Relax this winter on a private ranch in western Mexico, with West Mexican Chachalacas as your alarm clock and Black-throated Magpie-Jays over coffee. Spend six nights in the same location as you explore the endemic-rich habitats of Cabo Corrientes, just 90 minutes south of Puerto Vallarta and just outside the 16th-Century pueblo of El Tuito. The 200 acre Rancho Primavera lies just under 2000 feet in elevation—between the thorn forest and the pine forest—on the Pacific Slope of the Sierra Madre Occidental. Situated at this habitat transition zone, the ranch boasts an bird list of more than 300 species, making it the #2 birding spot in the state of Jalisco and among the top 25 hotspots in all of Mexico.

In January of 2024, Naturalist Journeys’ guide Steve Shunk moved to Rancho Primavera with his partner, Mexican birding guide and biologist Lizzy Martinez. Now, Steve and Lizzy invite you for a winter escape to this lovely private guest ranch in the foothills of the Sierra Madre. They walk with you around the trails of the property, through meadows and forest, to productive ponds, and along the Tuito River. A morning visit to the ranch feeders is simply incredible. Just a few of the regular visitors include: Black-throated Magpie-Jay, Yellow Grosbeak, Blue Mockingbird, Cinnamon-bellied Saltator, Cinnamon Hummingbird, White-throated Thrush, Streak-backed Oriole, Yellow-winged Cacique, and Golden-cheeked Woodpecker.

Away from the feeders, we search for more Pacific-Slope endemics, like Colima Pygmy-Owl, Orange-fronted Parakeet, Russet-crowned Motmot, Gray-crowned Woodpecker, Happy Wren, Golden Vireo, and West Mexican Euphonia. Regular raptors on the property include Great and Common Black Hawks, Gray Hawk, Short-tailed Hawk, and Zone-tailed Hawk. Water birds at the ponds might include Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Least Grebe, Northern Jacana, and three kingfisher species. But our week in the region goes well beyond the ranch.

We spend one morning at the world-class Vallarta Botanical Gardens, with San Blas and Green Jays at the feeders. Take a morning boat ride to Los Arcos Marine Reserve to look for Blue-footed Boobies and Humpback Whales. Explore into the thorn forest of the Costalegre, where we look for Orange-breasted Bunting and Flammulated Flycatcher. The pine forest at the highest elevations can bring Flame-colored Tanager plus Grace’s and Golden-crowned Warblers. The Cabo Corrientes experience—with Rancho Primavera as your base—is sure to put this trip high on your list of favorite vacations.

Tour Highlights

  • Unpack and relax—spend six nights at the ranch, giving you ample time to settle in
  • Soak in beautiful weather in the dead of winter, with sunny days in the 70s and 80s
  • Enjoy many chances to see dozens of Pacific-Slope/West Mexican endemic birds
  • Take easy walks on roads and trails, with plenty of chances for leisure time
  • Explore with seasoned, English-speaking guides who live on the ranch property
  • Experience impressive habitat diversity from the Pacific Ocean to the Sierra Madrean pine forest.
  • Indulge in delicious, authentic Mexican food, like birria, pozole, jocoque cheese, hand-made tortillas, and delicious salsas, as well as the freshest Pacific seafood—it’s a vacation after all!

Trip Itinerary

Itineraries are guidelines; variations in itinerary may occur to account for weather, road conditions, closures, etc. and to maximize your experience.

Sun., Jan 19                Arrival in Puerto Vallarta | Rancho Primavera

Please plan to arrive in Puerto Vallarta today. We gather the group and drive 90 minutes—past the busy cruise ships, hotels, and resorts—to the small pueblo of El Tuito and our base at Rancho Primavera. Check in and enjoy some leisure time before sunset, followed by dinner in El Tuito, just 10 minutes away. 
Accommodations at Rancho Primavera (D)

Mon., Jan 20               Birding Rancho Primavera

Enjoy a thorough and very relaxing introduction to the ranch, from the feeders at the main house to the ponds at Santa Monica. Breakfast is early today at the porch of the main house while we watch the morning feeding. Expect a frenzy of special birds, including the resident (rehabilitated and released) Military Macaws, plus our first West Mexican endemics, like Blue Mockingbird, Streak-backed Oriole, and Golden-cheeked Woodpecker. Common hummingbirds at the feeders typically include Cinnamon, Broad-billed, and Plain-capped Starthroat.

