'The Birds of Costa Rica'

What makes this trip special?

Carara Reserve & Tarcoles river

Carara Reserve & Tarcoles river

Central Pacific

A transitional life zone between the humid tropical forest and the high humidy pre-montane forest. At the Carara Biological Reserve highlights include Scarlet Macaw and an active Orange-collared Manakin lek. The Tarcoles river marshlands are rich in waterfowl and wading birds.

Wetland birds & dry forest birds

Wetland birds & dry forest birds

Palo Verde National Park & Rio Tempisque

Stay at a 1000 acre cattle and horse ranch near to the Palo Verde National Park with similar birds and seasonal dry forest/wetland habitat to Palo Verde (but better accommodation). Key species here include Jabiru, Glossy Ibis, Fulvous Whistling-ducks, Bay-winged Hawks and North American waterfowl.

Lush lowland rainforest

Lush lowland rainforest


At the foot of the mountains, where the rainforest is at its lushest, Sarapiqui is home to a myriad of flora and fauna and is a must-see destination for birdwatchers and natural history enthusiasts.

Birds of the lowland rainforest

Birds of the lowland rainforest

OTS La Selva

From your base at the renowned Selva Verde Lodge, bird at nearby OTS La Selva, one of the best places in Costa Rica to find bird species that are difficult to find elsewhere and where 480 species of birds have been recorded, as well as Virgen del Socorro, higher up the eastern slopes, and Braulio Carrillo National Park.

Superb birders lodge

Superb birders lodge

Rancho Naturalista

A superb birders lodge at an elevation of 1,000m for a mix of mountain and lowland species. Over 450 species of bird have been recorded in the local area, and the resident ornithologist staff regularly see difficult species such as the snow-capped hummingbird.

Montane forest birds

Montane forest birds

Tapanti National Park

Birding the Tapanti montane forest where a key species is the Rufous-rumped antwren

Quiet "Garden of Eden" cloud forest

Quiet "Garden of Eden" cloud forest

San Gerardo de Dota & Los Quetzales NP

Tranquil forested valley alive with trout-filled streams close to the highest pass in Costa Rica. Experience 'paramos' habitat above the tree line and keep your eyes peeled - this is the most reliable place in the country to spot the Resplendent quetzal

Itinerary map for Costa Rica 'The Birds of Costa Rica' holiday


  • Day      Overnight
  • 1 San José
  • 2 Carara NP
  • 3 Carara NP
  • 4 Carara NP
  • 5 La Ensenada
  • 6 La Ensenada
  • 7 Sarapiqui
  • 8 Sarapiqui
  • 9 Sarapiqui
  • 10 Rancho Naturalista
  • 11 Rancho Naturalista
  • 12 Rancho Naturalista
  • 13 San Gerardo de Dota
  • 14 San Gerardo de Dota
  • For the detail of each day click the ‘Day-by-day’ tab above.

Day-by-day itinerary for 'The Birds of Costa Rica'


San José

Met on arrival, you are driven to a mid-range hotel.


Carara Reserve

Dawn birding in the hotel’s lovely and productive grounds, then drive to the Tárcoles River on the mid-Pacific coast for 3 nights at Cerro Lodge or Villa Lapas, both are birders lodges close to mangroves and the Carara Reserve–a boundary between tropical dry and humid forest offering a mix of species including White-throated Magpie-Jay, Stripe-headed Sparrow, Fiery-billed Araçari and Black-bellied Wren. This is one of two sites in Costa Rica for Scarlet Macaw, reliably seen from the bridge over the Tárcoles at dusk or dawn.


Two full days’ birding in the Carara Reserve and Rio Tárcoles area. The Reserve’s notable birds also include Hoffmann’s Woodpecker, Orange-collared Manakin, Panama Flycatcher and Black-hooded Antshrike. Look for Zone-tailed Hawk, Gray-chested Dove, Long-billed Hermit, Purple-crowned Fairy, Blue-throated Goldentail, Baird’s Trogon, Long-tailed and Tawny-winged Woodcreepers, Dusky and Chestnut-backed Antbird, Dot-winged Antwren, Spectacled Antpitta, Black-faced Antthrush, Golden-crowned Spadebill, Greenish Elaenia, Slate-headed Tody-flycatcher, Northern Bentbill, Rose-throated Becard, Rufous-breasted, Black-bellied and Riverside Wrens, and Western Tanager. Tárcoles river banks bring Collared Plover, Spotted and Western Sandpipers, and mangroves near its mouth the endemic Mangrove Hummingbird plus Brown Pelican, numerous egrets and herons, White Ibis, Osprey, Plumbeous Kite, Mangrove Black-hawk, Rufous-browed Peppershrike and Mangrove Vireo.


