13 Day Birding in Costa Rica Self Drive
Costa Rica is one of the premier birding destinations in the world with a massive variety of species (887 recorded to date) inhabiting the coastal, mountain and forest regions. On this itinerary, you will stay in good quality eco lodges offering a range of activities as well as access to wildlife, other than birds – mammals, such as sloths and monkeys, reptiles – iguanas, snakes and colourful frogs, beautiful butterflies and, of course, spectacular flora. Self Drive gives you all the freedom you need yet all of the expert guiding at each lodge (where applicable). Share these wonderful moments with the help of our local, English speaking guides.
Namibia Birding and Photography GuideAn accomplished and experienced Namibia birding and photographic guide, Toni holds a Namibia Academy for Tourism and Hospitality Level 3 qualification (the highest level attainable in Namibia) and is widely renowned for her extensive knowledge of the cultures, ornithology, flora, astronomy and wildlife of the country. Read more >
Wildlife Guide & PhotographerAndy is a 6th generation Falkland Islander, with a passion for wildlife, plants and photography. Raised in the Falkland Islands, Andy developed a close affinity with the Islands natural environment at a young age. School holidays where spent in the ‘camp’ or countryside with friends and family. For more than 10 years, Andy had the privilege of spending a time on Sea Lion Island, visiting his mother who managed one of the Islands premier tourist destinations. Read more >
Photographer and founder of the Travel Photographer Of The Year awardsA fascination with natural light and a passion with nature, landscape and travel underpin Chris Coe's photography. His images often have a striking simplicity and graphic quality. More recent work has introduced a subtlety with experimentation with both movement and light.Read more >
Falklands Expert & GuideBorn in Chartres in the West Falklands, Jenny grew up on the family farm where her love for animals was nurtured by the25,000 sheep, horses and cows that lived alongside her. Forever a nature, conservation and wildlife enthusiast Jenny has travelled extensively throughout the Falkland Islands, visiting each and every wildlife island at least once, and even travelling around some by yacht. Read more >
Special Guest LecturerExclusive to this voyage, Doug Allan, a multi award winning polar photographer and cameraman, will be your special guest lecturer. Doug has been on over 20 expeditions to Svalbard to film its wildlife, and knows the wonders of this area more than most. Read more >
Special Guest Photography GuideChris was 32 when he finally realised he really did want to be a photo-journalist and walked out on his career in IT sales to become a wildlife photographer Read more >
- Stay at La Selva Ecolodge will allow you time to explore some of the surrounding tropical forest, home to nearly 500 species of birds.
- Spot the beautiful resplendent quetzal (National bird) in the cloud forest of San Gerardo de Dota.
- Stay at one of Costa Rica’s most renowned birding lodges in Turrialba's, Rancho Naturalista.
- 12 nights’ accommodation
- Meals as per the itinerary
- Activities as per the itinerary
- Private arrival and departure transfers
- Private transfers or car rental days 2-13
- Vehicle Hire
ITINERARY12 Nights 13 Days
- Day 1 | San Jose to Heredia
- Days 2-4 | San Gerardo de Dota
- Days 5-6 | Turrialba
- Days 7-8 | Selva Bananito
- Days 9-10 | Sarapiqui
- Days 11-12 | Boca Tapada
- Day 13 | Transfer to airport
San Jose to Heredia
Transfer from airport to Hotel Bougainvillea set in tropical gardens in Heredia. Spot your first birds, such as hummingbirds, tanagers, kingbirds and flycatchers in the grounds and walk amongst the lush tropical vegetation or just relax and enjoy the hotel’s varied facilities.
San Gerardo de Dota
Drive south-west to San Gerardo de Dota, an area of cloud forest, 2200 metres above sea level and the primary habitat of the country’s most famous bird, the quetzal. Two nights’ stay in the Savegre Lodge on full board basis.
Watch hummingbirds over an early breakfast and then take to the trail to look for over 170 species known in the area, including tanagers, woodpeckers and the quetzal.
