Best of Costa Rica
February 20-March 4, 2024, $4,400
Tortuguero extension: $900 from March 4-8 from $900
February 20-March 4
Extension: March 4-8M
Departure and Arrival
San Jose, Costa Rica
8 maximum, 6 open
The options for Costa Rica are almost limitless. Remarkably, a country no larger than West Virginia can offer stunning biodiversity. About 4% of the world's bird species and 10% of butterfly species call Costa Rica home.
Costa Rica is a popular tourist destination for more than just birds. Ticos (their self-appointed name) treat you like family. Though some guidebooks label Costa Rican food as bland, the meals are generally delicious and use locally sourced foods. You will feel better with no highly processed foods consumed for two weeks. Most tourists choose to adopt Ticos' more laid-back attitude. "Pura Vida" is more than a saying, it's a very desirable outlook on life.
This trip offers visits to lowland tropical rainforests, cloud forests, and mid-elevation forests. The varied habitat increases the chances of seeing more birds. Rather than jumping from place to place, this trip stays for three days at all locations except one. This gives us more chances to visit spots often skipped in the rush to get to the next stop.
In the cloud forests, we'll spend three full days, greatly increasing the likelihood of spotting what many consider the world's most beautiful bird, the Resplendent Quetzal. Though we're a bit early, we'll also search for one of the more bizarre appearing birds, the Three-wattled Bellbird.
A full-day excursion takes us close to Nicaragua, as we explore the wetlands for rarities like Yellow-breasted and White-throated Crake and Pinnated and Least Bittern. The diversity of the wetlands is boggling. In 2023, birders spotted 124 bird species in a single day!
Costa Rica has preserved over a quarter of its total landmass. We are likely to see many other animals besides birds. Howler monkeys are a common sighting and spotting a white-collared peccary, agouti, and a host of other mammals is not only a possibility, but likely.
This trip starts at a hotel outside San Jose that includes two birds endemic to Costa Rica, the Hoffman's Woodpecker and Cabins's Ground Sparrow, among over 250 other species. Not many cities can lay claim to a hotel that offers such excellent birding, but it's a nice introduction to Costa Rica that hints just a little bit at what's to come.
Contact lead guide Steve Eshbaugh at (406) 570-2428 for more info.
Price: $4,900 Double Occupancy
Single supplement: $1,000
Tortuguero Extension: $900
Maximum size 8
Spaces remaining: 6
What's included in the price?
All trip materials, including detailed daily itinerary, list of what to bring, recommended field guides and pre-trip reading materials, checklist of likely birds & other wildlife.All meals from the start of the trip to the last night's farewell dinner.
All services of leaders/guides.
Tips of local guides, servers, drivers.
All in-country transportation, including taxi rides to and from the airport to the first night's lodging.
Deposits are refundable minus a $200 processing fee. Any trip canceled due to COVID-19 is fully refunded.
February 20: Your flight must arrive tonight. Overnight, Hotel Bougainvillea
February 21: We'll bird the productive grounds at this hotel before breakfast, before leaving for the Gerado Province and Rancho Naturalista, and overnight at Rancho Naturalista
February 22: We'll begin our day birding from the balcony at the lodge. The staff put out fruit early, and Collared Aracari, Crested Guan, Red-throated Ant-tanager, and Lesson's Motmot often visit. The hummingbird feeders are a magnet for White-necked Jacobin, Green-breasted Mango, Crowned Woodnymph, and many more hummingbirds.
February 23: Another early breakfast for the birds calls to us. In addition to the parade of avian friends, curious observers may also spot tayra, coati, agouti, and red-tailed squirrel. The flock of Brown Jay that often arrive here in the morning hours is impressive. After our early-morning "deck survey," we'll head to the surrounding hills where Lovely Cotinga roosts.
February 24: After breakfast, we'll head to Rio Turrialba, where we'll search the banks for Sunbittern and Mistletoe Tyrannulet. We then drive to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui, overnight La Quinta Sarapiqui. You'll be thankful for the air conditioning, as this is one of the country's hottest and most humid places. The grounds include a marvelous butterfly garden, and we often spot strawberry and green-and-black poison arrow frogs in the leaf litter.
February 25: We're off early to beat the heat and visit La Selva Biological Station, the most studied scientific reserve in the world. These productive grounds may yield Great Curassow, Snowy Cotinga, Scarlett-capped Manakin, and numerous species of antbirds. We also hope to see three species of monkey, agouti, peccary, and perhaps even a tamandua.
February 26: We leave the oppressive heat behind us for the short drive to Arenal Observatory Lodge, home to the #2 eBird hotspot in Costa Rica. We'll immediately look upon the fruit feeders and hope to spot Emerald, Golden-hooded, Crimson-collared, and Scarlet-rumpled Tanagers. Red-legged Honeycreeper and Blue Dacnis also often add their colors to the scene.
February 27: We'll start at the fruit feeders before breakfast, then we'll bird around the lodge, likely adding Black-crested Coquette, Green Thorntail, and Bronze-tailed Plumleteer. The short hike to the waterfall near the lodge can also provide new birds.
February 28: La Fortuna town has some wonderful areas to bird that add to the diversity on our ever-growing list. Russet-naped Woodrail, Broad-billed, and Keel-billed Motmot, and many other birds are sure to delight. There are also some White-collared Manakin leks on the grounds.
February 29: This morning, we make the drive to the cloud forest near Monteverde Reserve. This is the coolest climate we'll encounter, which again adds to our bird list. We'll look for the endemic hummingbird the Copery-headd Emerald, Violet Sabrewing, and Three-wattled Bellbird.
March 1: Our focus today is to get a good look at perhaps the world's most beautiful bird, the Replendent Quetzal. We also hope to add Golden-browed Chlorospingus, Long-tailed Manakin, Lomg-tailed Silky Flycatcher, and other birds that thrive in the higher elevations.
March 2: This region provides an almost endless number of private reserves to visit. We'll be scouring the lists for any updates, but our visit may include the Children's Eternal Rainforest, Finca Ecologica, and Curi Cancha.
March 3: This morning, we head back to Hotel Bougainvillea. We'll have plenty of time to bird the grounds before dinner.
March 4: You are transported to the airport for your flight home
March 5: We hop on a bus for a drive to Guapiles, where we'll board a boat for the short trip to Tortuguero. Our lodge provides welcome relief from the heat and is close to town to take advantage of dining options.
March 6: Another early morning beckons. We're off to tour the canals on a very quiet boat that enables us to see more birds and other animals without disturbing them. New birds we'll search for include Sungrebe, Great Green Macaw, and Rufescent Tiger-Heron.
March 7: We'll reboard a boat for the short journey back to Guapiles. A bus will transport us to our hotel for the night.
March 8: Flights depart for home. Your life list will likely include more than 200 additions. Which will be your favorite?
Violet Sabrewing photo by tour participant Don Killer