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 us 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 6th February 2025
Wed 19th February 2025
Tour Cost: 14 Days from £4795* excluding flights
* We anticipate having a firm price for our 2025 holiday by the end of 2023. Should the tour price increase by more than 5% then clients will have the right to cancel and we will refund any deposits paid.
- 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
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 pandemic restrictions, 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: email@example.com 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
- Great Curassow, Sunbittern, Great Green and Scarlet Macaws, Resplendent Quetzal, 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 and Tent-making Bat
- Mangrove boat trip on Rio Tarcoles
- Small party size - maximum of 10 participants
- Led by expert Costa Rican guide Herman Venegas and Limosa's Colin Bushell
Fly nonstop London-San José. Night Hotel Bougainvillea, San José (elevation 1,170m)
La Paz Waterfall Garden, Cinchona feeders and La Virgen en route to La Selva. Full day La Selva. La Quinta (2 nights, elevation 100m)
Rancho Naturalista with birding stops at Rio San Jose, Old Butterfly Garden and Cope’s feeders. Rancho Naturalista Lodge (2 nights, elevation 900m)
Morning at Rancho, transfer to Rio Perlas. Full day in Rio Macho and Tapanti National Park (1,300-1,600m). Hotel Alma de Luna (2 nights, 1,100m)
Irazu Volcano National Park (2,200-3,200m) and highland specialities of Savegre Valley. Sueños del Bosque (2 nights, elevation 2200m)
Early morning Savegre, transfer to Pacific Coast via the paramo (3,400m), Tolomuco feeders and Playa Hermosa. Hotel Villa Lapas (3 nights, 50m)
Full days in Carara National Park and Guanacaste with Rio Tarcoles mangrove boat trip
Morning Villa Lapas, afternoon transfer to San José. Overnight flight to UK
Arrive London Gatwick
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 is really 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 30 or more species of hummingbirds, a whole rainbow of colourful tanagers and fascinating forest mammals such as the Three-toed Sloth!
From the capital San José, we travel first to the lush rainforests of Costa Rica’s Caribbean lowlands, where two nights at bird-rich La Quinta should ensure we start our trip in style as Great Green Macaw, Rufous and Broad-billed Motmots, Yellow-throated and Keel-billed Toucans, Chestnut-coloured Woodpecker and Snowy Cotinga are all possible here.
Next, we head to the Talamanca Mountains and two nights at the wonderful Rancho Naturalista. The views westward from the lodge are superb and the network of forest trails, busy feeders and ‘hummingbird pools’ are the realm of Montezuma Oropendolas, Tawny-throated Leaftossers and the enchanting Snowcap. We also have a good chance of finding the highly prized Sunbittern.
From Rancho Naturalista, we continue to the lush pre-montane forests of Tapanti National Park and a two-night stay at Hotel Alma de Luna. 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.
After pausing in the high elevation paramo to try for the localised Volcano Junco and Timberline Wren, we begin our descent of the Pacific slope. Our tour concludes 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 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.
Limosa has been operating birding tours to Costa Rica for well over 20 years now and our 2025 trip will be guided by our expert Costa Rican guide Herman Venegas. Colin Bushell will co-lead the tour with Herman if the group is eight or more clients. 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 Costa Rican guide Herman Venegas and transfer directly to the comfortable Hotel Bougainvillea. Night San José
TO LA QUINTA, VIA LA PAZ HUMMINGBIRD GARDEN, CINCHONA FEEDERS AND LA VIRGEN
A walk first thing in the beautiful grounds of our hotel offers a great introduction to our Classic Costa Rica tour. We should see our first tropical birds in the form of Crimson-fronted Parakeet, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Lesson’s Motmot, Great Kiskadee, Rufous-naped Wren, Blue-grey Tanager, Greyish Saltator, Rufous-collared Sparrow and White-eared Ground Sparrow.
After breakfast, we set off on a scenic journey through coffee plantations and highland forest patches on the slopes of first the Barva Volcano and then Poas Volcano before arriving to La Paz Waterfall Garden for a hummingbird overload!