After breakfast, we walk various trails in search of Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Elegant Trogon, Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, Golden Vireo, and an amazing diversity of flycatchers, including Social Flycatcher, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, Greenish Elaenia, and Bright-rumped Attila. After lunch in Tuito, we head back to the ranch for a break before afternoon and evening birding on the ranch trails. We stay alert for mixed flocks of migrant songbirds, including Wilson’s, Nashville, and Black-throated Gray Warblers; Warbling and Plumbeous Vireos, Western and Dusky Flycatchers, and Western and Summer Tanagers. Dinner tonight is in Tuito.
Accommodations at Rancho Primavera (B,L,D)

Tues., Jan 21                Vallarta Botanical Gardens

After breakfast at the ranch feeders, we drive 30 minutes the renowned Vallarta Botanical Gardens. The gardens are a fantastic place to enjoy birds, besides the beautiful collection of orchids, succulents, and other amazing flora. Here, we see some of the familiar species from the ranch, such as Masked Tityra, Orange-fronted Parakeet, and Cinnamon-bellied Saltator. Other songbirds in the gardens may include Painted, Varied, and Blue Buntings, plus any number of flycatchers. We also watch for a variety of hummingbirds, with reasonable possibilities for Mexican Woodnymph, Sparkling-tailed Hummingbird, Golden-crowned Emerald, Violet-crowned Hummingbird, and Mexican Hermit. 

After lunch at the on-site restaurant, we stay for the 1:00 PM bird feeding, where we watch for Green and San Blas Jays among the many Yellow-winged Cacique, Golden-cheeked Woodpecker, Rufous-backed Robin, and the goofy West Mexican Chachalacas. 

We return to the ranch for our daily break, followed by birding along the ranch entrance road and the Tuito River. The river typically hosts wintering Spotted Sandpiper and Louisiana Waterthrush among many other possibilities.
Accommodations at Rancho Primavera (B,L,D)

Wed., Jan. 22              Mayto & the Costalegre

We have an early breakfast this morning before we depart for the southern coast of Cabo Corrientes and the northern edge of the Costalegre, a long stretch of beaches and headlands that reaches south to the state of Colima. We cross through transitional habitats and down into the coastal thorn forest in search of a new suite of birds that specialize in this region. Just a few of these include Citreoline Trogon, Flammulated Flycatcher, Red-breasted Chat, Orange-breasted Bunting, Lesser Ground-Cuckoo, White-throated Magpie-Jay, and White bellied Wren. 

For lunch, we visit the beach-side restaurant at Mayto, offering exquisite seafood plates like aguachile, ceviche, and pescado a la plancha. After lunch, we visit the lagoons at Aquiles Serdan to enjoy an amazing diversity of waterbirds. We return to the ranch in the afternoon for a short break, followed by some evening birding at the ranch ponds and a dusk search for night birds like Mottled Owl, Common Pauraque, and Northern Potoo. Accommodations at Rancho Primavera (B,L,D)

Thurs., Jan 23              Los Arcos & Yelapa

We again head out early, this time heading north toward Puerto Vallarta. As soon as we hit the coast, we drop into the seaside pueblito of Boca de Tomatlan. We enjoy breakfast by the beach before embarking on a boat trip up and down the coast. Our main destination is another coastal pueblito called Yelapa that is reachable primarily by sea. But first, we head up the coast to the Los Arcos Marine Reserve. 

