GRAND BIRDING TOUR
|Duration:||15 days, 14 nights|
|* This tour is available for any dates of your choosing provided guide services and accommodations are available.|
DAY 1 - ALAJUELA
International flights arrive in the afternoon or evening. Everyone gathers at the Hotel Aeropuerto, a 5-minute taxi ride from the international airport. Night in Alajuela.
DAY 2 - ARENAL VOLCANO NATIONAL PARK
Early transfer to Fortuna and on to Arenal Volcano National Park, about a 4 hour drive. After lunch bird the lodge grounds where gardens attract hummingbirds such as Stripe-throated Hermit, Brown Violetear, Violet-headed Hummingbird, and Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer. View birds coming in to fruit feeders. Likely species include Crimson-collared Tanager, Passerini's Tanager, Shining Honeycreeper, and several species of euphonias. Even the lovely Golden-browed Chlorophonia is possible. An afternoon birding walk around the gardens and forest edge offers possibilities such as Great Curassow, Black-crested Coquette, Orange-bellied Trogon, and Smoky-brown Woodpecker. Arenal is the best place in Costa Rica for the latter species. Plumes and fiery lava flows from Arenal Volcano may well be visible if it's not overcast. Night at upscale Arenal Observatory Lodge.
DAY 3 - ARENAL VOLCANO NATIONAL PARK & SELVA VERDE
Morning bird trails through foothill primary forest in the park or on lodge property. The best trail is near the lodge entrance. Birds of special interest include Dusky Antbird, Dull-mantled Antbird, Spotted Antbird, the spectacular Ocellated Antbird, which typically follows army ant swarms, Black-striped Woodcreeper, Nightingale Wren, Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush, and White-throated Shrike-Tanager. The gravel road leading to the lodge offers birding in more open areas and thickets. Here it's possible to find Lineated Woodpecker, Great Antshrike, Slaty Spinetail, Long-tailed Tyrant, White-throated Magpie-Jay, Bay Wren, Thick-billed Seed-Finch, and more. The secretive Thicket Antpitta is often heard along the road but extremely difficult to see. After lunch transfer to Sarapiqui on the Caribbean slope. There should be time after check-in to relax on the veranda and look for Fasciated Tiger-Heron and Sunbittern along the adjoining Sarapiqui River below the outdoor lounge area. Night at Selva Verde Lodge.
DAY 4 - LA SELVA BIOLOGICAL STATION & SARAPIQUI ECO-OBSERVATORY
Morning bird La Selva Biological Station, where over 450 species have been recorded. Access is very controlled so the exact schedule varies every year. Our guides can get exceptional access because they're Costa Rican and most have previously worked at La Selva. Birding is along the access road, in the clearing around the visitor center, and along an extensive network of trails through primary and secondary forest. Possibilities include Great Tinamou, Semiplumbeous Hawk, Chestnut-colored Woodpecker, Pale-billed Woodpecker, Fasciated Antshrike, Great Antshrike, Black-crowned Antshrike, Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Bare-necked Umbrellabird, White-collared Manakin, Crimson-collared Tanager, Golden-hooded Tanager, and Dusky-faced Tanager. If an army ant swarm is encountered, obligate and opportunistic army ant followers such as Bicolored Antbird, Ocellated Antbird, Gray-headed Tanager, and Red-throated Ant-Tanager are very possible as well.
After lunch visit Sarapiqui Eco-Observatory, a wonderful place to view and photograph forest birds. Feeders attract 9 species of hummingbirds, including Purple-crowned Fairy, Green-breasted Mango, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer, and Violet-crowned Woodnymph. An observation platform overlooking the forest allows nice views of middle-story and canopy birds. A network of trails also provides access to the forest. It's sometimes possible to find Sunbittern along the Sarapiqui River running through the property if absent at Selva Verde. Night at Selva Verde Lodge.