Drive to the Rancho Naturalista in the beautiful Turrialba Valley, high on the Caribbean slopes of the Talamanca Mountains. Stunning views of volcanoes and a dedicated birding balcony from which over 250 species have been observed. Two nights on full board basis.
Full day birdwatching
Full day birdwatching. Spot grey-headed chachalaca, white-crowned parrot, blue-crowned motmot, collared aracari, keel-billed toucan, Montezuma oropendola, various tanagers, white-collared manakin amongst over 400 species.
Selva Bananito Eco Lodge
Drive to Salon Delia and transfer to Selva Bananito Eco Lodge for two nights on full board basis. The lodge does not have electricity (although batteries can be charged at the farm), but there are solar-powered lights and water heating. Spectacular views and comfortable hammocks.
Bird watching tour
Early breakfast, followed by guided bird-watching tour and natural history walk through the woodland. Optional tree climbing or horse riding.
After breakfast, drive on to another famous birding region at Sarapiqui, located in the lowlands of the north-east. Accommodation at the Selva Verde Eco Lodge for two nights’ full board. Massive variety of birds to be seen in both around the lodge and in the reserve.
Nature Pavilion Nature Park
Another recommended birding spot is the Nature Pavilion Nature Park, which has a spacious open-air covered pavilion, ideal for watching and photography. The area has one of the highest diversities of species in Costa Rica and is home to over 250 species.
Drive to Boca Tapada in the northern plains next to the San Carlos River for two nights at Maquenque Lodge on full board basis. This is one of the best areas for viewing the endangered great green macaw. Kayaking and horse riding are other options at the lodge.
Guided birding tour
05.30 start for guided birding tour, searching for green and scarlet macaws, toucans, oropendolas, honeycreepers, tanagers, euphonias, jacamars and many more. More birding in the afternoon or a raft ride on the San Carlos River.
Drive back to the Central Valley for another night at the delightful Bougainvillea Hotel and another opportunity to enjoy the birds and flora.
Transfer to airport
Transfer to airport for onward or return flights.
Your Itinerary Accommodation
Savegre Mountain Lodge & Spa, San Gerardo de Dota
The Savegre Mountain Lodge & Spa is located in San Gerardo de Dota, a small community in the Talamanca mountains. It is the perfect base from which to explore the surrounding cloud forest which serves as a sanctuary for a large number of mammals, insects, amphibians, amazing plants and colorful birds, indeed a paradise for birdwatchers.
The hotel is run by the Chacon Family, whom arrived in Savegre in 1954 and were the first pioneers settling down in this valley. They have not only developed this wonderful hotel, but have taken full advantage of the surrounding natural beauty and its fertile land.
Over 170 bird species have been observed in the surrounding area and is known as one of the best places in the country to observe the resplendent quetzals, who live here year round. The Hotel hosts the Quetzal Education Research Center Complex (QERC), a cooperative venture between the Chacon Family and Southern Nazarene University in Oklahoma.
All 41 rooms are surrounded by the beautiful kept and vibrant gardens which became a haven for bird life, most notably the charismatic hummingbirds that flock to the feeders at sunrise each day for their sugar fix. All the rooms are equipped with a private bathroom and hot water, electrical heater, safe box, hair dryer and phone for international calls with credit card.
The restaurant offers both, a selection of a la carte or buffet style meals, each providing a wide and delicious variety of International and traditional Costa Rican cuisine, as well as the house specialty - freshly caught rainbow trout.
Bougainvillea, San Jose
Upon arrival at this beautiful hotel set within 10 acres of lush tropical gardens home to a variety of plants and bird life it will be hard to believe that you are just a 10 minute drive from downtown San Jose and the international airport.
Offering a true feeling of Costa Rican lifestyle and hospitality the hotel is set amidst the coffee farms of Santo Domingo de Heredia and is famous for the exceptional personal service offered to its guests.
Large bedrooms with private balconies offering beautiful views, a superb outdoor pool, tennis courts, a fantastic restaurant, a welcoming cocktail bar and a wide variety of excursions on offer make this intimate hotel an even better choice for your stay in the Costa Rican capital.
