This tiny country, strategically positioned on the migration route for the Americas boasts over 800 species of bird including some of the most eye-catching in the world. The forests drip with tanagers and warblers and echo to the exotic utterances of Montezuma Oropendolas while whole new families of birds can be discovered such as foliage-gleaners, antbirds and woodcreepers.
Perhaps the most memorable are the iridescent hummingbirds which whiz around like large insects, pausing only to feed from nectar-producing flowers. High in the trees, fabulously coloured trogons might be spotted along with the aptly named Resplendent Quetzel. This tour has been designed to explore a number of the key habitats from cloud forests to coastal plains, taking time to enjoy and savour the riches on offer. Our accommodations has been chosen for comfort, quality and location and we will be assisted by Paco Madrigal whose level of expertize on all aspects of natural history is quite outstanding.
London / San Jose
Depart London Gatwick at 08.05 hrs on a British Airways direct flight to San Jose arriving at 13.40 hrs. On arrival, transfer to the Buena Vista Hotel where one night is spent. Buena Vista is a delightful, perfectly situated boutique hotel near to the International airport, located in the lush mountains of Alajuela with incredible views of the volcanoes Poas, Barva and Irazú, the central valley, tropical forest and coffee plantations.
San Jose / Arenal
After a relaxed start, we travel to Arenal Observatory where three nights are spent. Set high on a ridge facing Costa Rica’s most active and spectacular volcano and the only lodge located within the Arenal Volcano National Park, the Arenal Observatory Lodge offers travellers good standard accommodation and a truly unique experience. The lodge itself is within 870 acres of land including 270 acres of primary rainforest fitted with well-marked trails and the feeding station at the Observatory is also a magnet for a range of birds. This mid-elevation area also is an excellent spot for birds such as Crimson-collared, Bay-headed, Silver-throated and Hepatic Tanagers, Red-legged and Green Honeycreepers, Tropical Pewee, Band-backed Wren, Black-thighed Grosbeak, Buff-rumped Warbler and a range of raptors including Ornate Hawk-eagle and White Hawk.
The extensive trails take us through a wide range of habitats, from more open pasture to dense rainforest and this provides an equally varied range of bird species.
Today we travel, birdwatching along the way, to Hotel Sueno Azul in the tropical lowlands of Sarapiqui where three nights are spent. Sueno Azul is set in its own rainforest grounds which border the fast-flowing River Sarapiqui. It also adjoins La Selva Biological Research Station which has a truly amazing range of flora and fauna. The combination of tasty food and comfortable air-conditioned accommodation, makes this an ideal centre from which to explore the area. This lowland rain forest region at the base of the Caribbean slope is well-known for hosting the greatest diversity of tropical flora and fauna in the country. Here the Sunbittern, Black-faced Grosbeak, and Grey-necked Wood-Rail are a few of the inhabitants of the area. This is the most likely spot on the trip to see the Great Green Macaw, an endangered species. Also lurking in the forest are two- and three-toed sloths, 3 different species of monkeys, and peccaries.
We spend the next two days in and around La Selva Biological Station run by the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS), clearly a highlight of the tour. The station is among the four most famous tropical research facilities in the world and home to more than 420 bird species, 500 species of butterflies, 55 species of snakes, and 120 species of mammals. A vast variety of different species of trees can be seen in the arboretum. There are also three species of Tinamou that inhabit La Selva. We will be looking for Rufous Motmot, Trogons, Caciques, Purple-throated Fruit Crow, and Snowy Cotinga, among many others. Animals here are not camera shy, so there will be ample photo opportunities. Peccaries (wild pigs), agoutis, coatis, sloths, and monkeys frequent the area. We will also be taking a boat ride on the river Sarapiqui with chances of Bat Falcon, Green Ibis, and Rufous-tailed Jacamar.
Sarapiqui / Savegre
After breakfast we set off for Cerro de la Muerte, arriving at our accommodation for lunch. The rest of the afternoon is spent around the gardens and grounds where Resplendent Quetzals have been seen as well as Fiery-throated Hummingbird, Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher, Large-footed Finch, Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Sooty Robin and Sooty-capped Bush-Tanager to name a few. Check-in to the Savegre Mountain Lodge where three nights are spent. Eighty-nine kilometres south of San Jose in a private natural reserve of 400 hectares and just 9 km from Los Quetzales National Park, Savegre Hotel is the perfect starting point for exploring Costa Rica’s magnificent tropical cloud forest in all its beauty. Nicely appointed cabins and excellent food add to the enjoyment of our stay in the fresh mountain climate.
We spend the next two days exploring the gardens, riparian highland habitats, and old growth tropical oak cloud forests surrounding the Savegre Mountain Lodge. Walking through the gardens and along the Savegre river, we can hope to see Flame-colored Tanager, Collared Trogon, Torrent Tyrannulet, Volcano Hummingbird, and White-throated Mountain Gem, among many others. Some of the other species we will be looking for include Black-faced Solitaire, Spotted Wood-Quail, Buffy Tuftedcheek, Golden-browed Chlorophonia, Ochraceous Wren, Ornate Hawk-eagle, and of course the aptly named Resplendent Quetzal.
We now travel to Hotel Villa Lapas where three nights are spent. As close as it is possible to get to Carara National Park Hotel Villa Lapas combines comfortable air-conditioned accommodation and tasty cuisine with stunning surroundings, packed with flora and fauna. Just by walking the beautiful flowing river which goes through the grounds of the hotel it is possible to see an amazing number of rainforest species. Our route will deliberately take us initially south where we will be looking for Turquoise Cotinga, Pearl Kite and Fork-tailed Flycatcher which are on the northern edge of their range. We will take lunch en route. At Villa Lapas we will explore the bird-rich grounds, and hope to see Scarlet Macaws and Tiger Herons, Long-tailed Manakin, and Baird’s Trongon. We will also visit the nearby Playa Azul where some of the species we will look for are Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Melodious Blackbird, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Pacific Screech-Owl, Spectacled Owl, Crane Hawk, and many species of shorebirds.
We spend the next two days in and around the Carara Biological Reserve, a unique climatological zone where the ecosystem of the humid southern coastal region joins the dry climate of the northern Pacific area, becoming a rich meeting ground for species from both regions. This is truly one of the highlights of the tour, where we hope to find the Orange Collared Manakin dancing in their lek. It is also great location to spot antbirds, up to five different species of Trogons, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, and even Royal Flycatchers. During our time here we will be taking a boat trip on the river Tarcoles which gives us close encounters with birds of the mangroves such as Mangrove and Prothonotary Warblers, Panama Flycatcher, potentially five species of kingfishers, Zone-tailed and Mangrove Black Hawks plus an array of waders including Collared Plover.
Carara / San Jose
Return to San Jose for a farewell dinner. Check-in to the Bougainvillea Hotel where one night is spent. This excellent hotel draws birdwatchers from far and wide, not only for the high standard of accommodation and food but also the 4 hectares of tropical gardens which provide ample chances to see a range of central valley species. Only 45 minutes from the international airport it is ideally placed for a relaxed final stop.
San Jose / London
Transfer to San Jose Airport for a direct British Airways flight to London Gatwick departing at 15.30 hrs.