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BEST OF COSTA RICA

Quetzals, Zeledonias & Hummingbirds

Birdquest's Best of Costa Rica birding tour is a fabulous way to explore this classic Central American birdwatching destination. Our Best of Costa Rica tour offers the very best, most bird-rich itinerary available for a two-week itinerary and records numerous specialities of this small but bird-rich country as part of a very large bird list.

Saturday 25th February — Saturday 11th March 2017
(15 days)


Leader: Chris Kehoe

Group Size Limit: 9

Tour Category: Easy walking for the most part and comfortable accommodations almost throughout

Fiery-throated Hummingbird is a sometimes abundant regional endemic in the Cerro de la Muerte highlands. It is one of the 16 regional endemic hummingbirds seen on the tour (tour participant Rainer Ertel)

Fiery-throated Hummingbird is a sometimes abundant regional endemic in the Cerro de la Muerte highlands. It is one of the 16 regional endemic hummingbirds seen on the tour (tour participant Rainer Ertel)

Had Christopher Columbus been a birdwatcher, he could not have christened his new found land on his last voyage in 1502 more aptly – Costa Rica or ‘Rich Coast’. Over 870 species of birds have been recorded from this small Central American country, the highest species diversity in an area of this size anywhere on earth. Not only is its avifauna exceedingly rich, but Costa Rica (together with neighbouring western Panama) is one of the greatest centres of avian endemism in the world, with nearly 70 species found nowhere else!

Costa Rica is now well-known as one of the best areas for birding on earth, for a series of stunning wildlife films and the many glowing reports from visitors have made people realize what a treasure house of nature this gem of a country really is. Costa Rica is utterly unlike the preconceived view of Central America. There is no recent history of revolutions, medal-bespattered dictators, political prisoners and masses of half-starved, landless peasants. Instead Costa Rica is one of the most prosperous countries in Latin America with the highest literacy level in the region, no army (it was abolished as unnecessary in 1949!), stable democratic government, excellent standards of public health and the highest percentage of land area devoted to national parks and reserves of any country in the world.

This beautiful land is an ornithological melting pot where the avifaunas of Central and South America merge. Here we will see Central American species at the southern limits of their range, South American species at their northern limits and numerous species that are endemic to Costa Rica and western Panama.

For the birdwatcher the factor that makes Costa Rica so attractive is not simply its astonishingly rich avifauna, but the fact that it is packed into such a small area. In Costa Rica one could, if one wanted, drive from the Pacific lowlands up over the central highlands and down to the Caribbean lowlands in a matter of five or six hours, passing through every major habitat zone found in Central America!

This carefully crafted itinerary of two weeks duration takes in the best birding that Costa Rica has to offer (typically producing a trip list of nearly 400 species!). Superb, mostly easy birding, largely good accommodations and quite good roads make birding this small but incredibly rich country a real pleasure.

After some initial birding in the Central Valley we will make our way into the central highlands, reaching the subalpine zone at over 3000m at Cerro de la Muerte. Here we will find many montane specialities, including the incomparable Resplendent Quetzal, Fiery-throated Hummingbird, Ruddy Treerunner, Volcano Junco, Black-capped Flycatcher, Timberline Wren, Sooty and Mountain Thrushes, Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Long-tailed Silky-flycatchers, Yellow-winged Vireo, Collared Whitestart, Flame-throated and Black-cheeked Warblers, the curious Zeledonia (or Wrenthrush), which was formerly often placed in a family of its own, Sooty-capped Bush-Tanager, Black-thighed Grosbeak, Slaty Flowerpiercer, Large-footed and Yellow-thighed Finches and Sulphur-winged Parakeet.

From the highlands we will descend to the Pacific foothills where we will seek our first south Pacific specialities such as Fiery-billed Aracari, Baird’s Trogon and Cherrie’s Tanager. Moving westwards, we come to the famous Carara Reserve where we will explore coastal habitats including mangrove swamps and some of the best remaining areas of lowland rainforest along the Pacific coast. Here, the magnificent Scarlet Macaw is still quite common and we will enjoy the host of other birds, including such stars as Boat-billed Heron, Bare-throated Tiger Heron and Black-hooded Antshrike. Moving northwards we will visit the dry forests and wetlands of Guanacaste Province for such species as Turquoise-browed Motmot, White-throated Magpie-Jay and Jabiru.

We then return to the mountains for the magnificent cloud forest and lush pastures of the north-western highlands, staying at the renowned Monteverde. Amongst the many special birds here are Black Guan, Black-faced Solitaire, the endemic Coppery-headed Emerald, Chiriqui Quail-Dove and White-eared Ground-Sparrow. Moving to the Arenal Volcano, we will seek Caribbean specialties including Black-crested Coquette, Spotted Antbird and Thicket Antpitta.

Our ultimate port of call on this speciality-rich tour will be the unforgettable, bird-rich rainforests of the Caribbean lowlands at the Organization of Tropical Studies’ reserve at La Selva. Snowy Cotinga is relatively straightforward to see here and, amongst a host of other exciting species we even have a good chance of observing the endangered Great Green Macaw.

Birdquest has operated tours to Costa Rica since 1987.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels/lodges are mostly of good standard. At the biological research station of La Selva we will be accommodated in quite comfortable cabins with private bathrooms (some are shared between two rooms). Road transport is by small coach and roads are mostly good.

Walking: The walking effort is mostly easy, but there are a few moderate grade walks.

Climate: At low altitudes it is generally hot, but at higher altitudes conditions range from warm to cool (even cold at the highest levels). Periods of sunny weather alternate with overcast spells. There is regular rainfall on the Caribbean slope, but elsewhere rainfall is less frequent and more irregular. It will be rather humid at times.