Each of the simply yet stylishly decorated bedrooms have been finished to a high standard and offer a very high level of comfort and relaxation. Each room has its own private balcony with views overlooking the Central Valley and the stunning surrounding mountains or the hotel's beautiful gardens, and all rooms have WiFi, ceiling fans and comfortable king-size beds.
The hotel's gardens are its pride and joy and many a lazy afternoon can be spent strolling through in search of a wide variety of native birds, frogs and plant life. Should you wish to venture further afield the hotel staff are very experienced in offering advice on the best ways to see what this part of the world has to offer. A personal service is guaranteed here so no matter what you wish to see or do the staff will be delighted to arrange this for you. Why not take a tour to the Irazu and Arenal volcanoes and hot springs, experience the thrill of Rafting in one of the nearby mountain rivers, visit the national parks or take a San Jose city tour. With a wide variety of excursions on offer you will be sure to find something to suit you.
It is this along with its unique location that makes this welcoming hotel such a great find and a fantastic place to stay to enjoy all that is special about this wonderful part of the world, and after a long day of exploring you can return to your beautiful hotel and enjoy a drink by the pool or a delicious meal in the restaurant overlooking the gardens.
Selva Bananito Eco Lodge and Preserve
This beautiful and authentic eco-lodge perched in a secluded rainforest on a private reserve is located around 40 minutes' drive from Puerto Limon and offers comfortable accommodation and a wide variety of activities aimed at bringing you closer to nature.
Spend your days immersing yourself in your surroundings on a rain forest tour, rappelling down a jungle waterfall, horseback riding through the greens or trekking through the jungle in search of a plethora of wildlife and birdlife before returning to your beautiful cabin to sip a drink in your hammock or enjoy a candlelit meal with the majestic beauty of Selva Bananito Preserve and the sounds of the rainforest as your backdrop.
Pure adventure, total relaxation or a combination of both...the choice is yours!
Selva Bananito Eco Lodge is where rain forest adventure meets relaxation and serenity. Located at the foothill of the Cerro Mochila, the eastern outcropping of the Talamanca Mountain Range, this beautiful lodge is situated in a pristine and natural setting and provides the most tranquil environment in which to truly relax and soak up the nature which abounds everywhere you look.
The lodge prides itself on its environmentally responsible operations and income generated from the lodge supports the Limon Watershed Foundation which has become a regional leader in watershed conservation in the province of Limon. In turn the Bananito River, of which Selva Bananito Preserve is the most important direct watershed, supplies 85% of Limon's safe drinking water. The river also makes for enjoying a wide variety of activities.
Activities available at Selva Bananito Eco Lodge are plentiful and include everything from jungle hikes, zip lining and tree climbing to bird watching tours and horseback riding.
With all this adventure on offer it's important to have a comfortable place to rest your head for a good nights' sleep and this certainly isn't lacking. Traditional Caribbean style cabins on stilts are home to beautiful bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms and solar heated warm water, sumptuous queen-size beds and elegant furnishings constructed of beautiful salvaged wood. Each cabin also has its own private deck with gorgeous views and 2 hammocks - getting into these is an adventure in itself!
The main area of the lodge features a rancho with a lovely dining area where delicious meals are served by candlelight,a bar and a small library.
Rancho Naturalista, Turrialba
Known as one of Central America's finest birdwatching premises this tranquil lodge offers superb hospitality, stunning views of the smoking Turrialba volcano, delicious gourmet food and bright and airy lodgings.
Situated within its own private forest reserve in the Central Talamanca mountain range this beautiful lodge offers bird watchers and nature lovers alike a unique getaway where relaxation and being at one with nature is the order of the day.
Over 450 species of birds have been recorded here and many of these can be spotted by simply sitting out in the grounds of the lodge. Alternatively expert guides are on hand to take you through the private trails and if birding isn't your thing don't worry there will still be plenty of adventurous things for you to do here!
