Classic Costa Rica
A 14-day, small group birdwatching tour to Costa Rica
Costa Rica Birding Tours with Limosa Holidays: Taking advantage of the British Airways nonstop flight to San José, our Classic Costa Rica birding tour visits a selection of the country's finest wildlife sites including La Selva, Rancho Naturalista, Tapanti, Savegre and Villa Lapas and is simply crammed with great birding.
Join Limosa guides Herman Venegas and Colin Bushell on a journey that will take you from the Caribbean lowlands and cloud-forested volcanoes to the coastal mangroves of the Pacific shore, looking for everything from Sunbittern and Scarlet Macaw to Volcano Junco and Resplendent Quetzal. With over 400 species seen on our most recent tours, this promises to be a bird-filled fortnight of many highlights.
Tour Dates & Prices
Thu 1st February 2024
Wed 14th February 2024
- Fully Booked
Tour Cost: 14 Days from £4595 excluding flights
- Expert English-speaking Costa Rican guide
- Colin Bushell (Limosa) will co-lead the holiday if the group is eight clients or more
- 12 nights’ accommodation in Costa Rica
- All main meals and drinking water provided
- All local travel by Coaster bus with local driver
- Boat trip on the Rio Tarcoles
- All excursions, entry fees to parks, tour-based tips (including lodges, driver, local guides) and taxes
- Limosa checklist of birds
- NO hidden extras
International flights, insurance, airport snacks/meals, drinks and other items of a personal nature.
The Land Only Tour Cost is the amount you will pay Limosa.
Despite the end of many pandemic restrictions, it is still proving extremely difficult to predict future flight prices and schedules. As a result, we have taken the decision to continue to price our holidays as excluding international flights.
To keep the process as simple as possible, we are working very closely with a dedicated agent at Travel Counsellors, Sacha Barbato, who is essentially now our “in house” flight consultant.
Sacha is a highly experienced independent ATOL bonded travel agent, and his contact details are as follows: firstname.lastname@example.org and 01603 360099
He will be able to advise you which flights we are recommending for each holiday and will be able to book these for you.
This will also sometimes give you the option to travel from a regional airport if you prefer.
- Compact Central American country that is positively brimming with brilliant birding
- 400+ species are possible on a journey from the Caribbean and Pacific coasts to cloud-forested volcanoes.
- Possibilities include Great Curassow, Sunbittern, Great Green and Scarlet Macaws, Resplendent Quetzal and Large-footed Finch.
- More than 30 species of hummingbird to enjoy, including Fiery-throated and the delightful Snowcap
- Crested and Spectacled Owls amongst up to a dozen species of owls and nightjars
- Forest mammals to look for include two sloths, Mantled Howler, Kinkajou, Tent-making Bat.
- Mangrove boat trip on Rio Tarcoles
- Small party size - maximum of 10 participants
- Expertly led by expert Costa Rican guide Herman Venegas and (subject to minimum numbers) Limosa's Colin Bushell
Fly to San José. Night Hotel Bougainvillea in San José
San José to Villa Lapas. Night at Hotel Villa Lapas
Villa Lapas, Carara National Park, Guanacaste and Rio Tarcoles boat trip. Two further nights Hotel Villa Lapas
Transfer to Suenos Del Bosque Lodge. Night at Sueños Del Bosque
Savegre Valley and ‘highland specialities’. Second night at Sueños Del Bosque
Paramo And Transfer to Alma De Luna. Night at Alma De Luna
Rio Macho and Tapanti National Park. Second Night at Alma De Luna
Irazu Volcano to Rancho Naturalista. Night at Rancho Naturalista
Rancho Naturalista. Second Night at Rancho Naturalista
Morning Rancho Naturalista, Visit Cope’s Feeders, Transfer to La Quinta de Sarapiquí. Night at La Quinta de Sarapiquí
La Selva - Caribbean Lowland Birding at Its Best. Second Night at La Quinta de Sarapiquí
La Paz Hummingbird Garden, Cinchona Feeders and La Virgen and on to Airport.