Another full days’ birding in the Carara Reserve and Rio Tárcoles area.


Palo Verde area

After a final early morning in the Carara area drive up the coast to La Enseñada Refuge by the Gulf of Nicoya, for 2 nights. La Enseñada is a 1000 acre cattle and horse ranch whose birds are similar to the nearby Palo Verde NP but with better access and accommodation. An afternoon on the ranch’s trails by a variety of aquatic habitats–freshwater lagoon, saltwater lagoon, mangrove and river, plus some forest habitats–should produce pelicans, herons, parrots, parakeets, bellbirds, trogons, kingfishers, White Ibis, Great Egret, Montezuma Oropendola, Double-striped Thick-knee and possibly Jabiru. Migrant shore birds are also seen.


Full day birding the trails at La Enseñada. This entire region is most productive in the December-April dry season. At other times substitute 2 nights at Tortuguero, which we would place at the start or end of this itinerary.



Drive to Selva Verde Lodge at Sarapiquí (Caribbean slopes) for 3 nights. Bird the grounds for Black-and-white Owl, Great Green Macaw, Snowy Cotinga and Sunbittern.


La Selva Biological Station

A full day at nearby OTS La Selva and surrounding area for NE lowland forest species at 35- 200m. Specialities include White-tipped Sicklebill, Green Thorntail, Spectacled Antpitta, Bare-necked Umbrellabird, Canebrake Wren, Black Hawk-Eagle, Slate-coloured Grosbeak, Olive-backed Euphonia, Tiny Hawk, Great and Slaty-breasted Tinamous.


La Virgen del Socorro

Bird La Virgen del Socorro for Tawny-capped Euphonia, Emerald Tanager, and the endemic Coppery-headed Emerald.

DAY 10

Braulio Carrillo to Rancho Naturalista

Morning’s birding Braulio Carrillo NP where targets include Lanceolated Monklet, Sharpbill, Black-crested Coquette, Rufous-fronted Wood-Quail, Dull-mantled Antbird, Purplish-backed Quail-Dove. Continue to Rancho Naturalista near Turrialba for 3 nights, a birders lodge at 1000m, for a mix of mountain and lowland species. Balcony feeders attract Gray-headed Chachalaca, Collared Araçari, Passerini’s Tanager, Montezuma Oropendola, Blue-crowned Motmot, Lineated and Black-cheeked Woodpeckers, Golden-hooded and White-lined Tanagers, and Scarlet-rumped Cacique. Hummingbird feeders meanwhile buzz with Green Thorntail, White-necked Jacobin, Green-crowned Brilliant, Green-breasted Mango, and Rufous-tailed Hummingbird. Vervain flowers attract Black-crested Coquette and Snowcap. Surrounding trees bring Keel-billed Toucan, Brown-hooded and White-crowned Parrots, and Masked and Black-crowned Tityras.

DAY 11

Two full days’ birding at Rancho Naturalista and around, where specialities include Purplish- backed Quail-Dove, Lanceolated Monklet, Rufous Motmot, Brown-billed Scythebill, Checker-throated Antwren, Spotted Antbird, White-crowned Manakin and Tawny-chested Flycatcher.

DAY 12

Another full days’ birding at Rancho Naturalista and around.

DAY 13

Tapantí and Los Quetzales NP

Birding in the Tapantí montane forest where a key target is Rufous-rumped Antwren, then drive onwards to the San Gerardo de Dota area for 2 nights.

DAY 14

San Gerardo de Dota and Cerro de la Muerte

A memorable morning’s birding for Resplendent Quetzal. Ascend to Cerro de la Muerte for páramo species: Volcano Hummingbird, Black-capped flycatcher, Ochraceous Pewee, Red-fronted Parrotlet, Barred Parakeet, Timberline and Ochraceous Wrens, Yellow-winged Vireo, Wrenthrush, Volcano Junco, Blue Seedeater and Peg-billed Finch.