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 will soon beckon us down to these feeders. An incredible variety of hummingbird species can be seen at close range including 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 to watch for in the area include Sooty-faced Finch and Black-cowled Oriole, while on the forest trails we may run into 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.
After a tasty buffet lunch, we continue downslope to the Cinchona Feeders, where we have a chance to view many more species at close range. Possibilities here include Blue-throated Toucanet, both Prong-billed and Red-headed Barbets, several species of colourful tanagers, Baltimore Oriole, and several of the ‘hummers’ found at La Paz.
We stop next at La Virgen del Socorro, a forested valley in the Caribbean foothills. We will search for mixed flocks which could hold Collared Trogon, Russet Antshrike and Speckled Tanager while a Torrent Tyrannulet or American Dipper is always possible on the rocks of the rushing river below. Raptors present include Swallow-tailed Kite and both White and Barred Hawks.
In the late afternoon, we shall make our way to La Quinta Country Inn, our comfortable lodgings for the next two nights. In the evening, we can listen out for Spectacled Owls around the lodge. Night La Quinta Country Inn
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 and as we walk the forest trails the likes of Great Tinamou, Snowy Cotinga and Rufous and Broad-billed Motmots await.
Collared Aracari, Keel-billed and Yellow-throated Toucans call from the tops of prominent trees as cacophonous groups of Northern Mealy and Red-lored Amazons wing past overhead. Great Green Macaws have been increasing in numbers in the area and we hope to get views of this impressive member of the parrot family.
As we watch and listen for an array of tinamous, trogons, motmots, woodpeckers and woodcreepers, with patience other specialities may 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 La Quinta Country Inn
TO RANCHO NATURALISTA VIA RIO SAN JOSE, OLD BUTTERFLY GARDEN AND COPE’S FEEDERS
After a brief walk around the garden of La Quinta, we will load up for a memorable day of birding near Guapiles before transferring to Rancho Naturalista. Our first scheduled stop will be at Rio San Jose on a side road running parallel to this rocky river where we hope to find Fasciated Tiger-Heron as it hunts motionless from the rocks.
Other species may include Amazon and Ringed Kingfishers, Cinnamon Woodpecker, Buff-rumped Warbler and Scarlet-rumped Cacique.
Leaving the Caribbean lowlands this morning, we climb up into the foothills and pay a visit to the Old Butterfly Garden for more exceptional hummingbird viewing. The hummers just can’t seem to resist the large patch of Vervain flowers and we should be rewarded by excellent views of Crowned Woodnymph, Violet-headed Hummingbird, the stunning Black-crested Coquette and the incomparable Snowcap. The surrounding forest can be terrific for mixed flocks, among them many species of colourful tanagers including Golden-hooded, Black-and-yellow, Emerald, Speckled and Bay-headed.
Our next stop is likely to be at Cope’s, another wonderful feeding station which should produce close views of yet more hummingbirds including chances of both 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. A walk 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.
Reluctantly tearing ourselves away from the excitements at Cope’s, we continue to reach 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 animated White-necked Jacobins and Green-breasted Mangos buzzing to within arm’s reach on the veranda as the sun sets over the distant volcanic peaks of Irazu and Turrialba. Night Rancho Naturalista
Early mornings at Rancho 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 to begin our day, we will soon be making the short walk over to the bug light. In 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 often seem unconcerned by our presence, and we may see a Red-throated Ant Tanager swallow down a scaly 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 always a possibility.
Back on the balcony, and with spectacular views of the valley as a backdrop, we shall thrill at an incredible variety of birds at the lodge’s feeders. Brilliant Orange-billed Sparrows join wonderful Scarlet-rumped Tanagers for this impressive feeding frenzy, while flowering hedges are attractive to hummingbirds, bringing further 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 plan to 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 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 and when our eyes grow weary of trying to keep pace with the ceaseless activity, we can turn our attention to the surrounding trees and hedges for less frenetic fare such as Stripe-breasted Wren, Masked Tityra, migrant warblers, tanagers, euphonias... The list of possibilities 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. Second night Rancho Naturalista
MORNING RANCHO NATURALISTA, TRANSFER TO PARAISO OROCAY LODGE
We shall begin our final morning at Rancho by driving a short distance to a rocky river to look for the resident Sunbitterns. We should be treated to excellent views of this unique and beautiful species as it forages beside the water. With any luck, we will also see one in flight, revealing the amazing ‘sunbursts’ on the wing from which the species derives its name.
