Please note: this page gives details of our 2010 trip.

For details of our 2011 trips please click here




the ecotraveller’s top destination



"Many thanks for a great trip to Costa Rica, we thoroughly enjoyed it."......  Mr and Mrs W, East Sussex


"Many thanks for organising such a splendid Bird Holiday to Costa Rica. ."......  Mr H, Cumbria.





Costa Rica, Spanish for ‘Rich Coast’, is certainly rich in wildlife. At our easy pace we normally record over 400 species of birds in two weeks. The birds are just an indicator of exactly how rich in wildlife this country is, for we also see various mammals, plus tree frogs, iguanas, crocodiles, caimans and a fantastic array of butterflies, moths and other insects. We will also visit one of Central America’s most active volcanoes, Arenal.


Within Costa Rica’s boundaries, there is an extremely diverse array of habitatscloud and rain forest, gallery forest, grasslands, open dry forest, marshes, estuaries and mangroves. A mountain ridge divides the Pacific and Caribbean slopes, each having its own unique flora and fauna. Some 600 species of birds are permanent residents, supplemented by migrants from the north. Other attractions include the Resplendent Quetzal, hailed by some to be the most beautiful bird in the world; a multitude of dazzling hummingbirds; and other birds and wildlife such as toucans, parrots, monkeys, sloths, armadillos and poison arrow frogs.


Politically, Costa Rica is very stable, with no standing army, and democratically elected governments which have, over the last four decades, set aside huge areas of land as national parks, protecting all of the existing ecosystems.





We will arrive in the early evening and transfer to our hotel on the outskirts of San Jose, for one night. There are some good birds to be found in the excellent hotel grounds including Blue-crowned Motmot, Prevost’s Ground-sparrow and several species of hummingbird.



On the next three nights we will be staying at the remote La Savegre Mountain Hotel in Cerro de la Muerte, part of the Talamanca range. Here we will be deep in a rich cloud forest full of huge oaks and other native trees. This is one of the best places in the country to see the Resplendent Quetzal as well as high montane species such as Long-tailed Silky Flycatcher and Fiery-throated Hummingbird. We have chosen Savegre over the more popular Monteverde, for exactly that reason. Monteverde is so popular that it has become a victim of its own success; the trails are very busy with bus loads of tourists, and the mountain is overrun with commercial ventures.


Quiet, pleasant Savegre has recorded 170 species of birds and a long list of mammals in the hotel grounds. The Resplendent Quetzal regularly nests in the garden too!


The gardens are well stocked with flowers attracting many species of hummingbird. Natural forest surrounds us and we can take walks directly from the hotel. Here we will see yet more quetzals, and a range of high altitude species such as Black-and-Yellow Silky Flycatchers, Slaty Flowerpiercer, Sooty Robin and Black-thighed Grosbeak. The attractive Collared Whitestart is found here; its confiding nature has led it to be given the local name, Amigo de Hombre.


A drive to slightly higher altitude takes us into cloud forest dripping with epiphytes and rich in birds. We will continue up above the tree line for some truly high altitude species like the much sought-after Volcano Junco and Timberline Wren.



We will spend the next three nights at Sueno Azul with its pleasant gardens. Biological diversity at nearby La Selva reserve is very high, as is typical of lowland neotropical rainforest. Over 400 species of bird have been recorded. Resident mammals include Howler Monkey, Spider Monkey, White-faced Capuchin, Agouti, Tree Porcupine and two species of sloth.


It is hard to explain just how good this area is to anyone who has not been there. As an indicator of the wealth of wildlife, we will probably spend a whole morning just birding the entrance road to La Selva. We will return there another day so we have time to visit the reserve itself. Days could be spent just birding the hotel grounds, so any spare time can be used productively.


The great diversity of bird life is impossible to cover in this limited space. Slaty-breasted Tinamou, Great Potoo, Bat Falcon, Short-tailed Nighthawk, Crested Owl, Band-tailed Barbthroat, Crowned Woodnymph, Black-throated Trogon, Keel-billed Toucan, Cinnamon Becard, Snowy Cotinga, Red-capped Manakin, Montezuma Oropendola and Crimson-collared Tanager are just some of the species which occur.


