Skip to navigation, or go to main content.

WINGS Birding Tours – Information

Costa Rica in July

Tour Information

Note: The information presented here is an abbreviated version of our formal General Information for this tour. Its purpose is solely to give readers a sense of what might be involved if they take this tour. Although we do our best to make sure what follows here is completely accurate, it should not be used as a replacement for the formal document which will be sent to all tour registrants, and whose contents supersedes any information contained here.

ENTERING COSTA RICA: U.S. citizens entering by air need a U.S. passport valid for at least six months after the date the tour ends and with at least one blank page for an entry stamp. A tourist card is required and will be issued by your arriving airline. Citizens of other countries may need a visa and should check their nearest Costa Rican embassy.

Proof of Covid vaccination and valid Yellow Fever vaccination is required if you are arriving from a country where the disease is a risk. See for more information.

COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information here:, and the CIA World Factbook background notes on Costa Rica here:

PACE OF THE TOUR: Breakfast time varies from around 5:30am to even 8:00 or 8:30, depending on which lodge we’re at and what our plan is for the morning birding. Most days, we’ll do some pre-breakfast birding from around 6:00 to 7:00, followed by a sit-down breakfast, followed by more birding until lunch. On at least two mornings, we’ll take packed breakfasts to eat on the bus. On the longer travel days, during which we’ll be making birding stops from the vehicle most of the day, we may arrive at our hotel around dark, a tiring pace for some. When we are at a hotel for multiple nights, there will usually be a mid-day break followed by an optional afternoon birding excursion. One can elect to skip afternoon birding and relax at the hotel for these afternoons. There may be one or two night bird forays by foot and/or bus. Almost every day we have an hour or more off at the rooms before checklist and dinner.
The longest birding walks can be 1.5 to 2 miles (2.4 – 3.2 km) round trip, but at a slow pace that will take most of the morning. Much of Costa Rica is rugged and mountainous, so be prepared for some uphill and downhill walking on roads and trails. Rancho Naturalista has trails that can be steep, muddy, and slippery in short sections; although we do not walk rapidly they can be difficult for those whose legs, knees, and feet are not in good shape and for those with balance problems. Our other lodges also have trails that may be steep in places but not muddy. Good foot gear is essential, walking sticks (with wrist straps) are recommended. We often walk very slowly on roads and trails, spending some time standing and watching mixed flocks; some find portable collapsible stools a relief during periods when we are standing in one spot for more than a few minutes.
We will probably visit one location, primarily to search for roosting owls, that requires walking on a very muddy trail (sometimes 6-12” of muddy water!). For this, we highly recommend bringing rubber boots. There are boots available to borrow at the site, but sizes are limited and anyone with larger than a US size 11 will almost certainly be more comfortable bringing their own. Even though we only visit here for a couple hours, we feel that it’s worth taking up some extra space and weight in your luggage with comfortable rubber boots. Those who don’t wish to walk this trail will have the option to stay back at a comfortable spot with chairs and enjoy watching bird feeders.

HEALTH: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all travelers be up to date on routine vaccinations. These include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot. 

They further recommend that most travelers have protection against Hepatitis A and Typhoid. 

Malaria: There is little to no risk of malaria in Costa Rica. Please consult your physician.

Zika: This virus is expanding northward from tropical South America into the northern Caribbean and the southern United States and health authorities are still trying to gauge its full impact. Couples who expect/hope to become pregnant should consult their physician. The virus is transmitted by mosquitos of the genus Aedes, a day-flying mosquito typically found near people in crowded urban environments that have only a minimum of public services like sanitation, window screens, and drainage; in other words locations that aren’t on most tour itineraries. WINGS tours spend most of their time in natural areas where the Aedes aegypti mosquito is altogether absent.

Yellow Fever: There is no Yellow Fever in Costa Rica. 

Please contact your doctor well in advance of your tour’s departure as some medications must be initiated weeks before the period of possible exposure. 

