20616
Costa Rica
Birding in Southern Costa Rica: Motmots to Quetzals
Go where the birds are, not where the birders are, as you spot Scarlet Macaws at Carara, the Resplendent Quetzal in San Gerardo de Dota, Motmots in San Vito and much more.
Program No. 20616RJ
Length
11 days
Starts at
2,260
Flights start at
455
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11 days
10 nights
29 meals
10 B 9 L 10 D
Getting There
See travel details and required documents
DAY
1
Arrive in San José, Check-in, Orientation
San Jose
D
Villa San Ignacio

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. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule and any changes, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. Our Group Leader is a trained birding expert who will lead field trips and give educational presentations. Meals included in our program feature local cuisine. In some cases, they will be plated and served with a set menu; in others, we will have buffets with multiple options. Included beverages are typically coffee, tea, water; other beverages usually available for purchase. Unless otherwise specified, transportation during your program will be provided by air conditioned motorcoach. We have set aside free time in the schedule for your personal independent exploration. Please be aware that program activities, schedules, and personnel may need to change due to local circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: Welcome Dinner at the hotel with beer or wine, coffee, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
2
Transfer to Central Pacific Coast, Tárcoles River Birding
Carara
B,L,D
Villa Lapas Hotel

Activity note: Morning check out. From San José to the Central Pacific coast is about 45 miles; approximately 2 hours. We will go from an elevation of approximately 3,000 ft and descend to a few hundred feet above sea level.

Breakfast: At the hotel with coffee, tea, water.

Morning: We'll by joined by a local expert for an introduction to birding in Costa Rica. Then we'll check out and board a motorcoach to begin our transfer to the Central Pacific coast. We expect to arrive at the hotel in time for lunch.

Lunch: At the hotel with coffee, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: After settling in at the hotel, we'll join the Group Leader for a bit of birding on the hotel grounds. This activity will be followed by a mid-afternoon boat ride on the Tárcoles River estuary for a chance to view shore birds and water birds along the mangroves and sandy riverbanks. This area is commonly frequented by herons, egrets, cormorants and spoonbills. It is also one of the best places in the country to view large American crocodiles—some measuring up to 16 ft in length!

Dinner: At the hotel with coffee, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Weather permitting, we'll join our Group Leader in a night walk in search of nocturnal species.

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

Activity note: Please wear shoes with a closed heel and toe area that are suitable for hiking. Walking on paved paths and unpaved/irregular forest trails.

Breakfast: Early breakfast at the hotel with coffee, tea, water.

Morning: A short motorcoach drive will deliver us to Carara National Park. Once there, our Group Leader will accompany us on a walk along park paths in search of new bird species. Carara lies at the northern limit of the Pacific lowland rainforest and the southern limit of the dry, deciduous forest. Its unique location within a transition zone means that plant and animal species from both habitats coexist in the reserve. In addition to conserving primary and secondary growth forests, Carara National Park also protects the Rio Grande de Tárcoles river basin and its rich wildlife. The park is a favored birding destination, with more than 350 recorded bird species including a sizable population of endangered Scarlet Macaws. Return to the hotel.

Lunch: At the hotel.

Afternoon: Our next birding field trip will include the hotel grounds as well as areas along the boundaries of Carara National Park. Returning to the hotel, we'll have a presentation by a local expert on the ecology of the Scarlet Macaw.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: We’ll review our birding checklist and have a briefing on tomorrow’s schedule. Prepare for check out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
4
Barú Wildlife Refuge, Esquinas Reserve Birding
Golfito
B,L,D
Esquinas Rainforest Lodge

Activity note: Before breakfast, early morning birding around the hotel grounds. From Carara to Golfito is about 150 miles; approximately 4 hours by motorcoach. The journey will be broken up with an en route activity and lunch. Elevation in the Golfito area is approximately 200 ft. Birding from forest trails and walking on irregular terrain.

Breakfast: At the hotel with coffee, tea, water.

Morning: We'll enjoy some early morning birding on hotel environs before returning to the hotel for breakfast. Then we'll check-out and begin our transfer to the Golfito area. En route, we will pay a visit to the Hacienda Barú Wildlife Refuge. A brief walk in the property, followed by a presentation by a local expert, will reveal the Refuge’s successful reforestation efforts and its place in the biological corridor known as “the Path of the Tapir.” Hacienda Barú National Wildlife Refuge is situated on Costa Rica’s Southern Pacific Coast. This is a region of distinct natural beauty, where forest covered mountains rise up from the dramatic Pacific coastline. Hacienda Barú’s 815 acres have a fantastic variety of habitats, from wetland and secondary forest in the lowlands to primary forest on the highland coastal ridge. The Refuge is home to an impressive array of plants and wildlife including 158 species of trees, 69 mammals, 351 birds, 94 reptiles and amphibians, and 87 butterflies.

