Costa Rica Birding Journeys: Choose your Destination
Over the last two decades, Costa Rica Birding Journeys has watched as great changes in the biological wealth of the country have unfolded. Forest cover has rised from 24% in 1985 to close to 54% today, and Costa Rica continues to be a leader in conservation. In other instances, rain forests have been replaced by agricultural endeavours; however, many rich and diverse locations have been discovered by local experts, revealing many beautiful new places to explore. We at CRBJ have sought out the best locations in the country to ensure that your journey fulfills your birding dreams and desires, and we continue to seek out new locations to serve you even better. These destinations have been selected through thorough research based on the success of previous trips, where we have discovered the hot spots of diverse specification.
How does it work?
We are excited to assist you in immersing yourself in the country’s incredibly vast rainforests. Our itineraries are based on three nights per location because that is what we suggest to ensure you see as much as possible on your journey with our expert guides. Please peruse this list of destinations and get excited too! Based on your time frame in our beautiful country and the species you would like to see, choose the destinations that best suit your desires and we will happily customize your experience.
1. Sarapiqui : This vast expanse of primary rainforest, active and non-active pastureland, river edges, canopy bridges, and thick understory hold many species to discover. Cotingas, macaws, oropendulas, guans, eagles, and toucans are a small sample of what you will find here. We will visit the Gavilan Lodge (link) as well as the nearby botanical gardens, where we are sure to spot a dozen or more species of hummingbirds. The garden’s adjacent forest always brings many surprises, such as Little Tinamou, Lattice Tailed Trogon, the Cinnamon Woodpecker, and much more. Nearby Braulio Carrillo National Park is an incredible rainforest experience with the largest mixed flocks in the area, including favourites such as Sharpbills and Umbrellabirds in its 93% primary forest. Other Birding Highlights: Great Green Macaw, Nicaraguan Seed Finch, Green Ibis, Snowy Cotinga, Slaty Breasted Tinamou, Shinny Cowbird, White Collared Manakin, Great Potoo, Bare-Necked Umbrellabird, Sharpbill, Blue and Gold Tanager, Short-Tailed Nighthawk, Spectacle Owl, Jacamars, Orioles and Tityras.
2. Arenal Volcano : Arenal is well known for its active summit, but the true secret gem in this area is the diversity of bird species and the beautiful, unique rainforest that holds them. Here you will come across mixed flocks of quail doves, soaring eagles, and even the elusive antpittas – another day in paradise! The edges of the forest bordering the beautiful emerald green lake atop the volcano contains complex vegetation that attracts a huge diversity of species, making this a must visit for birdwatchers. Perhaps a Great Currasow will cross your path; you may see black throated wrens on tangled vines that caress the giant trees of this region; a dead tree trunk may expose a perched raptor, or see the hyperactive Coquettes flit from flower to flower.
3. Carara National Park : The greatest birding destinations in the country, this incredible park boasts the second largest population of Scarlet Macaws in Costa Rica! With easy access to all trails, mangrove swamps, pasture fields and forest edges, this destination is friendly for all ages and fitness levels. There are very few places where more than a hundred species can be found on one trail, but the Meandrica trail is infamous for just that. It has become a treasured birding icon where you can seek tinamous, trogons, wrens, antpittas, manakins, cotingas, bellbirds, and antshrikes, among others. The nearby forested edges house many open field birds, such as jays, blackbirds, greenlets, rails, ground doves, motmots, hawks, parakeets, and owls. The mangroves of the Rio Grande de Tarcoles can reward the birder with up to five species of kingfishers, as well as many other shorebirds such as herons and egrets. The most remarkable of this area are the restricted range birds of the mangroves, such as vireos, warblers, cuckoos, flycatchers, and even the elusive Rufous Necked Woodrail and the only true Costa Rican endemic, the Mangrove Hummingbird.
4. Bosque de Paz: If your dream Costa Rican birding journey is endless trails, uncrowded forests, excellent food, breathtaking vegetation and over 350 species to target, Bosque de Paz is your ideal Costa Rican getaway! Here you will witness loads of hummingbirds, friendly trogons, singing wrens, rapid endemic jays, and enjoy the beauty of Resplendant Quetzals.
5.Talamanaca Highlands : There is no better destination in the country for endemic birds than the Cerro de la Muerte! Although the diversity of species here is less than in lowlands, the highlands far exceed any other area in endemic species. Hummingbirds, Flycatchers, Vireos, Trogons, and Wrens are some of the families that have been isolated here for millions of years, creating unique specialization of species. Imagine a crisp, misty morning among the giant oaks where you spot the beautiful Resplendent Quetzal! This is one of the few places you can find them all year round, and these treasured moments are what make this deep green location so special to us birders!
Birding Highlights: Black Ear Woodquail, Respledant Quetzal, Silvery-throated Jay, Sulphur-winged Parakeet, Dusky Nightjar, Costa Rican Pygmy Owl, Buffy Tuftedcheck, Flame-throated Warbler, Blue-throated Toucanet, Maroon-chested Ground Dove, Fiery-throated Hummingbird.
6. Ensenada: This private reserve is an area that attracts thousands of birds during the migration from the north, and is truly birding to rave about! It is a fabulous area to find dry tropical forest specialities such as Thicket Tinamou, Long-tailed Manakin, Lesser Ground Cuckoo, and the rare Jabiru Stork. This seasonally flooded flatland with deciduous forest is full of possibilities for combination birding. Adjacent to mud flats, mangrove forest and coastline, this region provides the opportunity to see dozens of ducks and heron species, Kingfishers, Frigatebirds, and dozens of migratory species such as Turnstones, Sandpipers, Skimmers, Willets, and Spoonbills.
