Day 1: Arrive and transfer to Orquideas Inn. The Orquideas Inn is located only 10 minutes from the International Airport, and is a perfect place to begin our Costa Rican birding tour. This friendly, intimate boutique hotel in the countryside is a pleasant tropical oasis with 19 rooms, 6 suites and a 2 bedroom Geodesic dome, which spread out from the Spanish style Hacienda of a former coffee planter. Many of the rooms and suites have fantastic views of the mountains, volcanoes and surrounding countryside and all have air conditioning, ceiling fans, and satellite television. The dinning room specializes in delicious national, international and vegetarian cuisine served in an intimate, casual atmosphere with local works of art and views of the gardens and Irazu Volcano. At the well known Marilyn Monroe Bar, you can enjoy Buffalo wings and Orquideas coladas while being surrounded by Marilyn memorabilia, or you can chose to relax on the romantic candle lit garden patio. The breakfast is one of the best in Costa Rica. A variety of amenities and services including swimming pool, gift shop, massage and spa services, free local calls and internet, and laundry service are also available.
The Inn is nestled on over 10 acres of lush tropical gardens teeming with exotic tropical fruits, flowers, birds and butterflies. There are also several nice trails, which we will walk to look for birds. At the hummingbird feeders, we may see Plain-capped Starthroat, Steely-vented, Cinnamon, and Rufous-tailed Hummingbird. A walk around the gardens may produce Blue-crowned Motmot, Rufous-capped Warbler, Plain Wren, Rufous-naped Wren,Grayish Saltator, Blue-gray Tanager, Tropical Kingbird, Hoffman’s Woodpecker, and of course Clay-colored Robin, Great-tailed Grackle, and Great Kiskadee. Down by the stream we should find Gray-necked Wood-Rails, Squirrel Cuckoo, and Brown Jay,Gray-crowned Yellowthroat, and we will hope for such rarities as Immaculate Antbird. Tropical Screech Owls and Mottled Owls are resident and we will try for these after dinner. Night Orquideas Inn
Day 2: Arenal Volcano. Before breakfast, we will again bird the gardens and trails at the hotel hoping to locate the rare and local Prevost's Ground-sparrow among others including Blue and White Swallow, White-tipped Dove, Bronzed Cowbird, and Crimson-fronted Parakeet. After breakfast, we will depart for the Volcano Arenal area and the Arenal Observatory Lodge lodge inside the National Park. The lodge offers breath-taking views of the thundering Arenal Volcano. It is one of Costa Rica´s most active volcanoes, and we are sure of enjoying some of nature’s fireworks. Great photo opportunities! We won’t have to go far from our rooms to see a great variety of birds. The feeding table is often a buzz with Montezuma and Chestnut-headed Oropendolas, stunning Emerald Tanagers, Yellow-throated and Tawny-capped Euphonias and Green and Red-legged Honeycreepers, the occasional White-throated Robin, and Black-sripped Sparrow.
Around the lodge gardens the vervain flowers attract a variety of hummingbirds including Stripe-throated Hermit, Brown Violet-ear, Red-footed Plumeleteer, Rufous-tailed and Violet-headed Hummingbirds, the precious Green Thorntail, and even Black-crested Coquette! The primary forest near the lodge holds Great Antshrike, Spotted, Dusky, Dull-mantled, and Ocellated Antbird, Song Wren, Whistling Wren, and Rufous-winged Tanager. The extensive trails at the lodge allow tremendous opportunities for us to find Crimson-collared Tanager, Brown-hooded Parrot, Golden-olive Woodpecker, and the rare and local Keel-billed Motmot. Mammals are also present near the lodge and include Coatimundi, Three-toed Sloth, White-faced Capuchin, Howler Monkeys, lots of beautiful butterflies, orchids, and other interesting flora will all add to our experience at this attractive eco-lodge. Night Arenal Observatory Lodge
Day 3: Full day at Arenal. We will arise early and take a picnic breakfast on a guided tour of the Arena Volcano National Park through a well-protected secondary forest. Along the way we should encounter lots of birds including Keel-billed Toucans, Montezuma Oropendulas, Black and Crested Guans and many others. After the volcano hike, we will have time to explore the grounds of the lodge before lunch. After lunch, we will walk the entrance road from the lodge back towards the main road. Here we will have the opportunity for some excellent roadside birding. We will watch for raptors including White Hawk, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, and Double-toothed Kite, cracids include the Great Curassow, Crested Guan, and Gray-headed Chachalaca, 4 species of toucan, the incessant call of the Fulvous-bellied Antpitta, tanagers, 3 species of saltators, and much more. At the bridge we will look for Fasciated Tiger-Heron, Green Kingfisher, and Buff-rumped Warbler. We may get lucky and catch a glimpse of a Little Tinamou which is often present but rarely seen. Night Arenal Observatory Lodge
