Birdingpal Tours Costa Rica

Professional Bird Watching Guide

  • If you are you an independent birdwatcher, who does not care for large group tours, then Birdingpaltours is for you
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  • A local guide knows all the hotspots and you get the most out of your trip
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  • You will enjoy the advantage of all the attention you get in a small group, for the same price or perhaps even less, than you will pay if you travel with the large tour groups from other countries
  • Remember, the next time you travel, you do not have to miss the birdwatching if your partner or travel companions are non birders; a local guide is flexible, and will easily accommodate other needs too
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Johan Fernández in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is one of the world's premier bird watching destination and one of the most bio-diverse locations in the world, with over 870 bird species recorded here, including roughly 600 species of permanent residents. Costa Rica acts as a continuous corridor for migration between from North and South America and is a meeting ground for seemingly unimaginable bio diversity. Costa Rica’s geography is dominated by two coasts and by mountains that cover more than half the land, greatly influencing the climate. Variations in temperature and rainfall and a wide range of elevations combine to produce the rich and varied vegetation that support the country’s wealth of birds.

Due to Costa Rica’s small size, range of elevation and twelve distinct ecological zones I can offer tours that encompass a wide variety of habitats and astonishingly abundant wildlife diversity, while maintaining a comfortable pace.

Electronic map of Costa Rica

Contact Johan Fernández

Johan Fernandez your local Birdingpal guide

Johan has worked as a guide from 2003. In 2007 after amazing encounters with the birds of Carara National Park he decide to initiate a research about the birds there, that lead him to create and organize the Christmas Bird Count for Carara National Park together with Audubon National Society.

In September of the same year Johan became part of the organizing committee of Shore Birds Count of Costa Rica, and during the first count he recorded the first Pacific Golden Plover for Costa Rica.

Johan is also co-founder of the Costa Rican Ornithologists Union, in which he participates in the various bird conservation programs. He currently studies the career Management and Protection of Natural Resources. Johan has conducted several birds’ inventories in various areas of Costa Rica so he has a great knowledge about the status and distribution of the Costa Rican birds.

During several years as a bird watching guide he has developed a teaching technique full of analogies and metaphors which change the experience of just bird watching into a very educational activity.

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12 nights/ 13 days

January 23th until February 03th, 2019
and then in April form the 9th until the 20th, 2019

Itinerary Overview

Day 1: San José. Capital of Costa Rica. Arrival day at International airport Juan Santamaria.
Day 2: La Selva Biological Station. Nicaraguan Seed-Finch, Purple-throated Fruitcrow. Visit to Cinchona hummingbird Station. Spectacular Emerald toucanet, the endemic Coopery headed Emerald, Magenta-throated Woodstart.
Day 3: La Selva Biological Station. Great-green macaw, Toucans and Tanagers.
Day 4: Arenal Volcano. Rufous and Broad billed motmots, Rufous-winged Woodpecker.
Day 5: Arenal Volcano vicinity, Keel-billed motmot, Turquoise Cotinga, Great Curassow.
Day 6: Abangaritos, North Pacific Dry Forest, Shorebirds, Jabiru, Long-tailed Manakin
Day 7: Abangaritos, North Pacific Dry Forest, White throated Magpie-jay.
Day 8: Carara. Central Pacific. Emblematic Scarlet Macaw, Manakins and Antbirds.
Day 9: Carara. River Boat tour at Tarcoles. Crocodiles, Spoonbills, Kingfishers
Day 10: San Gerardo de Dota. Most beautiful bird in the world Resplendent Quetzal.
Day 11: San Gerardo de Dota. Hummingbird, Warblers and lots of near-endemics
Day 12: Depart to San Jose. Hotel Robledal.
Day 13: Departure day. Fly home.

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1 Arrival to San Jose. Costa Rica. Hotel del Robledal or Similar
At your arrival your guide will be waiting for you to take you to comfortable and convenient location hotel. Rest after the long trip and welcome meeting in the afternoon and dinner
Lodging at Hotel Robledal.

Day 2 La Selva Biological Station.
Early breakfast then depart to Sarapiqui. first one will be at Poas Volcano foot hills at Freedo Fresas hummingbird station for Magenta-throated Woodstart, Purple-throated Mountain Gem, and Violet Sabrewing; then Lunch at Mirador Cinchona, great chances for Emeral toucanet, Red-headed Barbet, Prong-billed Barbet. Green Thorntail, White-throated Mountain-gem and the Endemic Coopery-headed Emerald.