Straddling the narrow neck of land that links the continents of North and South America, the tiny Republic of Costa Rica is blessed with coastlines on both the Pacific and Caribbean shore, while the volcanic mountains between reach so high they touch the clouds. This remarkable chance of geography has given rise to an outstandingly varied flora and fauna, allowing us to sample the enormous wealth of tropical American birds without the need to travel great distances.
Upwards of 400 species are likely on our two-week birdwatching tour and the birding really is exceptional. Past highlights have included Sunbittern, Spotted Wood Quail, Ornate Hawk-eagle, Crested Owl, Resplendent Quetzal, Scarlet Macaw, Brown-billed Scythebill and Wrenthrush, not to mention the thirty or more species of hummingbirds, a whole rainbow of exotically coloured tanagers and fascinating forest mammals such as Three-toed Sloth!
Our first stop will be amid the lowland forests of Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, with three nights at Hotel Villa Lapas. From the raucous bellowing of Mantled Howlers at dawn to the evening roost flights of Scarlet Macaws, our stay here will provide many special memories. It is also from here that we shall take in the special birds of Costa Rica’s dry northwest, known as Guanacaste, and enjoy a boat trip along the mangrove-lined channels of the Rio Tarcoles.
We will then explore the Savegre Valley where we will look for birds such as Northern Tufted Flycatcher, Slaty Flowerpiercer, Blue-throated Toucanet, Collared Whitestart and Flame-throated Warbler before visiting the high elevation paramo to try for the localised Volcano Junco and Timberline Wren..
From here we shall visit the lush pre-montane forests of Tapanti National Park. We shall watch for mixed feeding flocks that can hold Collared Trogon, Prong-billed and Red-headed Barbets and dazzling Spangle-cheeked Tanagers.
Climbing higher, we spend a morning on Irazu Volcano seeking Resplendent Quetzal and the reclusive Wrenthrush, as well as taking in the Crater of Irazu, which is truly spectacular! We spend the next two nights in the highlands which are home to some of Costa Rica’s most stunning species, including Long- tailed Silky-flycatcher, Flame-throated Warbler and more chances of the fabulous Resplendent Quetzal.
Next, we head to the Talamanca Mountains and two nights at the wonderful Rancho Naturalista. The views from the lodge are superb and its network of forest trails, busy feeders and ‘hummingbird pools’ are the realm of bugling Montezuma Oropendolas, Tawny-throated Leaftossers and the enchanting Snowcap. We also have a good chance of finding the highly prized Sunbittern.
Finally, we travel to the lush rainforests of Costa Rica’s Caribbean lowlands, where two nights at bird rich La Selva should ensure we end our trip in style. Great Green Macaw, Rufous and Broad-billed Motmots, Yellow-throated and Keel-billed Toucans, Chestnut-coloured Woodpecker and Snowy Cotinga are possible here.
Limosa has been operating birding tours to Costa Rica for well over 20 years now and our 2024 trip will be guided by expert Costa Rican guide Herman Venegas and (subject to minimum numbers) Colin Bushell.
Combining breath-taking birding and scenery with accommodation at some of the country’s best wildlife lodges, and with the convenience of British Airways nonstop service between London and San José, our ClassicCostaRica tour is one Neotropical experience not to be missed!
FLY LONDON TO SAN JOSÉ
Our two-week birdwatching tour to Costa Rica begins with a morning departure from London Gatwick to San José, capital of Costa Rica. We will be met on arrival in San José by our local guide and transfer directly to the comfortable Hotel Bougainvillea. NightSanJosé
SAN JOSÉ TO VILLA LAPAS
Our destination is the comfortable lodge of Villa Lapas which is on the Pacific side of Costa Rica. The drive itself should only take a couple of hours or so, however, we plan to make a number of stops as we gradually drop down the western slope towards the coast.
This will be a great introduction to the more widespread species of Costa Rica and those we could see include Turkey Vulture, Northern Mealy Parrot, Ruddy Ground Dove, Crested Caracara, Social Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Blue-and-white Swallow and Summer Tanager.
Heading down the slope, we may stop to check hummingbird feeders, banana feeders and garden flowers for possibilities including Long-billed Starthroat, the localised White-tailed Emerald, impressive White-crested Coquette and Snowy-bellied Hummingbird.