Los Arcos is a collection of offshore rocks—some with arches—that host many waterbirds. From the boat, we look for Blue Footed Booby, Magnificent Frigatebird, Brown Pelican, and more. Once we have cruised around the rocks, we head south and a bit farther from shore to look for marine mammals. This region serves as calving grounds for Humpback Whale, and we frequently see mothers with their small offspring. We could also see any of several different dolphins, and possibly sea turtles.

On the northern edge of Cabo Corrientes, we enter Yelapa Bay and disembark at the Yelapa dock. We spend the rest of the morning birding the beach and lagoon here, which collectively mark the mouth of the Tuito River. Birds here might include Caspian and Elegant Terns, Laughing and Heerman’s Gulls, White-faced Ibis, Little Blue Heron, Reddish Egret, and any of several shorebirds. We enjoy a seaside lunch in Yelapa, followed by an afternoon stroll along the river, where we could see big flocks of Orange-fronted Parakeet and many Military Macaws, plus Pale-billed and Lineated Woodpeckers, Masked Tityra, Elegant Trogon, and Common Black and Zone-tailed Hawks, with the real possibility for a Black Hawk-Eagle. 

We return to Boca de Tomatlan and make the 45-minute drive back to the ranch for some afternoon birding.
Accommodations at Rancho Primavera (B,L,D)

Fri., Jan 24                  Provincia Road & Yelapa-Tapa

On our last full day, we have breakfast at the ranch, followed by a 20-minute drive into the pine-oak forest up the Provincia Road. Provincia gives us an introduction to the montane habitats of Cabo Corrientes and a chance to see several new bird species. Just a few of the possibilities include Grace’s and Golden-crowned Warblers, Painted and Slate-throated Redstarts, Acorn and Arizona Woodpeckers, and Hepatic and Flame-colored Tanagers. 

We head back to Tuito for lunch, followed by an afternoon drive out onto the edge of Cabo Corrientes, where we look down on Yelapa Bay. From the Yelapa-Tapa overlook, we have a chance to see the rare Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle, as well as Black Hawk-Eagle and any of several other raptor species. We also walk the road in search of Colima Pygmy-Owl, Green Jay, San Blas Jay, Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, and Boat-billed Flycatcher, as well as several possible swifts and swallows. We return to the ranch for a break before a final celebratory dinner.
Accommodations at Rancho Primavera (B,L,D)

Sat., Jan 25                 Morning at the Ranch & Departures

We spend a final leisurely morning at the ranch, birding the feeders and trails before heading off to the airport. In addition to the species mentioned above, we look for several other local specialty birds, including Crested Guan, Rosy Thrush-Tanager, Red-crowned Ant-Tanager, Fan-tailed Warbler, Nutting’s Flycatcher, Berylline Hummingbird, Pale-billed Woodpecker, Orange-billed Nightengale-Thrush, and Lilac-crowned Parrot.

We have plenty of time to change clothes for traveling. (B)

  • Birding Mexico, Bird watching Mexico, Pacific Ocean, North American birds, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Endemic Birds, Birding Hotspot

    Puerto Vallarta rocky beach

  • Birding Mexico, Bird watching Mexico, Pacific Ocean, North American birds, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Endemic Birds, Birding Hotspot

    Rufous Motmot

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    Blue-footed Booby

  • Birding Mexico, Bird watching Mexico, Pacific Ocean, North American birds, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Endemic Birds, Birding Hotspot

    Los Arcos Rocks by Steve Shunk

  • Birding Mexico, Bird watching Mexico, Pacific Ocean, North American birds, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Endemic Birds, Birding Hotspot

    Military Macaw

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    Breaching Humpback

  • Birding Mexico, Bird watching Mexico, Pacific Ocean, North American birds, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Endemic Birds, Birding Hotspot

    Birding Vallarta Gardens by Steve Shunk

  • Birding Mexico, Bird watching Mexico, Pacific Ocean, North American birds, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Endemic Birds, Birding Hotspot

    Boat-billed Flycatcher

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    Green Jay by Bryan Calk

  • Birding Mexico, Bird watching Mexico, Pacific Ocean, North American birds, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Endemic Birds, Birding Hotspot

