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Join Naturalist Journeys for an exciting Mexico birding tour. We begin and end our journey in Mazatlan, and spend time working our way from low to high elevations, exploring large estuaries, extensive mudflats, dry tropical deciduous forests, gallery oak forests, and coniferous forests at the highest elevations.
We work our way up along the famed Durango Highway to the town of Copala. The extreme elevation changes found along the highway, coupled with significant rainfall amounts, rugged topography, and diverse habitats offer the potential to see upwards of 20 Mexican endemics, including the incredibly showy and very regional endemic Tufted Jay.
Then it’s back down again to the coast to San Blas, long recognized for its plethora of bird diversity, where we spend lovely days with short driving distances looking for tropical birds at the top of their range and neotropical migrants enjoying the warm weather. We also enjoy siestas most days on the coast.
This is a fun, birdy, and exciting Mexican birding tour that has the potential to see nearly 300 species of birds! We hope you’ll join us.
In 2024, the Durango Highway area plays center stage to a phenomenal solar event: a Total Solar Eclipse. This is a very big deal! Whether you can see a total solar eclipse depends on where you are in the world. This Naturalist Journeys group has the privilege of being at the exact right place at the exact right time.
- Stay at three lovely, locally owned hotels, and indulge on fresh seafood and traditional Mexican gourmet meals
- Explore in a region that is home to more than 25 percent of Mexico’s species list, including more than a third of the country’s endemics
- See an incredible total solar eclipse!
- Look for Eared Quetzal, Green-striped Brush-finch, Red-headed Tanager, and Golden-browed and Red Warblers in the highlands along the Durango Highway
- Bird the tropical deciduous forests in the foothill region of Concordia and Copala, one of the richest plant communities on Earth
- Search for Collared Forest-Falcon, Lilac-crowned Parrot, Colima Pygmy-Owl, Fan-tailed Warbler, and Blue Mockingbird as we explore from San Blas
Itineraries are guidelines; variations in itinerary may occur to account for weather, road conditions, closures, etc. and to maximize your experience.
Fri., Apr. 5 : Arrivals in Mazatlan
Welcome to Mexico! Please plan to arrive before 5:00 PM at Mazatlan International Airport (MZT) and transfer to the hotel by taxi or Uber. We enjoy a nice dinner as a group and settle in to our small, boutique hotel in the historic city center of Mazatlan.
Accommodations in Mazatlan (D)
Sat., Apr. 6 : West Mexican Endemics | Up the Durango Highway
We have an early breakfast at the hotel before heading off for birding areas to the north of Mazatlan, about a 45 minute drive from the hotel. This morning we are primarily looking for some of the West Mexican endemics, such as Black-capped Gnatcatcher, Mexican Parrotlet, Citroline Trogon, Flammulated Flycatcher, Sinaloa Crow, Yellow-winged Cacique, Rufous-bellied Chachalaca, Elegant Quail, Black-throated Magpie-Jay, Purplish-backed Jay, Red-breasted Chat, Fan-tailed Warbler, Blue Mockingbird, and Orange-billed Nightingale Thrush.
After lunch, we make our way up the Durango Highway to the sleepy historic mining town of Copala. Although this little town is a major stop for the tour buses herding cruise ship folks up from Mazatlan during the day, at night it is nearly abandoned except for local kids kicking soccer balls in the street. Our hotel for the next three nights is a simple and clean establishment that is the best option in the area and a place we’ve stayed for years. What it lacks in amenities and style, it more than makes up for with its wonderful staff and proximity to good birding!
Accommodations at Daniel’s or similar (B,L,D)
Sun., Apr. 7 : Barranca del Liebre
This morning we have a 90 minute drive to our birding spot so we kick off the day quite early. We plan to cover the high elevations of an area known as the “Barranca del Liebre” (the Canyon of the Jack Rabbit … don’t ask us why, the closest Jack Rabbit is 50 miles away!). This is one of the only readily accessible locations to find the amazingly beautiful and highly endemic Tufted Jay. Although the jay is certainly our goal, this area is a wonderful place to find a large number of Mexico’s endemic high elevation dwellers. We have a good chance to see all of the following species: Bumblebee Hummingbird, Green-striped and Rufous-capped Brush-finches, Golden-browed Warbler, Red Warbler, White-napped Swift, White-striped Woodcreeper, Mountain Trogon, Rusty Sparrow, Rusty-crowned Ground-Sparrow, and Eared Quetzal to name a few.
Today requires a fair bit of walking at high elevation, so be prepared to take it slow and steady! It can also be a bit chilly at this elevation, particularly in the morning. Lunch is a picnic at the top of the canyon, and dinner tonight is back at the hotel.