Banana feeders can attract Red-crowned Woodpecker, Red-headed Barbet, Scarlet-rumped (Cherrie’s race), Silver-throated and Speckled Tanagers and both White-naped and Chestnut-capped Brushfinches. Two attractive birds to look for in mistletoe berries are Elegant Euphonia and Golden-browed Chlorophonia, along with the more subtle charms of the aptly named Mistletoe Tyrannulet. Swallow-tailed Kites can often be seen here as they gracefully glide over the hills.
We continue descending before going over the last hills to the Pacific coast. Our final birding stop may be on the coast at Playa Hermosa where there are chances for Double-striped Thick-knee, Bare-throated Tiger Heron, Common Black Hawk, Bat Falcon, the impressive Scissor-tailed Flycatcher and, what will hopefully be the first of, many Scarlet Macaws.
Villa Lapas nestles in a forested lowland valley along the Tarcolitos River and this comfortable hotel will make the ideal base for exploring this part of Costa Rica and after arriving, we should have time to begin our exploration of the extensive grounds which are great for birds.
Our 2023 group saw their first Scarlet Macaws here, with other possibilities including Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Gartered and Black-headed Trogons, Lesson’s Motmot, White-whiskered Puffbird as well as hummingbirds such as Charming Hummingbird and Blue-throated Saphire. Night at Hotel Villa Lapas.
VILLA LAPAS, CARARA NATIONAL PARK, GUANACASTE AND RIO TARCOLES BOAT TRIP
As we gather outside our rooms at daybreak, the early morning comes alive with tropical sounds as Gartered and Slaty-tailed Trogons, Lesson’s Motmots, Yellow-throated Toucan, Pale-billed Woodpecker, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Streaked Flycatcher and other species join in a spectacular dawn chorus.
We have two full days to explore and on one of these, we will visit Carara National Park which is just a few minutes away from our hotel. Birding the trail near the Rio Tarcoles, we should encounter many species, from Black-hooded and Barred Antshrikes to Dot-winged Antwren, Northern Royal Flycatcher and Orange-collared Manakin. In the more humid forest, Great Tinamou, Black-faced Antthrush, Streak-chested Antpitta, Rufous Piha, Riverside Wren and others await.
On one afternoon, we may huddle down in the forest watching many colourful species come for their daily bath. Whilst striking Red-capped Manakins regularly steal the show, handsome Blue-crowned Manakins will be vying for our attention as well! Sulphur-rumped Myiobius, Green Honeycreeper and migrant North American warblers are also likely to make an appearance at this popular bathing site.
The Carara area is also an excellent spot for owls, and we may try our luck with Striped Owl and Pacific Screech Owl, while the tiny Ferruginous Pygmy Owl is a diurnal hunter to be looked for during daylight hours.
Our lodge also lies close to the southern limit of the dry Guanacaste zone, just north of the Rio Tarcoles and the change in both the vegetation and birdlife is remarkable, with the rainforests south of the river giving way to a much drier zone to the north. In the fields and thorn forests of this more arid habitat, we will search for Double-striped Thick-knee, Lesser Ground Cuckoo, Cinnamon Hummingbird, the glorious Turquoise-browed Motmot, Black-headed Trogon, White-fronted and Yellow-naped Amazons, Orange-fronted Parakeet, the superb Long-tailed Manakin, raucous White-throated Magpie-jays, groups of Stripe-headed Sparrows, and Blue Grosbeak.
Midday while in the Carara area will probably see us back at the lodge for a buffet lunch and a welcome air-conditioned siesta, or you might opt instead for a dip in the pool.
Setting off for the mouth of the Rio Tarcoles, we shall devote one afternoon to a boat trip in search of the many mangrove specialities of the area. The endemic and highly localized Mangrove Hummingbird can often be found here, along with ‘Mangrove’ Common Black Hawk, Mangrove Warbler and Mangrove Vireo. Up to five species of kingfisher are possible along the river, including the diminutive American Pygmy Kingfisher and the larger and more robust Ringed Kingfisher.