DAY 15

San José

A final dawn’s birding in Los Quetzales before you return to San José airport for your overnight flight home.

Guide prices for 'The Birds of Costa Rica'

options based on all year low season mid season high season peak season other season
Selfdrive basis 2 people sharing £3,775 £4,060
Bird guide basis 2 people sharing £6,070 £6,405
Prices are per person and include:
  • all travel in Costa Rica
  • all accommodation
  • meals as indicated B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner
Prices do not include:
  • international flights
  • travel insurance
  • airport and departure taxes
  • items of a personal nature such as drinks, tips, laundry, etc
  • any optional excursions you may buy locally

Customer reviews for 'The Birds of Costa Rica'

Recent reviews are shown here from holidays based on this initial design. In each case the itinerary may have been modified (a little or a lot) to suit the individual traveller.

Average customer rating 98%


Rancho Naturalista and Savegre Mountain Hotel.


All boat trips were outstanding


Tortuguero, La Selva, Arenal. Difficult to pick a best part as they were all so diverse



Difficult to say because each place was so different. But we would go back to Tortuguero for the experience and to Arenal for the setting and to Bosque de Paz + Savegre Mountain Hotel because they are project places to stay. And we would like the Bougai


We could have spent weeks at each location - as each had so much to offer. San Gerardo de Dota was brilliant as was sarapiqui, Arenal was most comfortable - the hot outdoor jacuzzi was great! Rincon de la vieja so much hotter, but we really went for the


We enjoyed it all, but our time in Sarapiqui would have been better with less rain!


Mountains, boat trips, but in general the wildlife, weather, our guide nd the lovely Costa Rican people (Ticos).


Hard to specify!



Seeing the male Quetzal. Close views of snowcap and other birds on feeders at Rancho Naturalista. Capuchins at Carara.


Everything (apart from the accommodation in Palo Verde)


All of the locations were super and the birding was excellent.


The three highlights were Rancho Naturalista, Savegre, Wilson


We would have liked to extend the holiday to spend more time at the end but the overall trip was excellent and we would consider going again.



San Gerardo de Dota and Arenal


Having a knowledgeable, sympathetic and genuinely very nice guide.

Seasonal information for 'The Birds of Costa Rica'

Along this route in January

Day Location Max °C Monthly rainfall
1 San José 24°C rainfall 28mm
2 Carara NP 32°C rainfall 8mm
3 Carara NP 32°C rainfall 8mm
4 Carara NP 32°C rainfall 8mm
5 La Ensenada 32°C rainfall 1mm
6 La Ensenada 32°C rainfall 1mm
7 Sarapiqui 30°C rainfall 254mm
8 Sarapiqui 30°C rainfall 254mm
9 Sarapiqui 30°C rainfall 254mm
10 Rancho Naturalista 25°C rainfall 186mm
11 Rancho Naturalista 25°C rainfall 186mm
12 Rancho Naturalista 25°C rainfall 186mm
13 San Gerardo de Dota 16°C rainfall 85mm
14 San Gerardo de Dota 16°C rainfall 85mm

Typical weather for January


Max °C figures are the average daily maximum temperatures for the month. Rainfall is the average precipitation for the month.

Hotels for 'The Birds of Costa Rica'

Day 1



Average rating 4.8 (297 ratings)

Hotel Bougainvillea is a very nice 3-4 star hotel set among ten acres of lush flower filled gardens and surrounded by coffee plantations and citrus orchards. Situated in Heredia it provides a quiet first/last night hideaway just 15 minutes from the international airport and from downtown San José. Bedrooms are rather bland, but spacious with two double beds, a sitting area and the full range of facilities. Most of the rooms have free wi-fi internet access. Every room has a balcony offering marvelous views of the mountains on one side and the San José skyline on the other. There is a light and pleasant dining room, a large inviting swimming pool and 2 tennis courts. This is a good option for gardeners, birdwatchers and those who prefer to stay out of the city centre.  It is not ideal if you intend travelling around Costa Rica by shuttle bus transfers.

