Costa Rica

Classic Costa Rica

A 14-day, small group birdwatching tour to Costa Rica

Costa Rica Birding Tours with Limosa Holidays: 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. Join our Latin America specialist Colin Bushell for a trip that's 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. Featuring some excellent new sites for 2020 and beyond, our Costa Rica bird tour is simply too good to miss!

Tour Dates & Prices

Thu 11th February 2021

Wed 24th February 2021

  • Booking Closed

Tour Cost: 14 Days from £4595* inc return flights from London Gatwick

Deposit: £600Single Supp: £575*Land Only: £3995*Group Size: 10Leaders: TBA
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* 2020 tour costs shown. Please note costs for our 2021 tour TBA (available summer 2020)

What's Included?

  • Limosa Tour Leader
  • Expert English-speaking Costa Rican guide
  • Return flights - London Gatwick-San José (Costa Rica), nonstop with British Airways
  • 12 nights accommodation in Costa Rica, staying at comfortable hotels and lodges
  • All main meals - and drinking water provided
  • Travel by comfortable Toyota Coaster bus
  • Boat trip on the Rio Tarcoles
  • All excursions, local guides, permits, entry fees to parks
  • All tour-based tips (inc. lodges, driver, local guides) & taxes
  • Map & Limosa checklist of birds
  • NO hidden extras

Cost Excludes

Insurance, airport snacks/meals, drinks & other items of a personal nature

View or Download Tour Info Pack


The Land Only cost is the price you will pay if you choose to arrange your own flights.

Tour Highlights

  • Friendly, compact Central American country that’s positively brimming with brilliant birding 
  • 400+ species on a journey from 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 we've seen
  • Forest mammals to look for include sloths, Mantled Howler, Kinkajou and Tent-making Bat
  • Mangrove boat trip on Rio Tarcoles
  • Small group tour - maximum 10 participants 
  • Expertly led by Limosa's Colin Bushell and a specialist Costa Rican bird guide

Outline Itinerary

  • We fly nonstop London-San José. Night Hotel Bougainvillea, San José (elevation 1,170m)

  • We visit La Paz Waterfall Garden, Cinchona feeders and La Virgen en route to La Selva. Full day La Selva. La Quinta (2 nts, elevation 100m)

  • To Rancho Naturalista with birding stops at Rio San Jose, Old Butterfly Garden & Cope’s feeders. Rancho Naturalista lodge (2 nts, elevation 900m)

  • Morning at Rancho, transfer to Rio Perlas. Full day in Rio Macho and Tapanti National Park (1300-1600m). Rio Perlas Resort (2 nts, 1100m)

  • Irazu Volcano National Park (2200-3200m) and highland specialities of Savegre Valley. Hotel Savegre (2 nts, elevation 2200m)

  • Early morning Savegre, transfer to Pacific Coast via the paramo (3400m), Tolomuco feeders and Playa Hermosa. Hotel Villa Lapas (3 nts, 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 London

  • Arrival London Gatwick

Trip Info
Trip Reports
Sunbittern Costa Rica Wayne Easley.jpg
A Sunbittern lights up the streamside at Rancho Naturalista with its 'sunburst' display © kind permission Wayne Easley

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 to Costa Rica. The birding really is exceptional and past trip highlights have included Sunbittern, Spotted Wood Quail, Ornate Hawk-eagle, Crested Owl, Resplendent Quetzal, Scarlet Macaw, Brown-billed Scythebill and Zeledonia - not to mention 30 or more species of jewel-like hummingbirds, a whole rainbow of exotically coloured tanagers and fascinating forest mammals such as the endearing 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. Great Green Macaw, Rufous and Broad-billed Motmots, Yellow-throated and Keel-billed Toucans, Chestnut-coloured Woodpecker and Snowy Cotinga are possible here.

Next we head to the Talamanca Mountains and two nights at wonderful Rancho Naturalista. The views westward 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 have a good chance of finding the highly-prized Sunbittern nearby, too!

From Rancho, we continue on to the lush pre-montane forests of Tapanti National Park and a two-night stay at nearby Rio Perlas Resort. We'll be watching 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 Zeledonia as well as taking in the Crater of Irazu - which is truly spectacular! We spend the next two nights in the highlands of the Savegre Valley - 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, pausing to visit the active feeders of Tolomuco Lodge. 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 here will provide many special memories. It is also from here that we will take in the special birds of Costa Rica’s dry northwest - known as the 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 2020 trip will be guide Colin Bushell's tenth visit to Costa Rica. Combining breathtaking 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 Jose - our Classic Costa Rica tour is definitely one Neotropical experience not to be missed!