Waterbirds should be plentiful, with roosting Boat-billed Heron, Bare-throated Tiger Heron, and Tricolored Heron, Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs, Wilson’s and Semipalmated Plovers, Willet and Black-necked Stilt to watch for. The beautiful Purple Gallinule and yellow-winged Northern Jacana are also often seen along the edges of the river.
If the tide is right, the estuary at the mouth of the Rio Tarcoles can be a great spot to find roosting terns and waders. As Magnificent Frigatebirds and Brown Pelicans cruise overhead, and we watch our last pairs of Scarlet Macaws fly by to their roost, it is a reminder that we too must soon be flying away. Two further nights Hotel Villa Lapas.
TRANSFER TO SUENOS DEL BOSQUE LODGE
After some final birding around Villa Lapas, we will reluctantly leave for our drive into the highlands and two nights at the equally delightful Sueños del Bosque Lodge.
We are likely to make several birding stops as we travel, looking to add species such as Long-tailed Silky-Flycatcher, Flame-coloured Tanager and Yellow-thighed Finch.
Again, we may spend some time watching some hummingbird feeders may draw our attention to three range-restricted hummingbirds, White-throated Mountaingem, Talamanca Hummingbird, Fiery-throated Hummingbird and Volcano Hummingbird, all of which only occur in the highlands of Costa Rica and Western Panama.
Our mountain retreat accommodation is tucked away beside the Rio Savegre and we should arrive with sufficient time to begin our exploration of the area.
Dinners are always delicious here with fresh trout being the speciality of the area. Night at Sueños del Bosque
SAVEGRE VALLEY AND HIGHLAND SPECIALITIES
The Savegre Valley is situated at an elevation of 2,200m and the birds often seem especially tame here, with Northern Tufted Flycatcher, Slaty Flowerpiercer and the sociable Acorn Woodpecker common in the forests, while Blue-throated Toucanet, Collared Whitestart and Flame-throated Warbler are amongst the most stunning of all Costa Rica’s species.
There are more 'hummers' to enjoy here, from sparkling Lesser Violetears and White-throated Mountaingems to Volcano, Scintillant and Striped-tailed Hummingbirds, whilst a walk in the nearby forest has previously produced excellent views of the secretive Spotted Wood Quail and there is always the chance to spot a Black Guan in the fruiting trees.
After we have birded the productive grounds of the lodge, we may take an open-air ride by 4WD vehicle up a steep track to reach the Los Robles and Quebrada Trails. Amongst the many birds to look for here in the atmospheric cloud forest are Costa Rican Pygmy Owl, Spot-crowned Woodcreeper, Ruddy Treerunner, Buffy Tuftedcheek, Black-faced Solitaire, and Black-cheeked Warbler.
It is in this valley that we will have our first opportunity for the crown jewel of Central American birds - the exquisite Resplendent Quetzal. February is the beginning of the breeding season for this remarkable bird, and we will hopefully be left pondering how the males manage to enter their nest hole and incubate their eggs, whilst keeping their extraordinary tail hanging outside, looking for all the world like a fern growing on the side of a tree!
In the afternoon, we will continue birding this most scenic area, with possible rewards being Sulphur-winged Parakeet, Lineated Foliage-gleaner, Golden-winged Warbler, Black-thighed Grosbeak, Yellow-bellied Siskin and many others.
As night falls, we will make a special effort to find another of the localised Chiriqui highland endemics, the Dusky Nightjar, before returning to spend a second night at our peaceful lodge. Second nightat Sueños del Bosque
PARAMO AND TRANSFER TO ALMA DE LUNA
Leaving Sueños del Bosque, we will drive up to the highest altitude we will reach on the trip, the windswept paramo at 3,400m above sea level. This is home to a number of high altitude specialities such as Sooty Thrush, Timberline Wren, Volcano Junco and Volcano Hummingbird. Whilst none of these four are endemic to Costa Rica, they have very restricted ranges and only occur in the Costa Rican highland and adjacent Western Panama, so we will make locating them our priority.
We will then continue our journey to Hotel Alma de Luna which is perfectly located for us to access the Tapanti National Park. We may make some stops along the way with one possibility being a coffee plantation where the highly localised Cabanis’s Ground Sparrow can be found. Sometimes known as the Costa Rican Ground Sparrow, this species is one of only a handful which are endemic to Costa Rica.
