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Costa Rica

Tour Code: CRI01

A 16-day birdwatching holiday to Costa Rica.

dates & prices to be confirmed Land Only Price: £ SRS: £

We begin our tour in the cloudforests of the Talamanca Mountains, home to the Resplendent Quetzal, arguably the most beautiful bird in the world, plus Emerald Toucanet and a dazzling array of hummingbirds. Moving down into the tropical forests of Carara on the Pacific coast we will search for a wonderful range of trogons, woodcreepers, manakins, tanagers and other species which should include the dramatic Scarlet Macaw. Moving north, we will explore the wetlands of La Ensenada Wildlife Reserve before climbing back up to the mountains once again for two nights at the base of Arenal Volcano. Our tour ends in the lush rainforests of the Caribbean Lowlands with a visit to the La Selva Biological station, one of the most ecologically

  • Watch Resplendent Quetzal in the moss-draped cloudforests of the Talamanca Mountains
  • Direct flights to San José with British Airways
  • Around 380 to 400 species of birds typically recorded!
  • Explore the lowland rainforests of La Selva
  • Spectacular scenery of Arenal Volcano National Park
  • Explore the mangroves of Carara National Park
  • Numerous colourful tanagers, New World warblers, toucans & motmots
  • Led by expert local naturalist guide


All included in the price, except for dinner on Day 1 and lunch on Day 15.


Comfortable hotels and lodges, all with private facilities.

Green Violet-ear (uknown)

Green Violet-ear (uknown)

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Fly San José

Day 2/3 Talamanca Mountains

Day 4/5/6 Carara National Park

Day 7/8 La Ensenada Wildlife Reserve

Day 9/10 Arenal Volcano National Park

Day 11/13 Sarapiqui & La Selva

Day 14 San Jose

Day 15 Depart San Jose

Day 16 Arrive London

The small Central American country of Costa Rica lies within one of the richest regions in the world for birds. More species have been recorded here than in the whole of North America, yet Costa Rica is only about the size of Wales! This tour offers the chance to explore a cross-section of the country’s varied habitats and altitudes, primarily in search of birds. The extraordinary diversity of plants, butterflies and amphibians – not to mention scenery – will not go unnoticed, however!


The large number of bird species recorded in Costa Rica – over 850 to date – reflects the tremendous diversity of habitats it offers. Not only does Costa Rica have coastlines on both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, but forest types ranging from lush evergreen cloudforests in the highlands to dry deciduous forests in the lowlands. It also boasts marshes, rivers, mangroves, grasslands and even subalpine páramo.

We will begin our tour with a direct flight to Costa Rica's capital city, San José, from where we climb into the Talamanca Mountains which rise to over 3,350 metres. Here we will have an opportunity to get to know some of the bird families that we will encounter during the course of the tour and to observe a number of species which we will be very unlikely to see elsewhere, such as Peg-billed, Large-footed and Yellow-thighed Finches, Long-tailed Silky Flycatcher and Spangled-cheeked Tanager. Fiery-throated, Magnificent and Volcano Hummingbirds zip from flower to flower (perhaps the first of over 30 species of ‘hummers’ we should see in the next two weeks!), whilst Swallow-tailed Kites soar overhead. The cloudforests of the Talamanca Mountains are also home to the Resplendent Quetzal, often touted as the most beautiful bird in the world! We have an excellent chance of seeing this dramatic species of trogon during our time here along with a host of other colourful birds.

Our next destination will be Carara National Park, a lowland forest reserve on the Pacific coast, which has one of the largest bird lists of any site in Costa Rica. We have two full days here to explore the forest and river edges in search of such species as Great Tinamou, Boat-billed Heron, Black-mandibled Toucan, Black-headed Trogon, Royal Flycatcher and Orange-collared Manakin. An optional boat trip offers the chance to explore the adjacent mangroves home to Roseate Spoonbill, Royal Tern and numerous waders. In the evening we will watch as Scarlet Macaws fly to their night-time roost and look for owls and nightjars.

