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Costa Rica

Getting The Monkey Shot

The best way to experience Costa Rica? With a good, old-fashioned camera.

The best way to experience Costa Rica? With a good, old-fashioned camera.

The best way to experience Costa Rica? With a good, old-fashioned camera.

Photography by Craig Smetko

The monkeys spotted us before we noticed them. Peering through the patio window of our villa, the wily capuchins (named for their resemblance to Franciscan friars) pressed their white faces and black hands to the glass, begging for attention—and food. Instead they got camera lenses trained on them. A group of us had been working with instructors from the Leica Akademie, getting a crash course in photography basics while exploring Costa Rica’s Peninsula Papagayo for a long weekend. And we weren’t going home without a monkey pic.

Part of Exclusive Resorts’ new “Destinations in Focus” series, the trip was an opportunity to revive an old passion for travel photography that’s getting lost in the age of smartphones and Instagram filters. Yes, the property’s infinity pools and tropical foliage were awesome, but they were just the beginning of a pretty exhilarating adventure. The tasty meals whipped up by Chef Nicolas at the Poro Poro Clubhouse included daily breakfasts prepared in our residence (or beachside if booked ahead), and private mixology classes using fresh fruits and herbs kicked the culinary charm up a notch. The real pleasure, however, was found in the small details: the intricate whorls in a piece of driftwood, the color of a shell splashed up on shore by the returning tide. And, of course, the dramatic sunsets. Over-planning and a need to schlep it to every sight can hijack vacations. The chance to slow down and actually things felt like an epiphany. Here’s how to get that experience on your own.

Canyon Adventure
The ubiquity of zip-line tours—in Costa Rica and around the world—may make you yawn. But the 15 canyon cables (including a “Tarzan swing”) at Rio Perdido get the heart pumping and take more courage than you’d expect. After you speed hundreds of feet above the ground through trees and over streams, opt for some leisurely white-water tubing, take a dip in one of the thermal springs (where you can paint each other in mineral-rich volcanic mud), or relax in one of the Rio Perdido hotel’s heated pools. Plus, bright bungalows offer a cozy retreat with an elevated terrace.

Key To The Club
For many, a private vacation club may seem forever out of reach. Luckily, Exclusive Resorts, a destination club that has more than 300 villas worldwide and typically requires a 30-year commitment, launched its Gateway card last year, allowing non-members to purchase three to 21 days of travel at a fixed rate. Since many of the properties have four or five bedrooms, it breaks down to rates similar to those of a luxury villa or hotel.

Leica Loaners
You don’t have to splurge to capture that authentic money (or monkey) shot. Exclusive Resorts has now partnered with Leica to offer traditional cameras—from the point-and-shoot Leica C to the iconic Leica M—on loan, along with lenses and tools to make you feel like a pro.

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