Relax on a private ranch in western Mexico for Thanksgiving, 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 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.

Mon., Nov. 24                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)

Tues., Nov. 25               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)

Wed., Nov. 26                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)

Thurs., Nov. 27              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)

Fri., Nov. 28              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)

Sat., Nov. 29                  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)

Sun., Nov. 30                 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

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    Los Arcos Rocks by Steve Shunk

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    Military Macaw

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    Breaching Humpback

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    Birding Vallarta Gardens by Steve Shunk

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    Boat-billed Flycatcher

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    Green Jay by Bryan Calk

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    Yelapa Bay

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    Wild Iguanas

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    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 per person, based on occupancy: $3590 DBL / $3990 SGL. 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 7; 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 November 24, 2025, no later than 3:00 PM

Departure Details: Plan flights to depart November 30, 2025, after 3:00 PM

Travel Tip: If you arrive early to rest up from your travels, Puerto Vallarta has many hotels to choose from. Known for it's beautiful beaches and many good restaurants, Puerto Vallarta is a great place to enjoy a few days before or after the tour. 

Entry Requirements: See "Essential Information" section under the "Know Before You Go" tab.

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

Mexico

Alamos

Butterflies & Birds

Oaxaca

Sea of Cortés

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

Essential Information +

This information is important for being prepared for your journey; we want you to have Read more

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

  • At the time of writing, U.S. citizens must have a passport that is in good condition and at minimum is valid at the time of entry through your scheduled return to the U.S. We suggest at least 3 months validity beyond the end of the tour to allow for unexpected delays in return travel.
  • U.S. citizens carrying a tourist passport do not need a visa to enter Mexico. We advise having at least one blank passport page per entry stamp.
  • 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 “General 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 Licenciado Gustavo Diaz Ordaz International (PVR). 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 in Licenciado Gustavo Diaz Ordaz International Airport (PVR)

Please note. If you are delayed in travel, please contact our office or tour operator (both numbers are on your emergency contact list).

Plan to arrive at the Licenciado Gustavo Diaz Ordaz International (PVR) in Puerto Vallarta at your leisure by the start date of the tour. A representative from our local operator will transfer you and the rest of the tour group from the airport to our Rancho Primavera destination. Once at the lodge, check in and enjoy some leisure time before sunset and then dinner in El Tuito, just 10 minutes away. If you wish to arrive earlier, please let us know so we can arrange with our local operator for appropriate transportation and lodging.

Additional Information regarding Immigration and Customs:

  • If your flight is directly from the U.S. to Puerto Vallarta, you will pass through Immigration and Customs at Licenciado Gustavo Diaz Ordaz International (PVR) in Puerto Vallarta. Your international tourist permit, also called tourist migration form, will be stamped by immigration officials, you will pick up your luggage, and you will make a customs declaration. Both forms are usually provided in flight by the airlines. Hang on to your tourist permit for the duration of the trip. Upon departure, immigration officials will ask to see it. A lost or stolen tourist permit should always be replaced before leaving Mexico.
  • If your flight into Puerto Vallarta is from Mexico City (or another city in Mexico), you will first clear Immigration in that first Mexican landing, then you will go through Customs once in Puerto Vallarta, where your tourist migration form will be stamped by officials (*Again, remember to hang on to it for the duration of your trip).  

 

Please check the Travel Details tab of this tour for additional information and updates.

Departure from Licenciado Gustavo Diaz Ordaz International Airport (PVR)

Plan to depart from Licenciado Gustavo Diaz Ordaz International (PVR) at your leisure. Once we have the group’s travel information, we will arrange one group shuttle to the airport to accommodate the majority of everyone’s flights. If your flight is not around that time, you may take a taxi. 

Please check the Travel Details tab of this tour for additional information and updates.

Passports, Visas & Documents

Guidelines and regulations can change. It is always advisable to double-check the country’s documentation requirements 60-90 days ahead of traveling. Information for U.S. citizens can be found at travel.state.gov for Mexico. If you are from another country, please contact the Embassy of Mexico website for guidelines.

Passport: At the time of writing, U.S. citizens must have a passport that is in good condition and at minimum is valid at the time of entry through your scheduled return to the U.S. However, we suggest at least 3 months validity beyond the end of the tour to allow for unexpected delays in return travel. Please check that expiration date! Your passport should have at least one blank page per entry stamp. The blank pages need to say “Visas” at the top. Pages marked “Amendments and Endorsements” will not be accepted. 

Visa: At the time of writing, a tourist visa is not required for stays of this tour's duration. You will need proof of a return ticket. The necessary documents will be distributed by your airline while in flight or provided for you upon arrival. We advise that you bring your eContact list of hotels for use at immigration as well.