Bird Photography: Opportunities are quite good.

Important Information for Pound Payers: Kindly note that the Pound prices shown here are based on post-EU-referendum exchange rate reality, unlike the website prices of most UK bird tour operators which are still based on outdated and hugely higher pre-referendum exchange rates. Consequently you can rest assured that we will not have to adjust these prices upwards at invoicing, unless the Pound falls significantly further, and if there is any recovery by the Pound you will receive the full benefit of the cost-saving by way of a price reduction at invoicing.

Tour Price: £3590, €4230, $4700 San Jose/San Jose.

Price includes all transportation, all accommodations, all meals, bottled water, some drinks, all excursions, all entrance fees, all tips for local drivers/guides and for accommodations/restaurants, leader services.

Base prices for this tour are determined in US Dollars, the currency in which we pay for most tour services. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = $1.310 and €1 = $1.110. For those not paying us in US Dollars, prices may be adjusted (either downwards or upwards) at the time of invoicing should there be a change in the exchange rate. See booking information.

Single Room Supplement: £406, €479, $532.

Deposit: £400, €550, $600.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency can arrange your air travel in connection with the tour from a departure point anywhere in the world, or you may arrange your own air travel if you prefer. We can tailor-make your itinerary to your personal requirements, so if you would like to travel in advance of the tour (and spend a night in an hotel so you will feel fresh when the tour starts), or return later than the end of the tour, or make a side trip to some other destination, or travel business class rather than economy, we will be happy to assist. Please contact us about your air travel requirements.

A very special cotinga we should see is the gorgeous Turquoise Cotinga (Pete Morris)

A very special cotinga we should see is the gorgeous Turquoise Cotinga (Pete Morris)

Great Curassows add to the often abundant wildlife spectacle on display, this is the male (tour participant Rainer Ertel)

Great Curassows add to the often abundant wildlife spectacle on display, this is the male (tour participant Rainer Ertel)

... and the female Great Curassow (tour participant Rainer Ertel)

... and the female Great Curassow (tour participant Rainer Ertel)

The lack of hunting here allows some species such as this Great Tinamou to be incredibly confiding (tour participant Rainer Ertel)

The lack of hunting here allows some species such as this Great Tinamou to be incredibly confiding (tour participant Rainer Ertel)

The remarkable Keel-billed Toucan is always popular (tour participant Rainer Ertel)

The remarkable Keel-billed Toucan is always popular (tour participant Rainer Ertel)

With luck, the amazing Three-wattled Bellbird, will also be seen (Pete Morris)

With luck, the amazing Three-wattled Bellbird, will also be seen (Pete Morris)

The remarkable Resplendent Quetzal, should be Costa Rica's national bird rather than the rather dull (though sweet-singing) Clay-coloured Thrush! (Pete Morris)

The remarkable Resplendent Quetzal, should be Costa Rica's national bird rather than the rather dull (though sweet-singing) Clay-coloured Thrush! (Pete Morris)

The wonderful Snowcap is just one of a long series of exciting hummingbirds that we may see in Costa Rica (Pete Morris)

The wonderful Snowcap is just one of a long series of exciting hummingbirds that we may see in Costa Rica (Pete Morris)

Costa Rica is a great country for seeing owls. The Cerro de la Muerte highlands are home to the Bare-shanked Screech-Owl, one of the many highland endemics seen (tour participant Rainer Ertel)

Costa Rica is a great country for seeing owls. The Cerro de la Muerte highlands are home to the Bare-shanked Screech-Owl, one of the many highland endemics seen (tour participant Rainer Ertel)

Pacific Screech-Owl is an uncommon inhabitant of the northwestern dry forests (tour participant Rainer Ertel)

Pacific Screech-Owl is an uncommon inhabitant of the northwestern dry forests (tour participant Rainer Ertel)

... and this is probably the best tour in the world to see the handsome Striped Owl (tour participant Rainer Ertel)

... and this is probably the best tour in the world to see the handsome Striped Owl (tour participant Rainer Ertel)

The diminutive Costa Rican Pygmy Owl, a cloudforest specialist can be found in the daytime (Pete Morris)

The diminutive Costa Rican Pygmy Owl, a cloudforest specialist can be found in the daytime (Pete Morris)

... and Costa Rica is a wonderful country for finding day-roosting owls, including this Spectacled Owl (tour participant Rainer Ertel)

... and Costa Rica is a wonderful country for finding day-roosting owls, including this Spectacled Owl (tour participant Rainer Ertel)

... and this stunning Black-and-white Owl (Pete Morris)

... and this stunning Black-and-white Owl (Pete Morris)

The gorgeous Long-tailed Manakin (Pete Morris)

The gorgeous Long-tailed Manakin (Pete Morris)

...the extraordinary  Orange-collared Manakin (Pete Morris)

...the extraordinary Orange-collared Manakin (Pete Morris)

... and Turquoise-browed Motmot will provide plenty of colour (Pete Morris)

... and Turquoise-browed Motmot will provide plenty of colour (Pete Morris)

At La Selva we will hope to find an ant-swarm attended by the amazing Ocellated Antbird (Pete Morris)

At La Selva we will hope to find an ant-swarm attended by the amazing Ocellated Antbird (Pete Morris)

We will also hope to find the inconspicuous Double-striped Thick-knee (Pete Morris)

We will also hope to find the inconspicuous Double-striped Thick-knee (Pete Morris)

Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate

Birdquest Ltd is Registered in England, Company No. 01568270. The address of our registered office is Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 9QY

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