On one afternoon we will take a boat trip on the Sarapiqui, looking for Sungrebes and Sunbitterns.



On day eight we will drive to Villa Lapas, our hotel for the next three nights, situated next door to Carara. The superb hotel gardens are excellent for birds. A river runs past the restaurant, where White Ibis and Bare-throated Tiger-heron come to feed.


Most of this reserve is covered with primary forest, where we can hope to find such spectacular birds as Squirrel Cuckoo, Fiery-billed Aracari, Orange-collared Manakin and Northern Royal Flycatcher. Gallery forest at the edge of the Rio Tarcoles holds an equally wide range of species, such as Great Tinamou, Spectacled Owl and Little Hermit. Wetlands are home to Least Grebe, Anhinga, Northern Jacana and both Ringed and Amazon Kingfishers.


We will take a boat trip on the Rio Tarcoles through the mangroves and sandbars to see Boat-billed Herons, Brown Pelicans and Roseate Spoonbills. We have seen many good species in and around the mangroves including White-necked Puffbird, Rufous-necked Wood-rail and Pacific Screech Owl. Watching over the Rio Tarcoles bridge we will see magnificent Scarlet Macaws, while impressive American Crocodiles bask on the banks.



On day 11 we will birdwatch locally in the morning, before driving to our next hotel, the superb Arenal Observatory Lodge, for a two night stay. This is an excellent area for middle-elevation species, and gives us great views (at a safe distance!) of Costa Rica’s most active volcano, Arenal.


From here we will transfer to the lovely La Ensenada for one night. This ranch on the edge of the Guanacaste region will give us a whole new suite of dry forest and grassland birds. A boat trip to the edge of Palo Verde National Park will no doubt yield many exciting wetland species, perhaps including the mighty Jabiru.


Finally, we will drive back to San Jose, spending the last night here before our return flight home.




Most days we will make an early start but have a siesta in the afternoon, when the temperature is at its highest and the birding is quiet. On some days breakfast will be taken later, giving us time for optional pre-breakfast walks in the vicinity of the hotels. These are particularly productive as all the hotels have good habitat on their doorsteps. Basic fitness is all that is required and the pace will be relaxed. There is some uphill walking, but at a sensible pace.



Full-board accommodation is provided, with one night at the Hotel Bougainvillea near San Jose, three nights at La Savegre, three nights at Sueno Azul near La Selva, three nights at Villa Lapas, Carara, two nights at Arenal Observatory Lodge, one night at La Ensenada and one night back in San Jose. All accommodation is of a high standard with private facilities en suite. Most lunches will be taken at the lodges, with packed lunches when this is not practical.



All birdwatching excursions with expert leader and local guide, full-board accommodation (starting with dinner on 27th, ending with lunch on 13th), soft drinks at meal times, local transport by mini-coach, park entrance fees, boat trips, international flights and airport taxes.



Travel insurance. Personal items, alcoholic drinks, laundry.



Return flight from London Heathrow to San Jose (via Madrid) using the scheduled services of Iberia Airlines. Outbound flight departs early morning, return flight arrives back late afternoon. It is pleasing that there is no longer a need to stop in Miami. Connecting shuttle flights are available on this tour for £70 return (due at time of booking), from Manchester and other regional airports. However, due to the flight times it may be necessary to stay overnight at Heathrow.



15 nights including

one overnight flight:


Principal leader:


Local guide:


Maximum group size:


Cost with discount

(if you book before

14th November 2009):


Full Cost:


Single supplement:






27th Feb. to 14th March 2010


John McLoughlin


provided by Cotinga Tours


10 clients with one leader

and a local guide



£3380 per person sharing


£3530 per person sharing







John took a group to Costa Rica in March and Paul's father, Ian joined the group. Here are a few of his photographs.

female (left) and male White-throated Mountaingem

Resplendent Quetzal and Montezuma Oropendola

Magnificent Hummingbird (left) and Green Violetear

Male Great Curassow

Arenal Volcano

Common Nighthawk

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