This tour to a variety of bird rich sites in central Costa Rica offers superb value for money and the chance to see nearly half the country’s birds in just one trip! Our tour visits the best and most well known areas for birding where you can relax in comfort while enjoying myriads of birds. From Caribbean lowlands, to Pacific coast and then the forested highlands we offer the opportunity to experience a wealth of differing habitats that all hold their own special birds. A good number of hummingbirds can be seen coming to feeders alongside colourful tanagers, absurd oropendolas, toucan-like aracaris, honeycreepers and euphonias. A fantastic boat trip takes us along a bird filled estuary and into the mangroves where countless species allow close approach and ideal photo opportunities. In the highlands we will look for one of the world’s most beautiful birds the Resplendent Quetzal a highlight to a tour ablaze with colourful, exotic and simply superb birds. With huge butterflies, dragonflies, lizards, several monkeys, sloths, and forests laden with orchids and flowers this is a must visit destination for anyone with an interest in wildlife.Rest assured we are envied for setting up and running Costa Rica’s very best birdwatching tours with itineraries that work. It seems many people visiting Costa Rica get their itinerary wrong which can lead to frustration and disappointment. With so many good things to see it makes sense to travel with the people that know the country best! Join Steve on his 30+ tour to the fabulous Costa Rica!
Costa Rican Pygmy-Owl
Day 1Arrival – San Jose - 15th March Arrival in San Jose on Wednesday the 15th March and transfer the short distance to our hotel. Note that this is an arrival day and depending on your flight arrival time there may opportunities to bird the lodge grounds in the afternoon. Night San Jose.
Day 2San Jose – Carara NP
After a little early morning birding around the lodge we will head for the Pacific coast and our coastal accommodation near to Carara NP for the next 3 nights. Our secluded birding lodge offers opportunities to see spectacular birds like Scarlet Macaws, Fiery-billed Aracari, Cinnamon Hummingbirds, Canivet's Emerald, Ferruginous PygmyOwl and much more. Night Carara.
Days 3 - 4Carara National Park
We have two full days to bird this wonderful area including a day visiting Carara National Park, which is the northernmost region of Pacific rainforest remaining in Costa Rica, and is the beginning of the transition zone into the tropical dry forests of the northwest. Its 11,600 acres hold a wide range of species and includes the most important area for breeding Scarlet Macaws in the country. Our time will be spent on a several short trails where birding can produce amongst others Northern Royal Flycatcher, Green Shrike-Vireo, Baird’s, Gartered, and Black-throated Trogons, Tawny-winged and Cocoa Woodcreepers, Blue-black Grosbeak, White-whiskered Puffbird, Pale-billed Woodpecker, Orange-collared Manakin, Chestnut-backed and Dusky Antbirds, Dot-winged Antwren, Black-hooded Antshrike, Blue-throated Goldentail, Band-tailed Barbthroat, Costa Rican Swift, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Rufous-and-white, Rufous-breasted, Riverside and Black-bellied Wrens, Grey-headed, and White-shouldered Tanagers, Long-billed Gnatwren, Tawny-crowned and Lesser Greenlet, White-winged Becard, Slate-headed Tody-Flycatcher and Northern Bentbill. With lunches back at the lodge we will then re-visit Carara but this time taking a different trail where we hope to connect with a different variety of species including several understory specialities such as Streak-chested Antpitta, Black-faced Antthrush, Ruddy Quail-Dove and Great Tinamou. We will also check a small stream where Red-capped and Blue-crowned Manakins come in to bathe and sometimes accompanied by Thrush-like Schiffornis. We will also visit an area that offers outstanding views over Carara National Park right down to the Pacific coastline. Here a few select species can be found that maybe hard to connect with elsewhere. Western Tanagers, Painted Bunting, Ruby-throated and Charming Hummingbirds, plus Philadelphia Vireo and possibly Fiery-billed Aracari will all be in our sights. An overlook will give us superb chances to see the magnificent King Vulture as well as other raptors such as White Hawk, Short-tailed Hawk, Zone-tailed Hawk and Swallow-tailed Kite. One of the highlights of the Carara area will be a fabulous boat trip on the River Tarcoles. Setting off under the guidance of our expert boatman we will first search the estuary and river edges where we can expect to see roosting Boat-billed Herons, plus Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Little Blue Heron, Yellow-crowned and sometimes Black-crowned Night-Herons, Green Heron, Tri-coloured Heron, White Ibis, occasionally Roseate Spoonbill, Wood Stork, Anhinga, Neotropic Cormorant, Spotted Sandpiper, Black-necked Stilt, Purple Gallinule, Northern Jacana, Killdeer, many shorebirds and if we are lucky both Double-striped Thick-knee and Collared Plover. Out towards the mouth of the estuary will see Laughing Gulls and a variety of terns, plus Brown Pelicans, Magnificent Frigatebirds and the ever present Ospreys. We then move into the narrower mangrove creeks where we will look for Mangrove Black Hawk, American Pygmy Kingfisher, Prothonotary Warbler and with a lot of luck Mangrove Vireo and Mangrove Hummingbird. As we return with the sun setting we will see Cattle and Snowy Egrets going to roost and noisy Scarlet Macaws and Yellow-naped Parrots flying overhead. Our finale to this superb trip will becountless Lesser Nighthawkshawking for insects low over the water. 2 Nights Carara.