Accommodations at Daniel’s or similar (B,L,D)
Mon., Apr. 8 : Panuco Road Birding | Total Eclipse | San Blas Nayarit
After breakfast we drive about 10 minutes to the Panuco Road and spend the morning birding at the mid-elevation habitat. This is a great morning to get a look at fantastic birds like Colima Pygmy-Owl, Yellow-winged Cacique, Golden-cheeked, Lineated and Pale-billed Woodpeckers, Golden-crowned Emerald, Military Macaw, Yellow Grosbeak, Blue Bunting, Orange-fronted Parakeet, and Russet-crowned Motmot. The walking this morning is on a maintained and utilized dirt road, so we need to be aware of traffic but it is not typically heavy.
We are sure to position ourselves properly to witness the eclipse this afternoon. We are at the exact right place at the exact right time to view the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse. Totality near Mazatlan begins at 12:07 PM! We then have lunch back at Daniel’s before packing up and heading off for the lowlands and San Blas Nayarit, four hours to the south. Our home for the next four nights is a wonderful family-owned and operated hotel and one of the most birder friendly hotels in the world!
Accommodations at Hotel Garza Canela or similar (B,L,D)
Tues., Apr. 9 : Birding San Blas
This morning, the close proximity to great birding outside the ejido village of Singayta allows a few more
minutes of sleep before breakfast. As is the case on all but one of our days in San Blas, we head back to the hotel for lunch and a siesta, which gives us a break from the tropical sun before going out for afternoon birding.
Some of today’s birds include Laughing Falcon, Collared Forest-Falcon, Great and Common Black Hawks, Short-tailed Hawk, Mexican Parrotlet, Lilac-crowned Parrot, Long-tailed (Mexican) Hermit, Berylline Hummingbird, San Blas Jay, Blue Mockingbird, Golden Vireo, White-collared (Cinnamon-rumped) Seedeater, Black-vented Oriole, Fan-tailed Warbler, and Rosy Thrush-Tanager. We enjoy dinner tonight in San Blas.
Accommodations at Hotel Garza Canela or similar (B,L,D)
Wed., Apr. 10 : La Bajada Birding | Mangrove Boat Trip
Morning birding today is a short drive from San Blas above the town of La Bajada, in a coffee growing area about 35 minutes from San Blas. This morning requires a fair bit of walking on a cobblestone road, but the distances are not great. The area is very well shaded, but it can get warm by the time we call it a morning.
Some possibilities this morning are San Blas Jay, Purplish-backed Jay, Sparkling-tailed Hummingbird, Mexican Woodnymph, Gray-crowned Woodpecker, Brown-backed Solitaire, Red-breasted Chat, Rosy Thrush-Tanager, and Scrub Euphonia.
After lunch and a short siesta, we head out to La Tovara for a mangrove boat trip that we take in the evening in an attempt to pick up some owls, among other things. A wonderful trip! Some very good bird possibilities are Rufous-necked Wood-Rail, Boat-billed Heron, Pauraque, Lesser Nighthawk, Buff-collared Nightjar, Mottled Owl, Vermiculated Screech Owl, and Northern Potoo! There are also good chances to see American Crocodile and Greater Fishing Bat! We have dinner a bit later tonight, but we pre-order at lunch so the service is speedy.
Accommodations at Hotel Garza Canela or similar (B,L,D)
Thurs., Apr. 11 : Cerro de San Juan
Today we head up to the mountains above San Blas to Cerro de San Juan, a one-hour drive from San Blas. Here we hope to find a large assortment of pine-oak birds, and experience a much cooler climate. We are out most of the day and bring a picnic lunch with us. Our favorite birds today include San Blas Jay, Calliope and Bumblebee Hummingbirds, Sparkling-tailed Hummingbird, Mexican Woodnymph, White-striped and Olivaceous Woodcreepers, Gray-crowned Woodpecker, Gray-collared Becard, Spotted Wren, Russet Nightingale-Thrush, Crescent-chested, Red-faced, Rufous-capped, and Golden-crowned Warblers, Flame-colored and Red-headed Tanagers, Brown-backed Solitaire, Gray-silky Flycatcher, and Lesser Roadrunner.
