Costa Rica is justly well-known for its national parks, wildlife and for being one of the best areas for birding on earth, with some 900 species, nearly 70 of which are found nowhere else. It is an intensely beautiful country of volcanic peaks separating quite distinct ecological zones, each with its characteristic flora and fauna. It would be impossible to cover all of this in a couple of weeks, but we aim to give you the best possible experience on this carefully designed itinerary. You will stay at top quality small hotels and lodges and will enjoy superb, easy birding with excellent local guides, but what makes the trip really special is that you will have your own knowledgeable driver/birding guide at your disposal, for the entirety of your holiday.
Day 1 SAN JOSE
Our representative will meet you at the airport and will provide transfer to Bougainvillea Hotel for your first night in Costa Rica.
One night stay at BOUGAINVILLEA HOTEL – Breakfast and dinner included
Here you will easily forget that you are just 15 minutes from downtown or the airport. Set amidst the coffee farms of Santo Domingo de Heredia, the hotel has extensive gardens dominated by tall trees and brightened by plentiful flowers. Hotel Bougainvillea has the charm you would expect of a family owned and operated hotel. Rooms are large with two double beds, a sitting area and the full range of facilities. Each has a balcony offering marvellous views of the mountains on one side and the San José skyline on the other.
Days 2 & 3 BAJOS DEL TORO
After breakfast you will meet your driver/guide, who will be with you for the duration of the trip and is very knowledgeable on this location, including birding. You will then depart for Bajos Del Toro, which is approximately 1.5 hrs from San Jose.
Two nights stay at BOSQUE DE PAZ LODGE – Full Board included
Bosque de Paz Lodge is a lush jungle paradise, surrounded by magnificent cloud and rain forests, with all the richness of the tropics. Bosque de Paz Biological Reserve, is a natural biological corridor located in the Continental Divide, between the Poas Volcano National Park and the Juan Castro Blanco Water National Park. It therefore has some of the best birdwatching in Costa Rica. More than 331 species of birds have been recorded at Bosque de Paz since July 1997, including Resplendent Quetzal, Scaled Antpitta, Black Guan, Emerald Toucanet, Three Wattled Bellbird, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Zeledonia, and Silvery-fronted, Tapaculo, Black–faced Solitaire, American Dipper, Golden-browed Chlorophonia, among many others and abundant hummingbirds.
Your two days here will be spent birding on the Bosque de Paz trails with your guide. You can also visit the Orchid Gardens.
Days 4-7 Maquenque National Wildlife Refuge – Boca Tapada, San Carlos.
3 nights stay at MAQUENQUE ECO-LODGE – Full Board Included.
Maquenque Eco-lodge is a new 60 hectare reserve located just north of Boca Tapada, San Carlos and offers easy access to the newly created Maquenque National Wildlife Refuge, which is 60.000 hectares in size. Surrounded by tropical rainforests and bordering the Majestic San Carlos River, it has become famous for being a unique region for ecology, wildlife observation, birding and adventure tours. There is a great variety of flora and fauna, making this the perfect place for bird lovers. Currently, we have identified more than 410 species of birds here, including the endangered Great Green Macaw (Ara Ambiguus) and Scarlet Macaw (Ara Macao). The Lodge consists of just 14 beautiful bungalows, each equipped with private bath and beautifully decorated and furnished bedrooms. Included in the room rate are one guided hiking tour, a ‘plant a tree’ tour, a visit to the local school and a canoeing tour.
Day 5 Early Bird watching Tour
Some of the species that can be found in our forests in addition to the Macaws are Toucans, Oropendolas, Honeycreepers, Tanagers, Euphonias and Jacamars, just to mention a few!
The tour will start at 5:30 am and the local Ornithologist Guide will take you through the gardens and lagoons until there is enough sunlight to enter the forest paths, the nesting place for many bird species.
Day 6 Rainforest Tour
After enjoying a delicious breakfast, you will enter the tropical rainforest within the hotel’s property, where you will begin a guided trek of 3 km, lasting about 2.5 hrs. During this tour it is possible to observe a great variety of flora and fauna, while your local Naturalist Guide explains everything. You will also visit the Botanical Garden and the Medicinal Garden, closing the tour at the Hotel´s Gardens.
Days 7 & 8 ARENAL
2 nights stay at ARENAL OBSERVATORY LODGE – Breakfast Included.
Set on a ridge 1.7 miles from the Arenal Volcano, Arenal Observatory Lodge offers the adventurous traveller front-row seating for one of the world’s most famous volcanos. The hotel sits in a private nature reserve in the heart of one of Costa Rica’s greenest areas, where volcanic ash supports primary and secondary rainforest, while waterfalls and crystalline rivers offer sparkling jungle refreshment. The lodge features 45 comfortable rooms, most of them with a great view of the volcano and the extravagant green surroundings. A well-marked and manicured trail system traverses the property and provides easy access to the breathtaking rainforest and magnificent views of the volcano. There is an infinity swimming pool tiled in cobalt blue and a sunken bubbling Jacuzzi providing soothing relaxation beneath a glass gazebo that frames the volcano’s peak against a starry sky. As well as bird watching, a host of other activities await the spirited adventurer: mountain biking, whitewater rafting, canopy tours, fishing, horse-back riding among others. Dinner here is not included and will give you the opportunity to try recommended local restaurants.