Day 5Carara NP – San Gerardo de Rivas
This morning we will have an early breakfast and then head to an area of mangrove and scrub where we hope to get views of the endemic Mangrove Hummingbird and Mangrove Vireo plus an assortment of other species that could include Panama and Northern Scrub Flycatchers, Slate-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Olivaceous Piculet, Masked Tityra, Scrub Greenlet and Northern Waterthrush. We will then set off on our drive towards our next destination. We will keep an eye out for any raptors not yet on our list, such as Harris Hawk and Swallow-tailed Kite. Once we have reached our lodge we will have a little time to bird the grounds where we can look for an assortment of species such as Streaked Saltator, Snowy-bellied Hummingbird, Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Blue Dacnis, Slaty Spinetail, Blue-crowned Motmot, Scaled Pigeons and with real luck the gorgeous looking Turquoise Cotinga. Our rustic lodge has recorded more than 200 species of birds including Spotted Tanagers and Red-legged Honeycreepers coming to feeders. At night we can even try for Pacific Screech-Owl in the gardens. Night Talari Mountain Lodge.
Day 6Talari Lodge - Savegre Mountain Lodge
This morning after breakfast and a little birding around the gardens we will slowly head up to 11,000ft with stops along the way to look for a few hummingbirds, Cherrie's Tanager and then if its not too misty we will look at the high paramo for species such as Volcano Junco, Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Sooty Robin, Volcano Hummingbird, Magnificent Hummingbirds , Slaty Flowerpiercer, Black-cheeked Warbler and with luck maybe Timberline Wren or the skulking Zeledonia. From here we will decend the other side of the Mountain to a beautiful lodge set in a rich forested valley at 7,000ft. The lodge has recorded over 200 species with many of these being the highland specialities and as we travel down the valley in the afternoon we will make a few stops to search for species such as Flame-coloured Tanager, Large-footed Finch, Yellow-thighed Finch and Long-tailed Silky-Flycatcher. Night Savegre Mountain Lodge.
Day 7Savegre Mountain Lodge
Today we will have a full day of birding in the vicinity of Savegre Lodge. There will be great opportunities to look for birds such as Green Violetears, Scintillant Hummingbird , Volcano Hummingbird, Violet Sabrewing , White-throated Mountaingem, and Magnificent Hummingbird. Other specialties include Large-footed Finches, Black Guan, Collared Redstart, Collared Trogon, Sulphur-winged Parakeet, Golden-browed Chlorophonia, Yellow-thighed Finch, Sooty Thrushes, Mountain Thrushes, Ruddy-capped Nightingal-Thrush, Flame-throated Warbler, Emerald Toucanet, Ochraceous and Dark Pewee, Black-capped and Yellowish Flycatcher, Long-tailed Silky and Black-and-yellow Silky Flycatchers, Black-thighed Grosbeak, Costa Rican Pygmy-Owl, Silvery-throated Jay, Spotted Woodquail and possibly Buffy-crowned Wood-Partridge, Spangle-cheeked Tanager, Brown-capped and Yellow-winged Vireos. We are also in Resplendent Quetzal country and will be searching for this superb bird which many say is the most beautiful bird in the world. Night Savegre Mountain Lodge.
Day 8Savegre - Sarapiqui
This morning we will visit the nearby Paraiso de Quetzales. Here we will look at the hummingbird feeders which will be buzzing with Fiery-throated Hummingbirds, after which we will take a 2 hour walk through the cloud forest to the prefered habitat of the Resplendent Quetzal. The area is alive with Epiphytes, Orchids and Bromeliads, adorning the trees and making this walk a most gratifying experience en route to our encounter with the Quetzal. Other birds are also present and we will try for the elusive Zeledonia, and have more chances for Golden-browed Chlorophonia, Flame-coloured Tanager, Ochraceous Pewee and much more. After lunch in Paraiso de Quetzales we will continue on to Sarapiqui, in the Caribbean lowlands. Depending on time we may make stops to look for Snowcap and Fasciated Tiger-Heron and the localised Nicaraguan Seed-Finch before arriving at our super lodge. 2 Nights La Quinta Country Inn.