Day 3 La Selva Biological Station.
All day birding at La Selva Biological Station and vicinity. La Selva Biological Station is located in the Caribbean foothills of Costa Rica and comprises 1,614 hectares (3,988 acres) of old growth and disturbed tropical wet forest. Species diversity is spectacular, including more than 1,850 species of plants, 350 species of trees, 448 species of birds, and approximated 500 species of ants. Is the best place in our trip to get the endanger species Great-green Macaw, as well the near endemic Nicaraguan Seed-finch and Snowy Cotinga, and others like Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Slaty-breasted Tinamou, Fasciated-Antshrike, Black-crowned Antshrike, Red-throated Ant-Tanager. Golden-hooded Tanager, Bay-headed tanager, Sunbittern, Montezuma Oropendula, Chesnut-backed Antbird.
Lodging at La Selva Biological Station.

Day 4 Arenal Volcano. La Fortuna.
Early breakfast then depart to Arenal Volcano. Before we get to our hotel we will try for Keel-billed motmot, Bare-crowned antbird, Bay wren, Rufous-motmot, Keel-billed Toucan, Bay wren, Rufous-winged Woodpecker.
Lodging at Arenal Observatory Lodge.

Day 5 Arenal Volcano. La Fortuna.
All day birding at the vicinity of Areanal Volcano, great encounters with Rufous, Broad-billed, and Keel-billed motmots, amazing opportunities for Black-crested coquette, Lovely Cotinga, Bare-necked Umbrellabird, Dull-mantled antbird, Keel-billed and Yellow-throated Toucans, Collared Aracari, Great Curassow and Emeral Tanagers.
Lodging at Arenal Observatory Lodge.

Day 6 Ensenada lodge. Abangaritos.
Early breakfast, birding around the lodge, then depart to Abangaritos, nice views of the Arenal Lake, some stops for the Long-tailed Manakin, Double striped thick nee, Orange-fronted Parakeet, White-lored Gnatcatcher.

Day 7 Ensenada Lodge. Abangaritos. North-west Dry-forest.
Full day birding La Ensenada Lodge Situated on the mainland coast of the Gulf of Nicoya, La Ensenada Wildlife Refuge offers a comfortable and relaxed sitting for birding the North Pacific Slope. La Ensenada is a seemingly paradoxical combination of working cattle ranch, private hotel, and national wildlife refuge. The owners of La Ensenada bought the land in 1977 as a cattle ranch; the hotel was established in 1990, and eight years later the land was officially made a national wildlife refuge. The cattle farming has continued through these changes, and today La Ensenada maintains 300 head, mostly bulls, which are farmed for meat. There is also a Salina (Salt Pond) on the property, where sea salt is harvested during the dry season. The birding in the area is regarding and it is easy to build a good-sized list. Most of the habitat within the reserve is patchy forest and cow pasture, which will produce most of the dry-forest species. Some species that can be found right around the grounds of the hotel are White-throated Magpie-Jay, Crested Bobwhite, and Cinnamon Hummingbird, Mangrove Swallows fly over the fields of the hotel, and Lesser Ground-Cuckoo can be heard calling from the dense forest edge. At night Common Pauraque, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, and Pacific Screech-Owl can be heard in the area. 

Day 8 Carara. Pacific lowlands.
Early breakfast, then depart to Carara national park, we will search for Fiery-billed Aracari, Painted Bunting, Western Tanager, White-Hawk, Dusky-antbird, Black hooded antshrike at the vicinity of Carara National Park. In the afternoon we will navigate on Tárcoles River we will bird from a boat on the Tarcoles River. The Tárcoles River originates on the southern slopes of the Cordillera Central volcanic range and flows in a south-westerly direction to the Gulf of Nicoya. The river is 111 km long and its watershed covers an area of 2,121 km², which encompasses around 50% of the country's population. The river's upper reaches form the northern border of the Carara National Park. It is a habitat for American Crocodiles, while the marshes located at the river's mouth have many waterfowl and wading birds. Among the many herons and egrets are the Boatbill and Bare-throated Tiger Heron. The mangroves found at the river mouth are quite important and are home to Mangrove Vireo, Mangrove Cuckoo, Panama Flycatcher, and American Pygmy-Kingfisher to just mention a few. Other good birds include Double-striped Thick-Knee, Roseate Spoonbill, Southern Lapwing, Black-necked Stilt, Boat-billed Heron, Common Black-Hawk, White Ibis, Magnificent Frigatebird, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron and the endemic Mangrove Hummingbird, Mangrove Warbler (a subspecie of Yellow-Warbler), Turquoise-browned motmot.
Lodging at Hotel Cerro lodge.

Day 9 Carara. Pacific lowlands
All day birding at Carara National Park area, the location marks the northernmost limit of the Pacific Rainforest and it is also here where the Tropical Dry Forest finds its southernmost reach. This wonderful phenomenon of habitats converging into one spot produces incredible biodiversity. Carara and Tárcoles then contain a wonderful sample of species proper of wet tropical pacific habitats and species that would be common in the drier areas of the Northwest of Costa Rica. Over 400 species of birds have been registered in the area.
Lodging at Hotel Cerro lodge.