Moving north along the coast we will spend two nights at La Ensenada Wildlife Refuge which sits adjacent to Palo Verde, one of the most important wetland habitats in all of Costa Rica. During our time here we will explore the wetlands and adjacent dry forests, home to numerous birds and troops of vocal Mantled Howler Monkeys. The nearby Colorado Salinas are an excellent site for migrating waders including Stilt Sandpiper, Willet and Marbled Godwit, whilst Prothonotary Warblers flit about in the fringing mangroves and flocks of Magnificent Frigatebirds circle ominously overhead.  

We will leave La Ensenada early in the morning and travel into the mountains to Arenal Volcano National Park. Here we will spend two nights at a wonderfully positioned lodge whilst we explore the forests, fields, lakeshore and other habitats of this spectacular area, backed by the perfect cone of Arenal Volcano itself. Birds and mammals to look out for include Long-tailed Hermit, Bay-headed Tanager, Northern Tamandua and White-nosed Coati.

Our final three days will be spent in the lowland rainforests of the Caribbean slope, adjacent to the Sarapiqui River, at either Selva Verde Lodge or Sueno Azul Lodge, from where we will visit the tropical forest research station at nearby La Selva. The diversity of birds in this area is outstanding and would warrant a much longer stay if time allowed. During our recent tours we have seen well over 150 species in two days here, including Great Currasow, Keel-billed Toucan, Slaty-tailed Trogon, Rufous-tailed Jacamar and the spectacular Sun Bittern! We will also spend a day exploring the pristine middle elevation forests around the Virgin del Socorro waterfall, before returning to San José for our final night and then flying home.

