Costa Rica’s Wildlife and Birding Hotspots (December 2-11, 2017)

Costa Rica may be the only country in the world to have so many bird species and habitats accessible within such a small area. A country only the size of West Virginia, Costa Rica is home to more than 850 species of birds, greater than in all of North America north of Mexico. One of the main reasons for Costa Rica’s extraordinary bird life is that a variety of habitats, from beaches and mangroves to rainforests and cloud forests, are located in close proximity to one another. In addition, Costa Rica’s wealth of protected areas, ~25% of the country, provides ample opportunities for the birding and wildlife enthusiast. This trip includes birding in the cloud forest of San Gerardo de Dota, coastal rainforest on the South Pacific Coast, and the Costa Rican Bird Route.


Below are some of our sample itineraries, but note that we can customize the perfect Costa Rica adventure that meets your needs.



DAY 1 (Sat, Dec 2): Arrival/ Central Valley ~ Upon arrival at the airport in San José you will be met and transferred to your hotel. If there’s time, feel free to explore the gardens in search for your first Costa Rican birds and wildlife. Meet fellow travel companions during our welcome dinner at the hotel. Accommodations: Hotel Bougainvillea; Meals: Dinner

guided birding tours Costa Rica

DAY 2 (Sun, Dec 3) – Central Valley/ Sarapiqui (El Tapir, Rainforest and Caribbean Lowlands) ~ Our day begins as we explore the hotel’s botanical garden looking for hummingbirds, tanagers and tropical flowers. Mid-morning departure to the Caribbean Lowlands passing Braulio Carrillo National Park with a stop at El Tapir Garden en route. El Tapir is home to the snowcap and yellow-eared toucanets. This is also a good area to search for sloths, butterflies and other wildlife. Arrive to Selva Verde Lodge in time for lunch. Protecting 500 acres of primary and secondary rainforest and home to more than 370 species of birds, 100 species of amphibians and reptiles, 80 species of mammals and more tan 300 species of trees, Selva Verde provides opportunities to see an array of species including keel-billed toucan, sunbittern, Acadian flycatcher, and the endangered great green macaw. The lodge’s reserve is also home to howler and white-faced monkeys, agoutis, coatis, green iguanas, emerald basilisk lizards, posion dart frogs and charismatic red-eyed tree frogs. You have the afternoon to explore the lodge with your guide. Accommodations: Selva Verde Lodge Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

DAY 3 (Mon, Dec 4): Sarapiqui (Rainforest and Caribbean Lowlands) ~ Grab your binoculars or camera for an optional early morning birding hike in the Selva Verde Reserve before breakfast. The reserve is home to one of the largest almond trees in all of Central America, which provides habitat for the endangered great green macaw. Return to the lodge for a delicious breakfast, and then continue looking for birds and wildlife at Selva Verde’s on-site botanical garden. Afternoon safari float on the Sarapiquí River. Accommodations: Selva Verde Lodge; Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

Howler monkey - Central America

DAY 4 (Tues, Dec 5): Sarapiqui (La Selva, Rainforest and Caribbean Lowlands) ~ Morning birding and wildlife hike at the nearby Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) La Selva Biological Field Station, a famous destination for nature enthuisasts. La Selva is a great place for peccaries, wildflowers, trogons, great curassow and others. La Selva consists of approximately 2,500 acres of land, over 90% of which is virgin forest. Over half of Costa Rica’s 900+ recorded bird species have been spotted at La Selva, including the bare-necked umbrellabird, red-capped manakin, great antshrike, chestnut-backed antbird, slaty-tailed trogon, striped cuckoo, slaty spinetail, sunbittern, Agami heron and yellow-tailed oriole. The afternoon is yours to explore on your own or with your guide. The day ends with an exciting guided night walk in search of wildlife including glass frogs, nocturnal mammals and insects. Accommodations: Selva Verde Lodge; Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.


DAY 5 (Wed, Dec 6): San Gerardo de Dota (Cloud Forest and Highlands) ~ After breakfast, depart to the cloud forest San Gerardo de Dota area in the highlands arriving in time for lunch. The area is situated approximately 10,000 ft. above sea level and combines highland oak and cloud forests with open grasslands and forest edges. A diverse mix of birds inhabits the area, including large numbers of strikingly beautiful resplendent quetzals, our main target in the area. Accommodations: Paraiso Quetzal Lodge; Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

resplendent quetzal - stock image

DAY 6 (Thurs, Dec 7): San Gerardo de Dota (Cloud Forest and Highlands) ~ After breakfast, go birding along the local roads of the area and private preserves looking for the resplendent quetzal. In addition to quetzals, the region is home to a number of birds that are only found at this elevation, such as the collared trogon, emerald toucanet, fiery-colored tanager, marbled wood-quail, long-tailed silky-flycatcher, buffy tuftedcheek and tufted Flycatcher. This afternoon, enjoy visiting the lodge’s trails and watchtower, looking for Talamanca regional endemics like the white-throated mountain gem, collared redstart, and volcano hummingbird. Accommodations: Paraiso Quetzal Lodge; Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

DAY 7 (Fri, Dec 8): San Gerardo de Dota/ Uvita (Paramo, Tropical Humid Forest, South Pacific Lowlands) ~ Morning departure to the Southern Pacific tropical humid forest area of Costa Rica with a stop at Paramo-Quetzals and Tapanti National Parks for two special birds: timberline wren and volcano junco. Afternoon arrival to the coast where we’ll spend the next two nights. Accommodations: Cristal Ballena; Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

DAY 8 (Sat, Dec 9): Uvita (Tropical Humid Forest and South Pacific Lowlands) ~ Morning visit to Térraba Sierpe Wetlands, the biggest wetland in Central America and a Ramsar site.  Targets in the area included the colorful scarlet macaw, mangrove swallow, raptors and the endemic squirrel monkey. We will have lunch in the colorful village of Sierpe and after lunch on the way back we will visit the Finca 6 Stone Spheres Musseum of the Delta Diquis, an archaeological area that recently was declared a World Heritage by the UNESCO. Accommodations: Cristal Ballena; Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

guided birding tours Costa Rica

DAY 9 (Sun, Dec 10): Uvita/ Central Valley (Tropical Humid Forest and South Pacific Lowlands) ~ Morning marine wildlife boat tour at Marino Ballena National Park. The park was created in 1990 to help protect valuable habitat for the many whale species, including humpbacks that visit at certain times of the year. January does fall within whale season. Dolphins and sea turtles are seen throughout the year. The most commonly seen dolphins on the Pacific coast are bottlenose and spotted dolphins. Afternoon departure back to San Jose following the coastal road with stops along the way. Discuss trip highlights with fellow travelers tongith during our farewell dinner. Accommodations: Hotel Bougainvillea;  Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

DAY 10 (Mon, Dec 11): Departure ~ Transfer back to SJO Airport in time for flight home. Meals: Breakfast.



Price: $2730 per person based on double occupancy. Single supplement: $500.

Package includes accommodations, meals starting with dinner on Day 1 and ending with breakfast on Day 10, private ground transportation, full-time bilingual naturalist guide, R2R trip host, activities, and entrance fees as listed. A donation to support local conservation efforts will be made on behalf of all participants.

Exclusions: international airfare, passport/visa fees, optional activities, travel insurance, exit taxes, items of a nature, and gratuities for local guide and driver.