Costa Rica: Highlights

Our short tour to the most astounding birdwatching destination in all of Central America, which is expected to record a large number of endemics and near-endemics, including Resplendant Quetzal, Fiery-throated Hummingbird, Wrenthrush, Snowy Cotinga and much more. Costa Rica is special in that so many habitats and altitudes are packed into such a tiny area, which allows us to sample most of the specialties in a very short space of time!

Next dates

17-31 July 2023

Tour length: 15 days

Group size limit: 7


Daniel Aldana and local guides

Guaranteed departure

15-29 February 2024

Tour length: 15 days

Group size limit: 7


Daniel Aldana and local guides

Spaces available

Day 1: Arrival to San Jose Airport, in the central valley of Costa Rica. Overnight and dinner at a nearby hotel to discuss the upcoming trip!

Day 2: Early birding morning around the hotel for our first common neotropical species like Cinnamon-bellied Saltator, Great Kiskadee, Finsch’s Parakeet, Lesson’s Motmot and Rufous-naped Wren. After breakfast we will drive to Cerro de la Muerte, where we will be looking for Black-capped Flycatcher, Timberline Wren, Peg-billed Finch and Sooty Thrush, amongst others. As dusk arrives we will try for the very uncommon Unspotted Saw-Whet Owl. Overnight at Paraiso de Quetzales.

Day 3: Exploring the temperate cloud forest and bamboo thickets for Wrenthrush (also known as Zeledonia), Long-tailed and Black-and-yellow Silky Flycatchers, Large-footed Finch, Resplendent Quetzal, Ochraceous Wren, the rare Ochraceous Pewee, Brown-capped and Yellow-winged Vireos, Flame-throated Warbler, Black-thighed Grosbeak and Northern Tufted Flycatcher. Feeders around the lodge should attract special species such as Fiery-throated, Talamanca, Scintillant and Volcano Hummingbirds. In the afternoon we will move to a different area in search of Ruddy Treerunner, Lineated Foliage-gleaner, Buffy Tuftedcheek, Barred Becard, Silvery-throated Jay, Costa Rican Pygmy Owl, Golden-browed Chlorophonia and, with luck, Buffy-crowned Wood-Partridge. Spotlighting may produce Bare-shanked Screech-Owl and Dusky Nightjar. Overnight at Paraiso de Quetzales lodge.

Day 4: We will spend the morning searching for missing targets before descending to the Pacific foothills where we will arrive in time for dinner and Tropical Screech Owl searching! Overnight at Talari lodge.

Day 5: After some early morning birding in the lodge, which can be very productive, we will go to Dr Alexander Scutch Reserve “Los Cusingos”, where we will search for specialties like Baird’s Trogon, Fiery-throated Aracari, Great Tinamou, Shining Honeycreeper, Charming Hummingbird, White-crested Coquette, Garden Emerald, Grey-headed Chachalaca, Russet Antshrike, Plain-brown, Ruddy and Tawny-winged Woodcreepers, Dusky and Bicolored Antbirds, Red-capped Manakin, Rufous Piha and Golden-crowned Spadebill. We will also try for Turquoise Cotinga nearby. In the late afternoon we will continue towards the coast. Overnight in Carara.

Day 6: The morning will be spent in the beautiful Carara National Park, home to the endangered Pacific lowland rainforest. The main attraction here are the numerous Scarlet Macaws that regularly fly over the highway and trails! Other species we hope to encounter include incredible birds like Marbled Wood Quail, Streak-chested Antpitta, Band-tailed Barbthroat, Slaty-tailed Trogon, White-whiskered Puffbird, Stub-tailed Spadebill, Rufous-breasted, Riverside and Black-bellied Wrens, Long-billed Gnatwren, Northern Royal Flycatcher and Red-capped and Orange-collared Manakins. In the semi-open areas and grasslands we may see Red-lored Parrot, Pale-billed Woodpecker, Variable Seedeater and King Vulture. Later in the afternoon it will be time to explore the mangroves in search of Mangrove Hummingbird, Mangrove Vireo, Panamanian and Northern Scrub Flycatchers, Common Black Hawk, Yellow-headed and Crested Caracaras, Plumbeous Kite, Roseate Spoonbill, and many water birds. Overnight in Carara.

Day 7: Morning birding around Carara, before driving to the drier Guanacaste area. Overnight in La Ensenada, where we will search for Pacific Screech Owl after dinner.