In a nearby valley, we shall search for tanager flocks, which can hold an astounding number of colourful species, from Emerald and Speckled to Bay-headed and Black-and-yellow. An open area on the way back to the lodge is a good spot to try for the localised White-throated Flycatcher along with White-tailed Kite, Grey-crowned Yellowthroat and a nice selection of seedeaters.
After lunch at Rancho, we will transfer west, making a couple of birding stops along the way. The first will be at Rio Birris, which usually holds Least Grebe, ducks, and shorebirds, while the second will be near Ujarras, where amongst the plantations of coffee and chayote (a type of squash) we hope to encounter Orange-billed Nightingale-thrush and the endemic Cabanis’s Ground Sparrow. Our hotel for the next two nights, Alma de Luna, offers views of the Orosi valley and Turrialba and Irazu volcanoes. Night Hotel 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 stunning Golden-browed Chlorophonia. 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 national parks in Costa Rica. With an altitudinal range between 1,300 and 1,600 metres on the country's Caribbean slope, the wet pre-montane forest holds many specialities.
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.
After dinner, we may try some 'owling' in hopes of coaxing a Bare-shanked Screech Owl or Mottled Owl to appear. Second night at Hotel Alma de Luna.
IRAZU VOLCANO TO TALAMANCA HIGHLANDS AND SUENOS DEL BOSQUE
Leaving Paraiso Orocay, we head to the Irazu Volcano National Park for our first taste of highland birding in Costa Rica (2200m-3200m). Special birds abound here, many of which can only be seen in the highlands of Costa Rica and western Panama. On entering the oak montane forest, we shall set our sights on finding what is considered Costa Rica’s, if not the New World’s, most beautiful bird: the Resplendent Quetzal.
While searching for the main prize, we will no doubt run into many of the species 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 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…..
After lunch, we will make the descent from Irazu Volcano into Cartago, only to climb right back up via the Pan American Highway to the Cordillera Talamanca. We plan to make several birding stops hoping to add species such as Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher, Flame-coloured Tanager and Yellow-thighed Finch, while nearby hummingbird feeders may draw our attention to Talamanca and Volcano Hummingbirds, White-throated Mountaingem and Lesser Violetear, although it is the aptly named Fiery-throated Hummingbird that usually steals the show!
Further down this beautiful valley, we will arrive at our tucked away mountain retreat located beside the Rio Savegre, for a two-night stay. Dinners are always delicious 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. 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 yet more 'hummers' to enjoy from sparkling Lesser Violetears and White-throated Mountaingems to Volcano, Scintillant and Striped-tailed Hummingbirds. A walk in the nearby forest has previously produced excellent views of the secretive Spotted Wood Quail and there is always a 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 amidst the primary oak 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 another opportunity for the crown jewel of Central American birds - the exquisite Resplendent Quetzal. February marks the beginning of the breeding season for this remarkable bird and we will be left pondering how the males manage to enter their nest hole and incubate the eggs, while 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.
THE PARAMO TO VILLA LAPAS
Leaving Sueños del Bosque, we will drive south to the windswept paramo at 3,400m which is home to high altitude specialities such as Sooty Thrush, Timberline Wren, Volcano Junco and Volcano Hummingbird
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 the 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 into San Isidro before going over the last hills to the Pacific coast. Our final birding stop may be on the coast at Playa Hermosa where we will look 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.
Our destination this evening is Hotel Villa Lapas which is nestled in a forested lowland valley along the Tarcolitos River. This comfortable hotel will make the ideal base for our final three nights in Costa Rica, allowing us to explore this diverse region of the Central Pacific coast. Night Hotel Villa Lapas
Days 11- 12
VILLA LAPAS, CARARA NATIONAL PARK, GUANACASTE AND RIO TARCOLES BOAT TRIP
As we gather outside our rooms, 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.
