Situated between North and South America, the small Central American country of Costa Rica is one of the most wildlife rich countries in the world. Covering an area just over the size of Wales, Costa Rica offers a diverse range of habitats from active volcanoes, cloud forest, dry savannah, mangroves, tropical forest plus marshes and rivers.
With around 925 species recorded including around 70 regional endemics, Costa Rica is a birders paradise with sought-after species such as the magnificent Resplendent Quetzal, Scarlet and Great Green Macaws, Sunbittern, Turquoise-browed Motmot, Black-and-white Owl, Spectacled Owl, Three-wattled Bellbird, Northern Emerald Toucanet and Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher amongst others!
Wintering species include good numbers of new world warblers such as Black-and-white, Chestnut-sided, Golden-winged, Wilson’s, Prothonotary, Tennessee and Black-throated Green.
Our tour has been carefully planned to give us a great introduction to Neotropical birding and we can also expect a wide range of other wildlife from stunning butterflies to mammals such as Three-toed Sloth and White-faced Capuchin and the wonderful Red-eyed Treefrog, making this a tour not to be missed!
Tour Leaders: Steve Grimwade and Alfredo Scott
Maximum Group Size: 8
We take a morning flight from London Gatwick to San José and transfer to our hotel where if time permits, we will get our first introduction to birding in Costa Rica with common species such as Costa Rica’s national bird, the Clay-colored Thrush. Other species we hope to see include Hoffmann’s Woodpecker, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Tropical Kingbird, White-eared Ground Sparrow and Baltimore Oriole amongst others. After a good meal, we will get some rest after a long day travelling.
Overnight: San José
After breakfast we drive north from the central valley over the active volcanic zone down into the Caribbean forest lowlands where along the way, we may see Black and Turkey Vultures soaring over the roads. The La Paz Waterfall Gardens are well known as hummingbird heaven with 26 species of Hummingbird present including the endemic Coppery-headed Emerald plus other species that may include Black-bellied, Green Hermit, Brown Violetear, Violet Sabrewing, Green-breasted Mango and Magenta-throated Woodstar.
The lush vegetation and waterfalls provide home to some superb species including Ochraceous Wren, Spotted Barbtail, White Hawk, Black-cheeked Warbler, Prong-billed Barbet, American Dipper, the orange-bellied race of Collared Trogon, Torrent Tyrannulet plus various Tanagers such as Emerald, Silver-throated and Crimson-collared and the park is one of the best sites for the stunning Blue-throated Toucanet.
Late afternoon we head to our overnight accommodation at Arenal Lodge.
Overnight: Arenal Lodge
The Arenal Volcano is one of the country’s most famous volcanoes and its perfect cone is visible from almost everywhere in the area. The 870-acre lodge area encompasses two life zones: the tropical rainforest of the Caribbean lowlands and the premontane forests of the Caribbean foothills. The diversity of habitats, ranging from primary and secondary forests to agricultural pastures which is home to the Lovely Cotinga, Black-crested Coquette, Yellow-eared Toucanet, Bare-necked Umbrellabird, Yellow-throated Toucan, Fasciated and Great Antshrikes, Great Curassow, Thicket Antpitta, Ornate Hawk-Eagle and the Fasciated Tiger Heron.
One of the most beautiful environmentally-friendly projects in Costa Rica is Arenal Hanging Bridges, a natural corridor which is followed by migratory species between North and South America. Birding this area gives us the chance to locate raptors including Swallow-tailed and Double-toothed Kites, Tiny, Grey and Bicolored Hawks.
Red-billed Pigeon, Short-billed Pigeon, Blue Ground Dove, Olive-throated Parakeet, White-crowned Parrot, Striped Cuckoo, Great Potoo, Bronzy Hermit, White-necked Jacobin, Green-breasted Mango, Black-crested Coquette, Broad-billed Motmot and Prong-billed Barbet are just some of the other species we hope to see in this fantastic birding habitat.
After a great days birding, we will enjoy a home-cooked meal of typical Costa Rican fare!
Overnight: Arenal Lodge
We will awake to the calls of Mantled Howler Monkeys as part of the dawn chorus and say our goodbyes to Arenal and move onwards to the Sarapiqui area which is renowned for its high density of species. Half the country’s species of bird present are in areas of protected private forests, national parks and sanctuaries. Targets here will be the highly endangered Great Green Macaw plus the sought-after Sunbittern.