Day 9La Selva OTS
After an early breakfast we will spend the full day at the nearby La Selva OTS. At the confluence of two major rivers in the Caribbean lowlands of northern Costa Rica, La Selva comprises 1,600 hectares (3,900 acres) of tropical wet forests and surrounding lands. It averages 4 m of rainfall that is spread rather evenly throughout the year. Located within the tropical and premontane wet forest, the Station has about 73% of its area under primary tropical rain forest. It was purchased in 1968 by the Organization for Tropical Studies and declared a private biological reserve and station. Since then, it has become one of the most important sites in the world for research on tropical rain forests. For the birder it is a haven for a wide range of sought after species. Before entering the reserve we will spend time birding the approach road an area always alive with birds and often a surprise or two. Loose flocks may include Barred, Fasciated and Great Antshrikes, Broad-billed Motmot, Rufous-winged, Cinnamon and Chestnut-coloured Woodpeckers, Pied Puffbird, Passerini’s Tanagers, Plain Wren, White-ringed Flycatcher, Olive-backed Euphonia, Black-cowled and with luck Yellow-tailed Oriole, Black-thighed and Black-faced Grosbeaks, and occasionally on a tiny stream we have seen Agami Heron. Within the reserve we will spend both morning and afternoon within areas of tropical rainforest where many species will be sought throughout the day including targets such as Snowy Cotinga, Great Curassow, Rufous Motmot, Slaty-tailed Trogon, Western Slaty Antshrike, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer, Red-capped Manakin, White-collared Manakin, Great Tinamou, Stripe-breasted Wren, Dusky-faced Tanager, White-whiskered Puffbird, Bright-rumped Attila, Northern Barred Woodcreeper, Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Rufous Mourner, and if we are in luck there may be Vermiculated Screech-Owl or Crested Owl on their day roosts, or Great Green Macaws flying noisily overhead. Also overhead we could see Grey-rumped, Lesser Swallow-tailed and even the rare Spot-fronted Swift and raptors could include Short-tailed Hawk, Grey-headed Kite, Semiplumbeous Hawk and even chances for King Vulture. Night La Quinta.
Day 10La Quinta – Tenorio Volcano
Before and after breakfast we will spend some time looking around the gardens and checking the feeders after fresh bananas are put out. By the small ponds we could see Grey-necked Wood-Rails and Green Heron while other species may include Red-throated Ant-Tanager, Orange-billed Sparrow, Crimson-collared, Blue-grey, Golden-hooded, Palm and Passerini’s Tanagers, Green Honeycreeper, Bay Wren, Buff-throated and Black-headed Saltators. We will then depart and travel to the Tenorio Volcano region. The slopes of the Caribbean side of the Tenorio volcano are covered with rural farms, cattle ranches, small villages, mountain forest, rivers and waterfalls that create one of the most scenic regions of the country. Our afternoon will be spent birding the private lodge trails. The list of birds includes many sought after species and it is these we will try and find, such as Tody Motmot, Keel-billed Motmot, Bare-necked Umbrellabird, Yellow-eared Toucanet, Great Curassow, Three-wattled Bellbird, Dull-mantled Antbird, Lattice-tailed Trogon, Purplish-backed Quail-dove, Brown-hooded Parrot, Coppery-headed Emerald, White-collared Manakin, White-ruffed Manakin, Green Shrike-vireo, and Rufous-winged Tanager. Night Celeste Mountain Lodge.
Day 11Tenorio region and Heliconias Today we will have the full day to bird in the Heliconias preserve and its hanging bridges. The Heliconias Rainforest Suspension Bridges offer three canopy level bridges between 27 and 37 meters above the ground and varying in length between 75 and 105 meters long, allow you to safely experience the complexity of the forest canopy, and get eye to eye with some of its wildlife. Amongst the special birds here we will look for Tody Motmot, Ocellated Antbird and if we were extremely lucky and came across an Antswarm we might even get the chance of Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo, the holy grail of Costa Ricas birds! Amongst other things we will also get to learn about the forest and its many plants. The trails here are covered with wood chippings making it one of the quietest forest walks we have ever encountered. This will be especially helpful when searching out some of the forests special birds. Night Celeste Mountain Lodge.
