Costa Rica Birdwatching Holiday

For any keen birdwatcher, Costa Rica is a must. With 850+ species in a relatively small area, drawn by diverse habitats & abundant food, this is high octane birding!

Costa Rica Birdwatching Holiday

13 days from £3,675 pp

(exc. international flights)

Costa Rica is known for its biodiversity, and its birdlife epitomises this: a country far smaller than Scotland has more bird species than those of the USA and Canada combined. Part of the reason is historical: the thin bridge that is Central America was formed when the twin land masses of North and South America split, and attracted species from both continents. Other reasons include the range of habitats, year-round availability of fruit and large tracts of protected parks and reserves, all of which play their part in maintaining the thriving bird population.

On this holiday you travel across the country, taking in cloudforest at over 2,200 metres above sea level, Caribbean rainforest, lowland rainforest, vast wetlands, dry tropical forest and Pacific coastal rainforest. Each region puts on an impressive ornithological display. Wake to the sound of birdsong, venture out before breakfast to watch birds feasting, follow trails deep into the rainforest, through fertile valleys, explore waterways by boat, cross hanging bridges high in the forest canopy – no two days are the same. You have the services of a specialist bird watching guide who accompanies you for the duration of the tour.

Hotels and lodges have been chosen largely for their locations. All allow easy access to birding locations, and have gardens where between tours you can sit back and watch the birds come to you!

The sheer variety and abundance of the avian display is overwhelming. It’s not just the usual scene stealers – quetzals, macaws, hummingbirds, toucans – but others that may take centre stage. If you’re lucky you may see the ornate hawk-eagle, great antshrike, white-throated magpie-jay and Nicaraguan grackle, as well as many species of tanager, warbler, wren, ibis and woodpecker. And you’re certain to become familiar with Costa Rica’s national bird, the clay-coloured thrush, found throughout the country and lauded in many folk songs.


  • San José 1 night
  • Quetzales National park 2 nights
  • Turrialba Valley 1 night
  • Sarapiquí Rainforest 2 nights
  • Caño Negro Wetlands 2 nights
  • Nicoya Gulf 2 nights
  • Carara National Park 2 nights

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Day 1

Arrive at San José international airport where a representative is waiting to meet you and drive you the 25 minutes to your first accommodation, Bougainvillea Hotel. The hotel has 4 hectares of landscaped gardens with a wide variety of plants including, of course, bougainvillea! This richness attracts numerous birds including tanagers, flycatchers, kingbirds, wrens, doves, woodpeckers and hummingbirds, to whet your appetite for the next few days. After a walk in the grounds you might like to relax with a drink in the bar or sample some Costa Rican cuisine in the restaurant.

Bougainvillea Hotel

Day 2

You have the chance for some early bird watching before the drive to San Gerardo de Dota, a journey of about 2 hours. This is a mountainous area covered in cloudforest with abundant birdlife including several species of hummingbirds, collared trogon, acorn woodpecker, yellow-thighed finch, emerald toucanet, ornate hawk-eagle and the dazzling quetzal. You reach your hotel before lunchtime and have the afternoon to enjoy the birds of the cloudforest on a walk with your expert guide.

Breakfast, lunch, dinner 

Savegre Mountain Hotel

Day 3

After breakfast set out with your guide to Quetzales National Park. Your main purpose is to spot the bird after which the park is named, the unmistakable quetzal, also known as the resplendent quetzal, with its brilliant green and red plumage. Your tour takes in different areas of the park where you can expect to see yellow-bellied siskin, flame-throated warbler, barred becard and torrent tyrannulet among others. 

Breakfast, dinner

Day 4

Today you exchange the cool climate of the cloudforest for the lush rainforest of the Turrialba Valley. The drive takes you through the scenic Orosí Valley, and ends at Rancho Naturalista, where you spend the night. The forest reserve here is home to some 450 species of birds, and relaxing on the large terrace you can watch many of these against the dramatic backdrop of Turrialba volcano. You can stretch your legs with a stroll around some of the garden trails too, before sitting down to a tasty dinner.

Breakfast, lunch, dinner

 Rancho Naturalista

Day 5

Your journey continues with a descent to the northern lowlands and Sarapiquí rainforest. Check in to Selva Verde Lodge. The network of reserves and national parks hosts diverse bird life including the endangered great green macaw. After exploring you can enjoy a swim in the pool and a chilled drink as you watch butterflies and birds in the surrounding gardens.

