Autotour: Birdwatching tour

If you are a bird lover, this is the tour for you! Although Costa Rica is a small country, it’s bird list is huge, with over 800 species on offer. Travel around Costa Rica’s birding hotspots and discover as much as bird species you can. Within relatively short distances, get to know very diverse habitats from sea level to high mountains with cloud forest. On the way, you will also be able to enjoy the fantastic landscapes and the nature these destinations have to offer. All this, by driving at your own pace, enjoying the freedom and ease of doing so.

 

Day 1: Transfer In – Heredia

Upon your arrival in Costa Rica, you will be welcomed by our English-speaking airport guide, he/she will hand you over your documents and be available for any questions you may have. Afterwards seat-in transfer to your hotel in Heredia, where you spend the first night. If you arrive before sunset, explore the hotel’s beautiful garden and try to recognise as many birds as possible. Enjoy you first night in Costa Rica and get ready for an unforgettable experience.

Included meals today: None

Emblematic birds: Blue-crowned Motmot, Clay-colored Thrush, Green-breasted Mango, White-naped Brush-finch
Other important species: Guanacaste tree, Cacao tree, Bromeliads, Forrer’s Leopard frog, Bougainvillea

Day 2: Heredia – San Gerardo de Dota

Early in the morning you can enjoy the hotel’s beautiful gardens and observe the birds during one of the most active times of the day. Afterwards pickup of your rental car, you need a credit card (Visa, Mastercard, American Express or Diner´s Cub) and your valid national driving license. Then you travel south towards San Gerardo de Dota. On the way, you can stop at Los Quetzales National Park for an optional hike (not included) or go straight to your hotel and over there take advantage of its hiking trails that are perfect for birding.
San Gerardo de Dota is a small community in the Talamanca Mountain Range that offers access to oaks, colourful plants, and an incredible variety of animal life. This is one of the best places in the world to spot the spectacular Resplendent Quetzal. Besides, here you can also encounter many endemic species, which means that you can find birds that don´t exist anywhere else on Earth.

Please keep in mind that it can be quite chilly at night. It would be wise to bring warm clothes, as well as waterproof wear or a poncho when hiking, in order to cope with the humid weather predominant in the area.

Included meals today: Breakfast

Emblematic birds: Resplendent Quetzal, King-tailed Silky-flycatcher, Collared Trogon, Highland Tinamou
Other important species: Tapir, Black Oak, White Oak, Montane Alligator Lizard, Fly Orchid, White Orchid

Day 3: San Gerardo de Dota

The Savegre Lodge is surrounded by a spectacular cloud forest offering fantastic scenery and great bird photography opportunities. You could not be in a better place, especially if you are one of those hoping to catch a glimpse of the iconic bird playing such an indisputable role in the Mesoamerican mythology: the Resplendent Quetzal. The reserve has at least 30 km of walking trails, carefully designed to fulfil the interests and physical capabilities of all visitors; a good half of these trails leads through primary forest. There are tours and activities for nature watching enthusiasts, and all in all, this is a place full of sensory stimuli: On soft soils you walk through the mystic cloud forest, with your eyes closed you listen to the birdsong and with some luck you might spot some of those perfectly camouflaged, amazing mimetic insects hiding on the tree barks.

Some optional tours you could also consider for today are the following, all of them can be booked on spot on a seat-in basis from 1-5 participants:
• Quetzal tour, 3 hours 
• Full-day birdwatching-tour 
• Half-day birdwatching-tour (also on a private basis available)
• Horseback riding tour 
• Visiting the Savegre waterfall

Included meals today: Breakfast

Day 4: San Gerardo de Dota – Turrialba

During the day travel through Cartago towards Turrialba, famous for its white soft cheese. On the way, you will also pass through small towns that can show you the country lifestyle in this part of Costa Rica and its beautiful landscapes. Your hotel today is specialised in birdwatching experiences, it is also known for its culinary dishes, made in an artisanal way and with fresh ingredients. Here you will combine a relaxed and familiar ambience with the sounds of the birds and the beautiful gardens. 