Other birds we could see as we travel include White-tailed Kite, Laughing Falcon, Green Ibis, Tropical Mockingbird and Bronzed Cowbird, however, we are likely to arrive in time to begin. Night at Alma de Luna
RIO MACHO AND TAPANTI NATIONAL PARK
An early morning visit to the Rio Macho area can be very productive. This forested area is accessed via a road leading to a waterworks facility. With good middle elevation forest on either side, we will search out mixed flocks of the area which can hold Blue-throated Toucanet, Golden-olive and Smoky-brown Woodpeckers, Scaly-throated Foliage-gleaner, Red-faced Spinetail, the stunning White-winged Tanager, Tawny-capped Euphonia and the oh so glorious Golden-browed Chlorophonia to name a few. We shall also listen out for the call of the secretive Zeledon’s Antbird, a bird we will have to coax out to view!
Continuing up the valley, we will arrive at Tapanti, one of the most scenic of Costa Rica’s national parks. With an altitudinal range between 1,300 and 1,600 metres on the country's Caribbean slope, the habitat of wet pre-montane forest holds many specialities we will be searching for today.
Near the entrance to the park, Green-fronted Lancebill can sometimes be seen hawking insects along the stream, while White-bellied Mountaingem and Black-bellied Hummingbird prefer the flowering vines and trees nearby. Mixed species flocks are a regular highlight at Tapanti and often include the stunning Red-headed Barbet, along with its larger but less colourful cousin the Prong-billed Barbet. The dazzling Spangle-cheeked Tanager, Spotted Barbtail, Ochraceous Wren and Black-eared Warbler also regularly travel with the busy flocks.
Riverside specialists could include American Dipper and Torrent Tyrannulet, while the understory conceals Slaty-backed Nightingale-thrush and Chestnut-capped Brushfinch. If we are fortunate to enjoy a sunny day in these mist-laden mountains, we will be on the lookout for soaring birds of prey such as Barred Hawk and both Black and Ornate Hawk-Eagles. Second night at Alma de Luna.
IRAZU VOLCANO TO RANCHO NATURALISTA
Leaving Alma de Luna, we plan to head to the Irazu Volcano National Park for some further highland birding (2,200m-3,200m). Special birds abound in the montane oak forests, many of which can only be seen in the highlands of Costa Rica and western Panama.
This will be another opportunity to look for the exquisite Resplendent Quetzal, however, we will also hope to find many other birds of this zone including Acorn Woodpecker, Black-capped Flycatcher, Flame-throated Warbler, Sooty Thrush, Sooty-capped Bush tanager and Large-footed Finch. We shall also make a special effort to find the secretive Wrenthrush (or Zeledonia), now a monotypic family.
Above the tree line, we will search for Timberline Wren and Volcano Junco, both species being resident here in the patches of miniature bamboo. Venturing into the park itself will allow us to walk a short distance to the crater viewpoint, a spectacular scene, clouds permitting…
Reluctantly tearing ourselves away from the birding, we continue on to reach our destination, the famous Rancho Naturalista, which will be our home for the next two nights. Set at an elevation of 900m in the Talamanca Mountains, Rancho Naturalista has been a firm favourite with participants on all our recent Costa Rica tours.
On a clear day, the views westward from the lodge are superb and we can relax with a welcome chilled beer whilst watching White-necked Jacobins and Green-breasted Mangos buzzing within arm’s reach on the veranda as the sun sets over the distant volcanic peaks of Irazu and Turrialba. Night at Rancho Naturalista
Early mornings at Rancho Naturalista begin with the local ‘alarm clocks’ of bugling Montezuma Oropendolas and squawking Grey-headed Chachalacas calling excitedly outside our rooms. With coffee served on the balcony pre-dawn, we will soon be making the short walk over to the ‘bug light’ where iIn the dim light, we will start to make out different woodcreepers, with Cocoa, Spotted and Plain-brown all possible. The normally skulking White-breasted Wood Wren is often unconcerned by our presence, while we may find a Red-throated Ant Tanager swallowing a moth for breakfast. Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner, Plain Antvireo and Golden-crowned Warblers are regular customers to the ‘insect buffet’, and the very localised Tawny-chested Flycatcher is also a possibility.
