Join Naturalist Journeys for this exciting Costa Rica nature tour. There are few countries that rival Costa Rica’s ecological diversity. Over a quarter of the country is protected by national park, biological reserve, wildlife refuge, or other protected area. And for good reason: Costa Rica is home to over 800 bird species, 208 mammal species, 50,000 insect species, and 2,000 orchids.
October is a key migration time in Costa Rica. Scores of Broad-winged Hawk might pass over, while many North American songbirds are on the wing to South America, or settling into winter homes in Costa Rica’s mix of tropical to montane habitats. It is a great month for birding! And while raining to the west, it’s the best time to visit Costa Rica’s Caribbean side!
On this Costa Rica birding tour, spend several days on both the Caribbean and Pacific sides of the continental divide, with excellent field time in the Veragua Rainforest, and at Tenorio Volcano. Our route takes us close to the Nicaraguan border; lodges include Tapirus Lodge at the Rainforest Tram, Maquenque of the Caribbean lowlands, Celeste Mountain near Bijagua, and Bosque de Paz in the highlands. Several of these ecolodges are new to Naturalist Journeys travelers, encouraging those who have been here before to discover more of Costa Rica's beauty. They also place us where we want to be to observe the migration. We are also sure to have good fun, tasting local foods and perhaps visiting a market; we enjoy sharing in Costa Rican customs as we experience our hosts’ exceptional hospitality.
- Explore beautiful, birdy gardens right at our hotel in San José
- Scan the skies at Veragua Rainforest for migrating raptors—the sheer quantity of birds here is incredible
- Enjoy two nights at Maquenque Eco-lodge, where we enjoy a boat safari, walk on the local trails, and immerse ourselves in tropical nature—birds abound!
- Discover Braulio Carrillo National Park; Ride a tram through lush rainforest; be amazed by all the hummingbirds
- Relax at the Celeste Mountain Lodge near Tenorio National Park, where the river literally turns blue!
- Bird among the cloud forest at Bosque de Paz Lodge in search of local bird specialties
Wed., Oct. 6: Arrival in San José
Welcome to Costa Rica! Arrive today in San José where you are met at the airport by a representative from Horizontes, our Costa Rican host company, for private transfer to the Hotel Bougainvillea. We select this boutique hotel for its spacious rooms, friendly service, and spectacular birdy gardens, just outside the door. This is an environmentally-friendly hotel with a commitment to our planet and hospitality.
Those arriving in time can enjoy a welcome dinner with fellow travelling companions and your Naturalist Journeys guide. Those that arrive later than dinner have a snack tray on arrival.
Accommodations at Hotel Bougainvillea (D)
Thurs., Oct. 7: San José | Veragua Rainforest Mountain Reserve
We depart early this morning for Veragua Rainforest Mountain Reserve. En route, we travel through Braulio Carrillo National Park, where views of the rain forest are incredible. Although there are few trails in this massive park, the Quebrada Gonzalez Trail is a decidedly rich and productive one. Fast-moving feeding flocks, often led by Black-faced Grosbeak, can contain a host of striking and local species such as Streak-crowned Antvireo, Black-and-yellow Tanager, and Blue-and-gold Tanager. Away from such flocks, we also keep a sharp eye out for the animated White-ruffed Manakin and majestic Ornate Hawk-Eagle. Crowned Woodnymph, Silver-throated Tanager, and Golden-hooded Tanager may also make an appearance. Down the road, the old El Tapir Garden offers opportunities to see two dainty, near-endemic hummingbirds: Black-crested Coquette and Snowcap.
Once we arrive at Veragua Rainforest, we enjoy spectacular views of the magical raptor migration. The height, speed, and quantity of birds here is incredible. And lucky for us, our lodge is located here, and as the day visitors go we have it all to ourselves! The open-air dining room is a delight.
Accommodations at Tapirus Lodge at the Rainforest Tram (B,L,D)
Fri., Oct. 8: Rainforest Aerial Tram | Hummingbird Gardens
We are right here at the Rainforest Tram, so we get into the rainforest canopy as soon as they open – wow! To greet the day with a feel of floating through the forest is wonderful.
