22443
Costa Rica
Birding in Northern Costa Rica: Tanagers to Toucans
If Spotted Woodcreepers and manakins are on your birding life list, join us for an exploration of northern Costa Rica! An estimated 894 avian species call this country home.
Rating (5)
Program No. 22443RJ
Length
11 days
Starts at
2,299
Flights start at
455
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11 days
10 nights
29 meals
10 B 9 L 10 D
DAY
1
Arrive in San José, Hotel Check In, 6 pm Orientation
San José
D
Villa San Ignacio

Activity note: In order to arrive in time for Orientation, participants must book flights that arrive in San José no later than 4:30 p.m. on Day 1. Some gateways require overnight flights in order to get participants to San José on time. If you would like to make arrangements to arrive in Costa Rica a day or more before your program, please call us at 1-800-866-7111 or email roadscholarprograms@holbrooktravel.com. Please see “Arrival Transfer Info” for details. Hotel check-in from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Orientation: 6:00 p.m. The Group Leader will greet everyone with a warm welcome 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 any questions you may have. The species and numbers of birds we see will depend on seasonality and local conditions at the time of the program. Information on elevation regarding sea level is included in the daily schedule as it relates to species of birds that may be present at specific elevations. Walking distances and times during birding field trips are variable due to factors such as birds in a given area, group size and general ability. Transfers to and from program activities will be by motorcoach, unless specified otherwise. Stops built into the schedule are generally every 1.5-2 hours of travel. Costa Rica’s weather varies by region. In the thick forests of the Caribbean coast and Northern Plains, expect high humidity and temperatures between the 70s and high 80s year-round. The North Pacific has lower humidity levels, but temperatures often in the 90s during the dry months, December to April. Evenings at leisure offer opportunities to make the program more meaningful and memorable through personal independent exploration, engaging in available activities on your own, or simply relaxing and making new friends among fellow participants. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. 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. Please note 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 hotel.

Evening: At leisure. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s sleep for the day ahead.

DAY
2
Intro to Tropical Birding, To Sarapiquí, La Paz Waterfall
Sarapiqui
B,L,D
Selva Verde Lodge

Activity note: The drive from San José to Sarapiquí in the Caribbean lowlands is about 55 miles, approximately 3 hours; elevation in Sarapiquí is approximately 220 feet. Lodge check in from 3:00 p.m. Walking up to several miles; birding trails in primary and secondary rainforest, undulating terrain, hot/humid conditions.

Breakfast: At the hotel, plated meal with juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: At the hotel, we will have a presentation by a local expert introducing tropical birding. We will then check out of the hotel, board our bus, and transfer via Varablanca to the Sarapiquí. 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 400 species recorded. 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. Along the way, enjoy a visit to La Paz Waterfall Gardens to view their hummingbird garden, do some birding from paved paths and admire scenic waterfalls. La Paz Waterfall Gardens is an ecological park located near the Poás Volcano, in a verdant, misty area where cloud and rain forests meet, the park has five beautiful waterfalls that can be admired from various viewpoints through a network of stairways and viewing platforms. The site also features a variety of gardens and walking trails from which visitors can view many species of birds. At the hummingbird garden it is possible to see as many as 26 different hummingbird species from around Costa Rica. Observe these colorful birds up close while they buzz among the tropical plants and feeders.

Lunch: At La Paz Waterfall Gardens. Buffet lunch, plus juice, coffee and water.

Afternoon: Participate in a short walk around La Paz Waterfall Gardens to one of the waterfalls on site. Depart to continue journey to Sarapiqui, arriving in the afternoon. Check in and orientation to the lodge and the grounds. Short (about an hour) birding field trip walking on the lodge’s property. We look forward to opportunities to spot toucans, woodpeckers, parrots, trogons, and perhaps even the endangered Great Green Macaw.

Dinner: In the lodge restaurant, enjoy a 2-course meal plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase. As the sun begins to set, it casts a golden glow over the river and surrounding trees.

Evening: We’ll walk around the lodge grounds with our Group Leader to look for nocturnal species. After sunset, the rainforest comes alive with the calls of its nocturnal inhabitants. Listen to the sounds and try to distinguish one from another as you relax on the verandah. Frogs, owls, bats, tepezquintles (pacas), moths, and various other creatures come out just as most of us are getting ready for bed.

DAY
3
La Selva Biological Station, Birds of Sarapiquí
Sarapiqui
B,L,D
Selva Verde Lodge

Activity note: Elevation is approximately 180 ft. above sea level. Walking up to several miles; birding trails in primary and secondary rainforest, undulating terrain, hot/humid conditions.

Breakfast: Early at the lodge, plated meal with juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: Early this morning we will transfer by motorcoach to the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) La Selva Biological Field Station. With our Group Leader, we’ll continue birding in this well-known preserve for Manakins, tanagers and flycatchers along La Selva’s easy, paved trails. La Selva was established in 1954, as a farm dedicated to the improvement of natural resources management through experimentation on mixed plantations. It was purchased in 1968 by the non-profit Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) and declared a private biological reserve and station. It has become one of the most important sites in the world for tropical rain forest research. La Selva comprises 3,900 acres of tropical wet forests and other lands. A home for more than the half of the 886 species of birds in Costa Rica, the station is located within the tropical and pre-montane wet forest. The OTS consortium includes 63 universities and research institutions from Latin America, the U.S., and Australia.