The most current information about travelers’ health recommendations can be found on the CDC’s Travel Health website here:

Elevation: We will be at an elevation of 11,000 feet (3350 meters) briefly one day; otherwise our birding will be below 8,000 feet (2450 meters). 

Insects: Many potential health problems can be prevented by adequate protection against insects. Even when mosquitoes may be sparse, biting gnats and chiggers can still be a nuisance. To be protected, bring plenty of spray repellent and wear long sleeves and pants when in the field. 

Smoking: Smoking is prohibited in vehicles or when the group is gathered for meals, checklists, etc. If you are sharing a room with a non-smoker, please do not smoke in the room. If you smoke in the field, do so well away and downwind from the group. If any location where the group is gathered has a stricter policy than the WINGS policy, that stricter policy will prevail. 

Miscellaneous: We do not often encounter snakes and take time to observe them whenever possible; most are not venomous, and venomous ones are not aggressive; in any event, a small flashlight or headlamp is a necessity for navigating the paths between your rooms and dining areas at each lodge in the evenings. At times we will be remote, and while the lodges have emergency medical supplies, professional medical assistance will be several hours away from some of them. 

One can never completely escape the risk of parasites or fungal infections. Please consult with your physician. Drinking water is purified in San José hotels and restaurants and is potable at our high-elevation lodges. Elsewhere and on our bus, filtered or bottled water is always available. 

CLIMATE: Costa Rica’s climate varies with elevation. Temperatures will range from the 50s °F in the mountains to as high as the low 90s (but more typically low 80’s) at lower elevations. San José, at an elevation of 3,800 feet (1160 m), can be cool, with evening lows in the upper 60’s. Those of you arriving in the evening will want to wear a light sweater. There will almost certainly be some rain and, at higher elevations, temperatures will be cool, and mist and/or rain is possible. Some tours experience more rain than others, especially in the eastern lowlands. Note that in the warm, humid lowlands, raincoats may produce as much moisture inside as they protect you from on the outside. Because of these conditions, an umbrella is a necessary birding accessory.

ACCOMMODATIONS: Our hotels and lodges are always comfortable, usually the best available. All of our lodges have private bathrooms with hot water and electricity. Bathrooms have tubs or showers or both. The tap water is safe to drink in all but two of our hotels, where bottled water is available. As is typical in the tropics, occasionally, small lizards, amphibians or unusual insects may visit a hotel room, especially in the lower elevations. At several of our lodges, the rooms are separate from the reception/dining area. Distances aren’t far, but please be prepared for the possibility of walking a few hundred feet to your room, possibly involving some stairs. Help is always available with luggage.

FOOD: Food in Costa Rica is not known for being distinctive but it is consistently very good and not remotely spicy. Fresh fruit, green vegetables, and tasty main dishes are served at our hotel restaurants and are safe to eat. A well-liked staple for breakfast is gallo pinto, a mix of rice and beans, though cereals, eggs, and fresh fruit are also available. A popular dish is the casado, with sides of beans, rice, plantain, and salad along with a meat or sometimes even vegetarian option. 

Drinks: Bottled water and/or a soft drink or a beer is provided at lunch and dinner, as is coffee or tea. The tap water is drinkable in most of our lodges, but if not, either they will have filtered or bottled water available. Our bus has a cooler with various soft drinks and teas during the day. As it can get hot and dry, we recommend you bring a large, good quality water bottle and keep this topped up.

Food Allergies / Requirements: We cannot guarantee that all food allergies can be accommodated at every destination. Participants with significant food allergies or special dietary requirements should bring appropriate foods with them for those times when their needs cannot be met. Announced meal times are always approximate depending on how the day unfolds. Participants who need to eat according to a fixed schedule should bring supplemental food. Please contact the WINGS office if you have any questions.

TRANSPORTATION: We will be traveling by comfortable, air-conditioned minibus for the whole tour. Some roads are quite bumpy, potholed, and/or winding; anyone susceptible to motion sickness should bring an appropriate remedy. Participants should be able to sit in any seat in our vehicles.

Updated: 08 August 2023