Day 1 – Arrival
Our Costa Rica birding tour begins with a welcome dinner. If you arrive in time, we take a walk through the landscaped hotel grounds admiring the many floral displays that attract several species of hummingbirds, and we may encounter our first neotropical birds such as Blue-crowned Motmot and Grayish Saltator. We have a chance of finding the resident pair of Tropical Screech-Owls in a giant bamboo thicket. Night near San José.
Day 2 – Transfer to Carara
After an early walk around the hotel gardens, we head west to the Pacific coast and Carara National Park. This is the boundary between the tropical dry forest to the north and the tropical wet forest to the south. Consequently, it is incredibly diverse. We arrive in time for an afternoon outing to get familiar with some of the dry forest species, including Rufous-naped Wren, Yellow-naped Parrot, Turquoise-browed Motmot, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Scrub Euphonia, and the incredible Scarlet Macaw. Night at Cerro Lodge.
Day 3 – Carara National Park
Carara National Park preserves a large tract of beautiful and bird-rich tropical semi- evergreen forest. It is an amazing place and birding can be marvelous. The site offers a wonderful array of woodcreepers, trogons, and manakins including the stunning Orange-collared, likely displaying when we are there. We could see several species of woodpeckers, flycatchers, antbirds, antwrens and antpittas— the possibilities seem endless! We may find American Pygmy Kingfisher by a woodland pool, or a Boat-billed Heron perched in a tree along the lagoon, or a Long-billed Gnatwren busily hunting insects—or a troop of coatimundis seemingly oblivious to our presence or an Agouti searching the forest floor for fruits.
We enjoy a boat trip in the mangroves along the Rio Tárcoles to look for the endemic Mangrove Hummingbird, Panama and Northern Scrub Flycatchers, Mangrove Black Hawk, and shorebirds and waders such as Roseate Spoonbill. We stay at a hotel only a few minutes from the preserve. We will also stop at a spot to watch American Crocodiles loaf along the river bank. Night at Cerro Lodge.
Day 4 – Transfer to the Talamanca Highlands
After breakfast, we head off to the cloud forest and páramo of the Cordillera de Talamanca. Along the way we stop at locations for White-tailed Emerald, Snowy-bellied Hummingbird and Red-headed Barbet, and visit the high paramo for Volcano Junco and Timberline Wren. Then it is off our hotel in the highlands where we will find the magnificent Fiery-throated Hummingbird at their feeders along with Green Violetear, Volcano Hummingbird and Magnificent Hummingbird. Night at Paraiso Quetzal Lodge.
Day 5 – Cordillera de Talamanca
Here, along dirt roads and forest trails passing among trees draped in epiphytes, we find a new suite of highland birds such as Ruddy Treerunner, Buffy Tuftedcheek, Black-capped Flycatcher, Long-tailed Silky-Flycatcher, Collared Redstart, Large-footed Finch, with luck Silvery-throated Jay. Our primary target is the magnificent Resplendent Quetzal, certainly one of the most beautiful birds in the world. Night at Paraiso Quetzal Lodge.
Day 6 – Highlands to the Caribbean lowlands
We have a final walk around the hotel grounds before heading down from the high mountains to the Caribbean lowlands. Along the way we will stop at Ernesto’s family’s organic coffee farm for a quick tour and an opportunity to sample delicious fresh coffee. After several birding stops along the way, we will arrive at EARTH University for our two night stay. EARTH University provides agricultural programs to students from around the world and the extensive grounds host some of the most intact lowland tropical forest in the area. We settle in to their accommodation for tourists and have the opportunity for evening outing to look for Great Potoo, Black-and-White Owl, Spectacled Owl and possibly a sloth. Night at EARTH University.
Day 7 – Las Brisas
The Las Brisas Reserve is a very rich reserve with a huge birdlist. These foothill forests support some elusive and highly sought after species such as Snowcap and Lattice-tailed Trogon, plus there is a fine assortment of woodpeckers, flycatchers, wrens and tanagers. Isolated trees will have nesting colonies of oropendolas and caciques that construct large hanging nests at the end of branches, a strategy to prevent depredations from monkeys. Neighbouring pastures hold good numbers of seedeaters and tanagers including the striking black and red Passerini’s Tanager, and overhead superb Swallow-tailed Kites circle and soar.
We return for lunch and after a rest during the middle of the day, then go for a short excursion nearby to find lowland species including woodcreepers, gnatcatchers, and possibly Snowy Cotinga. Night at EARTH University.
Day 8 – Transfer to Arenal
Today is a travel day as we travel across the Caribbean lowlands and up to the hills around the Arenal Volcano and our lodge with an incredible view of the classic cone of this volcano. We make frequent stops along the way and keep a sharp lookout for species perched on the top of snags, perhaps a Bat Falcon, Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, or Harris’s Hawk. On arrival, we will have a chance to get familiar with more new birds at the feeders, with a chance to see the tremendous Great Curassow. Night at Arenal Observatory Lodge.
Day 9 – Arenal area
The rainforest at the base of the volcano supports a rich assortment of birds typical of the Caribbean foothills and we should find colourful motmots, noisy raucous parrots in the upper canopy, trogons perched quietly at mid-canopy, Rufous-tailed Jacamars sallying out to catch butterflies, and spectacular Collared Aracaris and Keel-billed Toucans. Odd grunting noises come from Masked Tityras. Mammals include Three-toed Sloth and Spider Monkey. If it is clear, the view of the volcano is breathtaking!
We spend our day exploring the trails and along roads through forest and second-growth woodlands of this area, looking for Caribbean-slope specialties. If we are fortunate, we will encounter a swarm of army ants marching across the forest floor with their attendant army ant followers – antbirds, antshrikes, antwrens, woodcreepers, even hawks. White-necked Puffbirds and Long-tailed Tyrants may be perched conspicuously on exposed dead snags, manakins may be displaying at their leks on the forest floor, and mixed-species flocks could pass by with a dozen or more species in each flock - foliage-gleaners, flycatchers, dacnis, tanagers, warblers, woodpeckers and more. Night at Arenal Observatory Lodge.
Day 10 – Transfer from Arenal to San José
We spend a final morning enjoying the feeders and grounds of the lodge then we travel from Arenal down the Caribbean slope, across the lowlands and over the mountains to the Central Valley. There will be several key stops along the way depending on what we have seen so far. We may stop in at more hummingbird feeders for scarcer hummingbirds such as Coppery-headed Emerald, a Costa Rican endemic, and Purple-throated and White-bellied Mountain-Gems. We arrive at our charming hotel for a final dinner to celebrate a rewarding and productive journey through this beautiful country. Night near San José.
Day 11 – Departure
Our Costa Rica birding tour concludes today and you can transfer to the airport anytime today for flights home.