Day 10 San Gerardo de Dota. Highlands.
Early breakfast, then depart to San Gerardo de Dota, this day is an interesting drive from the coast to the High mountain with several stops in the way, at first we will stop at the wetlands of Playa del Rey, then at San Isidro looking for Turquoise Cotinga, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Lesser Elaenia, and Tropical Mockingbird; then visit the highest point that you can reach in Costa Rica by car 10800 feet (3300 meters) above sea level, at Cerro de la Muerte, good place to get few more near endemic like Volcano Junco, Black billed Nightingale-Thrush, Peg-billed Finch and Timberland Wren and Volcano hummingbird.
Lodging at Savegre Lodge.

Day 11 San Gerardo de Dota. Highlands.
All day birding at San Gerardo, these is the best place in the world to find the famous Resplendent Quetzal beside this spectacular bird over 50 % of the bird species of this zone are near endemic. This lever of endemism is not surprising since the mountains of Costa Rica and Panama are separated form similar elevations to the north of south by sizeable geographic gaps. There are species with three different bio -geographical origins: North America, Montane areas of Mexico and northern Central America, and the Andes
Lodging at Hotel Savegre

Day 12 San Jose.
Morning birding by the lodge, then lunch on the route at hummingbird station for the Fiery-throated Hummingbirds. Then depart to San Jose and rest for the afternoon to get prepared to get back at home on the next day

Day 13 Departure day.

Read our Itinerary on our website here

Transportation on Toyota Coaster with a expert driver and fuel included through the trip.
Specialized guide with Swarovski spotting scope, portable speaker+ ipod with bird calls to play-back calls of a bird if necessary and a laser pointer to help locate birds in the field.
Accommodation in all the hotels listed.
All meals starting from dinner on day 1 finishing with Lunch on day 12
Cinchona and Freddo Fresas hummingbird stations
Boat tour at Tarcoles River.
Fee to Arenal Observatory trails
Carara National Park.
La Selva Biological Station entrance fee

Tips for main bird guide and driver are not included.
Medical expenses, prescription drugs and other items of personal use
Additional tours offered in hotels (Spa, massage, etc.)
Alcoholic beverages, cigarettes and anything else not listed on the menus of restaurants
Health insurance
Any other expense or extra tour not include above.

Check out birders trip reports.

Some facts about Costa Rica.

Official Name: Republic of Costa Rica.
Geography: Area: 51,100 sq. km (19,730 sq. mi.) about the size of the states of Vermont and New Hampshire combined.
Terrain: A rugged, central range separates the eastern and western coastal plains.
Climate: Mild in the central highlands, tropical and subtropical in coastal areas.
Population (2010): 4.516 million.
Ethnic groups: European and some mestizo 94%, African origin 3%, Chinese 1%, Amerindian 1%, other 1%.
Religion: Roman Catholic 76.3%, Evangelical Protestant 13.7%, other 4.8%, none 3.2%.
Languages: Spanish, with a southwestern Caribbean Creole dialect of English spoken around the Limon area.
Education: Years compulsory--9. Attendance--99% grades 1-6; 71% grades 7-9. Literacy--96%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--9.45/1,000. Life expectancy--men 74.61 yrs., women 79.94 yrs.
Type: Democratic republic.
Independence: September 15, 1821.
Constitution: November 7, 1949.
Branches: Executive--president (head of government and chief of state) elected for one 4-year term, two vice presidents, Cabinet (22 ministers, two of whom are also vice presidents). Legislative--57-deputy unicameral Legislative Assembly elected at 4-year intervals. Judicial--Supreme Court of Justice (22 magistrates elected by Legislative Assembly for renewable 8-year terms). The offices of the Ombudsman, Comptroller General, and Procurator General assert autonomous oversight of the government. Subdivisions: Seven provinces, divided into 81 cantons, subdivided into 421 districts. Political parties: National Liberation Party (PLN), Citizen's Action Party (PAC), Libertarian Movement Party (PML), Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC), and other smaller parties.
Suffrage: Universal and compulsory at age 18.
Unemployment (2010 est.): 6.7%.
Currency: Costa Rica Colon (CRC).
Natural resources: Hydroelectric power, forest products, fisheries products.
Agriculture (6.5% of GDP): Products--bananas, pineapples, coffee, beef, sugar, rice, dairy products, vegetables, fruits, ornamental plants, corn, beans, potatoes, timber.

More facts about Costa Rica.

Guide books and CDs recommended:

1. A guide to the Birds of Costa Rica by Gary Stiles and Alexander F. Skutch
2. The birds of Costa Rica a field guide by Richard Carrigues and Roberth Dean.

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