Lunch: At the lodge.

Afternoon: Field trip to Copearte. Copearte is a garden run by a local artist and photographer with a passion for nature. The grounds, designed to maximize opportunities for birding and photography, feature ponds that attract aquatic species as well as blinds from which participants can photograph birds despite weather conditions.During the visit, we will be led by a local expert around the grounds and keep a look out for bird species that have been spotted on the grounds: Collared aracari, Band-tailed barbthroat, Black-crowned antpitta, and Pied puffbirds. Board bus and return to the lodge. Back at the lodge, a local expert will present a lecture on the birds of Sarapiquí.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Evening: We’ll go on another night walk around the lodge grounds to look for nocturnal species. Prepare for check out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
4
Transfer to Caño Negro, Birding Northern Flatlands
Caño Negro
B,L,D
Cano Negro Natural Lodge

Activity note: The bus ride from Sarapiquí to Caño Negro is about 46 miles, approximately 4 hours, with birding en route. The elevation is from 100 to 330 feet. We will have an opportunity before breakfast for another birding walk around the hotel grounds. Walking up to 1 mile, uneven terrain. Caño Negro hotel check in by 3:00 p.m.

Breakfast: Hotel plated meal.

Morning: After checking out, we will board our bus and transfer to the Caño Negro area in the northern flat lands. We expect to arrive at the hotel in time for lunch.

Lunch: At the lodge.

Afternoon: 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. Much of the flooded estuary dries up during the dry season when many of the birds migrate, then return with the rains. Caño Negro’s most common visitors are birds. We will continue our birding adventure with a walking field trip around the grounds to look for birds such as the 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 Nicarargua. Regrouping before dinner, we’ll have a presentation on the Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge and wetlands where we’ll have our boating field trip tomorrow.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Evening: At leisure. Enjoy a walk or simply relax.

DAY
5
Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge Boat Ride
Caño Negro
B,L,D
Cano Negro Natural Lodge

Activity note: Early morning birding on the lodge grounds. Walking up to 1 mile, uneven terrain. Birding from small, flat bottom boats in the wetlands.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We’ll take a short bus ride to the boat dock for our field trip through the wetlands with an expert presentation on wetland bird species by our Group Leader. This remote 22,000 acre tropical wetland teems with wildlife. Aboard our boat, we will explore a portion of Costa Rica considered by many to be the best example of Mesoamerican wetlands. As we glide along lagoons and canals, be on the lookout for some of the 350 species of birds found in the refuge, including the largest colony of neotropic cormorants in Costa Rica, a colony of Nicaraguan grackle, and egrets, anhingas, Roseate Spoonbills and other waterfowl. We may also spot caiman, crocodiles, and monkeys. Returning to the lodge, the remainder of the morning is free.

Lunch: At the lodge.

Afternoon: Our next field trip is to the town of Caño Negro, where we will learn about the importance of wetlands as related to bird habitats and ecology during a boating field trip with expert commentary. Caño Negro is one of the country’s most important wetlands areas, protected by the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty for conserving and sustaining wetlands. Adding to the diverse local bird population, thousands of migratory birds return here annually, whether for a short stay or to winter over. Caño Negro is also one of the few nesting spots for the endangered Jabiru Stork. We’ll return to the hotel with time to freshen up and relax before dinner.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for early morning activities, check out, and transfer to Arenal.

DAY
6
Transfer to Arenal, Fortuna Town
Arenal
B,L,D
Arenal Observatory Lodge

Activity note: Early morning birding on the lodge grounds. Walking up to 2 miles, stopping to spot birds; uneven, undulating terrain in primary and secondary tropical forests with volcanic soil. The drive from Caño Negro to Arenal is about 60 miles, approx. 2-3 hours depending on local conditions. Elevation ranges from 1,650 feet to 2,950 feet near lodge. Lodge check in from 3:00 p.m.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: After checking out, we will board the bus and transfer to Arenal with stops for birding en route. The foothills and mountains surrounding Arenal Volcano National Park form a lush natural corridor between the Tilaran Range highlands and the northern lowlands, providing excellent habitat for many tropical species of flora and fauna. The park itself consists of primary rainforest, while the volcano’s impressive and nearly perfect cone shape dominates the landscape. This was Costa Rica’s most active volcano, which began its present eruptive cycle in 1968 until 2010.

Lunch: At a local restaurant en route.

Afternoon: We expect to arrive at the lodge in the early afternoon and stretch our legs with an expert led walk on the lodge grounds. We may be able to spot species such as hummingbirds, including the Black-crested Coquette, White-necked Jacobin, Stripe-throated Hermit, Violet-headed Hummingbird, and possibly the Rufous-tailed Hummingbird. We’ll then return to the lodge for check in.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Evening: At leisure. Walk the grounds of the lodge or just relax. Prepare for early morning activities.

DAY
7
Arenal Skywalk
Arenal
B,L,D
Arenal Observatory Lodge

Activity note: The drive to Arenal Skywalk is about 2.2 miles, approximately 1/2 hour. