12848
Costa Rica
Birding the Hot Spots of Costa Rica
Voyage through the lush forests and mountains of Costa Rica to see some of the most unique birds in Latin America, from potoos and spot owls to the jewel-like resplendent quetzal.
Program No. 12848RJ
Length
13 days
Starts at
2,499
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13 days
12 nights
34 meals
12 B 11 L 11 D
DAY
1
Arrive San José, Check-in, Orientation
San José
Hotel Buena Vista

Activity note: Participants must book flights that arrive into San José, Costa Rica no later than 4:30 p.m. on this day if they plan on attending the program orientation. Some Road Scholar gateways require the use of overnight flights in order to get participants to San José by the suggested time. Please contact your Road Scholar program provider at 1-800-866-7111 or roadscholarprograms@holbrooktravel.com if you would like to make arrangements to arrive in Costa Rica a day or more before your program.

Afternoon: 6 p.m. program orientation at the hotel. Meet your group leader and fellow Road Scholar participants during a welcome and introduction session at the hotel. We will review the up-to-date daily schedule and any changes, discuss responsibilities, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions you may have.

Dinner: On your own to explore local fare. Your group leader will be available to offer dining suggestions.

DAY
2
Transfer to Carara, Birding the Tárcoles River
Carara
B,L,D
Villa Lapas Hotel

Activity note: This program includes a number of bus transfers. The air conditioned Road Scholar bus does not have a bathroom on board. However, the program includes stops for program activities, meals, and/or basic pit stops that help to break up longer travel times. Stops are built into the schedule for every 1.5 - 2 hours of bus travel. Bus drive from San José to Carara takes approximately 2 hours. The elevation change from Alajuela to Carara is approximately 3,000 ft to sea level.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Lecture: Introduction to Birding in the Tropics. Transfer to the Carara area. Arrive at the hotel and check-in.

Lunch: At the hotel

Afternoon: Birding field trip via boat on the Tárcoles River. The Tárcoles River basin is one of the most important in the Pacific coastal region virtually draining the entire Western side of the Central Valley. Tarcoles hosts an amazing diversity of wildlife along its banks and on the extensive mangrove areas near its estuary. Perhaps the most famous of all its inhabitants are the enormous crocodiles that live on its banks. These crocodiles (Crocodilus acutus) have been studied by numerous local and foreign specialists and featured in TV specials, including several of National Geographic Brady Barr’s Wild Reptiles.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: Time at leisure. Get a good night's rest in preparation for early morning activities the following day.

DAY
3
Carara National Park
Carara
B,L,D
Villa Lapas Hotel

Breakfast: Early morning coffee and cookies at the hotel.

Morning: Early morning birding at the Villa Lapas private reserve (lodge trails) including the Skyway -- which is a walk through the rain forest crossing through 5 hanging bridges 200 ft high. The elevation for Villa Lapas is at sea level. Return to the lodge for a late morning breakfast. The remainder of the morning will be at your leisure to enjoy the hotel grounds.

Lunch: At the hotel.

Afternoon: Field trip to Carara National Park. Costa Rica's Central Pacific Region is one the most ecologically diverse areas of the country. The intersection of the Northwestern Tropical Dry Forest habitats with the Humid Rain Forests of the South Pacific region, in a relatively small area, produces a very interesting combination of species from both ecosystems. In addition, the mountain ranges are very close to the coast resulting in an array of elevations and some peculiar climatic conditions that contribute to the abundance of wildlife. The rich variety of habitats in this area makes an ideal home for a large variety of birds including the endemic Mangrove Hummingbird and the Yellow Billed Cotinga. Return to the hotel. Lecture: The Ecology and Conservation of the Scarlet Macaw.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: Enjoy some time at leisure to rest, update your check list or enjoy hotel amenities.

DAY
4
Transfer to Tempisque, Birding the Gulf of Nicoya
Tempisque
B,L,D
La Ensenada Lodge

Activity note: Bus drive from Carara to La Ensenada Lodge takes approximately 2 hours. The elevation is at sea level.