Lunch: At the wildlife refuge.

Afternoon: Continuing our transfer to Golfito, we expect to arrive for check in at the lodge late afternoon. We’ll settle into our rooms, then join our Group Leader in birding activities along the property’s garden and trails.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Evening: Weather permitting, we’ll join our Group Leader on a night birding walk around the lodge. We’ll also review our birding checklist and have a briefing on tomorrow’s schedule.

DAY
5
Birding at Esquinas Rainforest Reserve
Golfito
B,L,D
Esquinas Rainforest Lodge

Activity note: Before breakfast, early morning birding around the hotel grounds. Birding from forest trails and walking on irregular terrain. Elevations for this day average from between 100 to 300 ft.

Breakfast: At the lodge.

Morning: We'll start the day with some early morning birding in lodge environs before returning for breakfast. Then we’ll set out for a full day of birding activities at the Esquinas Rainforest Reserve. We will bird in the forest, along reserve trails, as well as in open areas around the lodge. The local bird checklist includes 362 species, many of them considered as specialties that are either endemics or easily found here, for example the Great Curasaw, Spectacled Owl, Rufous-winged Woodpecker, Olivaceous Piculet, Black-cheeked Ant-Tanager and Rudy-breasted Seedeater, amongst others. The grass fields and marshes around the lodge are the habitat for many species of water birds and shorebirds like herons, egrets, wood storks, ducks and spoonbills.

Lunch: At the lodge.

Afternoon: We'll return to the Esquinas Rainforest Reserve for more birding. We want to maximize our opportunities of seeing target species for this area such as Shrike Tanagers and Great Curasaw.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Evening: At the lodge, we'll enjoy an expert-led presentation on the history of La Gamba Field Station and the Esquinas Rainforest Reserve. We’ll also review our birding checklist and have a briefing on tomorrow’s schedule. Prepare for check out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
6
Transfer to San Vito, Las Cruces Biological Station
San Vito
B,L,D
Las Cruces Biological Station

Activity note: Before breakfast, head out for early morning birding around the hotel grounds. From Golfito to San Vito is about 48 miles; approximately 3 hours by motorcoach. Elevation at San Vito is approximately 2,500 ft.

Breakfast: At the lodge.

Morning: After enjoying some early morning birding around the lodge, followed by breakfast, we'll check out and begin the transfer to the San Vito area in the Coto Brus Valley. We will arrive at Las Cruces Biological Station in time for lunch. Las Cruces Biological Station is an important tropical research facility and a center for teaching and environmental education run by the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS). Station facilities include classrooms, a laboratory, an auditorium, and a library with an herbarium. This mid-elevation site is responsible for protecting more than 300 hectares of premontane wet forest habitat and was declared part of the La Amistad Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1983. Variations in elevation, ranging from 3,280 ft - 4,592 ft, contribute to the station's rich diversity of flora and fauna, including more than 400 birds, 113 mammals, and 2,000 plant species.

Lunch: At the station with coffee and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We’ll go on a birding walk in the gardens and secondary forest around the botanical gardens. This is an excellent location for us to spot local birds, especially tanagers, dacnis and saltadors. Las Cruces Biological Station is also home to the world-famous Wilson Botanical Gardens. In addition to educating the public about tropical ecology and conservation, the garden is used as a training ground for scientists in the fields of tropical botany, horticulture, and sustainable development. The botanical garden displays a mix of tropical and subtropical ornamentals including a number of rare and endangered plants from Costa Rica and other parts of the world. Paths are clearly marked and color-coded, leading guests around plantings of bromeliads, ferns, heliconias, orchids, palms and others.

Dinner: At the station with coffee and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: We’ll meet with a resident naturalist who will give us an overview of the Station’s mission and some of its important research projects. We’ll also review our birding checklist and have a briefing on tomorrow’s schedule.

DAY
7
Birding at Las Cruces Field Station, Night Walk
San Vito
B,L,D
Las Cruces Biological Station

Activity note: Before breakfast, set out for early morning birding around the Station's grounds. Average elevation for this day is approximately 2,500 ft.

Breakfast: At the station with coffee, tea, water.

Morning: We'll join our Group Leader for early morning birding in the Station's environs before breakfast. Then we'll go birding along the Java River Trail at Las Cruces. We hope to spot some of the mid-elevation birds of the Pacific side of the Talamanca Mountains such as Speckled Tanagers, Scarlet-Thiged Dacnis, Blue-Crowned Motmots, Violaceous Trogons, and Turquoise Cotingas. Stay vigilant for Coto Brus Valley species such as the Streaked Saltator and Charming Hummingbird.