After breakfast, 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 new species from Black-hooded and Barred Antshrikes to Dot-winged Antwren, Northern Royal Flycatcher and Orange-collared Manakin whilst in the more humid forest, Great Tinamou, Black-faced Antthrush, Streak-chested Antpitta, Rufous Piha, Riverside Wren and others await.
The afternoon may find us huddled down in the forest watching many colourful species come for their daily bath. Whilst striking Red-capped Manakins regularly steal the show, the handsome Blue-crowned Manakin may vie 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 on one evening, 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, Long-tailed Manakin, White-throated Magpie-jay, Stripe-headed Sparrow and Blue Grosbeak.
Midday while in the Carara area will 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 our final full afternoon in Costa Rica to a boat trip in search of the many mangrove specialities of the area. The endemic and highly localised Mangrove Hummingbird can often be found, along with ‘Mangrove’ Common Black Hawk, Mangrove Warbler and Mangrove Vireo.
Up to five species of kingfisher are possible along the river, including the appropriately named American Pygmy Kingfisher and the larger and more robust Ringed Kingfisher.
Waterbirds should be plentiful, with Boat-billed Heron, Bare-throated Tiger Heron, 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 out for our last pairs of Scarlet Macaws flying by to their roost, it will be a reminder that we too must soon be flying away. Two further nights Hotel Villa Lapas
PACIFIC COAST TO SAN JOSÉ, FLY LONDON
We should have time for some final birding with King Vulture, Zone-tailed Hawk, Golden-naped Woodpecker, Fiery-billed Aracari, Long-tailed Manakin and Northern Royal Flycatcher amongst the possibilities.
After lunch, we load up our bus one last time and transfer from the Pacific coast into Costa Rica’s bustling Central Valley. Arriving at San José Airport, we bid a reluctant farewell to Herman and our driver and check-in for our overnight flight home.
ARRIVAL IN LONDON
Morning arrival at London Gatwick, where our 'Classic' birding tour to Costa Rica concludes.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Taking advantage of British Airways nonstop flights to San José, our Classic Costa Rica birding tour visits a selection of the country's finest wildlife sites - La Selva, Rancho Naturalista, Tapanti, Savegre and Villa Lapas - and is simply crammed with great birding. It is a trip that has got everything - from Sunbittern and Scarlet Macaw to Volcano Junco and Resplendent Quetzal - on a journey that will take you from the Caribbean lowlands and cloud-forested volcanoes to the coastal mangroves of the Pacific shore.
Costa Rica enjoys a tropical to temperate climate, according to altitude. Our February tours run during Costa Rica’s ‘dry season’, but please note rainfall can (and does) of course occur year-round in the mountains and rainforests! It can be cool and misty at times, especially in the mountains and cloud forest and 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.”
There is currently no malaria risk in any of the areas visited on our tour.
Excellent photographic opportunities in more open habitats, especially at feeders around the lodges - birds, other wildlife and scenic shots. Generally tricky in the forest due to low light levels.
10-20 species. We usually encounter a good variety of forest mammals. Possibilities include up to 3 species of Neotropical monkeys, two sloths, White-nosed Coati, Collared Peccary, Central American Agouti and Tent-making Bats.
12 nights' accommodation in Costa Rica, staying at good hotels and lodges. All rooms have private facilities.
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 at our hotel on Day 13. Food is good to excellent, with much that is locally grown including the coffee.
Costa Rica is a mountainous country so all 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 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 2,000-2,750m, plus a couple of hours only spent at higher elevation in the paramo zone around 3,400m, and at Irazu Volcano (2,200m-3,200m). Our birding at Villa Lapas and Selva Verde is at or near sea level.
Maximum elevation this tour: 3,400m.
Despite the end of pandemic restrictions, we have taken the decision to continue to price our holidays as excluding international flights.
To keep the process as simple as possible, we work 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.
This will also sometimes give you the option to travel from a regional airport if you prefer.
By comfortable Toyota Coaster (minicoach) with air-conditioning and driven by the same excellent local drivers that we've worked with for many years. (A minibus may be used in the event of a small group).
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.
View a gallery of images for this tour below, click on an image to view as full size with caption