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Silver-throated tanager

Birding in Costa Rica

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Silver-throated tanager

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Birding in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is renowned as one of the best birding destinations in the Americas. With 12 of the planet’s 18 different life zones, you’ll find superb wetlands, mangroves, highland forests and tropical wet and dry forests that provide habitat for over 850 recorded bird species. This custom journey takes you from the humid lowlands of the Caribbean, through the highlands of the famous Monteverde cloud forest, and ends in the dry tropics of the Central Pacific Conservation Area. 

Your private naturalist guide and driver are with you for the entire journey; sharing insights on the wildlife and culture of this fascinating country. This tour can be customized to your preferences, with a focus on birding, photography, or just enjoying the wilderness at your own pace.   

The sample itinerary below can be customized to take full-advantage of your travel time and interests.

Daily Itinerary

Costa Rica Birding Itinerary

  • Day

    San José, Costa Rica

    Upon arrival, you will be greeted at the airport and transferred to the Hotel Bougainvillea for dinner and overnight. (D)

  • Day

    San Jose / Sarapiqui

    Before breakfast, meet your bilingual birding guide and Spanish-speaking driver who will be with for the next eight days. Enjoy early morning birding in the hotel gardens, where you may find ferruginous pygmy-owls, blue-crowned motmots, rufous-capped warblers, grayish saltators, and with luck, the elusive white-eared ground-sparrow. After breakfast, depart for Sarapiqui, stopping en route to look for white and barred hawks; green thorntails; brown violet-ears; violet sabrewings; white-bellied mountain-gems; black-breasted hummingbirds; red-headed barbets; common bush, silver-throated and crimson-collared tanagers and scarlet-thighed dacnis. Arrive at Estación Biológica La Selva in time for lunch.

    Located in the Caribbean foothills of the Central Volcanic Mountain Range, La Selva's protected areas include four major tropical zones with more than 5,000 species of vascular plants, of which more than 700 species are trees. Thousands of arthropod species are being currently recorded at La Selva, and more than 400 species of resident and migratory birds have been sighted in the reserve, representing almost half of Costa Rica's bird species. This afternoon, join your guide for a hike to search for birds and other wildlife. Some of the species commonly found here are collared aracaris; black-mandibled and keel-billed toucans; rufous and broad-billed motmots; cinnamon, chestnut-colored and black-cheeked woodpeckers; cocoa woodcreepers; white-necked jacobins; long-billed and bronzy hermits; ringed and Amazon kingfishers; green ibis; white-winged becards; snowy cotingas and white-necked puffbirds. After dinner at the lodge, take a guided night walk to search for nocturnal species, such as owls, nightjars, and poorwills, as well as bats, tree frogs, and pacas, a large rodent similar to guinea pigs. (B,L,D)

  • Day


    Join your guide at the Research Station for a nature walk along on one of the area’s well-maintained trails. More than 300 species of birds have been recorded in this lowland tropical rainforest, including trogons, toucans, great curassows, tanagers, honey-creepers, hummingbirds, euphonias, wrens and many more. Along with a plethora of birds, there are monkeys, agoutis, coatis, and anteaters, as well as a variety of reptiles. This afternoon explore the Nature Pavilion Park located in La Virgen de Sarapiqui. Your hosts, Dave Sr. and Dave Jr., will greet you to show you the highlights of the property. This farm was formerly an abandoned oil palm plantation; however Dave and Dave decided to start a reforestation process to try to reestablish the natural balance. An observation deck built at the highest point of the farm offers up-close views of birds at the busy feeders.

    There are also several hummingbird feeders at the house that attract species like the white-necked jacobin and rufous-tailed hummingbirds. There is also a pond where you may observe several species of poison dart frogs. Take a short, but steep trail (with wide cement steps and handrails) to the Sarapiqui River where there are chances to find tiger herons, egrets and sunbirds. After backtracking uphill, take some time to relax at the observation deck. There are about 20 species of birds that frequent this area, including the keel-billed toucan, collared aracari, Montezuma oropendola, golden-hooded and crimson-collared tanager, yellow-crowned euphonia, and green and red-legged honeycreeper. (B,L,D)

    Scaly-breasted hummingbird
  • Day

    Sarapiqui / El Tapir Nature Reserve / Copey de Dota Valley

    Head into the highlands of Costa Rica Cerro de la Muerte and Copey de Dota. En route, stop at El Tapir Nature Reserve, located next to the Braulio Carrillo National Park, it is one of the best places for birding in the foothills of Costa Rica. Fruit gardens with feeders attract multitudes of hummingbirds—snowcap, white-tipped sicklebill, black-crested coquette, blue-chested hummingbird, and green thorntail—providing fantastic photographic opportunities. Some of the raptors found in the reserve include white hawk, bat falcon, ornate hawk-eagle, and crested eagle. After exploring El Tapir, continue to the highlands and Copey de Dota. This temperate region is one of the only places in Costa Rica where crops like apricots, apples and blackberries can grow. The trees here are different than those found in the lowlands, and include several varieties of oak, as well as up to a dozen species of wild avocado. This area is considered to be a birdwatcher's paradise with the iconic resplendent quetzal, emerald toucanets and hummingbirds being fairly common sightings. Check into the El Toucanet Lodge.  (B,L,D) 

  • Day

    Copey de Dota Valley

    Visit the 200-acre Paraiso de Quetzal property, one of the best places in Costa Rica to spot the vibrant, and endangered resplendent quetzal. In addition to this target species that was revered by the Maya and Aztec as the “god of the air,” more than 140 bird species—including several that are endemic to the area—make this place a birdwatcher's dream. Take a gentle one-mile walk through cloud forest to search for resident resplendent quetzals, while epiphytes, such as orchids and bromeliads, add an interesting botanical component to your walk. During the breeding season (February to July) males grow twin tail feathers up to three feet long and have been known to emit a wide range of sounds to attract a nearby female. (B,L,D) 