Accommodations at Hotel Garza Canela or similar (B,L,D)
Fri., Apr. 12 : Boat Trip on the San Cristobal River | Guide’s Choice
Our morning birding finds us back in the boats, this time on the San Cristobal river, rewarding us with incredible numbers of shore and water birds. Least, Pied-billed, and Eared Grebes, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, 16 species of waders, 14 species of ducks, huge numbers of raptors, and a huge array of sandpipers and other water birds, Willow and White-throated Flycatchers, Mangrove Cuckoo, and massive mobs of wintering warblers from both sides of the continent. Truly a bird-o-rama! We head back to the hotel for our last lunch before driving back to Mazatlan in the afternoon. Tonight we enjoy a fun, final meal together celebrating our trip, going over the final bird list, and saying goodbye to new friends!
Accommodations at Raices del Mar or similar (B,L,D)
Sat., Apr. 13 : Departures
Please plan departures at leisure today, with an easy taxi or Uber back to the airport. Adios! (B)
Cost of the Journey
Cost of the tour: $4590 DBL / $5190 SGL, based on double occupancy from Mazatlan. The cost includes 8 nights’ accommodation, meals as noted in the itinerary, ground transportation, professional guide services, park and other entrance fees, and miscellaneous program expenses. The cost does not included airfare to and from Mazatlan, airport transfer, personal expenses such as laundry, telephone, drinks from the bar, and gratuities for luggage handling or other services. Guide gratuities are at your discretion.
Please plan to make air travel plans only after the minimum group size has been met. We will send you a confirmation email as soon as the trip has been confirmed.
Arrival and Departure Airport: Mazatlán International Airport (MZT)
Arrival Details: Please plan flights to arrive April 5, 2024 no later than 5:00 PM. We have a welcome dinner this evening to meet your guides and fellow travelers.
Departure Details: Please plan flight departures on April 13, 2024 at your leisure. Please remember the recommendation is to be at the airport 2.5 to 3 hours before your flight.
Travel Tips: If you arrive early to rest up from your travels, you can book an early night at our first night tour hotel, the Holiday Inn Resort Mazatlan. If you want to explore around Mazatlan, there are plenty of things to do. Mazatlan has a famous malecón, also known as a seafront walkway, that is one of the longest in the world at 13 miles. It provides beach access and has numerous shops and restaurants along the way. The historic district, just south of the downtown area, has a lot of charm and is very walkable. There are colorful French-inspired buildings along with shops, restaurants, and several museums. Transportation options in Mazatlan include taxis and Uber.
Visa Requirements: US residents do not need a visa for tourist visits of this length.
Items of Note
Itinerary subject to change due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances. We will keep you informed of any changes prior to or during the trip.
Browse below for trip reports and species lists from past versions of this and other tours from this destination.
Butterflies & Birds
- February 2020
- February 2022
- February 2023
- October 2021
- August 2022
- October 2022
- August 2023
Sea of Cortés
- March 2017
- February 2019
- March 2022
- March 2023
Carlos Gonzalez is a wildlife biologist from Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, who has been working with birds for the past fifteen years. A Mexico specialist as a lead guide, he has led trips in his home country since 2019 in the states of Sonora, Sinaloa, Nayarit, Michoacán and Oaxaca. Carlos also has experience with Arizona, California and Nevada birds, wildlife, and landscapes. He is an avid citizen-scientist, contributing regularly to iNaturalist and eBird.
Other trips with Carlos Gonzalez
Essential Information +
This information is important for being prepared for your journey; we want you to have the best experience possible. If you only read one section, this one is key!
Ahead of Your Tour
- Make sure your passport will be valid at time of entry into Mexico. No Visas are required for U.S. citizens for stays of this tour's duration in Mexico. If you are from another country, please contact the Embassy of Mexico website for guidelines.
- Please check current CDC recommendations for travel to Mexico and consult with your doctor about general travel vaccinations you should have as precaution for travel. See the “Health and Inoculations” section below.
- Travel insurance in case of serious medical emergency is strongly recommended. Full health coverage and repatriation is available through Allianz Travel Insurance.
- Plan your flight reservations arriving into and departing from Mazatlán International (MZT). Send a copy of your itinerary to the Naturalist Journeys office please.
- Soft sided luggage/duffel bags are easiest for packing the vans. Pack essential medications in your carry-on luggage, as well as one day of clothing and optics in case of luggage delay.
Arrival into Mazatlán International (MZT)
Please note - If you are delayed in travel, please FIRST call the number of our tour operator. As a backup, contact our office or the Naturalist Journeys staff cell (both numbers are on your emergency contact list).
Plan to arrive at the Mazatlán International (MZT) before 5:00 PM on the start of the tour date. Transfer to our boutique hotel in the historic part of the city by taxi or Uber. We will meet in the hotel bar for an orientation at 6:00 PM. If you get in later, your guide will make contact with you upon arrival or will leave information for you at the hotel front desk where to meet us for dinner and what time to be ready in the morning.
