- Poison Dart Frogs of Costa Rica
- Glass Frogs of Costa Rica
- Leaf Frogs of Costa Rica
- How to Experience Colorful Costa Rica
photo by SeppFriedhuber via iStock
If you look at Costa Rica photos, sooner or later you’ll come across images of wildly colorful frogs.
Though it is a gorgeous nation, the wide variety of frogs has to be near the top of the list in terms of things to photograph on a trip to Costa Rica.
In this quick guide, learn about a couple of prominent types of Costa Rican Frogs, examine some tips for creating more impactful photos of frogs, and get insights into the best way to experience the breathtaking landscape of Costa Rica.
Table of Contents
Poison Dart Frogs of Costa Rica
Researchers know of eight species of poison dart frogs, each seemingly more beautiful than the last.
Though many people mistakenly believe touching a poison dart frog will cause certain death, a poison dart frog’s venom can’t get through your skin, unless there is an abrasion (it can also enter via nasal passages, the mouth, or the eyes).
Symptoms of poison dart frog poisoning range from irritation of the eyes and nose to nausea. More serious conditions associated with the most venomous poison dart frogs include cardiac failure.
As such, it’s prudent to leave poison dart frogs alone and not attempt to handle them. This is for your safety as well as the safety of the frogs - they’re quite small and very delicate and should be viewed and photographed from a distance.
Poison Dart Frog Photography Tips
"Strawberry Poison Dart Frogs get their name from their vibrant red-orange torsos and are also known as Blue Jeans Ranas. Rana is the Spanish word for frog, and the blue jeans description comes from their dark blue back legs, that creative imaginations equate to the frogs wearing blue jeans. These frogs secrete venom through their skin and their bright colors warn predators to stay away.” - Scott Setterberg
What makes these frogs difficult to photograph is that they avoid direct sunlight. As a result, they can be hard to spot in the shadows under leaves and other foliage. Like any other wild animal, they can be quite skittish of humans, and will often hop away as you approach.
On the upside, these frogs are active throughout the day (unlike most frogs), so this presents you with more opportunities to spot them and capture a photograph. Likewise, their electric coloration makes them easy to see if they’re out in the open.
To maximize your chances of spotting and photographing one of these frogs, be patient, keep a keen eye out in shadowed areas, and consider setting up your gear in a location that is prime real estate for poison dart frogs (i.e., near ant or termite colonies, as those are primary food sources for these frogs).
Likewise, listen for vocalizations from male poison dart frogs to locate them in the shadows of the jungle. Males compete with one another for the right to mate, and part of that competition is elaborate calls to attract females.
Fun fact: Captive poison dart frogs eventually lose the toxicity of their venom because they typically lack ants in their diet. It is their diet of ants that help produce venom.
Glass Frogs of Costa Rica
photo by marrio31 via iStock
Glass frogs are certainly not as colorful as poison dart frogs, but their big, beautiful eyes and highly reflective skin certainly make up for a lack of color.
There are 14 known species of glass frogs living in Costa Rica, and are among the most difficult to spot, too. This is because these frogs typically make their homes high in the tree branches of the jungle, though some are known to inhabit the forest floor as well.
Additionally, these frogs are lime green and yellow in color, which helps them blend in perfectly with the foliage of the jungle. Their relatively flat, one-inch long bodies are quite small and difficult to detect too.
Glass Frog Photography Tips
photo by Marek Stefunko via iStock
Look for creeks, streams, and other bodies of water, and then survey the tree branches above them. This is where glass frogs tend to hang out as they protect their eggs until they hatch and fall into the water below.
Glass frogs are extremely rich in number throughout Costa Rica, however, the most likely locations to find them are national parks and preserves like the La Selva Protected Zone and Tortuguero National Park.
It’s also beneficial to have a professional guide to help you identify possible glass frog habitat and point out glass frogs that blend in so well with the forest environment.
photo by ABDESIGN via iStock
Fun fact: Glass frogs have translucent skin on their underbellies, which allows you to see their internal organs, thus the name glass frog.
Leaf Frogs of Costa Rica
Among the most beautiful and interesting frogs of Costa Rica are leaf frogs.
There are six known types of leaf frogs in Costa Rica, including the Blue Sided Leaf Frog, which is found nowhere else in the world, and the Red-Eyed Tree Frog, which is one of the most recognizable frogs in all of Costa Rica.
“By far, the coolest and most colorful frogs in Costa Rica are Red-Eyed Tree Frogs, that get their name from their large, bulging, red eyes. Their backs are vivid neon green, sides and thighs are bright blue and yellow, undersides are creamy white, and sticky webbed hands and feet are brilliant orange. These are the most famous and most photographed frogs in Costa Rica and the excitement and joy from people who see them is unmatched. They truly are incredible creatures, and unlike Poison Dart Frogs, are not venomous.” - Scott Setterberg
Since these frogs stay relatively motionless during the day, they can be extremely hard to spot. This is especially the case since they are so well camouflaged.
Leaf Frog Photography Tips
Unlike poison dart frogs, leaf frogs are nocturnal, which makes spotting them more difficult. Likewise, they are arboreal, so they live exclusively in trees.
If you can find a leaf frog that’s active, you’ll likely notice that its eye color and even its skin color might change from their colors when the frog is at rest. This is a unique characteristic and one that presents an interesting challenge to photograph.
It’s easiest to try photographing these beautiful creatures during mating season (in May and June), as it makes locating male frogs - which vocalize to attract mates - much easier.
Fun fact: Leaf frogs have developed sticky discs on their fingers and toes, which allow them to hang onto leaves, branches, and other surfaces in the forest canopy.
How to Experience Colorful Costa Rica
The difficulty of traveling to Costa Rica for a photography adventure is simply knowing when and where to go.
Sure, you can spend hours online researching and booking your travel arrangements, but for my money, I’d much rather put my trust in an expert, someone that’s been there and done that time and time again in Costa Rica.
I’ve recently gotten to known Scott Setterberg of ColorTexturePhotoTours, and I have to say, he’s impressed me from moment one.
Not only is Scott a knowledgeable and accomplished photographer, but he has connections in Costa Rica that make his photo tours among the most successful (and luxurious!) you’ll find.
Get a load of this…
You can travel to Costa Rica for an all-inclusive, 6-day, 5-night photography tour that features breathtaking waterfalls, gorgeous national parks, hundreds of species of animals, and beautiful landscapes everywhere you look.
In this stunning setting, you’ll improve your photography skills with individualized instruction from Scott. To relax, you’ll stay in luxurious accommodations and enjoy traditional Costa Rican cuisine.
With a licensed, English-speaking guide along for the trip, you’ll learn all about the amazing biodiversity this nation has to offer.
Add in massages, spa services, and comfortable, private transportation, and you have the makings of an ideal way to tour Costa Rica.
Perhaps best of all, this trip is limited to just four participants!
Get all the details about the Colors of Costa Rica Photo Tour and learn why it’s an ideal photography excursion.