour

by Scott Setterberg August 24, 2023

How to Choose the Best Costa Rica Photo Tour

If you are a landscape photographer, nature photographer, or wildlife photographer looking for spectacular photo opportunities, Costa Rica hits the spot. Combining half a million species of flora and fauna with fantastic tropical scenery, Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. Beautiful beaches, lush rainforests, misty cloud forests, vibrant wildlife, towering active volcanoes, natural hot springs, colorful rivers, jaw-dropping waterfalls, and gorgeous tropical foliage flourish throughout the country.

With so much diversity and many areas to explore, it can be challenging to choose the right photography tour in Costa Rica, and I am often asked which Costa Rica photo tour is best. Along with price, the correct answer depends on a few things.

Seasons / Weather. It's extremely important to know that there are two distinct seasons that greatly affect photography tours and photo workshops in Costa Rica. The dry season or high season begins in mid-December and continues through the month of April. During the high season, sunshine is plentiful and there's very little rain. Beginning in May and continuing through mid-December, the wet season or green season takes over, and throughout most of the country it rains every day.

Obviously, trying to create photographs during tropical downpours is not ideal. Combined with wet, muddy, slick trails and raging torrents of dirty water, photography tours become extremely difficult in the wet season. Many hours (and days) can be lost waiting out storms, and for all those reasons, I only produce photo trips in Costa Rica during the dry high season.

You will find other tour operators and companies offering photography tours during Costa Rica’s wet season, but if you’re like me, you don’t want to spend your tour time and waste your money sitting in hotel rooms and restaurants waiting for the rain to stop. You want to shoot, and the high season provides the best opportunity to do that.

Number of Clients. Many companies and operators offer photo tours with 8-12 clients which means the personal attention you will receive from the photography instructor will be minimal. This also means traveling, often over long distances, in cramped vehicles. By contrast, the maximum number of clients on my tours is six, so you are guaranteed plenty of one-on-one assistance both in the field and while editing images, as well as being comfortable during travel times.

Photo Tour Clients, Costa Rica

Amenities. Another thing to consider when selecting a Costa Rica photography tour is the quality of hotels. To lower tour prices, many operators use “eco-hotels” that do not have air conditioning, and the only thing separating you from the high heat and intense humidity is a window screen. While the idea of “falling asleep and waking up to the sounds of the jungle” might seem idyllic, the reality is that the heat and humidity in Costa Rica is no joke and without air conditioning, you will be very uncomfortable and won’t sleep well. I only use award-winning hotels with excellent amenities including air conditioning, on-site restaurants with gourmet cuisine and full bars, hot springs, pools, spas, laundry service, and more.

Hotel Grid

All-Inclusive. By definition, the term, “all-inclusive” means everything included. Some operators promote tours as all-inclusive when not everything is included in their tour price. Often only one or two meals per day are included and food costs quickly add up and increase your bottom line. My Costa Rica photography tours are 100% all-inclusive meaning everything is included in the tour price. 

Subject Matter. The vast majority of photography expeditions in Costa Rica consist of bird and wildlife photography and leave very little, if any, time for shooting anything else. There’s so much more to experience in Costa Rica, so what if you want to photograph Costa Rica’s waterfalls, rivers, streams, beaches, seascapes, sunsets, volcanoes, and lakes? My tours showcase all those landscapes, as well as wildlife, so ask yourself, what subjects do you want to photograph on your tour?  Here’s a little help…

If you are interested in photographing sensational landscapes featuring wide jungle rivers, mystical cloud forests, verdant rainforests, and glassy lakes, the Costa Rica Landscapes Photo Tour is the right choice for you. This tour explores the regions of Sarapiqui, Toro Amarillo, La Fortuna, and San Ramon and begins and ends in San Jose. 

Rio Toro, Toro Amarillo, Costa Rica
If photographing wildlife is important to you, the Colors of Costa Rica Photo Tour is your best option. This tour also begins and ends in San Jose but explores La Paz Waterfall Gardens Nature Park and Animal Sanctuary, Bajos del Toro, Tenorio Volcano National Park, and La Fortuna. This tour features red-eyed tree frogs, poison dart frogs, chesnut-mandibled toucans, scarlet macaws, hummingbirds, blue morpho butterflies, jaguars, pumas, sloths, snakes, and a variety of monkeys.

Gliding Tree Frog, Costa RicaThe Pura Vida Costa Rica Photo Tour is perfect for photographers interested in stunning seascapes, vibrant tropical sunsets, colorful streams and rivers, and volcanic hot springs. This tour begins in Liberia and ends in San Jose and features Playa Hermosa, Rincon de la Vieja Volcano National Park, Rio Celeste, and La Fortuna.

The South Pacific Costa Rica Photo Tour begins and ends in San Jose and combines some of the best waterfalls in Costa Rica with spectacular rural landscapes, incredible seascapes, vivid sunsets, and a splash of exotic wildlife and tropical flowers. This tour features jaw-dropping locations in the provinces of Pérez Zeledón and San Jose and uses the beach community of Dominical for a base. 

Playa Dominicalito, Costa Rica
Hopefully, the information contained in this article helps you choose the best Costa Rica photo adventure for you. Sure, price is important, but what’s even more important is Costa Rica’s two distinct seasons and weather during those seasons; hotel amenities; quality of meals; the number of clients; amount of one-on-one assistance you will receive; comfortability during travel; and the subject matter you will photograph that’s included in that price. Once all those things are considered, you can more accurately evaluate the price-to-value ratio, and that will help you make the best decision and get the most out of your Costa Rica photography trip. 


Scott Setterberg
Scott Setterberg