    Yelapa Bay

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    Wild Iguanas

  • Birding Mexico, Bird watching Mexico, Pacific Ocean, North American birds, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Endemic Birds, Birding Hotspot

    Banded Peacock Butterfly by Steve Shunk

  • Birding Mexico, Bird watching Mexico, Pacific Ocean, North American birds, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Endemic Birds, Birding Hotspot

    Berylline Hummingbird

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    Boca de Tamatlan scenic

Cost of the Journey

Cost of the journey is $3590 DBL / $3990 SGL per person. The tour price includes airport transfers; transportation in small passenger vans throughout the trip; 6 nights of accommodations; all meals and non-alcoholic beverages from dinner on Day One through breakfast on Day 10; professional guide services; boat tour and other entry fees; and miscellaneous program expenses. Cost of the journey does not include airfare from your home to Puerto Vallarta.

Travel Details

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: Licenciado Gustavo Diaz Ordaz International (PVR) in Puerto Vallarta

Arrival Details: Plan flights to arrive January 19, 2025, no later than 3:00 PM

Departure Details: Plan flights to depart January 25, 2025, after 3:00 PM

Browse below for trip reports and species lists from past versions of this and other tours from this destination.

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Butterflies & Birds

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Veracruz

  • Steve Shunk

    Steve Shunk started birding in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1989, and he moved to central Oregon’s ‘Woodpecker Wonderland’ in 1997, where 11 woodpecker species breed annually. This phenomenon led to a 20-year obsession studying this charismatic family of birds. Steve founded the region’s woodpecker festival in 2008, and his Peterson Reference Guide to Woodpeckers of North America was published in 2016. He has fed leeches (his own blood) in Malaysian Borneo, and he has watched Spotless Starlings swarming around the Greek ruins of Sicily. Steve’s Alaska adventures have taken him from Ketchikan to Barrow and St. Paul Island. One of his favorite destinations takes him to see ‘eastern’ warblers breeding across the boreal forest of Alberta, but recent adventures have led him to favor the cushion plants and condors of the Peruvian high Andes. Steve speaks at bird festivals across North America, and he returns annually to speak and guide at the Vallarta Bird Festival in far-western Jalisco, Mexico. Steve joined Naturalist Journeys earlier this year, and we are excited to have him on the schedule for 2021 and beyond.

    Steve’s work as a field biologist has taken him from the Coast Range of Oregon to California’s Sierra Nevada. Most recently, he conducted point-count and woodpecker surveys for a study in the Central Oregon Cascades. Steve co-founded the East Cascades Bird Conservancy (now East Cascades Audubon), and served as its first president. He also co-founded the Oregon Birding Trails Program and coordinated its flagship project, the Oregon Cascades Birding Trail. When Steve is not traveling the world for tours and lectures, he can be found writing, skiing, hiking, and watching woodpeckers at home in lovely Sisters, Oregon.

    Other trips with Steve Shunk

Pace & Protocols +

Pace of the Tour & What to Expect You will receive a Schedule-at-a-Glance and list of Read more

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

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.

Transportation

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.

Travel Insurance

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 RescueWorld 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.

Questions?

Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at clientservices@naturalistjourneys.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.

 


Photo credits: Banners: Orange-fronted Parakeet (NJ Stock), Puerto Vallarta Scenic (NJ Stock), Black-throated Magpie-jay (NJ Stock), Mexico Scenic (NJ Stock), Northern Beardless Tyrannulet (NJ Stock), Blue-footed Booby (NJ Stock) Thumbnails: Magnificent Frigatebird (NJ Stock), Ferruginous Pygmy Owl (NJ Stock), Orange-breasted Bunting (NJ Stock), Green Kingfisher (NJ Stock), Black-and-white Hawk-eagle (NJ Stock), Lilac-crowned Parrot (Steve Shunk), Golden-cheeked Woodpecker (Steve Shunk)

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