DAY 5 - EL TAPIR & TAPANTI NATIONAL PARK
Depart early for Tapanti National Park with a short stop en route at El Tapir Nature Reserve to look for hummingbirds, most notably the prized Snowcap that is typically present along with Black-crested Coquette, Violet-headed Hummingbird, and Blue-throated Goldentail. Then continue to Tapanti National Park for a full morning of birding. Tapanti offers rainforest birding around the ranger station and along the road into the park. It's the best place to find the secretive Silvery-fronted Tapaculo and Wrenthrush. Other species typically seen there include Black Guan, White-bellied Mountain-gem, Collared Trogon, Red-headed Barbet, Prong-billed Barbet, Spangle-cheeked Tanager, and Bay-headed Tanager. After lunch at a restaurant near Cartago, drive to the lodge in San Gerardo de Dota, a river valley below Cerro de la Muerte and best place in Costa Rica to see Resplendent Quetzals. Night at Savegre Mountain Hotel.
DAY 6 - SAN GERARDO DE DOTA & HIGHLANDS
Early birding walk to look for Resplendent Quetzal. The quetzals nest in different places every year. The resident guide is always helpful pointing out where they are. Other highland specialties to be found there include Golden-bellied Flycatcher, Black-faced Solitaire, Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher, Flame-throated Warbler, Collared Redstart, Spangle-cheeked Tanager, and Slaty Flowerpiercer. Also possible is the near endemic Sulphur-winged Parakeet, which sometimes flies over in raucous flocks. During mid-day enjoy the many hummingbirds coming into feeders around the lodge restaurant. Common visitors are Green-crowned Brilliant, Magnificent Hummingbird, Volcano Hummingbird, Scintillant Hummingbird, and Gray-tailed Mountain-gem. Afternoon drive up above treeline to look for high elevation specialties such as Timberline Wren, Peg-billed Finch, and Volcano Junco. Night at Savegre Mountain Hotel.
DAY 7 - TALAMANCA HIGHLANDS & OSA PENINSULA
Depart after breakfast for the south with a stop at Georgina's Restaurant along the ridge road, where hummingbird feeders usually attract the high elevation Fiery-throated Hummingbird, a species not normally present in San Gerardo de Dota. Seed feeders there often draw in other specialties such as Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush, Sooty Finch, Elegant Euphonia, and Large-footed Finch. After lunch near San Isidro de el General, continue south to Osa Peninsula, arriving at Bosque del Rio Tigre, a birder's paradise. Go out for some optional owling after dark. Night at Bosque del Rio Tigre Lodge.
DAYS 8-9 - BOSQUE DEL RIO TIGRE
Osa Peninsula features some of the best subtropical rainforest remaining in Costa Rica. It's home to numerous southern specialties not present in the north. Most birding is right around the lodge itself. Easily seen species include Baird's Trogon, Fiery-billed Aracari, Black-hooded Antshrike, and Spot-crowned Euphonia. Most birding is right around the lodge itself. The lodge grounds is one of the best places to see Turquoise Cotinga, a species that moves around erratically to wherever trees are fruiting. Feeders at the lodge usually attract Little Tinamou, a difficult species to see elsewhere, while compost piles behind the lodge often attract Black-faced Antthrushes at dawn and dusk. The lodge area is one of the best places to see the highly range-restricted Blackcheeked Ant-Tanager. Nearby streams are a good place to look for White-crested Coquette and White-tipped Sicklebill, forest hummingbirds that don't normally visit feeders. Nights at Bosque del Rio Tigre Lodge.
