Costa Rica | Birder’s Paradise: Savegre, Sarapiquí, Arenal, and Carara

Costa Rica | Birder’s Paradise: Savegre, Sarapiquí, Arenal, and Carara

About this trip

Embark on a comprehensive excursion perfect for avid birders wishing to add to their life list: You’ll be rewarded with ample opportunities to seek out some of the hundreds of avian species that call Costa Rica home. Visit hotspots encompassing a variety of habitats—such as Caribbean lowlands, premontane forest, tropical dry forest, mangroves, páramo, and more—during hikes, boat rides, and a hanging bridge canopy tour. Accompanied by one of our expert Costa Rican birding guides, you'll look for sought-after residents and migrant species and experience the breadth and depth of the country's diverse natural beauty.

Highlights

  • Bird the trails of the world-renowned La Selva Biological Station, where more than half of Costa Rica’s species have been recorded.
  • Enjoy excellent vantage points—including grassland, secondary forest, a river, and a natural spring—at a private ecological reserve near Arenal Volcano.
  • Spend a full day in Carara National Park, an ecologically diverse hotspot due to its location at the convergence of northwestern tropical dry forest and humid southern Pacific rainforest.
  • Seek out regional endemics like the Volcano Junco and White-throated Mountain-gem, plus the highly coveted Resplendent Quetzal, in the temperate forest and páramo habitats of Cerro de la Muerte​.
11 Travelers

$2,875

Land Cost

Group size

Book 10 travelers and 1 group
leader travels for free

13 Travelers

$2,695

Land Cost

Group size

Book 12 travelers and 1 group
leader travels for free

San Jose

Day 1

Arrive in San José and transfer to Villa San Ignacio, located just minutes from the airport in the charming town of Alajuela. Check in at the hotel and enjoy the stunning views of San José's Central Valley. Elevation is 3,100 feet. Check-in is at 3 pm.

Overnight at Villa San Ignacio

Sarapiqui

Day 2

This morning, meet for breakfast and an orientation in the hotel restaurant, followed by an introductory presentation on tropical birding from a local expert. Check out of the hotel and start your journey to Selva Verde Lodge & Rainforest Reserve. En route, stop for birding at Cinchona and Virgen del Socorro if road conditions permit. Selva Verde Lodge is situated in the Caribbean lowlands, at elevations ranging from 180 to 220 feet. Established by the Holbrook family in 1985, the lodge is renowned for its commitment to ecological preservation and sustainability. The reserve is home to a large assortment of avian life, including several types of herons, egrets, hawks, falcons, macaws, hummingbirds, flycatchers, warblers, sparrows, and tanagers. Specific species often spotted at Selva Verde include the Keel-billed Toucan, Sunbittern, Crimson-collared Tanager, Wood Thrush, Crowned Woodnymph, and Russet-naped Wood-Rail. Selva Verde is also home to the endangered Great Green Macaw, a species that seems to be recovering thanks to area conservation efforts. They can occasionally be found feeding on the giant fruiting almond trees in the rainforest. Have lunch and a brief orientation to get acquainted with the facilities before birding on the lodge trails. This evening, after dinner, take a walk in search of nocturnal species.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Selva Verde Lodge

Sarapiquí

Day 3

Depart at dawn for the world-famous Organization for Tropical Studies La Selva Biological Station for early morning birding in the tropical wet forest. La Selva consists of approximately 2,500 acres of land, more than half of which is virgin forest. The area averages more than 13 feet of rainfall each year and is one of the longest-studied rainforests in the world. More than half of Costa Rica's recorded bird species have been spotted at La Selva, including the Bare-necked Umbrellabird, Red-capped Manakin, Great Antshrike, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Slaty-tailed Trogon, Striped Cuckoo, Slaty Spinetail, Yellow-tailed Oriole, and Rufous-tailed Jacamar. Return to the lodge for lunch and time at leisure.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Selva Verde Lodge

Sarapiquí

Day 4

Begin the day with birding around Selva Verde grounds and reserve. Later this afternoon, take a boat ride on the Sarapiquí River. While winding down the river bordered with forests and cultivated fields, look for aquatic animals, birds, and reptiles in their natural habitat. You may also see residents going about their daily lives and witness the impact local banana plantations have on this watershed.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Selva Verde Lodge