Breakfast: Early morning birding. Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: Transfer to Gulf of Nicoya area (Tempisque). Arrive at the lodge and check-in. This region of Northwestern Costa Rica is characterized by an endangered life zone known as semi-deciduous or Tropical Dry Forest. Little used trails throughout the property make for excellent birding in the forest around the lodge.

Lunch: At the lodge.

Afternoon: Birding along the lodge’s trails. Product of a huge tectonic depression, the Gulf of Nicoya is a somewhat closed water inlet, fed by the waters from the major rivers in Guanacaste region. The sediments carried by the rivers, estuaries and deltas, contributed to the creation of extensive mangrove habitats inside the gulf. Here many marine species have found a perfect nutrient-rich environment for breeding. Mollusks, crustaceans and many species of fish are attracted to the natural crib offered by the Gulf of Nicoya, and with them, hundreds of marine birds.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Evening: Night birding walk. After dinner, venture into the reserve. Use powerful lights to spot eyes. We will be looking for nocturnal species such as owls, nightjars, potoos and thick-knees.

DAY
5
Gulf of Nicoya by Boat
Tempisque
B,L,D
La Ensenada Lodge

Activity note: Elevation in this area is from sea level to 155 ft.

Breakfast: Early morning birding. Breakfast at the lodge.

Morning: Boat ride in the Gulf of Nicoya for birding and exploration of the fringing mangrove forests. Return to the lodge.

Lunch: At the lodge.

Afternoon: Afternoon cart ride (pulled by a tractor) and birding around the lodge grounds.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Evening: Time at leisure. Get a good night's rest in preparation for early morning activities the following day.

DAY
6
Transfer to Caño Negro, Caño Negro Wetlands
Caño Negro
B,L,D
Cano Negro Natural Lodge

Activity note: Bus drive from La Ensenada Lodge to Caño Negro takes approximately 4 to 5 hours. The elevation ranges from sea level to approximately 3,000 ft over the pass, ending at 65 ft at the lodge.

Breakfast: Early morning birding. Breakfast at the lodge.

Morning: Depart for Caño Negro. Transfer by bus to Caño Negro with birding en route from dry forest to fresh water marsh. Among the many birds found are Glossy Ibis, Black-necked Stilt, Neotropical Cormorants, American Anhinga, Northern Jacana, American Widgeon, Wood Stork, White Ibis, Black-bellied Tree Duck, Northern Shoveler, Snail Kite, Green Backed Heron, Roseate Spoonbill and Blue-winged Teal and possibly the Jabiru. This is one of the best places to see the Nicaraguan Grackle, whose only Costa Rican habitat is Caño Negro and other marshy areas just south of Lake Nicaragua.

Lunch: At a local restaurant en route.

Afternoon: Continue to Caño Negro with birding en route. Arrive at the lodge for afternoon birding on trails around the lodge. Often described as Costa Rica’s Everglades, Caño Negro acts as an expansive drainage basin for numerous rivers in the country's northern section. Like the Everglades, this large "water filter" attracts numerous species of birds and waterfowl and has been protected as a wildlife reserve. During the dry season, much of the flooded estuary dries up and many of the birds migrate only to return with the rain. Caño Negro’s most common visitors are birds, leaving much of the area to be explored by the few who venture to this frequently overlooked corner. Lecture: Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge and Wetlands.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Evening: Free time at the lodge.

DAY
7
Birding the Costa Rican Wetlands
Caño Negro
B,L,D
Cano Negro Natural Lodge

Activity note: This area is approximately 65 ft. above sea level.

Breakfast: Early morning coffee and cookies at the lodge.

Morning: Boat field trip though the wetlands with a site lecture on wetland bird species. This remote 22,000 acre tropical wetland teeming with wildlife is one of Costa Rica's undiscovered gems. Here, we explore a portion of Costa Rica that is considered by many the best example of Mesoamerican wetlands. Explore the lagoons and canals by boat to look for some of the 350 species of birds found in the refuge. In addition, spot caiman, crocodiles & a variety of monkeys. Birdlife dominates the area, boasting the largest colony of neotropic cormorants in Costa Rica and a colony of Nicaraguan grackle. Egrets, anhingas, Roseate Spoonbills and other waterfowl gather by the thousands. Return to the lodge for a late morning breakfast. The remainder of the morning will be at your leisure.