Day 12Tenorio - Cano Negro Today we will spend some of the morning catching up with any species we may have missed before setting off towards Cano Negro National park. This wonderful park is a stark contrast from where we have just been and it borders Nicaragua to the north. Our wonderful lodge is nestled right beside a bird filled lagoon, where a variety of herons, ducks and even the localised Nicaraguan Grackle, one of our main target birds can be found. There are many other superb species within close vicinity of the lodge and we will search for localised Spot-breasted Wrens, Grey-headed Dove, Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Olive-throated Parakeet and in the open grasslands the Nicaraguan Seed-Finch and Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture. In the evening we will go on a night drive in search of Pauraque, Common and Great Potoo. Night Cano Negro
Day 13Cano Negro - Arenal Volcano This morning we will have an early start for our boat ride on the Cano Negro river. This excellent trip will give us chances for many birds including all five species of kingfisher and the sought after Sungrebe. This is one of the only places we can find the very localised Nicaraguan Grackle a bird associated with wetlands and reedbeds. Depending on water levels we could also find the striking Agami Heron, Boat-billed Heron, Green Ibis, Black-collared Hawk, Grey-necked Woodrail, Collared Plover, Mangrove Cuckoo, Mangrove Swallow and if luck is on our side possibly Pinnated Bittern or one of the rarer crakes such as Yellow-breasted. Spectacled Caiman are easily seen and if we are fortunate we could even see Neotropical Otter. We will then head for Arenal Volcano, with its almost perfectly shaped cone, which soars 1,633 meters (5.500 ft) above sea level, and from time to time, deep earth echoes are heard and clouds of vapor or smoke billows out of the top, making for a wonderful experience, and all viewable from our perfectly situated lodge. Although the main attraction in this region is the volcano, the area offers fantastic bird watching opportunities, with forest trails, tumbling streams and a huge lake. The gardens abound with birds and feedersand flowers attarct a wealth of birds. A nearby stream often holds Fasciated Tiger-Heron and occasionally Sunbittern, while forest edges could treat us to Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Collared Aracari, White-throated Magpie-Jays, Keel-billed Toucan, Slaty Spinetail, Bright-rumped Attila, and possibly Keel-billed Motmot.
Night Arenal Observatory Lodge
Day 14Arenal Observatory Lodge No doubt we’ll be up early checking the feeders at our lodge and hopefully marvelling at the sounds of the volcano. We’ll spend today birding the grounds around the lodge and some nearby tracts of forest. The entire area is a haven for birds and we will search out rarely seen species such as Keel-billed Motmot, Lanceolated Monklet, Ocellated Antbird and Thicket Antpitta. Easy viewing on the feeders and flowers should include Emerald, Crimson-collared, Hepatic, Blue-grey, Golden-hooded, Passerini’s and Bay-headed Tanagers, while hummingbirds amongst the flowering gardens should include Black-crested Coquette, Violet-headed Hummingbird, Crowned Woodnymph, Purple-crowned Fairy, Stripe-throated Hermit, White-necked Jacobin and maybe Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer. Many other birds will keep us busy such as Montezuma’s Oropendola, Black-cheeked Woodpecker, Red-legged and Green Honeycreepers, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, Orange-bellied Trogon, Spotted Antbird and Crested Guan. The shy yet vocal Nightingale Wren will be sought, and we could get to grips with Black-bellied Wren, Bare-crowned Antbird, Long-billed Gnatwren, Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush and even Great Potooor the rarely seen Bare-necked Umbrellabird. White-nosed Coatis will entertain us and we could even see Northern Tamandua. Nights Arenal Observatory Lodge.
Day 15Arenal - San Jose
Today we will have time for some final birding in this wonderful area before setting off on our return journey to San Jose. Birding stops along the way will include stopping at a hummingbird garden where we can see the endemic Coppery-headed Emerald, plus Violet Sabrewing, Purple-throated Mountain-Gem, Green Hermit, Green-crowned Brilliant, Violet-crowned Woodnymph and others. After lunch at a local restaurant we will arrive back in San Jose in time for a farewell dinner in the hotel.
Day 16San Jose – End of Tour– 30th March Today we will transfer you to the airport in time for your international departures. Those returning to the UK will probably arrive back the following day – 31st March
Included in cost:Accommodation in twin rooms en-suite, all meals from Dinner on 15th March to Breakfast on 30th March, transfers, ground transport throughout, boat trip, all entrance fees, and services of English speaking leaders and driver.
Not included:International airfare, insurance, depature tax ($29), drinks, tips, and items of a personal nature.
Accommodation:All lodges are of a good standard and offer en-suite rooms, a good variety of meals and cooked breakfasts.
Tour Code:This is a standard birding tour with regular birding walks along roads and well marked trails. There are early morning options and pre-breakfast excursions, followed by morning and afternoon sessions. The weather is generally good to warm, even hot, with possibilities of rain in the afternoons. Be prepared for all eventualities.