DAY 10 - RINCON & PACIFIC COAST
After early breakfast depart for Rincon on the north end of Osa Peninsula. The main target bird is the endangered Yellow-billed Cotinga, protected by the Yellow-billed Cotinga Sanctuary located there. The cotingas can often be seen from the bridge flying between the mangroves where they breed and fruiting trees where they feed. Also possible in the mangroves is the endemic Mangrove Hummingbird. Then continue north to the Carara area located north of Jaco, with stops en route to view more widely distributed species such as Bare-throated Tiger-Heron and Northern Jacana. Night at Cerro Lodge
DAY 11 - CARARA NATIONAL PARK
Bird Carara National Park, one of the most bird-rich places in Costa Rica. The park is in a transitional zone between northern and southern Pacific coastal areas and attracts a nice combination of northern and southern species. Morning bird Headquarters Trail through primary forest. The trail is easy walking and may yield Great Tinamou, Black-faced Antthrush, Streak-chested Antpitta, Bronzy Hermit, and Riverside Wren, all of which have been seen on previous tours.
Afternoon bird Laguna Meandrica Trail through secondary forest, a wide and fairly level trail that affords easy walking. Specialties possible along the trail include White-whiskered Puffbird, Baird's Trogon, Black-hooded Antshrike, Orange-collared Manakin, Rufous-naped Wren, Black-bellied Wren, Rufous-and-white Wren, Cherrie's Tanager, and Spot-crowned Euphonia. Long-tailed Manakin and Rufous-breasted Wren. At the end of the trail are some ponds where roosting Boat-billed Herons along with Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks are reliably present. Night at Cerro Lodge.
DAY 12 - TARCOLES & TRANSFER
Morning bird roadsides near the village of Tarcoles, which can be quite good. Possibilities include White-necked Puffbird, Olivaceous Piculet, Orange-chinned Parrot, Yellow-olive Flycatcher, Golden-crowned Spadebill, Sayaca Tanager, and Scrub Euphonia. Near the river Scarlet Macaws are frequently raising a ruckus in the trees while feeding on palm nuts. In late morning we'll take a boat ride up the Tarcoles River, a relaxing and always popular excursion during which we often see Double-striped Thick-knee along the river as well as raptors such as Common Black-Hawk. After lunch transfer to Monteverde with birding stops en route. Turquoise-browed Motmot are usually encountered while White-throated Magpie-Jay can often be found along a side road. Stop at Orotina to look for a pair of Black-and-white Owls that frequently roost in trees of the central square, though in recent years their presence has been less reliable than previously. Night at Hotel Fonda Vela in Monteverde.
DAY 13 - MONTEVERDE CLOUD FOREST
Morning bird trails in acclaimed Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve. Most trails are wide and easy walking with some uphill and downill. A few trails that go up to the top of the ridgeline are steeper and normally skipped. Monteverde is an excellent place to see Resplendent Quetzal and Three-wattled Bellbird during early dry season. Both species typically move higher up the ridgeline by mid-February. Other possibilities are Prong-billed Barbet, Buffy Tuftedcheek, Streak-breasted Treehunter, Mountain Elaenia, Blue-and-gold Tanager, Spangle-cheeked Tanager, and Sooty-faced Finch. The hummingbird gardens at the reserve entrance attract up to 10 species of hummingbirds including Green-fronted Lancebill, Magnificent Hummingbird, Magenta-throated Woodstar, Stripe-tailed Hummingbird, and the endemic Coppery-headed Emerald. Afternoon either return to the cloud forest preserve or bird the hotel grounds. The 35-acre property features gardens where some 260 species of birds have been recorded at one time or another. Night at Hotel Fonda Vela.
DAY 14 - SANTUARIO ECOLOGICA & TRANSFER
Morning birding in Santuario Ecologica, a much drier forest than the cloud forest of Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve. Santuario Ecologica is the best place to see Three-wattled Bellbirds, most easily found when they are calling. Other possibilities include Chiriqui Quail-Dove, Long-tailed Manakin, Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Golden-crowned Warbler, and White-eared Ground-Sparrow. After lunch transfer to Alajuela near the international airport in San Jose, arriving before dark. Night at Hotel Aeropuerto.
DAY 15 - END OF TOUR
Tour ends with breakfast at the hotel. International flights home.