Lunch: At the lodge.

Afternoon: Excursion to the town of Caño Negro, followed by an afternoon boat ride and site lecture. Return to the lodge.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Evening: Free time at the lodge.

DAY
8
Transfer to Sarapiqui, Rainforest Introduction
Sarapiqui
B,L,D
Selva Verde Lodge

Activity note: Bus drive from Caño Negro to Sarapiqui takes approximately 4 hours. The elevation will vary from between 180 ft to 300 ft above sea level.

Breakfast: At the lodge.

Morning: Transfer to Sarapiqui with birding en route. Of the many birds to see are the Chestnut-mandibled and Keel-billed Toucans, Collared Aracari, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Bay Wren, Shining, Green and Red-legged Honeycreepers, Red-throated Ant-Tanager and Orange-billed Sparrow and of particular interest, the Great-green Macaw. Situated in the Caribbean lowlands, 40 miles from San José, Sarapiquí is one of the richest sites for birds in Middle America with well over recorded 400 species. Nearby, the La Selva Protection Zone and the Braulio Carrillo National Park form the only significant corridor of forest on the Caribbean slope linking the highlands with the lowlands - a corridor crucial to birds and animals that undertake seasonal altitudinal migrations. Arrive at the lodge and check-in.

Lunch: At the lodge.

Afternoon: Orientation to the lodge. Birding in the on-site rainforest reserve. Tropical rainforests are found only in a restricted area around the Equator that covers less than 20% of the Earth’s surface. Within the rainforests are more than one third of all species in the planet. Every year scientists surprise the international community with the discovery of new species in both well known and unexplored areas of rainforest. The importance of rainforests for the human community is immense in terms of biodiversity, eco-tourism, oxygen production, water production, new drugs and medicines, etc. These delicate and specialized ecosystems are also the most susceptible to changes in the global weather patterns and air temperature variations.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Evening: Lecture: The Birds of the Sarapiqui Region.

DAY
9
Organization for Tropical Studies
Sarapiqui
B,L,D
Selva Verde Lodge

Activity note: Elevation is approximately 180 ft above sea level.

Breakfast: Early morning birding and a site lecture on rainforest species at the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) La Selva Biological Field Station. Breakfast at La Selva Biological Field Station.

Morning: Continue birding at OTS La Selva. The Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) is a non-profit consortium that includes 63 universities and research institutions from the United States, Latin America and Australia. In the early 1960's, scientists from U.S. universities forged working relationships with colleagues at the Universidad de Costa Rica in the interest of strengthening education and research in tropical biology. Intense interest led to the founding of OTS, to provide leadership in education, research and the responsible use of natural resources in the tropics.

Lunch: Return to Selva Verde Lodge for lunch.

Afternoon: Time at leisure. Continue birding field trip in La Selva Field Station. La Selva was originally established, as a farm dedicated to experimentation on mixed plantations for the improvement of natural resources management. It was purchased in 1968 by the Organization for Tropical Studies and declared a private biological reserve and station. La Selva has become one of the most important sites in the world for research on the tropical rain forest. Over 240 scientific papers are published yearly from research conducted at the site. La Selva comprises 3,900 acres of tropical wet forests and disturbed lands. Located within the tropical and pre-montane wet forest, the Station is the home for more than the half of the 886 species of birds in Costa Rica. Transfer back to the lodge.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Evening: Time at leisure at the lodge. After sunset, the rainforest comes alive with the calls of its nocturnal inhabitants. Listen to the sounds--try to distinguish one from another as you relax in your hammock. Frogs, owls, bats, tepezquintles (pacas), moths, and various other creatures come out at night as most of us get ready for bed.