The trails and paths criss-crossing the area are home to Bright-rumped Attila, Shining and Green Honeycreepers, Band-backed Wren, Little Tinamou and Slaty-tailed Trogon whilst the dense rainforests may yield Fasciated and Great Antshrikes amongst others.
The Sarapiqui River holds Amazon and Green Kingfishers, Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Bare-throated Tiger Heron, Green Ibis plus Keel-billed and Yellow-throated Toucans. Yellow-naped Amazon and White-crowned Parrots call overhead and are often joined by the smaller Olive-throated Parakeet. It isn’t just birds though with Central American Spider Monkeys and Green Iguanas on the shores.
Overnight: Selva Verde Lodge
La Selva Biological Station is owned and managed by the Organisation for Tropical Studies, a consortium of universities dedicated to rainforest research. We start the day with a walk through the expansive lowland forest on the Caribbean slope where we hope to find Great Curassow, Grey-headed Chachalaca, Semiplumbeous Hawk, White-crowned, Red-lored Amazon and Northern Mealy Amazon, White-ruffed and White-collared Manakins around the lodge clearing.
The rain forest also holds Red-throated Ant Tanager, Cinnamon Becard, Rufous-winged and Pale-billed Woodpeckers, Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Masked Tityra, Keel-billed Toucan, Collared Aracari and Crested Guan.
During the afternoon we head south through the amazing Costa Rican countryside to Savegre Lodge where we will settle in for two nights.
Overnight: Selva Verde Lodge
The Savegre Lodge is situated high in the Talamanca Mountains at 2200 metres (7220ft) and nestled in a steeply walled valley where the cloud forest is filled with massive oaks and other highland native species. This is probably the best location for around 50 species of regional endemics including the diurnal Costa Rican Pygmy Owl, Northern Emerald Toucanet, Black Guan, Spotted Wood Quail, Sulphur-winged Parakeet, Ochraceous Pewee, Collared Trogon, Ochraceous Wren, Yellow-thighed Finch, Black-cheeked Warbler, Collared Whitestart, Golden-bellied Flycatcher, Spangle-cheeked Tanager. More regional endemics include Streak-breasted Treehunter, Buffy Tuftedcheek, Silvery-fronted Tapaculo, Wrenthrush, Scintillant Hummingbird, Flame-throated Warbler, Slaty Flowerpiercer, Peg-billed Finch, Sooty Thrush, Timberline Wren, Volcano Junco, Sooty-capped Bush Tanager, Red-fronted Parrotlet, Buff-fronted Quail-Dove, Maroon-chested Ground Dove and Silvery-throated Jay.
Before reaching our lodge we will bird along the road at 9000ft high where Volcano Hummingbird, Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher, Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush and both Yellow-thighed and Large-footed Finches can be seen.
Overnight: Savegre Lodge
We will start the day looking for one of the most attractive species in the world, The Resplendent Quetzal. The San Gerado area is probably the best place to see this bird that is top of our ‘most wanted’ lists and it will be a highlight of the tour!
Whilst the Quetzal will be our main goal, the valley is also an excellent place to find Highland Tinamou, Red-tailed Hawk, Sulphur-winged Parakeet, Ruddy Treerunner, Sooty Thrush, Ruddy Pigeon and many hummingbirds including White-throated Mountaingem, Purple-throated Mountaingem and Talamanca Hummingbird.
Overnight: Savegre Lodge
Our adventure continues by us moving to the Northwest Pacific area which contains some of the last remnants of tropical lowland dry forest. Along with large saltpans, the area offers birding opportunities for a wide selection of species. Target birds are the rare Jabiru (one of the trip favourites) and the handsome Three-wattled Bellbird.
Other goodies in the area include Turquoise-browed Motmot, White-throated Magpie-Jay, White-fronted Amazon and Orange-fronted Parakeet whilst around the lodge are Rufous-naped Wren, Hoffmann’s Woodpecker, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Canivet’s Emerald, Green-breasted Mango, Yellow-headed and Northern Crested Caracaras, Eastern Meadowlark, White-tipped Dove, Inca Dove, Common Ground Dove and Melodious Blackbird.
Scarcer species such as Scrub Euphonia, Streak-backed Oriole and Spot-breasted Oriole can be seen near the lodge and at night Pauraques can be seen and also Lesser Nighthawks are occasionally noted. Both Pacific Screech Owl and Ferruginous Pygmy Owl (which are also active during the day) are common but can be tricky to see.