We spend the day today exploring around Tapirus Lodge and adjacent Braulio Carrillo National Park, enjoy a chance to find mid-montane birding specialties. Our guide knows some great spots for finding Chestnut-colored and Cinnamon Woodpeckers, Slaty-tailed Trogon, Olive-backed Euphonia, Long-tailed Tyrant, and Crimson-collared Tanager. The area has a mix of pristine forest and open farmland which adds to the diversity of birding here.
Return to check out the action at the amazing hummingbird garden at the Tram site. With luck a territorial Snowcap will be chasing off a Violet-headed Hummingbird or a Crowned Woodnymph—wow!
Accommodations at Tapirus Lodge (B,L,D)
Sat., Oct. 9 & Sun., Oct. 10: Maquenque Lodge
On morning walks we may be greeted by calling Keel-billed Toucan or even Broad-billed Motmot. After our walk and breakfast, we ready ourselves for our next destination, Boca Tapada, located in San Carlos. This little town is almost on the border with Nicaragua.
Once we arrive at Boca Tapada, we take the rest of the day to get familiar with the Manquenque Lodge and surrounding area. The grounds here host a variety of wildlife, including Mantled Howler Monkey, Green Iguana, and Spectacled Caiman.
Over the next two days, from the lodge, we scan the skies for raptors on the wing, including Broad-winged, Swainson’s, and Short-tailed Hawks, and bird the grounds and surrounding forest. With the company of our local guide, we enjoy a boat safari on the San Carlos River.
In the afternoons, we walk on the lodge trails, where we might find Great Curassow, Great Green Macaw, Green Ibis, and Golden-hooded Tanager.
It’s wonderful to have these full days to immerse ourselves in migration, the resident birds, and the tropical nature of Maquenque! Here we enjoy creature comforts and some fabulous birding and wildlife.
Accommodations at Maquenque Lodge (B,L,D)
Mon., Oct. 11: Tenorio National Park
After breakfast, we check out and get ready for our next birding area near the Tenorio Volcano. Due to the area’s differing altitudes, the variety of birds here is extensive. We watch for feeding flocks containing such avian jewels as Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, Rufous-winged Tanager, and Shining Honeycreeper, joined by the more subdued supporting cast of woodcreepers and tyrannulets so typical of the Neotropics. We also stay alert for antbirds, Orange-bellied Trogon, and perhaps Nightingale Wren.
In the air we watch for kettles of migrating Broad-winged Hawk, above their resident cousins, Roadside Hawk, a common raptor. If we don’t find raptors, there are still so many species to see!
After we check in at our lodge and settle in, we enjoy some free time to relax and get familiar with the grounds.
Accommodations at Celeste Mountain Lodge (B,L,D)
Tues., Oct. 12: Tenorio National Park
Have you ever heard of the place where the river’s water turns sky blue? Well here at Tenorio National Park, you get to experience this incredible sight first-hand. And it is magical.
Today we explore the park trails looking for specialties like the toy-like Tody Motmot, Hermit Hummingbird, and Long-winged Butterfly. While we bird this prime tract of forest, the calls of antbirds in the understory may alert us to an army ant swarm, giving us our best chance to see some truly special obligate ant-followers such as Ocellated and Bicolored Antbird.
In the afternoon, we stroll the lodge grounds enjoying a spectacular mix of views and birds.
Accommodations at Celeste Mountain Lodge (B,L,D)
Wed., Oct. 13: Tenorio National Park | Cloud Forest Private Reserve
This morning we check out and embark on our drive to Bosque de Paz, a lodge with a lovely trail system and a relaxed environment, perfect for birding. Here we hope to see an assortment of higher elevation avian specialties more typical of cloud forest: Green-crowned Brilliant, Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant, Black Guan, Spotted Barbtail, Collared Redstart, Golden-browed Chlorophonia, and more. We also have a chance to see Resplendent Quetzal.
The ethereal tunes of Black-faced Solitaire are a constant companion for the length of our stay in this magical forest. Located within Bajos del Toro Amarillo town surroundings, this is a lovely location to round out our trip.
Accommodations at Bosque de Paz Lodge (B,L,D)
Thurs., Oct. 14: Bosque de Paz Lodge
Today we enjoy a full day at the lodge; the trails here offer great birding. With the assistance of an expert local guide, we search for cloud forest birds such as Foliage-gleaner, Orange-chinned Parakeet, Bay-headed and Silver-throated Tanager, Silvery-fronted Tapaculo, Red-faced Spinetail, and Green Hermit.