Important: the last part of the road (about 1.8km) is made of gravel, therefore a 4-wheel-drive is highly recommended.

Included meals today: Breakfast, dinner

Emblematic birds: Snowcap, Tawny-chested Flycatcher, Purplish-backed Quail-Dove, White-crowned Manakin
Other important species: White-nosed Coati, Northern racoon, Brazilian free-tailed Bat

Day 5: Turrialba

The hotel has a private reserve with trails at you disposal waiting for being discovered. Additionally, you can organise a private early morning bird watching tour with a local English-speaking guide and, along with him/her, explore various trails looking for the over 450 species of birds that have been recorded in the area (not included). 
On the balcony at Rancho Naturalista, the hummingbird feeders are renowned for attracting many species of hummingbirds, such as:
Violet-crowned Woodnymph, White-necked Jacobin, Green Hermit, Green Thorntail, Violet Sabrewing, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer and Green-crowned Brilliant. On the Verbena Hedges at Rancho Naturalista, the Snowcap is a frequent visitor along with the Black-crested Coquette and the Violet-headed Hummingbird.

Enjoy all three meals today and the welcoming hospitality in this lodge.

Other activities you can consider while staying in this region (at an additional price to be paid on the spot):
• Morning or afternoon bird tour
• Cultural tours: Sugar mill tour, Spanish lessons, dancing lessons, painting class, cooking class
• Adventure tours: Swim in a mountain stream, horseback riding, whitewater rafting, canyoning and zip-lining

Included meals today: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner

Day 6: Turrialba – Sarapiquí

You continue the trip to the area of Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui. On the way, you are going to be able to observe different plantations, such as oranges, coconut, yucca, macadamia nuts, papaya and especially pineapple. Sarapiquí is a famous place for bird watchers, 54% of all native bird species call this region their home.
Accommodation here is at Selva Verde Lodge that for decades has attracted birdwatchers from all over the world. The Lodge protects over 200 hectares of rain forest that are inhabited by more than 300 bird species, 120 species of mammals, amphibians, and reptiles. The forest protects also a huge number of tree and plant species. The network of trails allows exploring the rainforest. With a little luck, you surely will be able to catch a glimpse of some of the emblematic species of this region.

Included meals today: Breakfast, lunch

Emblematic birds: Great Green Macaw, Sunbittern, Snowy Cotinga, Agami Heron
Other important species: Red-eyed Tree Frog, Brown Two-toed Sloth, Black Mantled Howler Monkey, Mountain Almond Tree, Blue Jeans Poison Frog

Day 7: Sarapiquí

Today we recommend a morning hike on the lodge's trails or a visit to the Tirimbina Reserve (at an additional cost) during the morning. As a non-profit organisation, the Tirimbina Reserve protects the rainforest and promotes conservation. In this humid tropical forest, influenced by the Caribbean climate, there are both endemic birds as well as migrating birds that are found in September and October. 

Other possible activities to be done in Sarapiquí are the following (at an additional price):
• A guided chocolate tour at the Tirimbina’s reserve, where you can get to know everything about the process of making chocolate out of the cacao seeds.
• A visit to the Ecofarm “Finca Surá” will get you closer to the local population and you can also learn a lot about cultivating different products in total harmony with nature. 
• In the region, there are some adventure activities, such as rafting, horseback riding, mountain biking, or hiking, a night hike and more! 
• During the afternoon you can also relax at the lodge, or go on another hike on your own through the paths of the hotel’s reserve. 