  • Day

    Copey de Dota Valley

    Spend a full day birding with your expert guide. Continue the search for the resplendent quetzal, as well as emerald toucanet; acorn woodpecker; black guan; white-winged, flame-colored, and spangle-cheeked tanager; barred becard; white-throated mountain-gem; magenta-throated woodstar; green violet-ear; steely-vented, scintillant, and stripe-tailed hummingbird; bare-shanked screech-owl; mottled owl; dusky nightjar and long-tailed silky-flycatcher. (B,L,D) 

    Collared aracari
  • Day

    Copey de Dota Valley / Carara Park

    Depart for the central Pacific region, with stops for birding along the way and lunch in Uvita. Some of the species seen as we cross the country include fiery-billed aracari, golden-naped woodpecker, blue-throated golden tail, brown booby and white-throated shrike-tanager, among others.  Arrive in the Carara Park area in midafternoon. This region encompasses a variety of habitats distributed from sea level up to 3,000 feet. This is an area where the flora and fauna of the northern hemisphere overlaps with southern hemisphere species. Of the many species found here, the scarlet macaw is probably the most impressive, colorful and vocal. There is also a good chance to spot fiery-billed aracari, crane hawk, white-throated magpie jay, double-striped thick-knee, southern lapwing, brown-crested flycatcher, black-headed trogon, cinnamon hummingbird and steely-vented hummingbird. Check into Hotel Cerro Lodge. (B,L,D) 

  • Day

    Carara Park

    Carara National Park is located between the dry forests of the north and the humid ones of the south. Many endangered and threatened species live and breed here, notably the American crocodile. Carara is also considered a sanctuary for birds like macaws, tiger herons, egrets, sand-pipers, stilts, tanagers, honeycreepers, trogons, toucans and more. As you stroll along the mostly flat, well-maintained pathways, three-toed sloths are often spotted. This area was occupied by an indigenous culture from 300 B.C. to 1500 A.D. and extensive tomb sites have been excavated here. This afternoon we explore the Tárcoles River by boat. The Tárcoles is home to the world’s largest wild crocodile population, with some individuals measuring up to fifteen feet in length. In addition to the crocodiles, over fifty different kinds of birds can be seen, including the rare scarlet macaw and a great variety of resident and migrant waterfowl. Iguanas and basilisk lizards are often seen basking along the shoreline. On the way downstream, the boat heads along the Estero Guacalillo, a most impressive mangrove ecosystem that features four different species of mangrove trees. (B,L,D) 

  • Day

    Carara Park / San Jose

    Transfer to the San Jose International Airport for your independent homeward flight. Please keep in mind that you must be at the airport at least three hours prior to your departure time. (B)


Hotel Bougainvillea

Hotel Bougainvillea

Located just 10 minutes from downtown San José, this hotel is surrounded by 10 acres of tropical gardens. All rooms have a private balcony, flat-screen TV, telephone, safety deposit box, WI-FI, coffee maker, radio alarm clock, ceiling fan and hair dryer. Amenities include a swimming pool, fitness center, tennis courts, mini spa, business center and restaurant and bar which feature local and international dishes.   

La Selva Biological Station

La Selva Biological Station

Lodging accommodations are rustic cabins equipped with twin beds, private bath, fan and balcony. Located about a 15-minute walk from the main reception area, you are truly immersed in this pristine rainforest environment. Meals are served cafeteria-style in the open-air dining hall (where you may have the chance to mingle with research scientists and students) with options to please most palates, including vegetarians.

El Toucanet Lodge

El Toucanet Lodge

This delightful, family-run lodge offers beautiful pinewood cabins with spectacular mountain views. Accommodations include a private bath, Wi-Fi, private terrace and large windows. Set in a cloud forest over 6,000 feet above sea level, this area enjoys year-round temperatures ranging from 45º - 70ºF. The restaurant serves typical, home-cooked Costa Rican dishes, and specializes in baked trout, supplied fresh from a nearby farm. 

Hotel Cerro Lodge

Hotel Cerro Lodge

This lodge features charming, air conditioned bungalows with your choice of indoor or outdoor bathrooms! Set on a ridge surrounded by lush gardens, many species of birds can be viewed from the comfort of your room, or during a stroll around the grounds. Meals are served in an ocean-view restaurant, while other amenities include an outdoor pool, laundry facilities, Wi-Fi in public areas, and a picnic area.

From: $4,000 per person
9 Days, 8 Nights
Trip Type

Trip Highlights

  • Enjoy a comprehensive exploration of Costa Rica—the lowland Caribbean rainforest of the Sarapiqui Region, lush cloud forests of Copey de Dota, and the Pacific coastal rainforest of Carara National Park.
  • Visit the La Selva Biological Station, the leading research center for Costa Rican ecology which offers over 31 miles of well-kept trails in some of the country’s most pristine primary tropical rainforest.
  • Search for the beautiful, resplendent quetzal, revered by both Maya and Aztec civilizations as the “god of the air.”
  • Cruise along the Tárcoles River, home to scarlet macaws, iguanas, and the world’s largest population of American crocodiles.
  • Travel with an expert, bilingual guide and private driver, who are with you every step of the way to point out local wildlife and make sure every aspect of your expedition goes smoothly.
  • IE's Custom Travel Planners can create individually tailored tours that match your style of travel, budget & timeline.