Although the lodge is still an excellent getaway for non-birders the focus at Rancho Naturalista is on the fabulous birding experiences that can be enjoyed here. Some choose to spend their days on the balcony looking out over the beautiful reserve whilst others can choose to take to the trails with a resident professional birding guide who is available throughout the day so whether you are an expert birder, keen photographer or a novice you will feel right at home here.
For non-birding activities there are of course a number of other exciting and interesting things to do here. You could try white-water rafting on the Rio Pacuare, canyoning and zip-lining through the mountains and waterfalls or take a relaxing trip to the pretty city of Turrialba, considered to be the friendliest place in the whole of Costa Rica!
The main building of Rancho Naturalista has been built in a traditional Spanish colonial style and has a comfortable sitting room with a large internal and external dining area along with the lodge's famous and recently extended birding balcony. All meals are usually included in any stay at Rancho Naturalista and the fantastic chefs create a range of delicious Costa Rican and International gourmet dishes which are served family style in the large dining area.
The main building is also home to 5 of the 15 comfortable and well appointed bedrooms at Rancho Naturalista. On top of the main lodge bedrooms there are also a number of beautiful cabins with lots of space and private casitas with terraces and porches where guests can enjoy the tranquillity and privacy of this beautiful area.
Selva Verde Lodge, Sarapiqui
A firm favourite among eco-travellers, Selva Verde has been championing sustainable tourism in the area for thirty years. This rustic lodge overlooks the Sarapiqui River and is just 2 hours from San Jose.
The naturalist owner/managers promote conservation throughout the area and provide environmental education to locals and visitors alike. Guests enjoy being immersed in the rainforest whilst knowing they are contributing to the conservation of this beautiful area.
The lodge is crafted of stilted wooden structures, linked by covered walkways. Each room has screened windows, comfortable beds and private bathroom. There is a deck with hammocks for you to relax and spot the varied species of birdlife enjoying the bird-feeders in the grounds.
A Costa Rican locally sourced buffet is served in the restaurant with tea, coffee and snacks available throughout the day. In the evening there is also La Terrazza restaurant, offering Italian delights including pizzas freshly baked in the wood fire oven.
There are many trails leading from the hotel, where you can enjoy the sights and sounds of the rainforest. Or why not try the Zip Line Adventure and see the canopy from a little higher up!
Guided boat/raft trips are available on the river, where you can benefit from the expert’s local knowledge and tips on the best spots for sightings. After dark you can experience the jungle on a guided night hike, perfect for spotting the more nocturnal creatures residing in the rainforest.
A tranquil nature lover's paradise this beautiful lodge is set amongst 68 acres of tropical rainforest within Maquenque National Wildlife Refuge and offers wonderful hospitality, comfortable accommodation, adventure and fantastic bird watching opportunities.
Guests are offered many opportunities to enjoy and fully immerse themselves in their wonderful natural surroundings. Join a guided morning walk through the rainforest, go canoeing in the lagoon or even plant a tree in the Maquenque rainforest to support sustainable tourism before returning to the lodge for a delightful open-air dinner, a dip in the swimming pool or a walk through the botanical garden.
Nature lovers will feel right at home here as they spend a few days tucked away amongst the beautiful rainforest along the San Carlos River.
Located along the San Carlos River within one of Costa Rica's newest wildlife refuges the main emphasis here is on ensuring that guests feel relaxed and at one with nature. This is evident in the beautiful yet simplistic bungalows which provide the guest accommodation. Each elegant bungalow has been decorated and furnished to a high standard and is equipped with a large en-suite bathroom, ceiling fans and small decks with hammocks.
What Our Customers
Enjoyed the numerous lodges we stayed in which gave a good flavour of Costa Rica. We saw so much, in so little time but never felt rushed….. all in all a great holiday. Thanks.
Considering the standard of accommodation and level of guiding, I think we got great value for money and would happily go again. Although I loved seeing the turtles and hummingbirds the best bit had to be rafting into camp at Pacuare Lodge, best lodge ever!!!
Great views of a huge range of birds, animals and insects etc so a very successful trip. Despite the weather, I did and saw so much every day, an action packed two weeks, thanks for the free bins, they came in most useful.
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