Arenal

Day 5

Depart for Arenal Observatory Lodge this morning, with a stop at La Fortuna's EcoCenter Danaus. This private ecological reserve also develops programs for conservation, training, environmental education and sustainable production. There are a number of optimal birding locations to explore; the grassland areas, the bridge over the Burío River, the secondary forest, and the natural spring are all excellent vantage points to seek out some of the 150 species found here. Have lunch in La Fortuna and continue to the hotel. Arenal Observatory is the only eco-lodge situated between Lake Arenal and the massive Arenal stratovolcano, and the only hotel within the boundaries of Arenal National Park. Set on a ridge amid towering pine trees on the south side of the volcano, the lodge offers seven miles of well-maintained trails on more than 800 acres. It is a birder's paradise, with more than 400 species being recorded here. Some of the more spectacular local residents include the Three-wattled Bellbird, Fasciated Tiger-Heron, Laughing Falcon, Red-lored Parrot, Great Curassow, Northern Jacana, Steely-vented Hummingbird, and Keel-billed Toucan. There is also plenty of other wildlife in the area, including three species of monkeys. Elevations range from 1,650 to 2,950 feet.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Arenal Observatory Lodge

Arenal

Day 6

Early this morning go birding on the lodge's trails. Have breakfast, and then depart for Arenal Hanging Bridges. Six of the 15 bridges are suspended in the upper canopy of this mature forest trail system (elevation is approximately 1,900 feet). The trail system straddles different types of ecosystems, forming a transitional vegetation-strip of high biodiversity where both highland and lowland species reside. There is an excellent chance to see motmots and jacamars. Return to the lodge for lunch, and this afternoon continue birding on the lodge's trails.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Arenal Observatory Lodge

Carara

Day 7

Travel to Villa Lapas today, arriving in time for lunch at the lodge. Later this afternoon, when it cools off a little bit, go for a boat ride along the Tárcoles River to watch for both water and shore birds, like the Double-striped Thick-knee, Roseate Spoonbill, jacanas, and ducks. The Tárcoles River basin is one of the most important in the Pacific coastal region; it drains virtually the entire western side of the Central Valley. Tárcoles hosts an amazing diversity of wildlife along its banks. The river is a perfect place to catch a glimpse of mangrove specialties such as the rare Rufous-necked Wood-Rail, Mangrove Hummingbird, American Pygmy Kingfisher, Panama Flycatcher, Mangrove Vireo, Mangrove (Yellow) Warbler, and Scrub Greenlet. Perhaps the most famous of all its inhabitants are the enormous American crocodiles that live on its banks. Later, take a guided night walk to observe owls.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Hotel Villa Lapas or similar

Carara

Day 8

Take an early morning bird walk before breakfast. Then, set out for a full day at Carara National Park, one of the birding hotspots of Costa Rica. The park is located in the Central Pacific region, one of the most ecologically diverse areas of the country. The intersection of northwestern tropical dry forest with the humid rainforest of the South Pacific region, concentrated in a relatively small area, produces an interesting combination of species from both ecosystems. Keep your eyes open for Golden-naped Woodpecker, Baird's Trogon, Orange-collared Manakin, Riverside Wren, Black-hooded Antshrike, Dot-winged Antwren, Long-billed Gnatwren, and Chestnut-backed Antbird. Before dinner at the lodge, watch for Scarlet Macaw from a nearby bridge.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Hotel Villa Lapas or similar

San Gerardo de Dota

Day 9

After breakfast, continue to Cerro de la Muerte, an area at the top of Cordillera de Talamanca that is famous for its diversity of endemic wildlife. Consisting of temperate forest and páramo habitats, the natural vegetation attracts species such as the rare Red-fronted Parrotlet, Costa Rican Pygmy-Owl, Dusky Nightjar, Fiery-throated, Volcano, and Scintillant Hummingbirds, White-throated Mountain-gem, Ruddy Treerunner, Buffy Tuftedcheek, Silvery-fronted Tapaculo, Ochraceous Pewee, Silvery-throated Jay, Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher, Volcano Junco, Timberline Wren, Wrenthrush, and Resplendent Quetzal. Look for these species and others at Cerro de la Muerte and La Georgina en route to Savegre. Continue birding at the lodge before dinner.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve & Spa

San Gerardo de Dota

Day 10

Savegre is located in a small community in the Talamanca Mountains and houses its own private biological reserve. This high-elevation habitat of mostly oak and highland cloud forest attracts a huge variety of avifauna. The large centennial oaks that cover the forest are laden with lichens and mosses that contrast with the colorful bromeliads. The forest is rich with insects, mammals, amphibians, and 170-plus bird species. Spend the morning looking for Spotted Wood-Quail, Costa Rican Pygmy-Owl, Collared Trogon, Barred Becard, and Golden-browed Chlorophonia. Head to Los Lagos in the afternoon in search of the Resplendent Quetzal. Dinner is followed by a guided night walk.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve & Spa

Depart

Day 11

Depart early in the morning for San José and the airport. Flights should be scheduled to depart after 1 pm. Check-out is at 11 am.

Breakfast- included