Costa Rica: Highlights ~Women-Only~

This highlights tour to the most astounding birdwatching destination in all of Central America is expected to record a high number of endemics and near-endemics, including Resplendent Quetzal, Three-wattled Bellbird, Scarlet Macaw, Fiery-throated Hummingbird, Snowcap, Purple-throated Mountaingem, Wrenthrush, Golden-browed Chlorophonia, and Snowy Cotinga. We will be based at a number of excellent lodges playing host to superb hummingbird feeders, with spotlighting possible right outside our rooms in many cases.

Next dates

12-24 July 2025

Tour length: 13 days

Group size limit: 6


Donna Belder and Mercedes "Meche" Alpizar

Spaces available

Day 1: The tour starts this afternoon at San José International Airport (SJO). After transferring to our hotel, we may have the opportunity to spot some urban birds. Night in San José.

Day 2: After breakfast, we will head to the cloud forest of Cerro de la Muerte, stopping for lunch at a birder-friendly guesthouse with feeders attracting Buffy-crowned Wood Partridge, the rare and near-endemic Buff-fronted Quail-Dove and Prong-billed Barbet, amongst others. The gardens usually hold near-endemics like Black Guan, Purple-throated Mountaingem, Spangle-cheeked Tanager and Silvery-fronted Tapaculo. After lunch, we’ll continue on to our lodge, where we will spend the next two nights. By this time, we may have already encountered specialties like the monotypic Wrenthrush (or Zeledonia), Ochraceous Pewee, Large-footed Finch, Sooty-capped Chlorospingus and Resplendent Quetzal (a dream bird for many people!). Night at Cerro de la Muerte.

Day 3: We will spend a full day birding the cloud forest of Cerro de la Muerte searching for key species like Costa Rican Pygmy-Owl, Sulphur-winged Parakeet, the endemic Grey-tailed Mountaingem, Ruddy Treerunner, Lineated Foliage-gleaner, Buffy Tuftedcheek, Silvery-fronted Tapaculo, the rare Silvery-throated Jay, Black-capped and Golden-bellied Flycatcher, Long-tailed and Black-and-Yellow Silky Flycatcher, Dark Pewee, Torrent Tyrannulet, Mountain Elaenia, Wrenthrush, Sooty-faced Finch and Golden-browed Chlorophonia among many other great birds. At night, we will have a chance of finding Bare-shanked Screech-Owl, Unspotted Saw-Whet Owl and Dusky Nightjar. Night at Cerro de la Muerte.

Day 4: After a final morning of birding around Cerro de la Muerte, we will drive towards the San Isidro area, in the southern part of Costa Rica. We’ll get straight onto searching for the main target of the area, the lovely Turquoise Cotinga, while also hoping for species such as near-endemic Garden Emerald, White-crested Coquette and Charming Hummingbird, Olivaceous Piculet, Golden-naped Woodpecker, Slaty-tailed, Baird’s and Gartered Trogon, Fiery-billed Aracari, Black-hooded Antshrike, Yellow-olive Flycatcher, Red-legged and Shining Honeycreepers, Rufous-breasted Wren, Rufous Piha, Northern Bentbill, Orange-collared and Red-capped Manakins and many more. Night in San Isidro.

Day 5: Morning birding around the lodge, with additional chances for Turquoise Cotinga and any other birds not seen the previous afternoon. We will then proceed towards Carara National Park, arriving at our lodge in time for some initial exploring. Focusing on the forest edges and more open habitats to begin with, we can find Stripe-headed Sparrow, Scrub Euphonia, White-throated Magpie-Jay, White-necked Puffbird, Barred Antshrike, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Crested Caracara, Blue-black and Yellow-faced Grassquits, White-lored Gnatcatcher, Lesser Ground-Cuckoo, Banded Wren, and more. Night in Tarcoles.

Day 6: During the early morning, we will bird the trails of Carara National Park in search of the special targets of the northern lowlands, such as Great Tinamou, Marbled Wood Quail, Scarlet Macaw, Critically Endangered Yellow-naped Parrot, Slaty-tailed and Black-headed Trogons, Black-faced Antthrush, Streak-chested Antpitta, Stub-tailed Spadebill, Bicolored, Spotted and Chestnut-backed Antbirds, Pacific Royal Flycatcher, Rufous-and White and Rufous-breasted Wrens, and lots of others. In the late afternoon, we’ll take a boat ride on the Tarcoles River, giving us opportunities to observe more of the riverside specialties of the region. We will be cruising through mangroves and along riverbanks, where Roseate Spoonbill, Boat-billed Heron, the stunning Turquoise-browed Motmot, Panama Flycatcher, Northern Scrub Flycatcher, Mangrove Vireo, Mangrove Warbler, and many more can be seen. Mangrove Hummingbird and Yellow-billed Cotinga are also sometimes seen here. Night in Tarcoles.

 Day 7: After another morning birding the Carara area in search of any missing targets, we will drive to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, where we will spend the next two nights. This incredible area hosts a vast array of interesting species, and we will have time for some initial birding after settling into our lodge. Lots of hummingbirds can usually be found at the feeders, including Violet Sabrewing, the endemic Coppery-headed Emerald, Stripe-tailed and Blue-vented Hummingbirds, Purple-throated Mountaingem, Magenta-throated Woodstar and others. Night in Monteverde.