Please check the Travel Details section of this tour for additional information and updates.
Departures from Mazatlán International (MZT)
Plan to depart from Mazatlán International (MZT) at your leisure. We can do a group drop-off and if that time is not convenient, it is an easy transfer to the airport by taxi or Uber.
Please check the Travel Details section of this tour for additional information and updates.
Passport & Documents
A valid passport book is required at the time of entry into Mexico. Please check your expiration date carefully! We advise having at least one blank passport page per entry stamp. U.S. citizens attempting to enter Mexico at an airport with a U.S. passport card only may be denied entry, so please bring your valid passport. If you are from another country, please contact the Mexican embassy website for guidelines.
Information for U.S. citizens can be found at: travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Mexico.html
As a precaution for lost or misplaced documents you carry on your person during travel, we highly recommend you keep hard and digital backup copies on your phone (either photo or PDF scan), as well as a hard copy left with your emergency contact at home. The recommended important documents to copy include, but are not limited to; your passport ID page, travel visa, the front and back of your credit card(s), the airline barcode on your luggage. This will greatly expedite getting new ones if necessary – we hope everyone will always keep travel documents close so that losing them will not be an issue.
General Health & Inoculations Information – Be Prepared!
We will share your health information with your guide. This information will be kept confidential but is very important as we want to be best prepared in case of medical emergency.
Anti-malarial drugs are not required for any area that you visit. There are occasional reports of Dengue Fever in lower elevation areas, for which there is no vaccine. Dengue fever, Zika, and other diseases are contacted by mosquito bites so be sure to use mosquito repellant containing DEET or Picaridin. Travelers can reduce their risk of disease by protecting themselves from mosquito bites in lower elevation areas by using protective clothing.
Vaccinations: At the time of writing there were no required vaccinations to enter Mexico. However, the CDC recommends that all travelers be up to date with routine vaccinations and basic travel vaccines (such as Hepatitis A and Typhoid) before traveling to any destination. Please check with your doctor for recommendations at least 4-6 weeks before departing on your trip. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website is helpful or you may reach them by phone at (800) CDC-INFO or (800) 232-4636.
Prescriptions: It is a good idea to pack any meds you take regularly in your carry-on luggage. Bring an extra pair of glasses or contact lenses. Bring an adequate supply of any prescription medications you use, a copy of the prescription and a list of generic names of your medicines as “back-up” in case it is necessary to purchase drugs while abroad. You’ll want to keep medications in their original, labeled containers.
Allergies: To be prepared for environmental triggers to allergies or breathing difficulties, please bring your allergy and/or asthma medication(s). If you have severe allergies talk to your doctor about carrying an EPI pen and notify your guides. It is also recommended to carry with you an up-to-date record of known allergies, chronic medical problems and Medic Alerts so that, if necessary, emergency treatment can be carried out without endangering your health.
Common Ailments: We recommend that you bring a travel-sized first aid kit and a supply of standard over-the-counter medications for prevention or treatment of common ailments (such as diarrhea, constipation, stomach upset, cough, congestion, head or body aches, insect bites and sunburn); as well as ointments, moisturizer, sunscreen, oral rehydration salts, band-aids, moleskin for blisters, cotton swabs, nail clippers, and tweezers, etc.
Weather & Climate
In general, daily weather in Pacific Mexico is sunny and warm. The average daytime highs are in the 80s °F., and average lows are in the upper 50s F. The fairly arid climate is the result from the region’s location on the leeward side of the Mexican Neotropics. You may experience misty fog in the mornings around the foothills and mountains which often burns off soon after sunrise, and afternoon heating can produce a thunderstorm on any given day. Please be prepared to be outside for most of the day in warm, sunny weather.
Annoyances & Hazards
Mosquitoes can occur in the forests; therefore, a supply of insect repellent containing DEET is essential. At grassland or farm locations you may encounter chiggers, if so, spray your shoes with repellent, and tuck your pants into your socks, this helps a lot. When back, be sure to shower and air out your clothing. Chiggers are a part of lowland and mid-elevation habitats throughout Central and South America. Your guide should have a good read on if it has been wet enough that they are active. There can also be poisonous snakes and insects, though encountering them is rare. Do listen carefully to any advice given by your local guide. And remember the sun is strong and be prepared with proper protection.
Food & Drinks
The restaurants on your tour will prepare delightful food in a sanitary environment. As with any case when traveling we urge you to consider what your body is used to before you eat something. Trust your common sense when consuming food and beverages. This is the best way to avoid any unwanted problems. Ask for recommendations from your hotel or refer to a guidebook such as Frommers. Meals reflect the contributions of American, European, Spanish, and local cuisines.
