Costa Rica Birdwatching Holiday
Costa Rica Birdwatching Holiday
Prices from: £3,540 pp for 13 days (ex. 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
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 Turriabla 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
Day13: 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. Breakfast
2019 price from (pp sharing, exc international flights): For 6 people travelling together, £2,865. For 4 people travelling together, £3,540. For 2 people travelling together, £5,500.
Note: Dates including festive periods such as Easter will attract a supplement on the above prices.
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 £600.
Departure dates: This is a private, tailor-made holiday and can begin on any day you chose, subject to availability.
Just 10 minutes’ drive from the attraction of San José city centre, this hotel’s 4 hectares of gardens ensure a peaceful atmosphere, ideal before or after a long flight. Rooms have TV, free Wi-Fi, coffee maker, ceiling fan and bathroom. Each has a private balcony with views of the gardens or the Central Valley. The restaurant serves a choice of local and international meals with something to suit all palates, and there’s a cosy bar where you can spend time chatting to fellow travellers. If you feel energetic there are tennis courts and a gym, or you can opt for more gentle exercise in the form of a swim or a stroll around the gardens enjoying the exotic flowers, colourful birds and butterflies and interesting sculptures.
Set in a private 400 hectare reserve, this family-run hotel is an ideal base for exploring the tropical cloudforest, home to the superbly coloured quetzal. Rooms are wooden chalets with high ceilings and tiled floors. All are en-suite and have heater, phone and safe. There are seats outside each room facing the gardens where you sit and relax. Las Bromelias Restaurant offers traditional cuisine and popular continental dishes. The lounge-bar is an excellent place to socialise: by day you can watch birds in the gardens through the full length windows and after dark you can enjoy the warm glow of the firepit. The hotel has a spa with a massage room and Jacuzzis, perfect for easing tired muscles.
This small, family-owned lodge is a great favourite with nature lovers and bird watchers in particular and is a great base for exploring the lush green central highlands. Its gardens abound with hummingbirds and many other species and over 450 species have been recorded in the private forest reserve where you can follow a network of trails. Each of the 15 rooms is named after a species of bird. Most are arranged in an accommodation block over 2 floors, with some in the main lodge and others in separate cabins. They vary in size and layout, all are en-suite and many have balconies. The style of décor is simple and rustic. After a day out in the countryside you’ll have built up an appetite so will appreciate the generous meals created by the chef and his team, and if you want to pick up some tips you can sign up to a cookery class!
In the heart of Sarapiquí Rainforest, at Selva Verde you are perfectly placed for exploring the wonders of the rainforest. Between excursions you can relax by the pool, walk in the gardens as you look for birds, monkeys and frogs, and sip a drink the bar. You can enjoy local cuisine buffets in the first floor dining hall, while in the evening you might opt for tasty Italian cuisine at La Terrazza restaurant and pizzeria. River lodge rooms provide the simplest accommodation, cooled by ceiling fans and with private bathrooms and shared verandas. Rainforest bungalows benefit from air conditioning, coffee makers and fridges and are located about a 10-15 minute walk from reception for extra privacy. La Casona consists of 2 en-suite bedrooms, a lounge and kitchen, all air conditioned, and is ideal for families and small groups.
The lodge is a base for venturing into the wetlands in search of the varied wildlife. The 42 guest rooms are grouped in single storey building scattered throughout the grounds, and each has double doors opening onto a small terrace from which you can watch birds and monkeys. Rooms are air conditioned, decorated in light pastel shades and have private bathrooms. After spending time exploring the area, you can refresh yourself with a swim in the pool, maybe treating yourself to a long, chilled drink at the swim-up bar. Meals are served in the Jabiru Restaurant within sight of the grounds, where you can sample both local and international dishes, and there’s a bar where you can mingle with other guests, as well as a reading and games room.
This family-run lodge is part of a cattle ranch set within La Ensenada Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf of Nicoya. As well as venturing into the refuge and going horse riding you can help out with day-to-day activities on the farm if you want. Accommodation is simple but comfy. The wooden bungalows are all en-suite and each has a covered veranda with seating. You’ll be served good home-cooked fare in the restaurant and there’s a bar for relaxed downtime. Walking trails criss-cross the grounds and there’s a swimming pool for that all important refreshing dip.
The lodge is surrounded by a private forest reserve in the lush hinterland of the central Pacific region. You are immersed in nature from dawn to dusk, whether out exploring walking trails with a guide or simply resting in the lounge watching birds among the trees and flowers. You can also enjoy the sights and sounds of nature from your en-suite bedroom, which has screened windows to make the most of the setting. The restaurant uses ingredients many of which are grown on the lodge’s farm to create tasty, seasonal dishes, and looks out over a pond that teems with wildlife..
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