Day 4: Travel to Monteverde Cloudforest . We will rise early again and bird one of the trails near the lodge before breakfast. A walk along the trails can also be very productive. We will watch for Purple-crowned Fairy, Rufous Motmots, Ocellated Antbird, Spotted Antbird, Masked Tityras, Tawny-chested Flycatcher, Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush and Black-throated Wrens. By road it's 136 kilometers from La Fortuna (the village near the volcano) to Monteverde. Because of the mountain range between these two areas, there is no direct route. The overland route via Tilaran requires nearly 5 hours driving time along bumpy (often impassable during the wet season) dirt roads. Today we will shorten our travel time by taking alternative taxi-boat-taxi shortcut. We will travel 20 minutes by van to the boat landing at the Lake Arenal Dam. Here we will board a boat for a beautiful 30 minute cruise on Lake Arenal with spectacular views of the active volcano and the Monteverde mountain range. Upon disembarking at the boat landing at Rio Chiquito, we will take a 1.5 hour scenic ride by mini bus to Monteverde, a small mountain town on the Pacific slope near the Continental Divide where we stay at the Trapp Family Lodge for two nights. Exotic rainforest vegetation surrounds the property on all sides, and many great birds await us nearby. The Trapp Family Lodge is the closest lodge to the Monteverde Reserve, a 15-minute walk away. Night Trapp Family Lodge Monteverde
Day 5: Monteverde Cloudforest Reserve. We’ll spend most of today in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, a 7400-acre tract of middle-elevation forest traversed by the Continental Divide and one of the best-known birding localities in Central America. At the entrance to the reserve, is a wonderful gallery of hummingbird feeders where we should find several species of hummingbird including Purple-throated Mountain Gem, Magenta-throated Woodstar, Striped-tailed Hummingbird, and the endemic Coppery-headed Emerald. Forest trails into tall cloud-forest provide access to the haunts of Resplendent Quetzals and Three-wattled Bellbirds (whose piercing call can be heard a mile away) as well as for many other species found here including Orange-bellied Trogon, Prong-billed Barbet, Lineated Foliage-gleaner, Streak-breasted Treehunter, both Tawny-throated and Gray-throated Leaftossers, Azure-hooded Jay, Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush, Three-striped Warbler, Golden-browed Chlorophonia and Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch. Other mountain species we will search for include Highland Tinamou, Black-faced Solitaire, Black Guan and Streak-breasted Treehunter. If we’re lucky we may encounter one of the area’s difficult-to-see species such as Black-breasted Wood-Quail or Buff-fronted Quail-Dove. In the late afternoon we’ll revisit the Hummingbird Gallery. Night Trapp Family Lodge Monteverde
Day 6: Rio Tarcoles and Punta Leona Resort. After breakfast, we will travel to Punta Leona Resort on the pacific coast via Rio Tarcoles Bridge. Punta Leona has one of the most important private reserves in Costa Rica's Pacific Zone, principally because of its geographic location and conservation plan. This refuge was created 27 years ago and consists of 300 hectares (750 acres) of primary and secondary forest. The reserve is of great importance from a biological standpoint because it is one of the few remaining forests in the transitional life zone between the Dry Forest of the Northwest and the Rainforest of the Southwest. During the last two decades, Punta Leona's reserve has functioned primarily as a center for research on mammals and birds. Specifically, the conservation program introduced for Scarlet Macaws has received national attention.
We will stop at Rio Tarcoles Bridge just north of Punta Leona. Here we may encounter Northern Jacana, Plain-breasted Ground-dove, and Yellow-headed and Crested Caracara. King Vulture has also been seen from the bridge and a variety of waders such as Bare-throated Tiger-Heron may be encountered here. Of course we will also have fantastic views of huge Crocodiles basking along the muddy edges of the river. The road into Punta Leona can be very birdie and we may see some interesting birds on the way in. Punta Leona itself provides excellent birdwatching. The reserve has 3 easily accessible, well-marked trails. They are of varying difficulty and also wide enough to facilitate birdwatching. There are two hummingbirds feeding stations and several feeders that attract birds and mammals.