98 Magnificent Hummingbird CRica Feb2014 BSmall copy.JPG
Used to be, and still is, 'magnificent'... but now split into two related species: Rivoli's Hummingbird, and here in the highlands of Costa Rica, Talamanca Hummingbird © Brian Small, Limosa

Day 1

Our two-week birdwatching tour to Costa Rica begins with a morning departure from London Gatwick on British Airways twice-weekly nonstop service to San José, capital of Costa Rica. We’ll be met on arrival in San José this afternoon by our local guide and transfer directly to the comfortable Hotel Bougainvillea. Night San José

Day 2

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 Chlorospingus... 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 such delights as 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 Spangled-cheeked Tanagers among many others.

After an excellent buffet lunch we continue downslope to the Cinchona Feeders, where we have a chance to view many species at close range. Possibilities 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 here 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 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

Day 3

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 all Costa Rica. 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 cacophanous groups of Mealy and Red-lored Parrots wing past 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 Two-toed and Three-toed Sloths, 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. Night La Quinta Country Inn

Day 4

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 paralleling this rocky river. Here we hope to find Fasciated Tiger-Heron as it hunts motionless from the rocks. Other species of note here 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 here and we should be rewarded by excellent views of such jewels as 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 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 Rufous-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 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. (Our 2019 group was lucky with both owl species!) While another spot has been excellent of late for roosting Great Potoo, the largest member of the bizarre Potoo family.

Reluctantly tearing ourselves away from the excitements at Cope’s, we continue on to reach famous Rancho Naturalista, which will be our home for the next two nights. Set at an elevation of 900m in the Talamanca Mountains, Rancho 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

Day 5

Early mornings at Rancho begin with the local ‘alarm clocks’ - 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 after make 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 seems unconcerned by our presence while a Red-throated Ant Tanager swallows 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’ll thrill to 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’ll 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 Antwren and Scale-crested Pygmy Tyrant, plus a trio of ‘must-see’ manakins: White-collared, White-crowned and White-ruffed.

Mid-afternoon we pay a visit to nearby Casa Turiri, on the shores of the man-made Lake Angostura. Having scanned the lilypads for wetland birds such as Limpkin, Snail Kite and Purple Gallinule, we’ll 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. 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 for less frenetic fare such as Stripe-breasted Wren, Masked Tityra, migrant warblers, tanagers, euphonias...the list of possibilities here 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. Night Rancho Naturalista

Day 6

We will begin our final morning at Rancho by driving a short distance to a rocky river to look for the resident Sunbitterns. Here 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 will 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, Rio Perlas Resort, is nestled along a river - with adjacent hot spring pools should anyone care for a soothing dip! Night Rio Perlas Resort

Day 7

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’ll also listen out for the call of the secretive Zeledon’s Antbird, a bird we will have to coax out in order to view!

Continuing up the valley, we’ll arrive at Tapanti, one of the most scenic of Costa Rica’s national parks. With an altitudinal range between 1300 and 1600 metres on the country's Caribbean slope, the habitat of wet pre-montane forest holds many specialties 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 Mountain-gem 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 Costa Rican Warbler regularly travel with the busy flocks, too.

Riverside specialists include American Dippers and the darling Torrent Tyrannulet, while the understory conceals Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush and Chestnut-capped Brushfinch. And on the rare event we 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 back at Rio Perlas, for those with energy to spare, we may try some 'owling' in hopes of coaxing a Bare-shanked Screech Owl or Mottled Owl to appear. Striped Owl is sometimes spotlighted in fields closer to the hotel. Second night at Rio Perlas Resort.

Day 8

Leaving Rio Perlas this morning 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 will 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 species indicative of this zone including Acorn Woodpecker, Black-capped Flycatcher, Flame-throated Warbler, Sooty Thrush, Sooty-capped Bush Tanager and Large-footed Finch. We’ll also make a special effort to find the secretive Wrenthrush, now in a monotypic family. Further up and above tree line, we will start our search for Timberline Wren and Volcano Junco, both species being resident here in and around 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 of course!

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. Once on the 9 km road leading into the Savegre Valley we will make birding stops, adding new and unique species each time. One special stop will be at Miriam’s feeders, which will give us up close views of a host of beautiful montane species. Acorn and Hairy Woodpeckers, Long-tailed Silky-Flycatcher, Flame-coloured Tanager and Yellow-thighed Finch are among species to watch for, while the hummingbird feeders nearby draw our attention to Talamanca and Volcano Hummingbirds, White-throated Mountain-gem and Lesser Violetear - though it’s 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 the start of a two-night stay. Dinners are always delicious here with fresh trout being the speciality of the area. Night Hotel Savegre

Day 9

The Savegre Valley is situated at an elevation of 2200m. Birds often seem especially tame here, with 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 here - from sparkling Lesser Violetears and White-throated Mountaingems to Volcano, Scintillant and Striped-tailed Hummingbirds. A walk in the nearby forest has lately 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, to save our legs we will take an open-air ride by 4WD vehicle up a steep track to reach the Los Robles and Quebrada Trails. Among many birds to look for here 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's also 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 no doubt be left pondering as to 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. Night Hotel Savegre

Day 10

Leaving Savegre this morning, we will drive south up to high altitude, where the windswept paramo (at 3400m above sea level) is home to high level specialities such as Sooty Thrush, Timberline Wren, Volcano Junco and displaying male Volcano Hummingbirds.