Included meals today: Breakfast

Day 8: Sarapiquí – Boca Tapada

Today we continue to Boca Tapada, a place off the beaten track. This remote region is situated on the Río San Carlos, in the far north of the country near the border to Nicaragua. Here, life runs in quiet lanes and in harmony with nature.
Your Eco Lodge for the next two nights is located just north of Boca Tapada in the middle of the Maquenque National Wildlife Refuge that protects an area of 60´000 hectares. It is situated directly on a lagoon and is a perfect place to browse birds and other animals. 
The rates include a guided morning walk in the rainforest, free use of canoes in the lodge’s small canal, planting a tree, and a visit to the local school of Boca Tapada (during school months). Other tours such as a boat trip on the San Carlos River can be booked at an extra charge.
If you wish a closer contact with nature in a responsible way, the hotel provides the experience of the Tree Houses (Bungalows in the trees), located more than 12 meters up in extraordinary trees in the rainforest giving an excellent view of nature and everything that surrounds you (at an additional cost). 

Included meals today: Breakfast

Emblematic birds: Great Green Macaw, Slaty-tailed Trogon, Ocellated Antbird, Squirrel Cuckoo, Montezuma Oropendola
Other important species: White-nosed Coati, White-faced Monkey, Kapok Tree, Green Basilisk

Day 9: Boca Tapada

The day is at your disposal for included activities, as well as for other optional ones to be done. A nice idea would be taking a walk on your own on the trails of the lodge. You can also enjoy the pool or relax with the beautiful scenic view this place has to offer.

Further activities, not included in the rate, are e.g. horseback riding tours or a visit to a botanical garden. 
Near Maquenque there is a lodge called Pedacito de Cielo, famous for its great dishes. We recommend you to reserve a meal over here and meet the local owners.

Included meals today: Breakfast

Day 10: Boca Tapada – Arenal

Today continue your journey towards La Fortuna, known due to its famous volcano. Although Volcano Arenal is inactive since 2010, it still has a fascinating presence.
You can enjoy the hotel’s swimming pool and jacuzzi, as well as the 800-meter (0.5 miles) paved access trail through gardens and rainforest and around 11 km of well-maintained trails.
Many interesting and optional activities are offered in and from La Fortuna such as relaxing in one of the numerous hot springs, hiking through cold lava fields in the Arenal National Park, an adventurous stroll over hanging bridges, mountain bike tours, horseback riding excursions, river rafting, hiking or riding to the La Fortuna waterfall, an adrenaline-fulled canopy tour, or a boat ride through the Caño Negro Reserve to spot crocodiles, monkeys, sloths, and birds.

Included today: Breakfast

Emblematic birds: Crested Guan, Golden-hooded Tanager, Keel-billed Toucan, Passerini's Tanager, Red-lored Parrot,
Other important species: Howler Monkey, White-faced Monkeys, Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, Coati

Day 11: Lago Arenal – Palo Verde

Early in the morning enjoy the daily free guided walk along the property trails of the Arenal Observatory Lodge with a local naturalist guide. The walk departs every morning at 8:30 am from the reception and lasts approximately 2.5 hours. The walk takes you across hanging bridges, through lush tropical gardens, and into the primary and secondary rainforest. Your guide will stop along the way to point out any wildlife and to tell you about the plants and trees of the tropical rainforest that you are seeing. Your destination is the beautiful jungle waterfall of the Danta River. The walking tour finishes by the cattle pastures, where the lodge’s open-air “Jungle Bus” will bring you back to the hotel. Possible wildlife sightings include many of the 400+ species of birds in the forest, howler monkeys, white-faced monkeys, coatis, anteaters, sloths, green iguanas, snakes, and insects.
Afterwards, leave towards the Palo Verde National Park. This is a must-go destination for birdwatchers! The last section of the road to the park is surrounded by rice fields on both sides, keep your eyes open because many birds can be spotted here. Your accommodation for the next two nights is a biological station. Although the rooms and services are quite basic, the location could not be better. It is located inside the national park and you can admire the lagoon with its many birds. 