Mount Arenal (Dave Riley)Magnificent Hummingbird (Chris Kehoe)Green Violet-ear (Roger Parker)Emerald Toucanet (Jo Bentley)Crested Guan (Peter Dale)White-necked Puffbird (Josh Joshi)Laughing Falcon (Josh Joshi)Keel-billed ToucanGreen Iguanas (Josh Joshi)Palo Verde wetlands (Josh Joshi)Snail Kite (Josh Joshi)Roseate Spoonbill (Josh Joshi)Grey Foxes (Josh Joshi)White-nosed Coati (Josh Joshi)Black Spiny-tailed Iguana (Josh Joshi)Purple Throated Mountain Gem, male, Monteverde (John Lockwood)Colorado Salinas (John Lockwood)Coppery-headed Emerald (Paul Stanbury)Boat-billed Heron (Josh Joshi)Green-fronted Lancebill (Colin Sedgwick)Green Violet-ear (Colin Sedgwick)Volcano Hummingbird (Peter Dale)Turquoise-browed Motmot (Colin Sedgwick)White-throated Mountain Gem (Colin Sedgwick)Resplendent QuetzalPacific Screech Owl (John Bennett)Collared Aracari, Costa Rica (Reagan Smith)Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, Costa Rica (Reagan Smith)Boat-billed Heron, Costa Rica (Reagan Smith)Violet-headed Hummingbird, Costa Rica (Reagan Smith)Summer Tanager, Costa Rica (Reagan Smith)Slaty Flowerpiercer, Costa Rica (Reagan Smith)Red-legged Honeycreeper, Costa Rica (Reagan Smith)Purple-throated Mountain Gem, Costa Rica (Reagan Smith)Purple-throated Mountain Gem, Costa Rica (Reagan Smith)Passerinis Tanager, Costa Rica (Reagan Smith)Montezuma Oropendula, Costa Rica (Reagan Smith)Masked Tityra, Costa Rica (Reagan Smith)Lesser Ground Cuckoo, Costa Rica (Reagan Smith)Iguana sp., Costa Rica (Reagan Smith)Green Heron, Costa Rica (Reagan Smith)Green Crowned Brilliant, Costa Rica (Reagan Smith)Green & Black Poisoin Dart Frog, Costa Rica (Reagan Smith)Fiery-throated Hummingbird, Costa Rica (Reagan Smith)Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Costa Rica (Reagan Smith)Double-toothed Kite, Costa Rica (Reagan Smith)Resplendent QuetzalSlaty-tailed TrogonSunbitternSwallow-tailed KiteScarlet MacawsKeel-billed ToucanMacawsProthonotary WarblerWoodstorkWoodstork
The locations and scenery were terrific and we saw all I had hoped for and more, such as 2 Resplendent Quetzal pairs and loads of hummingbirds. A morning of pelicans will live long in the memory. An outstanding trip with lots of variety which gave and gave and gave.
Mr & Mrs S.
Our local guide Paco Madrigal was superb – his spotting skills were outstanding; he had a wide knowledge of plants, trees, birds etc. His communication skills were excellent and above all he was a truly lovely person. Carlos our driver was also excellent. The lodges were all good and the location of some were stunning e.g. at Arenal. The varied habitats were brilliant too, each with their own particular charm and beauty, plus varied species of birds etc.
Enjoyed the numerous lodges we stayed in which gave a good flavour of Costa Rica. Local guide Paco Madrigal was exceptional. He had tremendous knowledge and enthusiasm and was very personable. Dave also made this a very memorable and enjoyable trip for us.
East Sussex
We thoroughly enjoyed the trip and Chris Kehoe and local guide Esteban Biamonte have superb knowledge of the birds we saw and were very willing to share it with first-time visitors to Costa Rica like ourselves. The hotels were excellent and the transport, and driver Alberto, meant we visited all the birding areas safely and in comfort.
Chris gave us a very well organised tour, he really knew his patch and made sure we all got the best out of the birds whatever our level of expertise. Santiago was a good driver and knew the birds, he and Chris made a good team. We saw a wide range of habitats and moved around Costa Rica, but never felt rushed…a great holiday. Thanks.
This was a most enjoyable holiday and Costa Rica, as a country and for it’s wildlife, exceeded all my expectations. It was well organised and superbly led by Chris Kehoe. The accommodation throughout was excellent and the ‘Hacienda’ was a bit special!
I think it was a first class holiday. You couldn’t wish for a better guy to run the show out in Costa Rica, his bird knowledge, and the time he gave to all on the trip was second to none.
R. & D.S,
West Yorkshire
This was value for money, everyone got on, Chris was good and nice, and Costa Rica is a wonderful country and we are glad we have been. Thank for everything.
The Hacienda had a lovely atmosphere, very homely and real. Our leader Chris Kehoe was very knowledgeable, and experienced as a group leader. He was intelligent with an acerbic sense of humour and ran a tight and efficient ship.
The BA service was excellent. The Hacienda was particularly individual. All the areas chosen were particularly appropriate for wildlife and scenically beautiful. Chris was a personality I shall never forget; strong, humorous, knowledgeable and efficient.
It was the best Naturetrek trip I have been on so far.
T. & H.E.
This was an excellent trip. The Hacienda was a wonderful place, tranquil and a superb base to watch birds and wildlife while experiencing real Costa Rican hospitality. Our guide, Demitrio, was a very experienced man, and really knew his birds and was passionate about his job. All the local guides used were excellent, and I have to say a special word about Santiago, our driver, who was charming and charismatic, a good driver and skilled birdwatcher! The number and variety of birds we saw was amazing and I would have no hesitation in recommending this tour or this beautiful diverse country to anyone who wishes to experience Central America at its best.
Chris Kehoe was an exceptional leader. Exceptional at bird identification and tireless in his efforts to make the trip go well. (I am not sure he ever slept). We will definitely use Naturetrek again.
Colin is an excellent leader with a very impressive knowledge of the local birds.
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We will be running this tour in the near future but as yet have not finalised dates and prices. To register your interest and be added a waiting list to be informed when details are confirmed, please contact us or phone 01962 733051.

Visiting: Costa Rica

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The locations and scenery were terrific and we saw all I had hoped for and more, such as 2 Resplendent Quetzal pairs and loads of hummingbirds. A morning of pelicans will live long in the memory. An outstanding trip with lots of variety which gave and gave and gave.
P.H., London