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!

Health requirements for entry to any country can change. It is always advisable to double-check the country’s health requirements and recommendations 60-90 days ahead of traveling. A helpful website for planning is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for Mexico or by phone (800) CDC-INFO or (800) 232-4636.

Vaccinations: Bring copies of your up-to-date vaccination records with you. The CDC recommends that all travelers be up to date with routine vaccinations  (such as measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, varicella (chickenpox), polio and your yearly flu shot) 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. 

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

The climate in Puerto Vallarta is tropical, generally hot and muggy year round. Temperatures in late November to early December generally range from 66°-84°F. Even though there is less rainfall than in summer, precipitation can occur, so we have rain gear on the list just in case. Temperatures will vary depending on topography.

Annoyances & Hazards

The tropical climate and abundant water sources in Mexico create ideal conditions for mosquitoes to thrive, posing a risk to public health. Mosquitoes can transmit diseases such as dengue fever, Zika virus, yellow fever and chikungunya. Although at the time of writing there is no known risk for malarial transmission (anti-malarial drugs are not required by CDC for any area that you visit on this tour), travelers should still reduce their risk of mosquito and/or tick born diseases (including yellow fever, malaria, dengue fever, zika, Japanese encephalitis, etc.) by protecting themselves from bites using protective clothing, insect repellant (containing DEET, Picaridin, OLE, etc.) and prophylactics where applicable. 

Chiggers are a part of lowland and mid-elevation habitats. You may encounter them at grassland or farm locations. Your guide should have a good read on chiggers if it has been wet enough that they are active. Spray your shoes with repellent, and tuck your pants into your socks .  When back, be sure to shower and air out your clothing. Do listen carefully to any advice given by your local guide regarding pests and other biting insects or reptiles you may encounter. And remember the sun is strong and be prepared with proper protection.

Food & Drinks

Menus at the lodges are varied, delicious and are sustainably based on the wonderful local ingredients available. Meals reflect the contributions of American, European, Spanish, and local cuisines.  As with any case when traveling in another country, trust your common sense when consuming food and beverages. We urge you to consider what your body is used to before you eat something. This is the best way to avoid any unwanted problems. Ask for recommendations from your hotel or consult a guidebook such as Frommers if you are eating out on your own.

Generally, sanitation and cleanliness have improved significantly in Mexico. That said, we urge you to use purified bottled water for drinking and brushing your teeth. If unsure, your guide will be able to tell you when purified water is preferred. 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.

Packing, Clothing & Laundry

Dress is very informal. 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!

Laundry services can be arranged at some of our hotels, those where you have multiple nights. But it is most convenient if you are content with hand laundry.

Spending Money

The official currency in Mexico is the Mexican Peso. 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. If you plan to exchange cash in country, bring large U.S. bill ($50 or $100) in good condition - that will give you the better rate when exchanging to local currency.

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, restaurants, and/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.

Gratuities

Tipping is optional and completely at your discretion. If you would like to show our appreciation to your guides, lodge and hotel staff or anyone associated with this tour, it is entirely appropriate. Know that they appreciate anything you care to give and of course you can do more if you wish! Lodges normally have a box for tips that the staff share, and hotels you would just tip the maids as you do at home. We hope that you will be pleased with all professional services.

Here is a standard suggestion for tipping on birding trips:

  • Birding tour guide: US $10.00 - $15.00 per day per guest. Note: If there is more than one guide, this can be split among them, so that is a total, per person, per day
  • Tour driver if different from guide: US $5.00 - $7.00 per person/day
  • Lodge staff: US $6.00 - $10.00 per day per guest
  • Transfer (airport shuttle) driver: US $2.00 - $3.00 per person
  • Hotel & international airport bellmen: US $1.00 per suitcase

You may wish to bring small gifts for local people that you meet and enjoy (this is totally optional!). T-shirts, school supplies like pens and small notebooks, inexpensive watches and baseball caps are always popular.  Your guides can pass along school supplies to a local school if you bring them.  They also love any nature books/coloring books.

Cell Phones & Internet Service

Your guide is well connected and can help if any urgent communication need arises. However, it is highly recommended that you travel with a cell phone, if only as a precaution for the unfortunate occurrence of a medical emergency during an outing and needing swift accessibility to critical personal or medical contacts. 

Please check with your wireless provider to see if your phone and service will work in your destination country. Options include activating international roaming, purchasing a local SIM card at the airport (newer phones may not accept SIM cards), or simply turning off cellular service and relying on Wi-Fi to make calls and access the internet. If your phone can connect to Wi-Fi, you may be able to make voice and video calls free of charge. Another option if you have access to Wi-Fi is to 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.