After checking into our rooms, we will have lunch at the resort. Afterwards, we will walk one of the trails around the resort trying to track down the incessant gonging of a Three-wattled Bellbird high in the canopy. Slaty-tailed Trogon, Blue-crowned Motmot, Red-capped Manakin, and Bay-headed Tanager will add a splash of color to the darkening forest. We will hope for uncommon residents like Scarlet Macaw, Marbled Wood-Quail, and Dotted-winged Antwren. Other more common species we may see include Chestnut-mandibled Toucan,Northern Violaceous and Black-throated Trogons, Orange-collared Manakin and Social Flycatcher. Hummingbirds we should observe here include Long-tailed Hermit, Cinnamon, Scaly-breasted and Steely-vented Hummingbird. Magnificent Frigatebirds, Crested Caracara and Brown Pelican will be seen overhead. There will also be time for relaxation, a dip in one several swimming pools, or a visit to one of the three private white sand beaches before dinner. After dinner we may walk the grounds looking for Common Paraques hawking insect around the lights. Night Punta Leona
Day 7: Punta Leona and Carara National Park. After a bountiful buffet breakfast in the open-air dinning hall (which we will share with White-faced Capuchin Monkeys), we will be transported to the nearby Carara National Park. There are two trails at Carara, the heavily canopied headquarters trail with mostly primary pacific rainforest and the more open wooded river trail with an oxbow lake and both secondary and primary forest habitats. Both trails are level for easy walking and offer excellent birding. We should encounter a multitude of birds along the trails. Great Tinamou should be seen behind the headquarters and Baird’s Trogon, White-whiskered Puffbird, Black-headed Antshrike, the bizarre Northern Royal Flycatcher, and the very rare and beautiful Yellow-billed Cotinga have all been seen in the park. Other wildlife will include morpho and heliconia butterflies, Mantled Howler and White-faced Capuchin monkeys, Collared Peccary, Coati, Central American Agouti (large rodent type), both Spiny-tailed and Green Iguanas, and Common Basilisk (a dragon-like lizard that can run across water). We will have a picnic lunch near the park headquarters. In the afternoon, we will continue birding this magnificent area. In the late afternoon, we will return to Punta Leona to freshen up before dinner. Night Punta Leona
Day 8: Tarcol Lodge and Mangrove Boat Tour. After an early breakfast, we will travel to the Tarcol area. The full day will be spent in this very bird rich area. We will spend time in the scrub areas, the mangrove areas, both on foot and by what will surely be a truly memorable mangrove boat tour.The scrub area around Tarcol Lodge is always very good, especially when you know the many trails that cut through it before it merges into a large mangrove area, definitely a location where our local guides knowledge will pay off. Some birds we should encounter included the endemic Mangrove Hummingbird the rare Mangrove Cuckoo,mixed feeding flocks of Lesser and Scrub Greenlets, Barred Antshrike,Squirrel Cuckoo,Mangrove Warbler and Mangrove Vireo, and several different species of neo-tropical migrants. Mangrove Swallows will be busy feeding over the water and we may see Mangrove Black Hawks, which prey specifically on the Mangrove Fiddler Crabs that reside in these swamps.
Along the drier sections we should find Northern Scrub Flycatcher, Panama Flycatcher, Slate-headed Tody-Tyrant, Scrub Euphonia, Pale-billed Woodpecker, Stripe-headed and Black-striped Sparrow, Orchard Oriole, Cinnamon and Rose-throated Becard, Black-headed and Northern Violaceous Trogons, Steely-vented Hummingbird , and a host of Psittaciformes including Scarlet Macaw, Yellow-naped and White-fronted Parrots and Orange-chinned and Orange-fronted Parakeets. We will have lunch before heading to the boat launch area where we will board the boat for our Mangrove Boat Tour. This boat tour will definitely one of the highlights of the entire tour! This two-hour afternoon trip will allow us to cover a large area of mangroves that are otherwise impossible to explore and will give us the chance to witness a spectacular sunset. We should encounter Boat-billed Heron, Mangrove Swallow, Mangrove Hummingbird, Mangrove Warbler, Long-billed Gnatwren, Ringed, Belted, Amazon, Green, and American Pygmy Kingfisher, Anhinga, Neotropical Cormorant, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Great Blue, Green, Little Blue and Tri-colored Herons, Snowy, Cattle and Great Egrets, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Roseate Spoonbill, Wood Stork, White Ibis, Northern Jacana, Spotted Sandpiper, Black-necked Stilt and Black-bellied Whistling Duck.
Raptor may include Mangrove Black Hawks,Osprey,Zone-tailed Hawk,Yellow-headed and Northern Crested Caracaras. We may be lucky encough to see the magnificent King Vulture soaring overhead! If the tide is low,we may be rewarded with Collared, Semi-palmated,and Black-bellied Plovers,Western and Least Sandpipers, Laughing Gull, and Royal and Caspian Tern on the sandy shoals at the mouth of the estuary. After the boat tour, we will head back to Punta Leona for a delicious dinner. Night Punta Leona
Day 9: Travel to Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose. We will arise early and bird the grounds of the resort before breakfast. Leisurely looks at Blue-crowned Motmots, White-throated Magpie-jays and Groove-billed Ani will make us regret we can’t stay longer. After breakfast we will pack up and make the 2 hour journey to the airport in San Jose. Time permitting, we may stop again at the Rio Tarcoles Bridge for one last look. Along the way, we will make a brief detour to Orotina. Here in the Town Park we will see the resident Black and White Owls roosting. At the airport, we will catch flights back home or to Golfito for those continuing on the Osa Peninsula extension.
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Central America and Caribbean Costa Rica Nature & Wildlife Birdwatching National Parks