Tap water in Mexico is generally not potable. We urge you to use purified bottled water for drinking and brushing your teeth. Purified water will be available everywhere you go, as well as purified ice. There will be a cooler full of drinks that your guide will keep stocked during the trip. Bring a refillable water bottle that you can refill from larger bottles of purified water as needed; this helps enormously to cut down on the use of plastics. A number of restaurants and hotels will use purified water, but you may want to ask first to be sure.
Generally, sanitation and cleanliness have improved significantly in Mexico.
Packing, Clothing & Laundry
Dress is very informal and laundry services are available for a fee at our lodges. While some people will change for dinner, it is usually just to a drier or cleaner version of what they wore during the day. Again, the climate is warm to hot, so you will be comfortable in lightweight clothing.
Please, pack light. We are serious about this – we move around a lot; you just do not need much to cope with tropical life! Please do not bring anything more than you must. Lay out your hopeful things to take and then do a serious paring down!
TRAVEL TIP: Imagine NOT getting your suitcase. Wear your most important shoes for the field and have one day’s clothing change (including a change of underwear!). And please do not pack any essential medications, or your vital optics, in your checked luggage!
The official currency in Mexico is the Peso. US dollar is accepted but not everywhere. We advise you carry a mix of different types of payments, such as cash, an ATM card, and a credit card. For the current exchange rate, please refer to an online converter tool like www.xe.com, or your bank. U.S. dollars in good condition (no rips or tears) are taken as a form of payment but shopping for smaller handicrafts may necessitate using local currency.
When using the ATM to withdrawal cash, keep in mind it might only accept cards from local banks or not allow cash advances on credit cards. Many U.S. banks charge a fee of $1 - $5 each time you use a foreign ATM. Others may charge you a percentage of the amount you withdraw. Check with your bank before departure. You must become familiar with how to use your ATM card and PIN number ahead of the journey.
We suggest you have more than one card available, if possible. You may want to bring more than one brand of card (VISA and Mastercard are commonly accepted; American Express is less common). You can use credit cards at lodges to pay your bar and gift tabs. Not every shop will accept every card. Some smaller shops and restaurants, or taxis require cash, so it is always a good idea to ask before making a purchase. Also, we recommend that you advise your bank or credit card company that you will be traveling abroad to avoid questions, card freezes, or charges. If you have a choice of cards, bring one with no foreign exchange fees.
Traveler’s checks are not widely accepted. They can be difficult to exchange. We do not advise you use them.
Expect the normal tipping protocol to apply for your hotel maids and bar service. If at the end of the tour, you would like to show our appreciation to your guides, tipping is entirely appropriate but at your discretion. We hope that you will be pleased with all professional services. Gratuities for group meals are included. For your Mexico-based birding tour guide, we suggest $10-$15 per day per guest. For your local driver (who in many ways is a second guide for you) half that rate or more if you wish. Please note that if there is more than one guide, this can be split among them.
Cell Phones & Internet Service
If you plan on using your cell phone on this trip, please check with your wireless provider to see if your phone and service will work in your destination country. Ask for “international roaming” to be activated on your phone or purchase a travel pass through your carrier. Or you can buy a local SIM card at the airport and insert this in your mobile phone (just make certain your phone can accept one).
If your phone can connect to Wi-Fi, you may be able to make voice and video calls free of charge. Please contact your cell phone provider for further details. Another option if you have access to Wi-Fi, is to download and use smartphone apps like Skype, WhatsApp, or Viber to send text messages, and make voice calls, or video calls. Many smartphones, tablets, or laptops come with one of these apps pre-installed or you can download for free. If bringing a laptop or tablet, get a good dustcover to protect it at all times.
Make sure if you do NOT want to use your cell phone that you turn off your cellular data. You could incur huge charges if you are not on Wi-Fi. Putting your phone in airplane mode if you mainly use it for photos will save the battery as well. Your hotels and most local restaurants provide Wi-Fi at least in their common areas. Although it is generally a reliable service, it can be affected by adverse weather conditions due to the remote location.
Please refrain from taking or making cell phone calls in the vehicles when traveling with other passengers, unless it appears to be an emergency. This disrupts other guests, plan on cell phone call use on your own time.
Mexico plugs are 110 volts AV (60 cycles), as they are in the U.S. and Canada. You will not need a power plug adapter if you are using U.S. or Canadian plugs. Mexican socket types are type A and B. We recommend you bring a 3-to-2 prong adaptor just in case type B sockets are not available. More information can be found at http://www.power-plugs-sockets.com/us/mexico.
