Skip to navigation, or go to main content.

WINGS Birding Tours – Itinerary

Costa Rica in July

Tuesday 19 July to Sunday 31 July 2022
with Luke Seitz as leader
The aptly named Yellow-thighed Finch is a common sight on our trip to the highlands at Cerro de la Muerte.
Photo: Rich HoyerThe aptly named Yellow-thighed Finch is a common sight on our trip to the highlands at Cerro de la Muerte. Photo: Rich Hoyer
  • The aptly named Yellow-thighed Finch is a common sight on our trip to the highlands at Cerro de la Muerte.

    The aptly named Yellow-thighed Finch is a common sight on our trip to the highlands at Cerro de la Muerte. Photo: Rich Hoyer

  • White-whiskered Puffbird is always a lucky find in low-elevation rain forests with lots of vines.

    White-whiskered Puffbird is always a lucky find in low-elevation rain forests with lots of vines. Photo: Rich Hoyer

  • The utterly adorable Snowcap is one of the specialties of Rancho Naturalista.

    The utterly adorable Snowcap is one of the specialties of Rancho Naturalista. Photo: Rich Hoyer

  • Red-capped Manakins are often at fruiting trees but sometimes can also be found doing their famous moonwalk displays.

    Red-capped Manakins are often at fruiting trees but sometimes can also be found doing their famous moonwalk displays. Photo: Rich Hoyer

  • We’re in Costa Rica during the peak of the breeding season, and here a Pale-billed Woodpecker approaches his nest.

    We’re in Costa Rica during the peak of the breeding season, and here a Pale-billed Woodpecker approaches his nest. Photo: Rich Hoyer

  • Northern Barred-Woodcreeper is most easily found attending a swarm of army ants in the rain forest.

    Northern Barred-Woodcreeper is most easily found attending a swarm of army ants in the rain forest. Photo: Rich Hoyer

  • Fancy Keel-billed Toucans are actually not a rare sight from roadsides in Costa Rica.

    Fancy Keel-billed Toucans are actually not a rare sight from roadsides in Costa Rica. Photo: Rich Hoyer

  • Broad-billed Motmot is one of the many tropical species that have made Costa Rica famous.

    Broad-billed Motmot is one of the many tropical species that have made Costa Rica famous. Photo: Rich Hoyer

  • Finding a roosting pair of Black-and-white Owls isn’t always expected and makes the short list of favorite birds on the Costa Rica tour.

    Finding a roosting pair of Black-and-white Owls isn’t always expected and makes the short list of favorite birds on the Costa Rica tour. Photo: Rich Hoyer

Costa Rica packs more biodiversity within its borders than seems possible. A central spine of mountains creates contrasting Pacific and Caribbean slopes as ocean currents and prevailing winds create a drier north and wetter south. While our popular March tour tries to cover most of those regions, this itinerary, which we offer only every two or three years, largely explores the super diverse Caribbean slope, from Rancho Naturalista to La Selva to Bijagua. We’ll also have time in the Cerro de La Muerte highlands, rich in regional endemics and the fabled Resplendent Quetzal, before dropping down to lower elevations. Midsummer is a fascinating time in Costa Rica: rain can be frequent but falls mostly later in the day or at night, and temperatures are quite a bit cooler than in the spring; it’s the post-breeding season for most birds, meaning our trip coincides with peak numbers; finally, the press of tourists is much reduced from the peak winter season. Finally, we should note that Costa Rica’s small size and well-developed tourism infrastructure make this (and all our Costa Rica tours) a logistical delight.

Day 1: The tour begins this evening in San José. Night in San José.

Days 2-3: The next two days of high-elevation birding will offer refreshingly cool temperatures, luxuriant cloud forests, and flower-filled gardens—and some amazing birds. Resplendent Quetzal, far and away the most celebrated bird of the region, can be surprisingly easy to see, and we’ll be sure to spend time with this most amazing of trogons. Among the other highland specialties we’ll search for are Fiery-throated Hummingbird, Black-capped Flycatcher, Yellow-winged Vireo, Flame-throated Warbler, and Large-footed and Yellow-thighed Finches. We’ll be mainly birding along quiet roadsides and around beautiful lodges. We’ll also be sure to visit Cerro de la Muerte in search of Volcano Junco, and perhaps if we’re very lucky, even Peg-billed Finch. Nights at Savegre Lodge.

Day 4: We’ll spend the morning in the Talamanca Highlands looking for any species we might not have seen the day before and revisiting hummingbird feeders and fruiting trees frequented by Resplendent Quetzals. A mid-morning departure will put us through Cartago for lunch at a roadside restaurant, and we’ll then continue on down the Caribbean slope. By early afternoon we’ll arrive at our wonderful lodge at a unique mid-elevation location on the Caribbean slope. Night at Rancho Naturalista.