Day 8: In the dry forest  we will search for White-throated Magpie-Jay, Turquoise-browed Motmot, Lesser Ground-Cuckoo, Harris’s Hawk, Double-striped Thick-knee, Laughing Falcon, Southern Lapwing, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Plain-capped Starthroat and White-fronted and Yellow-naped Parrots. After lunch we will drive to the central highlands, hopefully reaching Monteverde in time for some afternoon birding around the lodge. Overnight in Monteverde Lodge.

Day 9: At Monteverde we are going to visit both Monteverde Cloudforest Reserve and Santa Elena Reserve, plus several other small private reserves. Our major targets include the astounding Three-wattled Bellbird, Black Guan, Chiriqui Quail-Dove, Collared Trogon, Blue-throated Toucanet, Prong-billed Barbet, Red-faced Spinetail, Silvery-throated Tapaculo and Long-tailed Manakin among many other great birds. Around the hummingbird feeders we are going to get close-up views of Coppery-headed Emerald, Violet Sabrewing, Magenta-throated Woodstar, Stripe-tailed Hummingbird, Green-crowned Brilliant and Purple-throated Mountaing-gem. Overnight at Monteverde Lodge.

Day 10: Morning birding around Monteverde before driving onwards to Arenal Volcano. We will make a short stop near La Fortuna for White-throated and Uniform Crakes, and maybe also Keel-billed Motmot before continuing onwards to arrive at the volcano in time for afternoon birding. Overnight at Arenal Lodge.

Day 11: A full day will be spent birding the slopes of Arenal Volcano. Around the lodge gardens we can find Violet-headed Hummingbird, Green Hermit, Brown Violetear, Green Thorntail and Black-crested Coquette among with Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer. The fruit feeders attract Montezuma Oropendula, Great Curassow, Buff-throated Saltator and Red-legged Honeycreeper, while along forest trails we might ecounter Slaty Spintail, Western Woodhaunter, Streak-crowned Antvireo, Northern Nightingale and Song Wrens, Dull-mantled, Ocellated and Spotted Antbirds, White-throated Shrike Tanager and Stripe-breasted Wren among many other excellent specialties. Spotlighting should produce Black-and-white Owl somewhere near our rooms. Overnight Arenal Lodge.

Day 12: Morning Birding around Arenal, targeting Bare-crowned Antbird, Rufous Motmot, White-fronted Nunbird, Thicket Antpitta and others, before driving to Caño Negro near the Nicaraguan border. After checking in at the lodge we will head out on our first boat trip in search of Yellow-breasted Crake, Snail Kite, Limpkin, Northern Jacana and many other water birds. Overnight in Caño Negro.

Day 13: Another boat trip this morning will target the reed-loving Nicaraguan Grackle, the unique Sungrebe, Green, Belted and Ringed Kingfishers, plus Green Ibis, Pinnated Bittern and, if lucky, Agami Heron. Birding around the lodge should produce Grey-headed Dove and Spot-breasted Wren. After lunch we will drive to the Caribbean lowlands, searching for Nicaraguan Seedfinch en route, arriving at the lodge for dinner. At night we will try for Crested Owl  and Vermiculated Screech Owl. Overnight La Selva Biological Station.

Day 14: Full day exploring this rich and biodiverse area with a list of over 400 bird species! The main targets along several trails through the reserve include the endangered Great Green Macaw, Little and Slaty-breasted Tinamou, Great Curassow, White-collared, Spot-fronted and Grey-rumped Swifts, Blue-chested Hummingbird, Long-tailed and Stripe-throated Hermits, Rufous and Broad-billed Motmots, Snowy Cotinga, Collared Aracari, White-collated Manakin, Black-cheeked and Chestnut-colored Woodpeckers, Dusky-faced and Plain-colored Tanagers and Chestnut-headed Oropendolas. If lucky we might come across some of the uncommon species that occur here, such as Agami Heron, Grey-headed Kite, Semiplumbeous Hawk, Olive-backed Quail-Dove, Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift, Cinnamon Woodpecker and Pied Puffbird. Overnight at La Selva Biological Station.

Day 15: Morning birding at La Selva before beginning our transit back to San Jose. On the way we will stop at Braulio Carillo National Park to try for some final new birds like Black-and-yellow and the uncommon Blue-and-gold Tanagers, Lattice-tailed Trogon, the rare Black-crowned Pittasoma, Snowcap and Black-faced Grosbeak to wrap up the tour, which ends this evening back at San Jose International Airport. NOTE: For anybody who wishes to depart the following day we can arrange an overnight stay at a hotel near the airport, where you will be dropped directly at the conclusion of the tour.

Tour details

Cost: $ 6,000
Deposit: $ 750
Single room supplement: $ 420

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.