Feeders on the lodge grounds likely host a completely new set of hummingbirds for the trip, including Violet Sabrewing, Coppery-headed Emerald, Green-crowned Brilliant, and Purple-throated Mountain-gem. Flowers like Heleconias draw them in.
This evening we enjoy our farewell dinner, capping off a spectacular trip!
Accommodations at Bosque de Paz Lodge (B,L,D)
Fri., Oct. 15: Departures
After breakfast, we offer a group transfer to San José’s Juan Santamaria International Airport to catch your flights back home. Keep in mind that driving time from the lodge to the airport is nearly two hours, and you should be at the airport almost three hours ahead of your flight, so watch those early-morning departures! If you must leave early we can arrange a private transfer for you (small additional cost), shared with others if they are also leaving early. Otherwise, we suggest you plan on flights out after 12:00 PM. (B)
Cost of the Journey
Cost of the journey is $3190 DBL / $3690 SGL, from San José, Costa Rica. This cost includes all accommodations, meals as specified in the itinerary, professional guide services, other park and program entrance fees and miscellaneous program expenses. With fewer than six participants, a small group surcharge (typically $100 – $300 per participant) may apply.
Tour cost does not include: round-trip transportation from your home city to San José, optional activities, or items of a personal nature such as laundry, telephone charges, maid gratuities, or beverages from the bar.
Plan to arrive in San José on Wednesday, October 6, ideally between 2:00 and 5:00 PM if you wish to join the welcome dinner. If you arrive later, we can arrange the airport pickup and a snack for you at the hotel, or you may eat on the plane. You may want to arrive a day or two early (at your own cost) to take in the sights of the city. We suggest you plan departures 12:00 PM onward on Friday, October 15, though earlier or later flights can be accommodated.
Michael has been an avid birder since childhood in England but decided, for reasons that now escape him, on a career in law. Meeting Donna Knox on a birding trip, however, changed all that and, in 1996, he gave up his work as solicitor general to the Cayman Islands Government to start a new venture as a birding guide. Michael and Donna initially moved to Cayman House in Rockport, then to the San Pedro River Inn and the Paton Birders’ Haven in S.E. Arizona, and are now happily back in Texas: this time in San Benito, an ideal base for Michael’s interest in the wildlife and history of South Texas. As well as regular tours in the U.S./Mexico borderlands, Michael has guided birding trips to Belize, Costa Rica, and Panama and has travelled extensively in Europe and the Americas. He met Peg Abbott being very gracious to Naturalist Journeys groups along Arizona’s San Pedro River. He now shares his guiding skills with us in Texas and beyond.
Other trips with Michael Marsden
Photo credits: Banner: Broad-winged Hawk by Peg Abbott; White-neckd Jacobins by Sandy Sorkin; Red-eyed Tree Frog by Greg Smith; Resplendent Quetzal by Greg Smith; Green Violetear, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Amazon Kingfisher by Sandy Sorkin; Laughing Falcon by Peg Abbott; Black-cheeked Woodpecker by Sandy Sorkin; Blue Jeans Frog by Sandy Sorkin; Three-toed Sloth by Howard Topoff; Great Potoo by Sandy Sorkin; Blue-crowned Motmot by Peg Abbott; Silver-throated Tanager by Peg Abbott; Black Howler Monkey by Peg Abbott; Silver-throated Tanager by Greg Smith; Keel-billed Toucan by Doug Greenberg; Maquenque Lodge, courtesy the lodge; Great Curassow Pair by Sandy Sorkin; Eyelash Pit Viper by Sandy Sorkin; Resplendent Quetzal by Greg Smith; Bay-headed Tanager by Peg Abbott; Aerial Tram by Peg Abbott; Agouti by Peg Abbott; American Crocodile by Peg Abbott; Bare-throated Tiger-Heron by Peg Abbott; Black Guan by Peg Abbott; Bromeliads by Peg Abbott; Coatimundi by Peg Abbott; Crimson-collared Tanager by Peg Abbott; Emerald Basilisk by Peg Abbott; Great Green Macaw by Peg Abbott; Group by Carlos Sanchez; Horse and Cart by Sandy Sorkin.