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Costa Rica – easy birding and natural history

The perfect introduction to the Tropics, exploring Costa Rica’s exciting landscapes and bird life.

Costa Rica is a natural history paradise, as discovered by those who travelled with us on our five previous visits to this biodiverse country, where a high percentage of the land is managed for conservation. The wildlife in the tropics will captivate both the new and the more seasoned traveller as we explore coastal forests and mangroves, cloud forests, rain forests and dramatic volcanic cones. Visiting national parks and reserves, we pass through several different regions. As we travel we will also find out about the ecology, agriculture, and the culture and history of Costa Rica. Accommodation is mostly at attractive lodges and our travel is at a comfortable pace, by coach and boat.

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We begin at Poas Volcano where there are spectacular tropical rainforests and beautiful waterfalls. Moving to the Talamanca mountains, we explore high cloud forest with a chance to see the Resplendent Quetzal! We then move to La Ensenada Wildlife Refuge set amongst the dry forests of the Pacific coast, before exploring the Arenal N.P. and visiting this famous volcanic area. At Caño Negro we will travel by boat, looking for monkeys and forest birds along the banks of the Rio Frio. At La Selva Biological Station in the Caribbean lowlands we join local conservationists to gain an insight into conservation work in the Tropics. The exciting Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean coast is not accessible by road but, travelling by boat to our lodge, we have a wonderful tour through the waterways. Walks on easy trails will give us many chances to see howler monkeys, fruit-eating bats, poison-dart frogs, and many tropical plants.

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Wildlife Travel Costa Rica 2018

Please note that holidays change, although sometimes only slightly, from year to year and previous trip reports may not reflect the planned itinerary, or other holiday details, for the current trip. Please ask us if you would like to know of any significant differences.

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Return flights: UK to San Jose. Local transport as specified in itinerary. Fourteen nights’ accommodation (one extra night is overnight flight), full board basis.

Not included

Drinks and refreshments. Gratuities. Travel insurance.

Costa Rica offers the opportunity to see a wealth of neotropical wildlife. Our tour takes in a variety of extremely rich habitats where we should find birds in profusion, as well as mammals, reptiles, butterflies and some wonderful tropical plants

Day 1 Fly to San Jose, arriving in the late afternoon and transfer to hotel.

Day 2 We visit Poas Volcano enjoying the wonderful view of one of the most accessible volcanoes in the country, before visiting La Paz Waterfall.

Day 3 We head to the area of San Gerardo de Dota in the Talamanca Mountains, travelling through deep cloud forest filled with huge oaks and other native species, stopping along the way to watch hummingbirds and look for the ‘most beautiful’ bird of the Americas, the Resplendent Quetzal!

Day 4 We travel higher, to the paramo habitat of Cerro de la Muerte and explore part of the famous Los Quetzales National Park.

Day 5 We travel to the sunny Central Pacific area, stopping en route for a boat trip on the Tarcoles River. The dry forest in this area is a wonderful contrast to the cloud forest and has a very different set of species. We will watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean.

Day 6 We will spend today exploring the reserve that surrounds our lodge, La Ensenada Wildlife Refuge. We will spend our time in the unique and endangered dry forest and go on a tractor ride through the reserve to the salt ponds and wetlands.

Day 7 We head for the northern area of the country with time to explore the landscape around the Arenal Volcano before arriving at our hotel in the afternoon.

Day 8 We head out to Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge, where we will go on two river boat safaris along the Rio Frio for great and close up views of birds and reptiles found along the river.

Day 9 We will spend all day in the Arenal National Park, walking the ‘lava flow’ trail around the lake, looking for howler monkeys, Great Curassow, Keel-billed Toucan and many other species.

Day 10 We transfer to the lowlands of the Caribbean side of the country in the Sarapiqui region – rainforest, beautiful rivers, and many birds.

Day 11 We spend the day at La Selva Biological Station, a reserve with wonderful trails and canopy walkways through stands of giant trees giving excellent views of birds, orchids and many other plants that grow high up in the forest. We will find out more about the research being carried out here, at one of the most famous places for tropical research studies in the world.

Day 12 We travel to the fabulous Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean coast, which can be reached only by boat or plane. We plan to arrive in time for lunch, visiting the nearby village in the afternoon to experience the local lifestyle. After dinner, we will take a guided night walk through the lodge grounds.

Day 13 We will take boat trips along the canals to look for otters, turtles and various species of herons and kingfishers. We will also explore the trails – with a good chance of finding animals such as howler, white-faced capuchin and spider monkeys, poison-dart frogs, caiman and many different plants.

Day 14 We again travel by boat through the canals, exploring the riverside habitat on the way, before continuing to San Jose.

Day 15 We will visit a local finca in an area of dry forest and grassland before our flights home, arriving in the UK on Day 16.

Please note that the itinerary may be changed to suit the weather or other practicalities or at the discretion of the leaders. During this holiday, you will need to be able to climb in and out of small boats, sometimes directly onto the bank. 

All of the lodges and hotels are of a very good standard, some with very attractive settings and all with very good meals. All the rooms have private bathrooms with hot water and are either air-conditioned or have ceiling fans where needed. Some lodges may have a swimming pool available. Single rooms are available in all locations. The exact lodge or hotel used may be changed if any local conditions change or if we feel a different choice would suit our needs better.

All meals are included – we will be lunching in cafés/restaurants or at our hotels although we may take a picnic on some days if needed.

We will ensure that our travelling is as comfortable as possible. There will be days when we are transferring from one area to another where the journey may take much of the day but we will take plenty of stops for comfort breaks and to enjoy interesting areas. Some journeys will be made by boat (to Tortuguero).

The group flights are with Iberia from London Heathrow.

Costa Rica is six hours behind UK time.

You must have a valid passport for this trip (recommended valid for at least six months after the end of the holiday). A temporary tourist visa is issued on arrival in Costa Rica if you hold a UK passport. For holders of other passports it is essential that you check with your embassy or consulate and obtain the necessary documents prior to travel.


We will be travelling in the dry season making travelling easier and with less likelihood of rain in some areas.

In the lowland rainforest of the Caribbean side, a number of plant species are in flower at any one time, depending on local climate patterns, and this area, and the mountains, can be visited at any time of year to see a good variety of birds, other animals and plants. March is a good time of year to visit the drier Pacific coast.

In the lowlands, particularly on the coast, it can be humid and relatively hot but we will adapt our plans to the temperatures. The cloud forest is, effectively, a higher altitude rain forest and we can expect generally cooler weather with, perhaps, some showers.

No strenuous walking is involved but you need to have a reasonable level of general fitness to be able to participate in the holiday. The tour visits several locations and travelling in the tropics can be tiring if you are not used to it. However, the trip is designed to be relatively comfortable so please discuss any concerns with us.

The highest altitude will be c 3100m at Cerro de la Muerte (the lodge is at a lower elevation). There is some risk of altitude sickness although rest and drinking plenty of water usually relieve any mild effects (headaches and tiredness). If you have suffered from altitude problems before or are suffering from any medical condition, you should take your doctor’s advice.

As we are in the tropics, the sun is very strong, even when it appears overcast. Sun protection (hat, sunglasses and suncream) is essential. We avoid walking far in the hottest part of the day.

There are no compulsory inoculations for Costa Rica but some are recommended. We do not visit any yellow fever areas. We do visit Limon Province (Tortuguero) where there is a risk of Malaria. The FCO linked Health website suggests that the risk is more than ‘very low’ and that it is therefore advisable to take malaria preventative medicine. You should consult your own doctor for specific advice. General inoculations for overseas travel are recommended.