Breakfast, dinner

  Selva Verde Lodge

Day 6

The day is devoted to exploring La Selva Biological Station. This area has one of the largest numbers of bird species of any site in Central America, so you’re in for a real treat. Regional species include the Nicaraguan seed-finch, stripe-breasted wren, rufous-winged woodpecker and snowy cotinga, and you can also expect to see tanagers, toucans and trogons. There are many different walking trails you can follow with your guide on this memorable day’s bird watching.

Breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 7

This morning you depart Selva Verde on the drive to Caño Negro Wetlands. Caño Negro Lake and the Río Frío provide vital water for over 300 species of birds. Depending on timings you may be able to stop off en-route to visit Arenal Volcano or the Río Celeste. Your home here is Natural Lodge, set in tropical gardens where you can cool off with a refreshing swim in the pool.

Breakfast, dinner

 Natural Lodge

Day 8

Caño Negro is known for its marine birds such as roseate spoonbills, jabiru storks, northern jacanas, neotropical cormorants and great blue herons. It is one of the best places on the globe to see the Nicaraguan grackle. Caño Negro’s status as a wetland of international importance is evidenced by its being a named a Ramsar site in 1991. Your visit today is by boat which allows to you reach some of the best viewing areas. 

Breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 9

Today you travel from the Caribbean lowlands south to the Gulf of Nicoya on the Pacific coast, in the heart of the tropical lowland dry forest. La Ensenada Lodge is your base here, providing simple yet comfortable accommodation in wooden cabins facing the gulf, perfectly positioned for lovely sunset views.

Breakfast, dinner

 La Ensenada Lodge

Day 10

Spend the day bird watching at La Ensenada. This is an area of lagoons, mud flats, swamps and mangroves as well as forest. This variety of habitats ensures a diverse avian population. As you follow a walking trail, you can spot colourful birds such as the white-throated magpie-jay, turquoise-browed motmot, orange-fronted parakeet, green-breasted mango, rufous-naped wren and cinnamon hummingbird. The precise species you see varies as to which path you follow, but sightings will be plentiful in every case.

Breakfast, dinner

Day 11

Your drive initially follows the coast then heads inland to Carara National Park. This is the site of the last significant area of primary rainforest in the central Pacific region. Check in to your hotel, set in gorgeous tropical gardens. This afternoon your guide leads on the Sky Way walk, consisting of 5 hanging bridges, 55 metres above the forest floor. This is an excellent way to penetrate the rainforest canopy and there are great chances to see scarlet macaws, black-hooded antshrikes and yellow-billed cotingas among a colourful array of birds. 

Breakfast, dinner

Day 12

Carara National Park encompasses both tropical dry forest and humid forest. It’s a rich environment where you can expect to encounter parrots, kingfishers, toucans and herons. However the undisputed star of the show is the scarlet macaw. Their vivid plumage stands out against the largely green background, though amongst the foliage they can sometimes be quite hard to spot and you may be glad of the expert eyes of your guide. There are thought to be about 150 scarlet macaws in the reserve at the current time, so your chances of seeing them are very good.

Breakfast, dinner

Day 13

Following breakfast, and depending on your flight time, you are driven to the international airport in San José, about 90 minutes, arriving in time to check in for your flight home.


2024 guide price from (pp for two sharing, excluding international flights):
Travel not recommended in September and October
All year: From £3,675
(Some surcharges may be required at peak holiday times such as Easter and Christmas – please check with us)

Discounts available for 4 or more people, and please remember that this is just an example itinerary, so we are happy to quote different suggestions.

Includes: Transfers and ground transport as specified, 12 nights twin share accommodation, meals as specified Guided birdwatching tours in Savegre Private Reserve, Quetzales National Park, Rancho Naturalista Trails, la Selva Reserve, by boat at Caño Negro Wetlands, la Ensenada Private Reserve, Villa Lapas Sky Way, Carara National Park.

Excludes: International flights, departure taxes, visas, travel insurance, meals not specified, drinks, optional excursions and activities, personal expenses, tips.

Getting there: This tour starts and ends in San José. Return flight prices from the UK start from around £900.

Departure dates: This is a private, tailor-made holiday and can begin on any day you chose, subject to availability.