Early Private Bird Watching Tour near the Arenal Volcano and Sky Walk
Enjoy an early birding tour around the volcano with our local guide, before going on an amazing Sky Walk guided tour.
Sky Walk uses trails and a series of suspension bridges, which offers fantastic views of the flora and fauna of the forest canopy. It allows a vision of the forest from a different perspective which starts with a hike on the ground, before allowing you to explore the treetops, a hardly discovered habitat called the “canopy” with a local naturalist guide.
In Costa Rica, Sky Adventures was the pioneer in building hanging bridges, with the introduction of Sky Walk, which was designed to admire the forest from unique viewpoints. Sky Walk’s bridges cross vast canyons and bring visitors face to face with the upper level of the forest canopy.
Days 9 & 10 SARAPIQUI
2 nights at SELVA VERDE LODGE – Half Board
A 2.5hr drive will take you from Arenal to Sarapiqui. Selva Verde lodge provides easy access to the wonders of the rainforest. For over 30 years, it has been a haven for nature enthusiasts from around the world. The abundant biodiversity, comfortable rainforest lodge and exciting activities are ideal for bird and wildlife watchers and adventure seekers.
On your first day here, you can enjoy the birding and wildlife at the lodge trails or at nearby areas with your guide.
Day 10 Bird watching at La Selva
This morning you will have an early private bird watching tour at LA Selva Biological Station, which is operated by the Organization for Tropical Studies and is one of the most important sites in the world for research on tropical rainforests. La Selva connects to the northern base of Braulio Carrillo National Park and is a centerpiece of the San Juan – La Selva Biological Corridor.
This site comprises of 1,614 hectares (3,988 acres) of old growth and disturbed tropical wet forest. The species diversity here is spectacular, as La Selva is home to more than the half of the 886 species of birds in Costa Rica! Some of the more fantastic species found at La Selva include the Bare-necked Umbrella Bird, Red-capped Manakin, Great Antshrike, and the Rufous-tailed Jacamar. You can check the full birding list at http://www.threepaths.co.cr/laselva_species_birds.shtml.
The excellent trail system and their knowledgeable naturalist guides will lead you through a variety of habitats, from dense primary rain forest to open pasturelands. Early morning walks are offered at 5:45am and lasts approximately 2 hours. Afternoon birding tours are also offered and Keel-billed Toucans, Great Green Macaws, Wood Thrushes, Grey-necked Wood Rails, Sunbitterns and Violet Crowned Woodnymphs are just a few of the birds that inhabit the Selva Verde Rainforest Reserve, a true birding hotspot that has been captivating beginner and expert alike for decades.
Days 11-14 SAN GERARDO DE DOTA
Today we will head towards San Gerardo de Dota, around 4.5hrs drive. A haven for birdwatchers and hikers, the town of San Gerardo de Dota is huddled up against the soaring Talamanca Mountain Range. Nestled in the Savegre River Valley, tourism hasn’t quite hit this quaint settlement, which provides direct access to the recently named Los Quetzales National Park. Nature enthusiasts will marvel at the plethora of hummingbird and woodpeckers, whose buzzing and hard labour fills the forest air. Around 200 bird species inhabit the misty forests, including tanagers and of course, resplendent quetzals, who mate during the first months of the year. Peccaries and coyotes also scurry around the beautiful, dense forests full of moss covered oaks and tropical plant species.
3 nights at SAVEGRE LODGE – Half Board
Hotel Savegre is a private nature reserve of almost 400 hectares (988 acres) with a network of trails of around 30 km. (18.6 miles) that start and end at the hotel. The reserve has a spectacularly high level of biodiversity that attracts visitors from all over the world. It is also a scientific field research site, but for resident guests it is mostly a place of great peace and tranquility.
Day 12 Full day guided birding at Savegre Lodge
This an area that offers superlative birding, so much so that San Gerardo de Dota is the only destination in Costa Rica mentioned in the book: Fifty Places to Go Birding Before You Die – Experts Share the World’s Greatest Destinations. Morning birdsong heralds the start of an unforgettable experience in the cloud forest. During breakfast at Savegre Lodge, the hummingbirds give you an indication of what the day will bring. Afterwards, you will meet your local guide at the hotel reception and set out on your walk of the surroundings. The bird list here has more than 170 species and some are endemic to the area. Along the trails, you will be able to find the most elusive and hard-to-spot species, real trophies for birders who want to increase their life list. The full bird list can be seen at http://www.costaricabirdingtours.com/birdchecklist/savegre-birdlist.pdf
Day 13 Waterfall Hike with our guide
This outing takes you along a trail leading to the dramatic Savegre River waterfalls. Wonderful views and colourful birds surround you as you walk along the river bank. It takes about an hour to reach the bridge where the first waterfall is found and crossing it, you reach the “cave”, a huge rock carefully placed by nature’s hand thousands of years ago. You then continue to the second waterfall with its imposing 30-meter (98-foot) falls.
Day 14 Transfer to San Jose Airport
Private transfer to international airport for your flight back home.
Day 15 – Arrive UK