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.

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. 

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.

Electricity

Mexico uses Standard Voltage, same as the northern European standards, so the voltage is 230V, higher than in the United States (120V), with a frequency of 50 Hz. Electrical sockets (outlets) are primarily "Type F" and accept the standard continental European dual round-pronged plugs.

You will most likely need to bring a power plug adapter, and a voltage converter to use appliances or devices from the U.S. that do not automatically detect and convert voltages. To be sure, check the label on your appliance. More information is available at https://www.power-plugs-sockets.com/us/mexico/.

Time

Your Mexican adventure will be in the Central Daylight Time zone (CDT). A great website if you want to tell someone to check the time in Puerto Vallarta ahead of calling you is https://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/mexico/puerto-vallarta.

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

We ask that all travelers please rotate vans, so you sit with different drivers and alternate in front and back seating.

Photo Release & Sharing

We take many group photos and share photos with the group. Please note that this is our policy, if you have an exception to it, we need to know ahead of your tour. And at the end of your tour, we will organize a chance to share photos via Dropbox or Google Photos.

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 your participation in the tour. I 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. 

Questions?

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 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.

 

Packing List +

Please pack light! Soft luggage is much easier for us to pack than a more rigid Read more

Please pack light!

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.

October in Veracruz is warm to hot and muggy. Temperatures in Veracruz generally range from 72°-87°F, but nights can get as low as 66°F or days as high as 92.5°F. Even though there is less rainfall than in summer, precipitation can be ~6" over 11 days, so we have rain gear on the list just in case. Temperatures will vary depending on topography.

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. You may wish to pack clothing that is easy to hand wash and fast drying for washing in your room.

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. It is possible to purchase field clothing permeated with insect repellent such as the Craghoppers Insect Shield collection. 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
  • Lightweight long-sleeved shirts, 2-3
  • Shorts (optional, not generally recommended)
  • T-shirts, sleeveless and short-sleeved or equivalent, 2-3
  • Comfortable clothes for evening (a cleaner version of your field clothes)
  • Personal underclothing (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 - bring shoes with good support and firm grip tread
  • Sandals for evenings, travel days (optional)
  • Lightweight jacket: fleece fabric is ideal, or a pullover/sweater
  • Lightweight hooded raincoat (can double 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 confirmation
  • Passport, visa (if required), travel insurance info, money & credit cards.
  • A secure pouch to carry the items above on your person (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
  • Cell phone and charger
  • Camera and extra batteries and charger, memory cards/film, lens cleaning supplies, instruction manual (optional).
  • Tablet or laptop for personal use and/or transferring photos, USB cord and charger (optional)
  • Binoculars (a hotel shower cap is great to cover these when it is raining)
  • Spotting scope and tripod (optional – guide will have them)
  • Rechargeable power bank (optional)
  • 3 to 2 prong outlet adaptor if needed
  • Umbrella - compact, not brightly colored! (optional)
  • Walking sticks (optional, but recommended if you usually use them when hiking)
  • Flashlight or headlamp with fresh batteries. 
  • Alarm clock, or use your cell phone
  • Sunscreen and lip balm with SPF
  • Sunglasses with neck strap
  • Insect repellent (containing at least 20% DEET)
  • Toiletry articles
  • Laundry soap (consider laundry soap "sheets" that pack flat, and are lightweight and environmentally friendly.
  • 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)
  • Notebook or journal and pen (optional)
  • Field guides (optional)
  • Spanish phrase dictionary (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

  • 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.
  • Heath insurance and vaccination information (kept in personal pouch with other travel documents)
  • Extra pair of eyeglasses or contacts
  • Band-Aids, moleskin to protect against blisters
  • Hand Sanitizer

 

Suggested Reading List +

These books choices are, of course, optional, but recommended to help you get the most Read more

These books choices are, of course, optional, but recommended to help you get the most out of your trip. Also, feel free to get online and check other book listings for the area. If you find a particularly good site or book, please share it!

Top Picks

 A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America - by Steve N.G. Howell and Sophie Webb - One of the best field guides for Mexico; large and heavy but an essential resource.

 Merlin App – Mexico: Oaxaca and Chiapas 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: Oaxaca and Chiapas.

 Mexico - Culture Smart! The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture - by Russell Maddicks, Culture Smart!

Field Guides

Birds of Mexico and Central America - by Ber van Perlo - A very useful field guides with all species occurring in Mexico, but in a light and compact format.

The Sibley Guide to Birds, 2nd Edition - by David Allen Sibley - Always a useful reference, as many species to be seen are migrants from North America; particularly helpful for confusing fall warblers!