Day 5: We’ll begin the day on the deck at Rancho Naturalista listening to the dawn chorus and watching birds such as lanky Gray-headed Chachalacas and colorful Collared Aracaris visit the feeders below while the hummingbird feeders at eye level are abuzz with activity. Trails that begin just outside our rooms lead into the private forest reserve, where we may see a variety of antwrens, manakins, and tanagers, while a short drive away is a small river valley home to Fasciated Tiger-Herons, Torrent Tyrannulets, and, if we are lucky, the incomparable Sunbittern. A real highlight at Rancho Naturalista are the hummingbird bathing pools where one can watch Crowned Woodnymphs, Purple-crowned Fairies, and Snowcaps dipping into the creek below. We will certainly try for the local Tawny-chested Flycatcher, which can be right around the lodge but is usually quite shy. Night at Rancho Naturalista.

Days 6-7: After another fabulous dawn chorus and burst of activity at the feeders from the balcony of our lodge, we’ll descend the Reventazon Valley to the Caribbean lowlands and towards the Sarapiquí region. Our main destination here is La Selva, a biological station operated by the Organization for Tropical Studies. This roughly 1,400-acre reserve is adjacent to Braulio Carrillo National Park and is managed as a natural research laboratory. About 475 species of birds have been recorded at La Selva, and although we won’t see that many in a one-day visit, we’ll certainly experience the avian richness of the region. La Selva is an excellent place to see Great and Slaty-breasted Tinamous, Rufous and Broad-billed Motmots, Keel-billed Toucans, Pied and White-necked Puffbirds, Great and Fasciated Antshrikes, Black-throated and Gartered Trogons, Snowy Cotinga, White-ringed Flycatcher, Stripe-breasted Wren, Plain-colored Tanager, Black-headed Saltator, and Chestnut-colored, Cinnamon, and Rufous-winged Woodpeckers, among many, many others. Our visit to La Selva will be an especially memorable part of the trip.

We’ll also have time to explore the grounds of our very birdy lodge. Snowy Cotinga might be feeding in the fruiting cecropia trees near the entrance, while a check of the gravel bars on the river might reveal a Sunbittern or a Fasciated Tiger-Heron. Nights at Sueño Azul.

Day 8: We’ll have another morning to look for anything we haven’t seen yet in the La Selva region before heading north towards Caño Negro. We’ll have lunch on the road and arrive in time to check in to our lodging before our afternoon boat trip. This area is incredibly rich in birdlife and we’ll make the most of our time exploring the rich wetlands, gallery forest, and agricultural fields for a number of species that we’re unlikely to see anywhere else on the tour. The rivers are patrolled by numbers of kingfishers, including lots of Amazons and possibly even the diminutive American Pygmy or rare Green-and-rufous. Bare-throated Tiger-Herons stand guard on the riverbanks, while dozens of Northern Jacanas dance on lily pads. Rarer possibilities include shy marsh birds like Pinnated Bittern and Yellow-breasted Crake, the very localized Nicaraguan Grackle, and perhaps Nicaraguan Seed-finch. Night in the Caño Negro region.

Day 9: We’ll do another boat trip this morning on another part of the incredible wetland system, looking for anything we may have missed the previous afternoon. Even if we don’t see anything new, it will be another chance to soak in this spectacular ecosystem that is simply loaded with birdlife!

We’ll then depart by road for the foothills of the Cordillera de Guanacaste. These foothills, a series of isolated volcanoes of only moderate elevation, have a dramatic effect on the climate: the western slopes face the seasonally dry Pacific coast while the eastern slopes receive the prevailing winds from the Caribbean and support a lush forest with many streams. Our hotel for the next three nights is on the Caribbean slope of the dormant volcano of Tenorio. Night in Bijagua.

Days 10–11: We’ll have two full days to explore the birds and natural history of Volcán Tenorio National Park and the Celeste River region. The trails into primary forest and roads along the forest edge will be full of birds. We’ll make a special effort for Tody Motmot, here at the southern edge of its range. Mixed-species flocks here contain multiple tanagers, wrens, and tyrannulets, among many others. Nights in Bijagua.

Day 12: Today is mostly a travel day, but we’ll enjoy a final morning birding around our lodge before loading up and heading back toward San Jose. The drive should take around four hours without any stops, but we’ll plan on a few birding breaks along the way. We’ll keep the exact plan open-ended to give us the opportunity to look for any species that we may have missed thus far. We’ll arrive back in San Jose in the mid-to-late afternoon with time to refresh and pack before our last dinner together at the Hotel Bougainvillea.

Day 13: The tour concludes this morning in San José.

 

Updated: 02 March 2022

Prices

  • 2022 Tour Price : $4,850
  • Single Occupancy Supplement : $570

Notes

Image of

Questions? Tour Manager: Greg Greene. Call 1-866-547-9868 (US or Canada) or (01) 520-320-9868 or click here to email.

* Tour invoices paid by check carry a 4% discount. Details here.

** It may be possible for participants to return to San Jose with our tour vehicle, arriving in the afternoon of day 12.  Please contact the WINGS office for details.

This tour is limited to eight participants with one leader.

Share on Facebook