Days 2 - 3

Villa Lapas Rainforest Resort

nr Carara

Villa Lapas is very popular birders hotel due to its unique location adjacent to the Carara Reserve and productive natural history viewing opportunities in its grounds. The hotel has 76 simple, rustic rooms and suites set amid a 500 acre private reserve of secondary forest. All have either a king bed or two queen beds, private bathrooms with hot water, A/C, Smart cable TV's, free wifi and an in room safe. There are trails, a swimming pool and canopy walk in the grounds. The onsite "Casa del Rio" restaurant serves international/Costa Rican fusion meals in a dining room or alfresco terrace overlooking the Tarcolitos river. There is also a bar "La Cantinta" serving  cocktails and snacksm set in the hotel's onsite "Santa Lucia" mock colonial village.

Although the facilities are in want of an up-grade its location is the winning aspect. This area is one of the few places in Costa Rica where Scarlet Macaw can be seen at dusk and dawn flying from their roosts to the forest to feed and back again.

Villa Lapas Rainforest Resort
Hotel grounds
Days 5 - 6

La Ensenada Lodge

Gulf of Nicoya

Average rating 4.4 (23 ratings)

La Ensenada is a family run 1000 acre farm set beside the Gulf of Nicoya near Palo Verde, sharing a similar wetland habitat. Accommodation is in simple, functional, clean wooden cabins, each with a private bathroom and veranda. There is a swimming pool and lawns down to the Gulf which create a beautiful, tranquil location in which to relax. Guests can join in with the daily activities of the working farm, which raises cattle and horses as well as producing salt and fruit. They offer horse back riding, mangrove tours and trails through the jungle. There are great bird watching opportunities here (Dec - Apr) particularly when the migrant species are passing through. On your way over to dinner you will need a torch - watch out for the huge toads!

La Ensenada Lodge
Days 7 - 9

Selva Verde Lodge & Rainforest Reserve


Average rating 4.2 (74 ratings)

Selva Verde Lodge, is located on a 500 acre, private tract of virgin tropical rainforest and rich second-growth habitats. It is adjacent to Braulio Carrillo National Park and near to the Organization for Tropical Studies' field station, La Selva. The lodge is an ideal base for birders, boasting a resident naturalist, local guides, butterfly garden, swimming pool and an ever-expanding reference library. There are 40 rather spartan double (or triple occupancy) rooms with fans, private baths and showers. Bedrooms open onto large, spacious, wooden balconies connected by raised walkways.  Meals are served cafeteria style.

Selva Verde Lodge & Rainforest Reserve
Days 10 - 12

Rancho Naturalista

20mins from La Suiza

Average rating 4.7 (29 ratings)

A delightful hill top family run birders lodge with 15 rooms, the majority with private bathrooms. Guests stay here on a full board basis.  Situated on a hill top at 900m (2,970ft), the grounds extend from an altitude of 2528 - 3850ft (766 and 1167m) on the Caribbean slope in the Cordillera Talamanca.  There are good views of Volcan Turrialba and Volcan Irazu from the lodge.

Over 450 species of birds have been recorded in the area inc. Snow-cap Hummingbird. Optional excursions are also available at modest extra cost with the resident professional bird guides.


Guiding fees are paid directly to the guides, the fee is:

$60.00 per group for a full morning of guiding (up to 5 people)

$50.00 per group for an afternoon of guiding (up to 5 people)

All guiding is subject to availability, if there are not enough guides than you may have to share a guide.  

Rancho Naturalista
Days 13 - 14

Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve & Spa

San Gerardo de Dota

Average rating 4.6 (45 ratings)

This birders lodge is situated in the village of San Gerardo de Dota which nestles in the pretty Savegre River valley.

It has 31 simple wooden cabins with private facilities, hot water, a large dining room serving family style, home cooked meals and bar.

The surrounding grounds include an orchard of plums, apples and peaches and a trout farm.  The lodge's 400ha private biological reserve ranges from between 1,220 and 2,560m above sea level. Over 170 species of bird have been observed on its cloud forest hiking trails.

The lodge is also known as Cabinas Chacon - after the owner Don Efran Chacon

Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve & Spa