Your Mexican adventure will be in the Mountain Time zone (MT). A great website if you want to tell someone to check ahead of calling you is www.timeanddate.com.
Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at clientservices@naturalistjourneys or telephone at our office: (520) 558-1146 or toll free: (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey!
Pace & Protocols +
Pace of the Tour & What to Expect
You will receive a Schedule-at-a-Glance and list of hotels (our eContact List) a few weeks before your departure. This will serve as an outline for each day and alert you to any recent changes made in the schedule or to our hotels, if needed.
Our journeys are set up to follow the rhythm of nature. Our focus is on birding and nature; we offer full, well-planned field days and often get up early for that magical time around dawn. We generally follow the published itinerary, but we stay flexible to the weather, wildlife opportunities and the interests of the group. Your guide will keep you apprised of the next day’s schedule at each evening meal, noting what to bring and what to prepare for. Questions and/or concerns are welcome.
The pace of our Naturalist Journeys tours is moderate; to fully participate you should be able to get in and out of vehicles several times a day, and walk 1-3 miles over uneven terrain. It is important to participate with a flexible attitude as adjustments may be made in our schedule to make the most of our time in the field or for other purposes at your guide's discretion. We are not a “listing” bird company that drills down on target species, but at times we do wait for those special species unique to the places we visit. During the day, we take time to stop for photos and for educational opportunities to learn about conservation projects, landscapes, and geology. We appreciate other taxa as well as birds, with mammals often the biggest draw but plants and butterflies are also very popular. Our clients often lend their own expertise to the mix.
We like to make meals a fun and memorable part of the experience, too. Breakfasts are often at hotels, and we carry snacks, fruit, and water in the vans each day. Lunches are a mix of picnics in the field (weather dependent) and a chance to dine with locals at small cafes and restaurants. For dinner, we pride ourselves in our homework to keep up with the best choices for dining, choosing restaurants with atmosphere that specialize in local foods. On occasion we keep dinner simple to go back out in the field for sunset wildlife viewing or night walks. In some remote locations, our choices are limited. If you are tired, room service for dinner may be an option you can choose.
Naturalist Journeys International Trips: Guide Role
Naturalist Journeys supports ecotourism and the development of excellent local guides. Once we know our international partners and guides well, we can send out small groups working directly with these trusted partners, adding a Naturalist Journeys guide to assist the local expert when we have a group of 6-7 or more. This helps us keep your costs down while retaining tour quality. The local guide is your main guide. You can expect your Naturalist Journeys guide to be well-researched and often they are experienced in the destination, but their role is not to be primary, it is to help to organize logistics, help you find birds, mammals, and interesting other species in the field, keep reports, help facilitate group interactions, and to keep the trip within Naturalist Journeys' style. Local guides live in the countries we travel to, know the destinations intimately, and are often the strongest force for conservation in their countries. They open many doors for us to have a rich experience.
Smoking is not permitted in any vehicle or in any situation where the group is participating in an activity together, such as a vehicle excursion or a guided walk. Please respect all designated smoking areas at hotels and restaurants.
As a courtesy to each other, we ask that all travelers please rotate seating. On international trips we may all be in one small bus, on some trips we are in vans, particularly the roomy Sprinter Vans when available. Some areas require us to be in smaller 4-wheel drive or safari vehicles. Rotation allows you to sit with different drivers and alternate front and back seating.
Photo Release & Sharing
We take many group photos and will share photos with the group. And after your tour, we will organize a chance to share photos via Dropbox or Google Photos. Please note that this is our policy and if you prefer to be excluded, we need to know ahead of your tour.
By registering for this tour, you agree to grant to Naturalist Journeys and its authorized representatives’ permission to record on photography film and/or video, pictures of my participation in the tour. You further agree that any or all of the material photographed may be used, in any form, as part of any future publications, brochure, or other printed materials used to promote Naturalist Journeys, and further that such use shall be without payment of fees, royalties, special credit or other compensation.
You are traveling in remote areas. Naturalist Journeys strongly recommends you have full medical and evacuation insurance from a company such as Allianz, for all international travel. If you do not have medical coverage or evacuation coverage on your existing travel insurance policy or for some reason elected not to take that out, we advise getting an evacuation plan with Global Rescue, World Nomads, Medjet, Allianz (they can do evacuation only) or a similar company. These plans are typically $300-$400 for a year for multiple destinations. This coverage may be a part of a larger Travel Insurance policy but can also be purchased on its own.
Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at email@example.com or telephone our office: (520) 558-1146 or toll free: (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey.