Additional information:
• Since the Biological Station is located inside the National Park, you must pay an entrance fee (currently around USD 12 per person and day).
• Out of security reasons, hiking with sandals or barefoot is not allowed.
• Especially during the wet months, you should protect yourself against insects, it is recommended to wear long pants and sleeves and don't forget your insect repellent.
• Please show up at the meeting point at least 15 minutes prior to starting time for all booked tours.
• Meal schedule: Breakfast 06:30am, lunch 12:00md, dinner 06:00 pm. Meals cannot be taken at other times.
• The streets are in a good condition. Anyway, drive careful because of the animals.

Included meals today: Breakfast, dinner

Emblematic birds: Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Roseate Spoonbill, Great Egret, Tricolored Heron
Other important species: Green Iguana, White-tailed Deer, Peccary, Palo Verde Tree, Real Guayacan Tree, Pochote Tree

Day 12: Palo Verde

Your stay at the Biological Station includes a short walk with a local guide, feel free to organise this tour today during the morning. 
Palo Verde is a fairly secluded structure of swamp, mangrove, lagoons, marshes, grasslands and forests, where at least 279 species of birds as storks, egrets, ibises, darters, divers and spoonbills may be observed. Throughout the year these species can be seen, all the more in the months of January, February and March, when the Guanacaste region is very dry and the Palo Verde National Park represents an important water supply for the animals that live here, this also includes the numerous waterfowl. During the North American winter months, the mangroves are also resting place or temporary residence for many migratory species. 
There are numerous hiking trails in the national park. Optionally you can also take a 2-hour boat tour (not included) to observe the wildlife along the wetlands of the Tempisque River. Additionally, morning or night walks can be arranged (not included).

Included meals today: Breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 13: Palo Verde – Carara

During the day, continue to the Central Pacific part of the country. On the way there, you can make a stop at the Tárcoles bridge, famous due to the crocodiles that can be seen in the river bed. Your hotel is conveniently located near to the Carara National Park, a beautiful piece of untouched nature protecting one of the last transitional forests between tropical dry and tropical wet forests.

Included meals today: Breakfast

Emblematic birds: Fiery-billed Araçari, Scarlet Macaws, Magnificent Frigatebird, Boat-billed Heron
Other important species: Bottle-nosed Dolphin, Common Basilisk, Boa Constrictor, Blue Morpho Butterfly

Day 14: Carara

Today enjoy the nice surroundings, you may wish to take a morning walk before having breakfast. Afterwards, we recommend a visit to the Carara National Park (entrance fee to be paid on the spot). This national park protects evergreen forest of great complexity and density. Carara is one of the best bird-watching localities in all Costa Rica. Fiery-billed araçari and the chestnut-mandibled toucan are common in this region. Also, scarlet macaws can be seen in flight as they migrate daily between the wet forest interior and the coastal mangrove swamps. 
In the afternoon you can optionally arrange a boat tour through the Mangroves in Guacalillo (not included) that is known as the richest mangrove forest on the Central Pacific coast. The Guacalillo Estuary and the Tárcoles River offer the opportunity to observe one of the largest crocodile colonies in the world, as well as one of the most important conservation areas for the beautiful scarlet macaw. With its colours bright red, orange, blue, and yellow, and its long tail and pointed wings it is easy to recognise the scarlet macaw while flying above the boat or hear it from the tops of the mangroves along the estuary. While the boat moves through the water, you will enjoy the impressive ecosystem composed of four mangrove species. It represents an important area for mating and nesting of many species of birds, as well as shelter for mammals and reptiles. At the end of this excursion, a delicious snack will be served. 

Included today: Breakfast

Day 15: Carara – Airport or extension program

Depending on you flight’s departure time you drive towards Alajuela. You deliver your rented car near the airport and afterwards a shuttle will bring you to the international airport in order to check in. If your flight departs early in the morning we recommend booking an additional night in the Central Valley. You can also book an extension program.

Included today: Breakfast (depending on flight schedule)