Heading downslope, we will make a productive stop at Tolomuco Lodge, where hummingbird feeders, banana feeders and garden flowers entice a multitude of birds to this special place. Possibilities include Long-billed Starthroat, the localised White-tailed Emerald and impressive White-crested Coquette as well as Snowy-bellied Hummingbird. The banana feeders attract Red-crowned Woodpecker, Red-headed Barbet, Scarlet-rumped (Cherrie’s race), Silver-throated and Speckled Tanagers, both White-naped and Chestnut-capped Brushfinches, and gorgeous Baltimore Orioles and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks to name a few. Two wildly 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 today descending into San Isidro before going over the last hills to the Pacific Coast. Our final planned birding stop will be right along the coast, at Playa Hermosa. Here we’ll watch for Double-striped Thick-knee, Bare-throated Tiger Heron, Common Black Hawk, Bat Falcon, the impressive Scissor-tailed Flycatcher and our first of hopefully 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 makes 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

As we gather outside our rooms, the early morning comes alive with tropical sounds. Gartered and Slaty-tailed Trogons, Lesson’s Motmots, Yellow-throated Toucan, Pale-billed Woodpecker, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Streaked Flycatcher, bands of Rufous-naped Wrens and others join in a spectacular dawn chorus.

After breakfast we will visit Carara National Park just 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 lekking Orange-collared Manakins. 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 into for their daily bath. Striking Red-capped Manakins regularly steal the show, but handsome Blue-crowned Manakins will be vying for our attention as well! Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher, 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. One evening we can perhaps 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. Here the change in both the vegetation and bird-life is remarkable, with the rainforests south of the river giving way to a much drier zone north of the river. In the fields and thorn forests making up 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 Parrots, 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 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’ll devote our final full afternoon in Costa Rica to searching by boat for the many mangrove specialities of the area. The endemic and highly localized Mangrove Hummingbird can often be found with diligence, along with ‘Mangrove’ Common Black Hawk, Mangrove Warbler and Mangrove Vireo. Up to five species of kingfisher are possible along the river, including both the New World’s smallest member of the tribe - the diminutive American Pygmy Kingfisher - and its largest, the robust Ringed Kingfisher. Waterbirds are 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 often seen along the edges of the river, too.

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 pair of Scarlet Macaws fly past to roost, it is a reminder that we too must soon be flying away. Two further nights Hotel Villa Lapas

Day 13

We have time this morning to enjoy some final birding around the hotel, taking in the nearby river trail as well as the waterfall road above. Perhaps our final birds will come in the guise of King Vulture, Zone-tailed Hawk, Golden-naped Woodpecker, Fiery-billed Aracari, Long-tailed Manakin or nesting Northern Royal Flycatcher.

After lunch at Hotel Villa Lapas, 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 our Costa Rican guide and driver, and check-in for British Airways nonstop overnight flight home.

Day 14

Morning arrival at London Gatwick, where our 'Classic' birding tour to Costa Rica concludes.

Acorn Woodpecker 745.jpg
A super portrait of the sociable and rather comical-looking Acorn Woodpecker © tour participants Brian & Linda Miller

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's a trip that's 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. And featuring some excellent new sites for 2020 and beyond.

Costa Rica enjoys a tropical to temperate climate, according to altitude. Our February/March 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; 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.

400-450 species

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 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 Selva Verde is at or near sea level.

Maximum elevation this tour: 3400m.

On this tour we take advantage of British Airways twice-weekly nonstop service from London Gatwick to San José (Costa Rica), and return. Our flight-inclusive tour cost also includes the Costa Rica departure tax (US $29).

Ground Transport   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 (day 12), in a boat that is large enough to accommodate our whole group. The boat trip usually lasts approx. 2-3 hrs.

Volcano Hummingbird CRica BSmall.JPG
Our Classic Costa tour is a terrific trip for hummingbirds, with upwards of 30 species possible - among them, dainty and delicate, the diminutive Volcano Hummingbird at Savegre © Brian Small, Limosa

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