What We Loved About Costa Rica

POSTED IN : Casa de Youngren, day after, portraits

Almost four months of travel, and we’re finished. We made it home. I’ve already unpacked and worked through the mountain of smelly laundry we came back with. Well, this “laundry” was more like a pile of sweat and dirt that smelled like our hike through the cloud forest and the horses we rode to get there. Yucky rancid clothes, and yet these awful smells made me stop and smile just for a second before I held my breath and shoved them in the machine and dumped a gallon of soap over them. That should do the trick…

We flew down to Costa Rica a few days before we had to start shooting Chuck and Laura’s destination wedding, so we spent the weekend in a little mountain town called Monteverde that’s tucked away in the cloud forests of Costa Rica. Many people call this town the greatest experiment in sustainable ecotourism, and I truly think this experiment just may work. Everything here centers around sustainability, from the protected rain forest reserves to the local coffee growers cooperative for Fair Trade coffee to the locally produced souvenirs available to tourists. We learned a ton about the theories behind ecotourism, but even more than that, we learned about the good that can come out of a community dedicated to protecting their culture and their land.

So what were our favorite things about Costa Rica? Glad you asked…

1) Pura Vida

You see this face below? Yeah, that’s a face of happiness. This, my friends, is Pura Vida (“the pure life”). Its what Costa Ricans live by, and while this motto and easy going way of life can be extremely annoying to a freakishly type A American girl, its can also be extremely liberating. And it was. For both of us.

2) Speaking Spanish

The first thing we learned about Costa Rica is that the people are called Ticos, they’re constantly pushing the whole Pura Vida thing, and we could actually understand a lot more Spanish than we thought we would. Its been a good five years since I’ve spoken any Spanish. I studied in Southern Spain for four months in college, and the “spanish” that I spoke then? Well, it wasn’t exactly good. It was mostly a mixture of trying to lisp with a thick Andalucian accent (‘andaluTHian’), while trying to conjugate ‘hacer’ and throwing in a couple of nonchalant slang words to make me feel cool. Basically jibberish.

In Costa Rica, though, the Spanish is beautiful. It’s smooth and clear and completely lovely. AND Jeff finally got to use his favorite phrase from Spanish class in high school, “Mi cabesa esta en el puerta del ascensor.” (“My head is stuck in the elevator doors.” Don’t ask).

3) The textures

I’ve talked about how we sometimes like to give ourselves little personal photographic exercises while we travel (which only shows just how nerdy we truly are), and Jeff decided to photographic monochromatic colors while in Costa Rica. How did he do?

4) The coffee

Yup, its true. Costa Rican coffee is delish! Monterverde has a Fair Trade cooperative, and we stopped by their coffeeshop to taste the local coffees and learn about what it actually means to be certified Fair Trade.

5) The food

I know, I know. We always say we love the food whenever we travel anywhere, but that should only tell you what our true priorities are: food and photography. If I could be eating one of these tacos while shooting a wedding, I would. But people think that’s weird so I don’t.

Anyhoo, Jeff and I lost about 25 pounds between the two of us in Asia because we walked everywhere and ate nothing but rice and chicken. I gained five pounds in Costa Rica. No we didn’t walk as much, but we still ate a bunch of rice and chicken. Hmmm… are Tico chickens fat? Even if they are, there’s no way I’m gonna stop eating this amazing food!

6) Ziplining

The. Best. Ziplining. EVER. They have a Tarzan Swing (I’ll keep that one a surprise) and a Superman Zipline where you fly face down, hands free across the rain forest canopy. Need I say more?

7) Horseback riding

I had to BEG Jeff to go on a five hour horse back ride with me, but my wifey puppy eyes prevailed and we got to ride through the back country of Monteverde to hike to an enormous waterfall in the middle of the cloud forest. Was it worth the excruciating pain in our butts the next day? Every bit of it.

See the clouds in the distance? That’s the cloud forest. It’s literally a forest that sits in the clouds at all times. Its the most humid place I’ve ever been (although its fairly cold), but its also one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

The entrance to the trail is owned by a local resident, and we had to stop at his farm, leave our horses, and walk from there.

Which brings me to my own personal favorite thing about Costa Rica…

8) Carina the Chihuaha

The farmer had the CUTEST DOG EVER! I’m sure our guide, Alvaro, thought I was a completely nutso American, but when a dog this cute comes along, I just have to play with it. The best part was that Carina only understood Spanish – ha! – so I told her to “dame besos” a bunch!

9) The Cloud Forest

Its a dripping muddy mess this cloud forest thing. My poor TOMS shoes were ruined in the thick muddy forest floor, and we had to be really careful changing lenses in the humidity, but everything else about this place was magical. Absolutely, fairytale, everything-you’ve-ever-heard-about-the-rain-forest-x5 magical.

A disclaimer about the photos: Its really tough to take pictures in forests. The colors tend to be extremely muted and what light gets through the thick canopy is always coming from straight above. We had a hard time capturing the essence of the forest, so sorry for the lack of picture! Here’s a few though.

I promise the waterfall is much bigger than it seems in this picture. It’s actually twice as tall, but we only brought our 35mm and I couldn’t fit the rest in. Oh and the water is freezing because we totally jumped in with our skivvys (no pictures of that I’m afraid!).

10) Chuck and Laura

How can I talk about Costa Rica and not mention these two? Chuck (actually pronounced “chook”) brought us into his Tico culture like old friends, putting up with us pointing at objects and exclaiming their name in Spanish (“look, un arbol!”) and constantly repeating our favorite Espanol phrases (“Cuidado! Piso mojado!”). Instead he took us under his wing, taught us Spanish, showed us his city, opened his family, and loved on Laura like a man totally, insanely in love in front of our cameras.

So in tribute to these two lovebirds and to the coolest Tico we know, here’s a quick sneek peak from their Day After Session in San Jose that we’ll be featuring next week.



Welcome! We’re Jeff & Erin.

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We’re Jeff & Erin Youngren, a hubby & wifey wedding photography team that believes timeless trumps trendy, life is best done together, and tears, hugs, & high fives should never be held back.

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About Us

We're Jeff & Erin

We’re Jeff and Erin Youngren, and we believe running a business should be life-giving (not soul-sucking). So we’re passionate about teaching other photographers to run life-giving businesses and book clients they absolutely love.  

For 15 years, we’ve photographed weddings all over the world as a hubby & wifey team, but we’ve also grown a multi-brand photography studio in San Diego, CA. 

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