Back on the balcony, and with spectacular views of the valley as a backdrop, we shall thrill to an incredible variety of birds at the lodge’s feeders. Orange-billed Sparrows join wonderful Scarlet-rumped Tanagers for this impressive feeding frenzy, while flowering hedges are attractive to hummingbirds, bringing chances of the wine-coloured Snowcap and delightful Black-crested Coquette.
After breakfast, we shall spend the morning walking some of Rancho’s wonderful trails, watching for the likes of Gartered Trogon, the uncommon Brown-billed Scythebill, Dull-mantled Antbird, Rufous Mourner and a host of colourful tanagers. Nearby, we may find Chequer-throated Stipplethroat and Scale-crested Pygmy Tyrant, plus a trio of ‘must-see’ manakins: White-collared, White-crowned and White-ruffed.
Mid-afternoon, we may pay a visit to nearby Casa Turiri on the shores of the man-made Lake Angostura. Having scanned the lily pads for wetland birds such as Limpkin, Snail Kite, and Purple Gallinule, we shall check the adjacent fields for Southern Lapwing and Tropical Mockingbird, Eastern and Red-breasted Meadowlarks, and both Giant and Bronzed Cowbirds to name a few.
The late afternoon will be reserved for a visit to Rancho’s famous ‘Hummingbird Pools’. As we sit quietly, we should be treated to dazzling views of delightful Crowned Woodnymphs and Purple-crowned Fairies as they bathe on the wing. With luck, perhaps a furtive Tawny-throated Leaftosser or Kentucky Warbler might also make an appearance.
Remarkably, we could encounter a dozen or more varieties of hummingbird at Rancho Naturalista and when our eyes grow weary of trying to keep pace with the ceaseless activity of these avian jewels, we can turn our attention to the surrounding trees and hedges and look for Stripe-breasted Wren, Masked Tityra, migrant warblers, tanagers, euphonias… The list of possibilities here almost seems boundless!
At night, a resident pair of Mottled Owls can sometimes be spotlighted, while Common Pauraques can be found hawking for insects along the entrance road below. Second night at Rancho Naturalista
MORNING RANCHO NATURALISTA, VISIT COPE’S FEEDERS, TRANSFER TO LA QUINTA DE SARAPIQUI
We will have a final morning at Rancho Naturalista and are likely to spend at least part of this once again on the balcony looking over the gardens, hummingbird feeders and ‘bug light’.
As dawn breaks, the activity around the hummingbird feeders can be impressive with the first arrivals likely to be White-necked Jacobins which jostle with Green-breasted Mangos and Crowned Woodnymphs to get access to the sugar solution.
Under the edges of the bushes, we may find Yellow-faced Grassquits and Orange-billed Sparrows coming out from cover to feed on the seed spread on the ground for them, whilst Grey-headed Chachalaca, Buff-throated Saltator and Summer Tanager visit the banana feeders.
Non avian additions could include Central American Agouti, White-nosed Coati and Tayras, with these likely to rapidly deplete the banana stock the lodge staff will have put out.
Looking into the nearby trees, we may find Golden-winged and Black and White Warblers and other species could include Green Thorntail, Black-striped Sparrow, Black-headed Saltator, Ovenbird and Black-crowned Saltator.
Reluctantly leaving Rancho Naturalista, we plan to make stops at a number of sites on our journey to La Quinta de Sarapiquí and the first of these is likely to be only a short drive to a bridge over a rocky river to look for Sunbitterns. We hope to be treated to excellent views of this unique and beautiful species as it forages beside the water and with luck, we may see one in flight, revealing the amazing ‘sunbursts’ on the wing from which the species derives its name.
In a nearby valley, the tanager flocks can hold an astounding number of colourful species, from Emerald and Speckled to Bay-headed and Black-and-yellow with the localised White-throated Flycatcher, White-tailed Kite, Grey-crowned Yellowthroat amongst the other possibilities.