DAY
10
Transfer to San Gerardo de Dota, Savegre Cloud Forest
San Gerardo de Dota
B,L,D
Savegre Hotel Nature Reserve & Spa

Activity note: Bus drive from Sarapiqui to San Gerardo de Dota takes approximately 5 hours. The elevation range for this day is from 180 ft. at Sarapiqui, up to 10,000 ft. in the Talamanca Range, down to 7,000 ft. in the San Gerardo Valley.

Breakfast: Early morning birding on lodge grounds. Breakfast at the lodge.

Morning: Transfer to San Gerardo de Dota with birdwatching en route. Journey from the rainforest up into the Talamanca Mountain range. Watch foothill and montane rainforests give way to oak-dominated cloud forest, and then to Andean-stype sub-alpine vegetation on Cerro de la Muerte (the highest point in Costa Rica). With five distinct “life zones” from 4,000 to 11,500 feet, this is a rich area for endemic birds and boasting a large population of quetzals.

Lunch: At a local restaurant en route.

Afternoon: Arrive to San Gerardo de Dota and check-in at hotel. This small village is situated in the Talamanca Mountain range, which provides habitat for a number of species including the resplendent quetzal. This high elevation cloud forest property is situated on a working apple orchard and is home to a diverse ecosystem Enjoy the rest of the afternoon birdwatching during a short hike on the property's trails.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: Time at leisure.

DAY
11
Search for the Resplendent Quetzal
San Gerardo de Dota
B,L,D
Savegre Hotel Nature Reserve & Spa

Activity note: Elevations at approximately 8,000 ft above sea level.

Breakfast: Early morning birding. Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: Birding along forest trails in search of the elusive Resplendent Quetzal. The Resplendent Quetzal is less elusive and present in greater numbers in this region than in the cloud forests of Monteverde and Santa Elena to the north. This tropical icon is considered to be the most beautiful bird in the Western Hemisphere and was sacred to ancient Mayas and Aztecs. Streams trickle through the region on their way to the Rio Savegre and colorful hummingbirds dart to and fro in search of food. Birding en route back to the hotel.

Lunch: At the lodge.

Afternoon: Time at leisure. Birding around the hotel grounds. The few families that inhabit the valley are mostly dedicated to the production of trout, apples and peaches, which grow well in the cool, moist elevations of the Talamanca Range. Pioneers in many aspects, the Chacon family was the first to settle in this area. They built the first hotel (Cabinas Chacon, now named Savegre Mountain Hotel) and the first to set out to conserve the magnificent high elevation and oak forests that covered the entire valley. The patriarch of the family, don Efrain Chacon, has transmitted his love for this land to his children and grandchildren. They now share his passion and devotion for the preservation of the pristine forests. Lecture: The Chacon Family and the Resplendent Quetzal.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: Free time at the hotel.

DAY
12
Transfer to San José, Farewell to Costa Rica.
San José
B,L,D
Hotel Buena Vista

Activity note: Bus drive from San Gerardo de Dota to San José takes approximately 3 hours. Elevations for this day range from 11,000 ft. to approximately 3,000 ft.

Breakfast: Early morning birding. Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: Depart for San José. Enjoy en route birding with stops along the way, including in the Cerro de la Muerte region where we may spot the fiery throated hummingbird, timberline wren and the volcano junco. Cerro de la Muerte is the highest point in the Costa Rican section of the Inter-American Highway. Its name means "Mountain of Death", since in the path crossing the mountains from the Valle Central meant a three or four day journey, on foot or on horseback, and many ill-prepared travelers succumbed to the cold and rain. However, the peak is now easily accessible since the highway runs close by.

Lunch: At a local restaurant en route.

Afternoon: Arrive in San José and check-in at hotel. Time at leisure. Final bird count with group leader.

Dinner: Farewell dinner at the hotel.

Evening: Time at leisure to enjoy your last night among your new Road Scholar friends or get a good night’s rest in preparation for your international travel next day.

DAY
13
Program Concludes
In Flight
B

Breakfast: At the hotel (depending on flight departure time).