• Lots of high quality, exciting birding in relatively easy conditions
• Amazingly high diversity in such a small area, in comfortable surroundings and protected areas
• Tour of an organic coffee farm
Costa Rica is world-renowned as a birding destination and with good reason! This small country hosts an incredible range of habitats and birds along with very good infrastructure. If you have limited time or want a shorter tour, this tour takes in the highlights of the country.
We start on the Pacific coast in the forests and mangroves of Carara National Park then it is up to cool mountain forests to find one of the world’s most beautiful birds; the Resplendent Quetzal. Onward to the super diverse Caribbean lowlands and foothills then to the slopes incredibly beautiful Arenal volcano. At each location we find new members of these Neotropical families – tanagers, trogons, toucans, parrots, hummingbirds, and much more!
This Costa Rica birding tour is run in partnership with our friends at the Wings Over the Rockies birding festival and a portion of the proceeds from the tour will be donated to support the great work of this annual festival in the Columbia Valley of southeastern British Columbia.
If you are looking for a longer tour, have a look at our other Costa Rica birding tour.
Day 1 – Arrival
Day 2 – Transfer to Carara
Day 3 – Carara National Park
Day 4 – Transfer to the Talamanca Highlands
Day 5 – Cordillera de Talamanca
Day 6 – Highlands to the Caribbean lowlands
Day 7 – Las Brisas
Day 8 – Transfer to Arenal
Day 9 – Arenal area
Day 10 – Transfer from Arenal to San José
Day 11 – Departure
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Our Costa Rica birding tour concludes today and you can transfer to the airport anytime today for flights home.
• Resplendent Quetzal
• Scarlet Macaw
• Collared Redstart
• Keel-billed Toucan
• Violet Sabrewing
• Fiery-billed Aracari
• Volcano Junco
• Rufous-tailed Jacamar
• Turquoise-browed Motmot
• Black-hooded Antshrike
• Slaty-tailed Trogon
2016 Costa Rica Wings species list (pdf)2015 Costa Rica Wings (pdf)
The daily travel schedule on our Costa Rica birding tour will vary to account for weather, bird species and habitat. Expect some early morning, before-breakfast walks, as well as late evening viewing. Almost without exception it is best to begin birding at daybreak in the tropics, when bird activity and song are at their peak. In forest regions, we concentrate on “edge” birding until the light is sufficient to enter forest trails. Often bird activity slackens off by noon, when we may return to our hotel for lunch and a short siesta. On occasion, picnic lunches will be prepared for us, maximizing our time in the field and allowing us a more flexible schedule.
We bird again in the coolness of the late afternoon, possibly staying out after dusk to search for nightbirds. Weather conditions on the trip will range from hot to cool; mostly, it will be warm to hot with a mixture of sun and cloud. Cerro de la Muerte can be cool, windy and wet, and the Caribbean lowlands at Las Brisas are likely to be hot and humid. Walking conditions range from easy to moderate; if there has been rain, then trails could be muddy.
Strong, waterproof footwear is advised and a light rain-jacket and waterproof hat are often essential. There will be opportunities for photography, as many birds and other wildlife allow close approach. Bring mosquito repellant - mosquitoes are not usually a problem but can be active after rain. In the evening we eat at the hotel or lodge where we are staying. At this time we discuss the day’s activities, review the list of birds and other wildlife that we have seen and heard, and prepare for the next day.
• All accommodation and meals• Ground transportation (air conditioned bus with driver)• Guides• All park, conservation and entrance fees• Gratuities
Not Included:• Flights to and from San Jose• Travel Insurance• Items of a personal nature
"Well organized tour with outstanding guides, both general and birding. Great visit to coffee farm. Stunning birds and other wildlife. Costa Rica is hugely welcoming." - 2017 tour participant
"The tour was well organized with excellent food and accommodations with first rate guides and a comfortable bus with an excellent driver.We covered every altitude from Crocodile infested mangroves through middle altitudes of rainforest to dryer rain shadows and up to the highest forests in central Costa rica.Covering all Costa Rican ecosystems gave us exposure to the maximum amount of birds.We counted well over 300 species, our guide was remarkable at finding and Identifying birds as well as the fauna and plants.I would certainly recommend this tour to anyone seriously interested in birding." - 2017 participant
"I loved this tour. A definite 5/5 stars." - 2016 participant
"So many birds, so many species, so much variety in terrain, so much informtaion about the country... this trip was superb in every way. Thank you, Cam and Ernesto - mil gracias!" - 2016 participant
“The tour exceeded our already high expectations in terms of variety/species of birds seen, ecosystems explored, and overall leadership from the knowledgeable guides.” - Costa Rica Wings Tour participant 2015
"It was a delight to see such an amazing variety of birds. This experience was enhanced by the expertise of two outstanding guides. The comfortable lodging surrounded by nature was very appealing and offered easy early birding experiences." - 2015 participant
"Excellent tour, very good and enthusiastic guides. Well organized." - 2015 participant
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