Another stop on our journey to La Quinta de Sarapiquí is likely to be at Cope’s, where there is another wonderful feeding station which should produce close views of yet more hummingbirds including chances of Long-billed and Stripe-throated Hermits, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer and, with luck, the unique White-tipped Sicklebill.
Other notable species attracted to the feeders and small pond include Russet-naped Wood Rails, Green and American Pygmy Kingfishers, Wood Thrush, Crimson-collared Tanager, Red-legged and Green Honeycreepers, and both Chestnut-headed and Montezuma Oropendolas to name but a few.
Walking in a nearby forest patch might reveal lekking White-collared Manakins, a sleeping Honduran White Bat, roosting Spectacled Owl and sometimes the wonderful Crested Owl. While another spot has been excellent for roosting Great Potoo, the largest member of this bizarre family.
In the late afternoon, we shall make our way to La Quinta de Sarapiquí, our comfortable lodgings for the next two nights and if we have not already seen them, we may go out after dinner to listen out for Spectacled Owls around the lodge. Night at La Quinta de Sarapiquí
LA SELVA - CARIBBEAN LOWLAND BIRDING AT ITS BEST
This day in the Caribbean lowlands promises to be one of the best days of the tour, filled with an abundance of tropical wildlife sightings. We will want to make an early start to take in one of the best birding sites in the New World tropics: La Selva Biological Station.
La Selva protects some of the best lowland rainforest in Costa Rica. As we walk the forest trails the likes of Great Tinamou, the simply stunning Snowy Cotinga and Rufous and Broad-billed Motmots await.
Collared Aracari, Keel-billed and Yellow-throated Toucans are likely to be calling from the tops of prominent trees as cacophonous groups of Northern Mealy and Red-lored Amazons fly overhead. Great Green Macaws have been increasing in numbers in the area and we hope to get views of this most impressive member of the parrot family.
As we watch and listen for an array of forest tinamous, trogons, motmots, woodpeckers and woodcreepers, with patience other avian treasures will be revealed to us, perhaps a cryptically marked Vermiculated Screech Owl roosting motionless in the vine tangles of the mid-canopy; a White-necked Puffbird perched out on a sunlit branch, or a Rufous-tailed Jacamar hawking insects from a looping liana.
Mammals are well represented at La Selva with Hoffmann’s Two-toed and Brown-throated (Three-toed) Sloths, Central American White-throated Capuchin, Mantled Howler, Central American Spider Monkey, Collared Peccary and Central American Agouti all possible. We might also spot the dragon-like Green Basilisk Lizard, the huge Green Iguana, and the diminutive Strawberry Poison Dart Frog.
We return for a second night at our comfortable lodge, where another excellent dinner awaits us. The air-conditioning will feel especially welcome this evening after a long but satisfying day in the field. Second night at La Quinta de Sarapiquí .
LA PAZ HUMMINGBIRD GARDEN, CINCHONA FEEDERS AND LA VIRGEN AND ON TO AIRPORT
There is likely to time for some final birding around La Quinta de Sarapiquí before we set off to explore a number of other fantastic sites on our way to San Jose’s international airport.
The fruit feeders at La Paz (and those at nearby Cinchona) can hold Silver-throated, Crimson-collared and Scarlet-rumped Tanagers along with Common Bush Tanager, but the buzzing of hummingbirds below will soon beckon us down to the feeders.
An incredible variety of hummingbird species can be seen at close range here, among them Green Hermit, Green Thorntail, Violet Sabrewing, the local Magenta-throated Woodstar, both White-bellied and Purple-throated Mountaingems, the endemic Coppery-headed Emerald and the unique, Black-bellied Hummingbird to name but a few.
Other birds we could find in the area include Sooty-faced Finch and Black-cowled Oriole, while on the forest trails we may find roving feeding flocks comprising the likes of Red-faced Spinetail, Spotted Barbtail, Spotted Woodcreeper, Slaty-backed Nightingale-thrush and gorgeous Bay-headed and Spangle-cheeked Tanagers among many others.
