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Birdwatching 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

Save money with our fixed date birdwatching tours to Costa Rica

Contact Johan Fernández

10 days 11 nights. 2018

5th until 17th January 2018
1st until 12th March 2018
1st until 12th April 2018

Itinerary Overview

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

Early breakfast then depart to Arenal Volcano. A long the way we will do several stops for birding, 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 Northern-Emerald toucanet, Red-headed Barbet, Prong-billed Barbet. Green Thorntail, White-throated Mountain-gem and the Endemic Coopery-headed Emerald.

Lodging at Arenal Observatory Lodge.

DAY 3. Arenal Volcano. La Fortuna.

All day birding at the vicinity of Arenal 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 4. La Selva Biological Station.

Early breakfast then depart to Sarapiqui. These is a interesting traveling day with spectacular views. 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.

Lodging at La Selva Biological Station.

Day 5. La Selva Biological Station.

All day birding at La Selva Biological Station and vicinity. La selva offer to us a great number of trails with different micro-habitats, just to get outside the room is an amazing experience to heard the chorus of birds calling from the forest behind our cabins. 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 6. San Gerardo de Dota. Highlands.

Early breakfast then depart to San Gerardo de dota, on the way we will be visiting a special project form a local artist call “Cope Arte”, Jose Alberto better known like “Cope” is a very talent painter who find his inspiration on nature and birds, so at his house he created a incredible bird feeder that is visited by Chesnut-headed Oropendulas, Red-legged Plumeleteer, Russet naped Wood-Rail, Olive-backed Euphonia, Collared Aracari, as well he always get something to show as at the vicinity of his neighborhood like Spectacled Owls or Thicket Antpitta, this is a great opportunity for photos, then we depart driving on the route 32 where we will stop at the all butterfly garden near Braulio Carrillo National Park, here we get chances for Snow capped and Black-crested Coquette; after that we will go through the cities of San Jose and Cartago to get in the late afternoon to San Gerardo de Dota Valley.

Lodging at Savegre Lodge.

Day 7. 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 level 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 8. Carara. Pacific lowlands.

Early breakfast, then depart to Carara national park, this day is an interesting drive to the coast with several stops in the way, at first place we 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. After that we will stop at Georgina hummingbird station for Fiery-throated hummingbird and Volcano hummingbird. Then we search for Turquoise Cotinga, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Lesser Elaenia, and Tropical Mockingbird. Late arrive at the hotel.

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. Carara. Birding at Tarcoles.

Morning birding at Tarcoles River. This morning 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 Biological Reserve. 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.

Day 11. Morning by the vicinity of Carara National Park, then depart to San José:

We will try to increase the number of species by going few kilometers northern that Tárcoles River, where we can see the southern limit of the Mesoamerican Dry forest looking for Spot-breasted Oriole, White-throated Magpie-Jay, Yellow naped Parrot, Orange- fronted Parakeet, White-lored Gnatcatcher, Turquoise browed Mot-mot. Double striped thick knee. Lunch and then depart to San José.

Lodging at Hotel Robledal.

Day 12. Departure day.

Transfer to Juan Santamaria International airport.

The cost will depend on the final number of participants:

4 participants the price per person is 3250 USD,
6 the price is 2650 USD per person,
8 the price will be 2450 USD per person.

Contact Johan Fernández.

English/Spanish bird guide with field scope and field guide, pick up and drop off from airport, hotels, transportation, lodging, meals and park entrance fees.
Gratuities, alcoholic beverages, items of personal nature, airport departure tax, or international and local airfare.
Expect between 350 to 400 species during the 14 days tour (8 day + 6 days extension).
Birding season: Fortunately, Costa Rica's birds are not shy. Seeing them is relatively easy, you can expect to see many dozens of species on any one day of the year.
Although in addition to around 600 residents, there are more than 200 migrants. So one will say the best time for birding in Costa Rica is when the migrants are here, the most spectacular long distance migrants to Costa Rica come from temperature and boreal north America. Among migratory land birds, warblers predominate in numbers of species and probably also in number of individuals, but flycatchers, swallows, thrushes, vireos, orioles, tanagers and finches, with a few pigeons, cuckoos and kingfishers and a number of raptors swell the multitude. Appearing first along the Caribbean coast in August, migrants arrive in larger numbers in September and October. Many continue onward to winter in South America, but countless more remain in Costa Rica, spreading over the whole country, in both humid and semiarid regions, and extending in the mountaintops
All the date of itineraries include arrival and departure dates.
All trips are available year round, but prices may be adjusted around special holidays.
Minimum lead time six (6)weeks.
To check availability for tours on short notice, fill out “Request for Quote” form with desirable dates.
Easy to moderate hiking is required. For birders with moderate limitations I am able to make a special itinerary. Either way, birders will have a fantastic opportunity to views an impressive number of bird species, and the experience will be an enjoyable one.
Dress for hot and humid tropical weather and be prepare for rain. Light clothing is recommended: cotton shirts and t-shirts (earth colors preferable), long and short pants, poncho, hiking shoes, an extra pair or sandals, hat, insect repellent and sun block.
Binoculars, scope, field guide, notebook and camera.

Contact Johan Fernández.   

Transportation in a 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 10
Cinchona and Freddo Fresas hummingbird stations
Boat tour at Tarcoles River.
Fee to Arenal Observatory trails
Cope Arte
Old Butterfly garden entrance
Batsu Hummingbird station.
Carara National Park.

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.

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.


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:

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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