Site Guide to the Birds of Veracruz - by Robert Straub - A very useful guide to almost all sites to be visited on this tour: where they are, what they are like, and what birds are to be found.  Might be unavailable.

A Bird-Finding Guide to Mexico - by Steve N.G. Howell - Excellent, though a bit dated, bird-finding guide to Mexico, including some of the sites to be visited on this tour.

Raptors of Mexico and Central America - by William S. Clark and N. John Schmitt - Includes all 69 species of raptors found in Mexico and Central America.

Hawks at a Distance: Identification of Migrant Raptors - by Jerry Liguori - Identifies 29 species of raptors in several lighting and setting situations.

Birdlife of the Gulf of Mexico - by Joanna Burger - Illustrated with over 900 photos, charts, and maps.

A Swift Guide to Butterflies of Mexico and Central America - by Jeffrey Glassberg - Complete guide to Mexican butterflies.

Flowering Plants of the Neotropics - by Nathan Smith - Covers 250 families found between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, 300 color illustrations, 250 botanical line drawings and very detailed text.

Birds of Mexico: MP3 Sound Collection (CD) - by Peter Boesman - 6 hours playing time

General Reading: Nature

Naturalist’s Mexico - by Roland H. Wauer - Overview of Mexico’s avifauna and the rest of its natural environment.

Wildlife Ecology and Management in Mexico - by Raul Valdez and Dr. Jose Alfonso Ortega-Santos - Offers information on ecological relationships and habitat requirements for the most important game of birds and mammals of Mexico.

General Reading: Culture & History

Mexico - Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture, Second Edition - by Russell Maddicks - A concise, no-nonsense guide to local customs, etiquette and culture with a short overview of the land and people along with practical travel advice.

A Concise History of Mexico - by Brian R. Hamnett - A summary of Mexican history exploring politics, economics, and culture.

Veracruz, Veracruz Mexico: Including its History, Plaza da las Armas, The Municipal Palace, The Carranza Lighthouse, and More - by Sandra Wilkins - Read all about Veracruz Mexico with content from a large community of contributors.

Conquistador: Hernan Cortes, King Montezuma, and the Last Stand of the Aztecs - by Buddy Levy - Hernan Cortes’ arrival to the shores of Mexico and his determination to expand the Spanish empire.

Distant Neighbors: A Portrait of the Mexicans - by Alan Riding

The Oxford History of Mexico - by William Beezley and Michael Meyer

Defending the Land of the Jaguar: A History of Conservation in Mexico - by Lane Simonian

The Mexico Reader: History Culture, Politics (The Latin American Readers) - by Gilbert M. Joseph and Timothy J. Henderson

The Conquest of New Spain - by Bernal Diaz del Castillo - Hernan Cortes’ overthrowing of Montezuma’s Aztec Empire.

Museum of Anthropology of Xalapa - by Universidad Veracruzana

A Guided Tour: Xalapa Museum of Anthropology - by  Ruben Morante Lopez

Travel Like a Local - Map of Veracruz: The Most Essential Veracruz (Mexico) Travel Map for Every Adventure - by Maxwell Fox - Organized in sections for you to better find your way around.

Easy Spanish Phase Book: Over 700 Phrases for Everyday Use - by Dr. Pablo García Loaeza - Quick reference for English to Spanish phrases.

Suggested sources include your local library, local bookstores, www.amazon.com (linked above for your convenience), or www.buteobooks.com. 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.

 

Useful Links +

Learn more about your destination at these external websites, carefully researched for you. Read more

General

Mexico

Jalisco, Mexico

Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico

About Rancho Primavera (also click on the 'birding' tab for a checklist!)

Nature, Wildlife & Biology

Vallarta Botanical Gardens

Birding Yalapa - ebird.org

Avibase Bird Checklist

Mexican butterflies

Conservation, Parks & Reserves

Los Arcos National Marine Park

Conservation efforts at Vallarta Botanical Gardens

Geology & Geography

Cabo Calientes

Costalegre Beaches

Tectonic Map

History & Culture

History of Puerto Vallarta

Brief History – Mexico

Pre-Columbian Mexico

Mexico Culture

Helpful Travel Websites

Licenciado Gustavo Diaz Ordaz International Airport (PVR), Puerto Vallarta

National Passport Information Center

U.S. Department of State, Mexico International Travel Information - Mexico

Homeland Security Real ID Act

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - Mexico

Canada Travel Advise and Advisories - Mexico

Travel Health Pro (UK) – Mexico

Foreign Exchange Rates

ATM Locator

Electricity and Plugs - Mexico

Date, Time, and Holidays – Mexico


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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