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
28 meals
10 B 9 L 9 D
Getting There
See travel details and required documents
DAY
1
Arrive in San José, Check-in, Orientation, Dinner on Own
San Jose
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. 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. Meals on our program feature local cuisine. In many cases, they will be plated and served set meals; in others, we will have buffets with multiple options. Beverages include coffee, tea, water; other beverages are usually available for purchase. Unless otherwise specified, transportation during your program will be provided by air conditioned motorcoach. Periods in the schedule labeled “Free Time” and “At Leisure” offer opportunities to make the program more meaningful and memorable while going out to explore on your own, engaging in available activities independently, making new friends among fellow Road Scholars, or simply relaxing. The Group Leader will always be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

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

Evening: At leisure.

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

Activity note: Driving time 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.

Morning: Lecture: Introduction to Birding in Costa Rica. Transfer to the Central Pacific coast. Arrive at the hotel in time for lunch.

Lunch: At the hotel.

Afternoon: After settling in at the hotel, join your 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 lodge.

Evening: Weather permitting, enjoy a night walk in search of nocturnal species.

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

Activity note: For your safety and comfort, please wear closed toe/heel shoes during forest walks.

Breakfast: Early breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: After breakfast, we will transfer to the Carara National Park for birding activities. 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 sizeable population of endangered Scarlet Macaws.

Lunch: At the hotel.

Afternoon: After lunch we will bird on the hotel grounds as well as along the boundaries of Carara National Park. Lecture: Ecology of the Scarlet Macaw

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: Bird checklist review and briefing of next day’s activities.

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

Activity note: Birding from nature trails and walking on irregular terrain. The drive from Carara to Golfito is about 150 miles, approximately 4 hours. The journey will be broken up with an en route activity and lunch. Elevation in the Golfito area is approximately 200 ft.

Breakfast: Early morning birding. Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: After breakfast we will 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 lecture 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 costal 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: Once we are done with lunch we will continue our transfer to Golfito. After a late afternoon arrival at the lodge, we will join our group leader in birding activities along the property’s garden and trails.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Evening: Weather permitting, we will join our group leader on a night walk around the lodge. Bird checklist review and briefing of next day’s activities.

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

Activity note: Birding from forest trails and walking on irregular terrain. Elevations for this day average from between 100 to 300 ft.

Breakfast: Early morning birding. Breakfast at the lodge.

Morning: Today we will enjoy 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. Elevations for this day average from between 100 to 300 ft. 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: After lunch, continue birding at the Esquinas Rainforest Reserve. We want to maximize our opportunities of seeing target species for this area such as Shrike Tanagers and Great Curasaw. 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 lodge.

Evening: Lecture: History of La Gamba Field Station and the Esquinas Rainforest Reserve. Bird checklist review and briefing of next day’s activities.

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

Activity note: Birding from nature trails and walking on irregular terrain. The drive from Golfito to San Vito is about 48 miles, approximately 2.5 - 3 hours. Elevation at San Vito is approximately 2,500 ft.

Breakfast: Early morning birding. Breakfast at the lodge.

Morning: After breakfast we will begin our transfer to the San Vito area in the Coto Brus Valley, arriving 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.

Afternoon: Afternoon bird 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.

Dinner: At the station.

Evening: A presentation by a resident naturalist will give us an overview of the Station’s mission and some of its important research projects. Bird checklist review and briefing of next day’s activities.

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

Activity note: Average elevation for this day is approximately 2,500 ft.

Breakfast: Early morning birding. Breakfast at the station.

Morning: This morning we will enjoy birding along the Java River Trail. Average elevation for this day is approximately 2,500 ft. While birding 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: Afternoon guided bird walk along the gardens. 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 lodge.

Evening: Night walk around the botanical gardens in search of nocturnal species. Bird checklist review and briefing of next day’s activities.

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: Birding from trails and walking on irregular terrain. 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: Early morning birding. Breakfast at the station.

Morning: This morning we will check-out and begin our transfer to the San Gerardo de Dota area.

Lunch: At a local restaurant en route.

Afternoon: After our lunch break, we will get back on the road and continue our journey to San Gerardo de Dota, located in Costa Rica’s Talamanca Mountains. We expect to arrive at our lodge by mid-afternoon. Following check-in, we will make use of the remaining daylight hours to explore the lodge’s grounds and do a bit of birding.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Evening: Evening presentation on the Resplendent Quetzal. Bird checklist review and briefing of next day’s activities.

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

Activity note: Walking on irregular terrain.

Breakfast: Early morning birding. Breakfast at the lodge.

Morning: Today we will spend the morning birding in the lodge’s reserve. The Resplendent Quetzal is our main target, 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, 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.

Afternoon: After lunch we will spend the afternoon birding at the Cerro de la Muerte and La Georgina area to observe timberline species such as Volcano Junco, Fiery-throated Hummingbird, Black and Yellow Silky Flycatcher, Timberline Wren and Sooty Thrush.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Evening: Bird checklist review and briefing of next day’s activities.

DAY
10
Birding at Cerro de la Muerte, Transfer to San José
San Jose
B,L,D
Hotel Buena Vista

Activity note: Check out after breakfast. Walking on irregular terrain. From San Gerardo de Dota to our hotel is approximately 73 miles; about 3 hours by motorcoach.

Breakfast: Early morning birding. Breakfast at the lodge.

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

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: Once at the hotel we will check-in and get settled into our rooms. Before dinner, we will join our group leader in a final checklist review.

Dinner: Farewell dinner at the hotel.

Evening: At leisure. Spend your last evening in Costa Rica with your new Road Scholar friends, finish your packing, or get a good night's sleep in preparation for international departures tomorrow.

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

Activity note: Hotel check out by 11:00 a.m. If you are an independent traveler (POP status), see “Ground Transportation from Last Location.

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

Morning: Transfer to the international airport in preparation for return flights 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!