Packing List +
Please pack light!
Protective Eclipse glasses will be provided by Naturalist Journeys for this tour!
Soft luggage is much easier for us to pack than a more rigid hard sided piece, so if you have the choice, please use your soft luggage. Be sure to have your name and address on the inside of the bag, as well as on the luggage tag on the handle. It is our hope that you can pack in one checked suitcase that does not exceed 45 pounds. Be sure to pack your personal medication, airline tickets, passport, binoculars, camera, and other essential items in your carry-on bag. You will want a day pack for field trips, so this is an ideal carry-on. Please reconfirm your airline’s baggage weight and size restrictions about a week or so before departure.
In general, daily weather in Pacific Mexico is sunny and warm. The average daytime highs are in the 80's°F, and average lows are in the upper 50's°F. The fairly arid climate is the result from the region’s location on the leeward side of the Mexican Neotropics. You may experience misty fog in the mornings around the foothills and mountains which often burns off soon after sunrise, and afternoon heating can produce a thunderstorm on any given day. Please be prepared to be outside for most of the day in warm, sunny weather.
Dress is comfortable and informal throughout the trip. Dressing in layers is the best way to be comfortable. Lightweight long sleeve shirts and long pants make ideal field clothing as they are more protective from sun and vegetation. But if you like to wear them, by all means bring some shorts. Also, choose clothing you don’t mind getting dirty or muddy and things that are comfortable and easy.
Note on clothing colors and insect repellent: We recommend muted colors of tan, brown, khaki, grey or green, as they are spotted less easily than white or bright colors, though camouflage clothing is not recommended, and in some countries, not legal to wear. It is possible to purchase field clothing permeated with insect repellent such as the Craghoppers Insect Shield. Another approach is to purchase Permethrin spray (online or from REI) to treat your field clothing and socks before your departure.
Clothing & Gear
- Lightweight or convertible hiking pants, 1-2 pair
- Shorts, 2-3 pair (optional)
- Lightweight long-sleeved shirts, 2-3
- T-shirts, sleeveless and short-sleeved or equivalent, 2-3
- Comfortable clothes for evening (a cleaner version of your field clothes)
- Personal underclothing and pajamas (consider what dries quickly if you plan to do laundry)
- Socks – lightweight, easy to wash and dry
- Comfortable walking shoes (such as tennis shoes)
- Lightweight hiking boots
- Sandals for evenings, travel days (optional)
- Jacket: fleece fabric is ideal, or a pullover/sweater
- Lightweight hooded raincoat or poncho (great if this doubles as a windbreaker)
- Hat with broad brim
- Bandana (optional, great for cooling off when hot and sweaty)
- Bathing suit (optional)
- Field vest (optional), a great source is Big Pockets
Equipment & Miscellaneous
- E-ticket verification
- Passport, visa (if required), travel insurance info, money & credit cards.
- A secure pouch to carry the items above on your person at all times (such as a secure, under-clothing document pouch)
- As a backup: copies of all the above (phone and/or paper) packed in a separate location than on your person, plus a set given to your emergency contact at home as a backup. For passport, copy of the ID and entry stamp pages.
- Small daypack to carry gear while hiking
- Umbrella (optional - compact, not brightly colored!)
- Walking sticks (optional, but strongly recommended)
- Flashlight or headlamp with fresh batteries
- Alarm clock, or use your cell phone
- Sunscreen/Chapstick and waterproof sunblock
- Sunglasses with neck strap
- Insect repellent (containing at least 20% DEET)
- Toiletry articles
- Earplugs (if hotel noise or roommates snoring may bother you; these are optional)
- Water bottle (can easily be bought in the airport and refilled daily)
- Binoculars (a hotel shower cap is great to cover these when it is raining)
- Spotting scope and tripod (optional – guide will have them)
- Camera and extra batteries/chargers, memory cards, lens cleaning supplies and your instruction manual
- Tablet or laptop for personal use and/or transferring photos, USB cord and charger (optional)
- Notebook or journal and pen (optional)
- Field guides (optional)
- Laundry soap if you plan to do hand washing
- 3 to 2 prong outlet adaptor
- Rechargeable power bank (optional)
WE DO NOT RECOMMEND TRAVELING WITH PRECIOUS OR VALUABLE JEWELRY – don’t tempt anyone and don’t bring things you’d regret losing - your mind will be at ease!
Medical & First Aid Items
- Heath insurance and vaccination information (kept in personal pouch with other travel documents)
- Personal medication (and copy of vital prescriptions, including glasses)
- Personal first aid kit including medications for general and stomach ailments (Imodium or Lomotil, antihistamine cream or tablets, eye drops, etc.)