At the Cinchona Feeders, we have a chance to view more species at close range with the possibilities including Blue-throated Toucanet, Prong-billed and Red-headed Barbets, several species of colourful tanagers and Baltimore Oriole.
Another potential stop is at La Virgen del Socorro, a forested valley in the Caribbean foothills where the mixed flocks can hold Collared Trogon, Russet Antshrike and Speckled Tanager, with a Torrent Tyrannulet or American Dipper always possible on the rocks of the rushing river below and raptors such as Swallow-tailed Kite, and both White and Barred Hawks soaring overhead.
We will then load up onto our bus one last time heading for San José Airport, where we bid a reluctant farewell to our Costa Rican guide and driver and check-in for our overnight flight back to the UK.
ARRIVAL IN LONDON
Morning arrival at London Gatwick, where our 'Classic' birding tour to Costa Rica concludes.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Birds 400-450 species
Mammals 10-20 species. We usually encounter a good variety of forest mammals. Possibilities include up to three species of Neotropical monkeys, two sloths, White-nosed Coati, Collared Peccary, Central American Agouti and Tent-making Bats.
Accommodation 12 nights’ accommodation in Costa Rica, staying at good hotels and lodges. All rooms have private facilities.
Meals All main meals are included in the tour price (and with drinking water provided during the day), commencing with dinner in San José on Day 1 and concluding with lunch on Day 13. Food is good to excellent, with much that is locally grown, including the coffee.
WalkingandAltitude Costa Rica is a mountainous country, so visitors should expect some trails to be steeper in parts, but these are always taken slowly, with frequent stops to bird. As one would expect, rainforest trails can sometimes be muddy and slippery underfoot, so sturdy waterproof walking shoes or boots with good grip are essential.
The walking effort is mostly easy but can be moderate at times due to the terrain and/or altitude at a few spots. At Savegre, we shall be birding at elevations of between 2000-2750m, plus a couple of hours only spent at higher elevation in the paramo zone around 3400m, and at Irazu Volcano (2200m-3200m). Our birding at Villa Lapas and La Quinta de Sarapiquí is at or near sea level.
Weather Tropical to temperate climate, according to altitude. Our February tours run during Costa Rica’s ‘dry season’ but please note rainfall can (and does) occur year-round in the mountains and rainforests! It can be cool and misty at times, especially in the mountains and cloud forest but is generally hotter and sunnier on the coast (10-30C/50-86F).
Birding in Costa Rica is outstanding year-round, but we are frequently asked about the ‘best time’ to visit the country, particularly by those anxious to avoid Central America’s ‘rainy season’. To help you decide, our local agents in San José have provided the following climatic summary:
“We have two dry seasons and two rainy seasons in Costa Rica. The two dry seasons can also be separated into two categories: ‘Major Dry Season’ (verano) – mid January through April; ‘Medium Dry Season’ (veranito or ‘little summer’) – mid July through Aug. The two rainy seasons can be separated into two categories: ‘Major Rainy Season’ – mid September-October (except in the far southeast); ‘Medium Rainy Season’ – mid May through mid-July. As with weather patterns anywhere, these 'seasons' may vary slightly from year to year, but they basically hold true.”
Ground Transport By comfortable air-conditioned Toyota Coaster (minicoach) with a minibus potentially used in the event of a small group.
BoatTrips Our tour price includes the cost of a river trip on the Rio Grande de Tarcoles, in a boat that is large enough to accommodate our whole group. The boat trip usually lasts 2-3 hours.
Flights Despite the end of pandemic restrictions, it is still proving extremely difficult to predict future flight prices and schedules. As a result, we have taken the decision to continue to price our holidays as excluding international flights.
To keep the process as simple as possible, we are working very closely with a dedicated agent at Travel Counsellors, Sacha Barbato, who is essentially now our “in house” flight consultant.
Sacha will be able to advise you which flights we are recommending for each holiday, and he will be able to book these for you.
Insects There is currently no malaria risk in any of the areas visited on our tour.
Photography Excellent photographic opportunities in more open habitats, especially at feeders around the lodges, birds, other wildlife, and scenic shots. Tricky in the forest due to low light levels.
View a gallery of images for this tour below, click on an image to view as full size with caption