Bird watching in Costa Rica

This small country delivers unparalleled opportunities for wildlife and bird watching, with more than 900 different species spread over 27% of protected land.


This small country delivers unparalleled opportunities for wildlife and bird watching, with more than 900 different species spread over 27% of protected land. Travel during the migration periods to find higher numbers of resident and migratory species. The autumn migrations from North America to South America continue from August through to December and the winter migration northbound stretches from January to May.

This 12- night tour takes in a diverse range of environments; experience the pristine nature of Costa Rica from the crisp mountain air of San Gerardo de Dota to the lush tropical forest in the northern lowlands near the Nicaragua border. The cloud forest of San Gerardo de Dota is a popular area to spot the national bird of Costa Rica, the Resplendent Quetzal, with its characteristically long, iridescent-green tail.

You will be able to spot a host of endemics such as the White-throated Mountain Gem hummingbird, the Collared Redstart, the Volcano Hummingbird and the Black-cheeked Warbler. In complete contrast, Sarapiqui is hot and humid with dense trails, a protected area of great importance. Some of the stunning tropical species can be sighted include bright and charismatic Keel-billed Toucans, Great Green Macaws, Wood Thrushes, Grey-necked Woodrails, Sun Bitterns and Violet-crowned Woodnymphs.

12 Nights from £3,995pp

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• Spot Resplendent Quetzal and Great Green Macaw
• Explore San Gerardo de Dota mountains
• Visit tropical lowlands on the Nicaragua border
• Explore Maquenque Nature Reserve

What's included?

• 4- & 5-star accommodation
• Flights 
• Various meals included 
• Priavte transfers in air-conditioned vehicles
• Excursions / activities 


Take a daytime flight to San Jose and enjoy a private transfer to your hotel on arrival (approximately 30 minute transfer). Stay for a night in the area of Santo Domingo de Heredia, bursting with rural charm, colonial adobe houses and beautiful churches. The Bougainvillea Hotel is set within 10 acres of lush tropical gardens teeming with trees, plants, colourful flowers and bushes where many birds like to congregate. You may see hummingbirds, Blue-crowned Motmots, Palm Tanagers, Tropical Kingbirds and Boat-billed Flycatchers.

Explore the country by car; hiring a Hyundai Tucson 4×2 (or similar) allows you complete freedom. Located just 85km southwest of San Jose and approximately a 3 hour drive is San Gerardo de Dota on the western slopes of the Cerro de La Muerte. Just a short drive from the Inter-American Highway, it is a stunning habitat for a diverse range of bird and flora species and the primary habitat for the stunning resplendent Quetzal. San Gerardo de Dota is located at an altitude of 2200 metres an area of crisp mountain air, lush cloud forest and excellent birding opportunities.

Wake up to morning birdsong; the dawn chorus announces the start of an unforgettable day in the cloud forest. With your local guide from Savegre Lodge, spend half a day exploring the reserve. The bird list at Hotel Savegre includes more than 170 species, some of which are endemic to the region. Mornings, just after dawn, the best time for spotting birdlife here. Possible sightings include the Resplendent Quetzal and endemics such as the White-throated Mountain Gem, Collared Redstart, Volcano Hummingbird and the Black-cheeked Warbler.

The Turrialba Valley, within the Cordillera Talamanca is approximately a 3 hour drive from San Gerardo de Dota. Rains throughout the year create a lush, green landscape of primary forest, biological corridors, reforested areas and plantations of coffee, macadamia and sugar cane. This rich agricultural area demonstrates the balance between modern development and nature conservation. The regions around Rancho Naturalista are a magnet to many resident and migratory birds and within this diverse habitats over 430 species have been recorded.

Morning birding tour with the hotels local guide exploring the private reserve. Many species are high on the ‘wanted’ list of birders and also falls into Endemic Bird Area of ‘Central American Caribbean Foothills and Lowlands’. Some common residents in the region are the Grey-headed Chachalaca, the White-crowned Parrot, the White-necked Jacobin, the Blue-crowned Motmot, the Collared Aracari, the Keel-billed Toucan, the White-collared Manakin, the Passerini’s Tanager and the Golden-hooded Tanager.

After a 3.5 hour drive, the last few kilometres towards Sela Bananito are impassable by car and the transfer is provided by the lodge. This private reserve is an important buffer zone and transition zone and has achieved worldwide recognition for its efforts in nature conservation. A very peaceful environment, in tune with the surroundings, Selva Bananito Ecolodge is a very comfortable family-run establishment. With no electricity the lodge employs solar energy and biodegradeable products.

Embark on a morning bird watching tour at the lodge along with short natural history hike. Led by knowledgeable ornithologists scour the primary forest for toucans, orioles, trogons, kingfishers, and many more of the 300 species which have been identified in the area. You can also choose from one of the following tours – rainforest tour, introductory tree-climbing or horse ride through the farm. Guide your horse to La Cristalina and into the primary forest, gallop across open fields and through challenging hills and descents to a specialised riding trail.

Drive for approximately 4 hours to Sarapiqui, a hot humid area featuring a dense networks of trails in a biologically rich territory. This protected area is of great importance for the conservation of birds, butterflies, insects and plants. Selva Verde Lodge is the perfect spot for immersing in nature combined with adventure. The private reserve protects more than 500 acres of primary and secondary rainforest and the lodge founded the Sarapiqui Conservation Learning Centre that promotes interaction between the locals, volunteers and guests.

Morning is the most active time for birds so grab your binoculars and venture out for a walk in the lodge grounds. Some of the stunning tropical species that have been sighted include Keel-billed Toucans, Wood Thrushes, Grey-necked Wood Rails, Sun bitterns and Violet Crowned Woodnymphs. Guides have a keen eye for local wildlife and often spot birds you might notice. Another recommended spot is the Nature Pavillion, an open air covered area offering outstanding observation and photography opportunities in all weathers.

Drivefor approximately 3.5 hours towards the Northern Lowlands, near the mouth of the San Carlos river which forms a natural border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Boca Tapada is a remote area, off the beaten track and home to a rich biodiversity of plants and animals. It is most famous as one of the few remaining nesting sites of the endangered Great Green macaw. Maquenque Lodge is located within the 60 hectare Maquenque Eco Preserve of tropical forest with bungalows overlooking the river.

Boca Tapada has over 410 bird species including some migratory species. As well as the endangered Great Green Macaw look out for the Scarlet Macaw, toucans, oropendolas, honeycreepers, tanagers euphonias and jacamars. The morning tour starts at 530am, as dawn breaks, and the birds are most active. Start in the gardnes and lagoons until there is enough day light to start walking into the forest. Other activities available include horse riding, kayaking on the San Carlos River and planting trees.

Take another opportunity to explore the area in the morning as dawn breaks and the wildlife awakens. Depart this remote lodge for the return drive to San Jose which takes approximately 3.5 hours. Break up the return drive with a stop at Poas Volcano to admire the sapphire-blue lake ringed by high-altitude forest. Wander the well marked trails and look out for the magnificent fiery-throated hummingbird, a high altitude speciality of Costa Rica. Close to the volcano is La Paz Waterfall Gardens, with its scenic trails, butterfly conservatory, aviary and hummingbird garden. Return to Hotel Bougainvillea for your final evening.

Private transfer (approximately 30 minutes) to the airport for your return flight. There are a host of other wildlife and birding experiences possibilities in Costa Rica, such as the wonderfully remote Osa Peninula in the south of the country. Please ask us for details.

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