A short walk to the beach can produce Laughing Gull plus Royal and Sandwich Terns which frequent the wetlands along with Brown Pelican, Magnificent Frigatebird, Neotropic Cormorant and American White Ibis. Waders may include Spotted, Western, Semipalmated and Stilt Sandpipers, Grey, Wilson’s and Semipalmated Plovers, Black-necked Stilt, Whimbrel, Willet and Short-billed Dowitchers.
The local ponds are home to Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Blue-winged Teal, Wood Stork, Roseate Spoonbill, Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Green Heron, American White Ibis and Northern Jacana.
Overnight: Ensenada Lodge
During the winter, thousands of birds can be found on the Palo Verde Wildlife Refuge making it one of the top sites for birding in Costa Rica, where one can expect to see the elusive Long-tailed Manakin and Thicket Tinamou.
The scrubby areas hold Stripe-headed Sparrow, Common Ground Dove and maybe even the elusive Lesser Ground Cuckoo. Flowering trees and shrubs will be checked for hummingbirds with Green-breasted Mango, Plain-capped Starthroat, Canivet’s Emerald and the migratory Ruby-throated Hummingbird all likely. We can hope to see many raptors like Roadside and Grey Hawk plus Snail Kite, Western Osprey, Common Black Hawk and Peregrine Falcon around the wetlands.
During the afternoon when cooler, a visit to the wetlands can be productive with Black-bellied and Fulvous Whistling Duck, Muscovy Duck plus Blue-winged Teal and sometimes unusual migrants such as American Coot. The shallow waters are home to wintering Great Egret, Western Cattle Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue and Tricolored Heron, Green Heron and Great Blue Heron plus Bare-throated Tiger Heron and Yellow-crowned Night Heron.
Patient scanning will reveal Black-crowned Night Heron and Boat-billed Heron in the vegetation with Northern Jacana, American White Ibis, Wood Stork, Limpkin, Purple Gallinule, Roseate Spoonbill and both Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers plus a fabulous sunset which paints the wetlands in a beautiful orange glow!
Overnight: Ensenada Lodge
The Central Pacific lowlands consist of transitional forest where the more humid forests of the Southern Pacific coast blend and overlap with the drier forests of the northern Pacific Coast. This results in the unique zone where both northern and southern species can be seen in the same place and over 300 species of birds have been observed in the area.
After lunch we will take a boat trip along the Tarcoles River and Guacalillo Mangrove Estuary where with luck, we may see American Pygmy Kingfisher, Double-striped Thick-knee, Rufous-necked Wood Rail, Bare-throated Tiger Heron, Boat-billed Heron and Common Black Hawk.
In addition to birds, the Tarcoles River is important habitat for one of the world’s largest populations of American Crocodiles, as well as habitat to Common Basilisk Lizard, Green Iguana, monkeys, anteaters and much more.
Overnight: Villa Lapas Lodge
Carara National Park is considered by many to be one of the best birding locations in Costa Rica and is famous for the brilliant Scarlet Macaw which can often be seen (and heard) flying overhead, particularly at dusk.
Raptors are abundant with Yellow-headed Caracara, Hook-billed Kite, Laughing Falcon, King Vulture, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Striped Owl and Northern Crested Caracara.
The excellent birding continues with up to five species of Trogon, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Northern Royal Flycatcher, Grey-necked Wood Rail, Elegant Tern, Tawny-winged Woodcreeper, Smooth-billed Ani, Scaled Pigeon, Costa Rican Swift and Panamanian Flycatcher, Yellow-billed Cotinga, Mangrove Vireo and American Yellow Warbler among others.
Overnight: Villa Lapas Lodge
After a morning walk in the local woodlands where we hope to connect with some new species for the tour, we make the journey back to San José ready for our flight home after what will have been a superb tour in a wonderful country!
Overnight: Flight to London Gatwick
The tour concludes back in the UK with a mid-morning arrival at London Gatwick
Flights from London Gatwick to San José
Full board accommodation for 12 nights
All ground transport in Costa Rica
Full guiding throughout
Drinks and items of a personal nature
Moderate, three to four miles walking per day
Expect between 320 and 370 species
Ground Price: £3350
*Air Price: £600
Total Tour Price: £3950
Single Supplement: £320
*Please see our tours page regarding flight costs