Day 8: For our first morning in Monteverde, we will be looking for the unique Three-wattled Bellbirds, showing their long wattles while emitting their tremendously loud vocalisation! Other great birds that we will search for include Black Guan, Black-breasted Wood Quail, Chiriqui Quail-Dove, Resplendent Quetzal, Lineated Foliage-gleaner, Ruddy Woodcreeper, the uncommon Grey-throated Leaftosser, Streak-breasted Treehunter, Azure-hooded Jay, Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush, Long-tailed Manakin, White-eared Ground Sparrow plus many more. Night in Monteverde.

Day 9: We will spend another morning of birding the cloud forest, hoping to pick up any remaining targets. After lunch, we will drive to Volcan Arenal National Park, arriving in time to explore birding trails around our lodge. If the sky is clear, we will have great views of the majestic Volcan Arenal. The foothill forest has a lot on offer, and amongst many specialties, we’ll be on the lookout for Great Curassow (here at one of the easiest places on the planet!), White and Semiplumbeous Hawks, Black-crested Coquette, Green Thorntail, Keel-billed Motmot, Thicket Antpitta, Streak-crowned Antvireo, Ocellated and Bare-crowned Antbirds, Nightingale and Bay Wrens, Black-headed Saltator, Crimson-collared and near-endemic Black-and-yellow Tanagers. Night at Volcan Arenal.

Day 10: After early morning birding in Volcan Arenal National Park, we’ll drive to La Selva Biological Research Station in the Sarapiqui region, where we will spend the next two nights. One of the most popular destinations for wildlife enthusiasts in Central America, La Selva really has it all! We will arrive in time for some late birding and spotlighting for Crested, Mottled and Black-and-white Owls, Middle American Screech Owl, as well as mammals like Kinkajou and Sloth, plus numerous reptiles and amphibians. Night at La Selva.

Day 11: We’ll have a full day to explore the fantastic diversity hosted by La Selva’s vast expanses of lowland primary rainforest. Amongst many species, we’ll be focused on finding Slaty-breasted Tinamou, Agami Heron, Olive-backed Quail Dove, the now Critically Endangered Great Green Macaw, Pied Puffbird, Chestnut-coloured and Cinnamon Woodpeckers, Tiny and Semiplumbeous Hawks, Black-crowned Antshrike, Black-capped Pygmy Tyrant, White-collared Manakin and Snowy Cotinga. Night at La Selva.

Day 12: We will have a final morning of birding at La Selva before transferring to the Caribbean foothills, stopping along the way in the central valley coffee plantations for the endemic Cabanis’s Ground-Sparrow. We’ll then reach the legendary Rancho Naturalista for an overnight stay. In the afternoon, we will explore the lodge grounds and trails for Snowcap, Black-crested Coquette, the near-endemic Tawny-chested Flycatcher, White-ruffed and White-crowned Manakins, and the scarce Ashy-throated Bush Tanager. Many other great birds occur here, such as Gray-headed Chachalaca, Grey-chested Dove, Keel-billed Toucan, demonstrative Montezuma Oropendolas, Cocoa and Streak-headed Woodcreepers, Mistletoe Tyrannulet, Speckled and Golden-hooded Tanagers and many more. In recent years, male Lovely Cotingas have been visiting the garden, so we’ll cross our fingers for one to be around! We will also visit a nearby grassland patch for White-throated Flycatcher and look for Sunbittern along the nearby rivers. Migrant Warblers should be plenty at that time of the year and maybe we’ll find a stunning Golden-winged Warbler. Night at Rancho Naturalista.

Day 13: Our final morning will be spent birding at Rancho Naturalista for regional specialties like Short-tailed Pigeon, Green-fronted Lancebill, Green Hermit, Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner, Middle American Leaftosser, Brown-billed Scythebill, Russet Antshrike, Slaty Antwren, Dull-mantled Antbird, the Central American version of Ochre-breasted Antpitta, Rufous-browed Tyrannulet, White-throated Spadebill, Rufous Mourner, Song Wren, White-ruffed Manakin, and among many other great birds. The flowering bushes will certainly provide us with sightings of Snowcap and Magenta-throated Woodstar. After lunch, we will drive back to San José, where the tour ends in the afternoon at the airport.

Tour details

Cost: $ 5,700
Deposit: $ 750
Single room supplement: $ 400

Costa Rica is rapidly becoming one of the most expensive birding destinations in Latin America. We believe our pricing is fair when taking into account our small group size and included tipping for contracted local guides / drivers which are regularly forgone by some international operators in order to reduce costs.

Accommodation: All comfortable hotels.

Walking difficulty: Mostly easy, the occasional uphill trail.

Tour cost includes: All accommodation, main meals, drinking water, internal flights (as stated in itinerary), overland transport, tips to local drivers and guides, travel permits, entrance fees, and guide fees.

Tour cost excludes: Flights before and after the tour start/end, visa, travel insurance, tips to tour leaders, laundry, drinks and other items of a personal nature.