7. Tenorio Rainforest: With a myriad of suspended tree top bridges, this location is definitely the best in the country for canopy birdwatching. This impressive destination boasts highlights such as the Tody Motmot, Bare-necked Umbrellabird, Rufous Vented Ground Cuckoo, Ornate Hawk Eagle, Yellow-eared Toucanet, and hundreds more species. The interesting combination of old growth rainforest mixed with cattle farms means that birds are flying from one patch of forest to the next, giving us birders a great opportunity to spot them in flight. Central American Pygmy Owls make their home in this habitat, as well as Lovely Cottingas and many ground species such as Doves, Seedaters, Tanagers, Flycatchers and Hummingbirds congregate in the open spaces.
Birding Highlights: **
8.Piedras Blancas Rainforest: Located in the small community of La Gamba, Esquinas Rainforest has become an icon of sustainable tourism, employing local people, and conserving its natural habitat. This piece of paradise has truly become a dream for bird seekers: Trogans, Hummingbirds, Flycatchers, Woodcreepers, and Arcaries are plentiful. On its trails and riverbeds new species are found daily, and this is truly an incredible destination for target birds such as Manakins, Potoos, Cotingas, rare foliage gleaners, Hummingbirds and Tanagers.
9. Osa Peninsula: The Osa is like no place on earth! This is the last pristine lowland rainforest of Central America, boasting some of the most amazing birding anywhere; thousands of hectares of mangroves, old pasture fields, and giant canopy primary forest hold more than 430 recorded species, a true birdwatcher’s dream. In the Bosque del Rio you can find White-crested Coquettes, Uniform Crake, Yellow-billed Cotinga, Ornate Hawk Eagle, and Black-checked Ant Tanager, all found within easy reach of the lodge. If you enjoy longer hikes you will find unlimited birding in this serene environment of lush tropical rainforest.
Birding Highlights: **
10. Tortuguero National Park: This incredible park is truly the little sister of the Amazon! Miles and miles of water canals bordered by giant trees, evergreen forests with tangled flowing vines, this region is the epitome of the rainforests of your imagination. Besides the common water species such as egrets and tiger herons, we can also find birds such as Agami, Sungrebe, Green and Rufous Kingfisher, and recently Harpy and Crested Eagles have been spotted!
Birding Highlights: Green and Rufous Kingfisher, Rufescent Tiger Heron, Harpy Eagle, Sungrebe, Black-headed Today Flycatcher, Cinnamon Woodpecker, Agami Heron, Great Green Macaw.
11. Pejibaye’s Mid-Elevation Rainforest: This is without a doubt the most exciting birding destination in Central America! Lying beneath the Caribbean slope of the Talamanca Mountains near Tapanti National Park, its unique geographical position provides the area with an exuberant forest cover, inter-mountain valleys, river gorges and very little human presence, lending to incredible birding opportunities. The lower forest nearest the lodge is a magnet for Tanagers, Orioles, Shrike Vireos, Oropendulas, Toucans and Hummingbirds. Its understory of even vegetation is fantastic for Manakins, Spinetails, Finches, Wrens, Sparrows and even Tinamous. In a single mixed flock over 40 species can be found, including Songwrens, Anthrushes, and Antpittas. Meanwhile, look up into the canopy and you will find Grosbeaks, Woodcreepers, Woodpeckers, Flycatchers, Grosbeaks, and up to 17 species of Tanagers. Perhaps you will even see the rare Yellow-eared Toucanets gilding from branch to branch! Pejibaye’s Rainforest is the best place to find Snowcaps anywhere, and the unrivalled privacy of this lodge, along with excellent hotel staff, make this location a birdwatching delight.
12. Tapanti National Park: Because of its geographical position, this park is affected by constant cloud formation. The forest is lush, rich in epiphytic plants, mosses, orchids, and a dense understory. This incredibly biodiverse region houses an incredible 360+ species of birds, including Antpittas, Hummingbirds, Finches, Woodquails, Tanagers, Euphonias, Eagles, Trogons, and Owls. With a large main trail bordering both secondary and primary forest, Tapanti is the perfect place for birders who are looking for the challenge of finding those elusive species such as Sharpbills, Monklets, Antpittas, Woodquails, Quaildoves, and perhaps a beautiful soaring eagle. Randall Ortega, our lead guide and owner, an expert in behavioural birdwatching, has spent an incredible amount of time in this park and knows it better than anyone. He is sure to guide you on an incredible journey here! One of the most amazing qualities of this park are its mixed flocks, which can arrive at any moment: a true birding delight!
Birding Highlights: Lanceolated Monklet, Azure Hooded Jay, Scaled Antpitta, Prong-billed Barbet, Black Guan, Ornate Hawk Eagle, Lance-billed Hummingbird, Ruddy Treerunner, Chiriqui Quail Dove, White-throated Robin, Black and White Becard, White-throated Spadebill
13. Cano Negro & Los Chiles: This region in the northeast flatlands, bordering Nicaragua, is one of the least-visited for birdwatchers, but provides marvellous birding opportunities, especially at Los Chiles. This little-known area is one of the few places in Costa Rica where Least Bitterns, Fork-tailed Flycatchers, Black-collared Hawks, and Jabirus are found year round. Randall finds this to be the most rewarding birding in the country based on both rare sights and quality of targets!