Lunch: At the station.

Afternoon: We'll accompany our Group Leader on a walk through the station's gardens for an afternoon birding session. Weather permitting, we will attempt to visit Sabalito and the lagoon area in San Vito. With the Panamanian border located just a stone throw away, it is not surprising that a few species have begun to make an appearance into the area including the Pearl Kite, Crested Oropendola, and Veraguan Mango.

Dinner: At the station.

Evening: During a night birding walk around the botanical gardens, we’ll be on the lookout for nocturnal species. We’ll also review our birding checklist and have a briefing on tomorrow’s schedule. Prepare for check out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
8
Transfer to San Gerardo de Dota, The Resplendent Quetzal
San Gerardo de Dota
B,L,D
Savegre Hotel Nature Reserve & Spa

Activity note: Early morning pre-breakfast birding around the station's grounds. From San Vito to San Gerardo de Dota is about 123 miles; approximately 4 hours by motorcoach. Our transfer today will take us from elevations of 2,500 ft up to 11,000 ft, through the highest portions of the Cerro de la Muerte, before descending into the San Gerardo Valley to 7,000 ft.

Breakfast: At the lodge.

Morning: We'll do some early morning birding on the lodge grounds before coming back for breakfast. After check out, we’ll begin our transfer to the San Gerardo de Dota area.

Lunch: At a local restaurant en route.

Afternoon: We’ll continue our journey to San Gerardo de Dota, located in Costa Rica’s Talamanca Mountains. We expect to arrive at our lodge for check in by mid-afternoon, then make use of the remaining daylight hours to do a bit of birding as we explore the lodge’s grounds.

Dinner: At the lodge with coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: We’ll have presentation on the Resplendent Quetzal by a local expert. We’ll also review our birding checklist and have a briefing on tomorrow’s schedule.

DAY
9
Birding on Forest Trails, Cerro de la Muerte
San Gerardo de Dota
B,L,D
Savegre Hotel Nature Reserve & Spa

Activity note: Early morning birding before breakfast around hotel grounds. Walking on irregular terrain and unpaved trails.

Breakfast: At the lodge with coffee, tea, water.

Morning: After some early morning birding in lodge environs and breakfast, we'll spend the morning birding in the lodge’s reserve.The Resplendent Quetzal is our main target in this area, but we also hope to spot some other interesting species like the Emerald Toucanet, Collared Trogon and Long-tailed Silky Flycatcher. The San Gerardo Valley (approximately 7,000 ft elevation) combines highland oak and cloud forests with open grasslands and forest edges, attracting a variety of birds including large numbers of Resplendent Quetzals. In addition to quetzals, the region is also home to a number of birds only found at this elevation range like Collared Trogons, Emerald Toucanets, Fiery-colored Tanagers, Marbled Wood Quails, Long-tailed Silky Flycatchers, Buffy-Tuftedcheeks, Golden-browed Clorophonias, Elegant Euphonias and Tufted Flycatchers.

Lunch: At the lodge with coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: After a short drive, we'll go birding at the Cerro de la Muerte and La Georgina area to observe timberline species that maybe present such as Volcano Junco, Fiery-throated Hummingbird, Black and Yellow Silky Flycatcher, Timberline Wren and Sooty Thrush. Then, we'll return to the lodge.

Dinner: At the lodge with coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: We’ll review our birding checklist and have a briefing on tomorrow’s schedule.

DAY
10
Birding at Cerro de la Muerte, Transfer to San José
San Jose
B,L,D
Wyndham San José Herradura Hotel & Convention Center

Activity note: From San Gerardo de Dota to our hotel is about 73 miles; approximately 3 hours by bus.

Breakfast: At the lodge.

Morning: Check out. We'll begin our leisurely transfer back to San José with en-route birding along the Cerro de la Muerte.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: Upon arrival and hotel check in we’ll take some time to freshen up and relax, then join our Group Leader for a final checklist review before dinner.

Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll have our farewell dinner and share favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends.

Evening: At leisure. It’s our last evening together in Costa Rica. Say farewells, finish packing, and get a good night's sleep in preparation for check out and departure in the morning.

DAY
11
Program Concludes, In Transit from Program
In Flight
B

Activity note: Hotel check out by 11:00 a.m. See your program’s travel details regarding transfers at the conclusion of the program.

Breakfast: At the hotel (dependent on flight times).

Morning: Transfer to the airport for flights returning to North America. This concludes our program. Safe travels! If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for the next program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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