- Motion sickness preventatives if likely to be needed on van, etc.
- Extra pair of eyeglasses or contacts
- Band-Aids, moleskin to protect against blisters
- Antibacterial hand sanitizer, small vial
Suggested Reading List +
There are many titles of interest for Mexico; the following are a few that we have enjoyed that can get you started.
Merlin App – Mexico: Northwest Pack. A phone-based birding app from Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology. Before departing the U.S., download the app for free, then from within the app, download the “pack” for Mexico: Northwest.
History & Culture
There is a good selection of books available for sale at visitors’ centers, and your guide will also have a selection of reference books and materials for participants to share. As an Amazon Associate, Naturalist Journeys earns from qualifying purchases, and may get commissions for purchases made through links on this page at no added cost to you.
Useful Links +
2024 Total Solar Eclipse
Durango City, State of Durango, Mexico
San Blas, Nayarit, Mexico
Nature, Wildlife & Biology
Endemic Birds of Western Mexico
Birds of Western Mexico Quick Guide
Neotropical Migratory Bird FAQ
Panuco Road Sightings (eBird)
Birding San Blas
Butterflies of Western Mexico
Amphibians and Reptiles of Mexico
Mexican Dry & Coniferous Forests Bioregion– Nayarit area
Sierra Madre Forests & Mexican Drylands Bioregions– Durango area
“Saving Mexico’s Mangrove Wetlands” – Article by Jennifer Boudart, Ducks Unlimited of Mexico
Waterfoul Conservation Efforts on Mexico’s West Coast – Ducks Unlimited
The Nature Conservancy Efforts in Mexico
News & Inspriation from Nature’s Frontlines – Mexico
Coastal Watershed Conservation in Mexico – The World Bank Article
Dramatic Recoveries of 20+ Species of Seabirds – All About Birds Article
Geology & Geography
Geology of Mexico – links to topics
Geography of Mexico
History & Culture
Culture of Mexico
Brief History of Mexico
The Enduring Villages of Western Mexico – Interesting Penn Museum Article (originally published 1964)
Cuisine of the Regions of Mexico (see the Northern (Durango) and North Pacific Coast (Nayarit) regions for the area of this tour!)
Helpful Travel Websites
Mazatlán International Airport (MZT)
Homeland Security Real ID Act
Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
National Passport Information Center
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
Foreign Exchange Rates
U.S. Department of State International Travel Information - Mexico
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - Mexico
Canada Travel Advice and Advisories - Mexico
Travel Health Pro (UK) - Mexico
Electricity and Plugs - Mexico
Date, Time, and Holidays - Mexico
Photo credits: Banners: Rancho Primavera at dawn, Steve Shunk; Gray-crowned Woodpecker, Laura Gaudette via Creative Commons; Eared Quetzal by Peg Abbott; Russett-crowned Motmot, Domnic Sherony via Creative Commons; San Juan Valley, Wilfredor via Creative Commons; Scrub Euphonia, Hans Norelius via Creative Commons. Red-headed Tanager, Steve Shunk; Berylline Hummingbird, Steve Shunk; Black-throated Magpie, Steve Shunk; La Bufa from below, Steve Shunk; Black-vented Oriole, Steve Shunk; Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Steve Shunk; Golden-cheeked Woodpecker, Steve Shunk; Santa Monica Ranch, Steve Shunk; Orange-breasted Bunting, Steve Shunk; Crocodile, Steve Shunk; Boy on a horse, Steve Shunk; Yellow-winged Cacique, Steve Shunk; La Tovara Sunset, Steve Shunk; Erato Heliconian, Steve Shunk; Two-barred Flasher, Steve Shunk; Tropical Kingbird, Steve Shunk; Streak-backed Oriole, Steve Shunk; Festival Boaters, Steve Shunk; Green Jay, Steve Shunk; Pale-billed Woodpecker, Steve Shunk; San Blas Jay, Steve Shunk; Red-headed Tanager, Steve Shunk; Banded Peacock, Steve Shunk; Blue-footed Booby, Steve Shunk; Clearwing, Steve Shunk; Festival Boaters, Steve Shunk; Fresh Fish, Steve Shunk; Giant Till, Steve Shunk; Green Jay, Steve Shunk; Grey-crowned Woodpecker, Steve Shunk; La Tovara Sunset, Steve Shunk; Orange-breasted Bunting, Steve Shunk; Red Bordered Pixie, Steve Shunk; San Blas Jay, Steve Shunk; San Sebastian, Steve Shunk; Tropical Kingbird, Steve Shunk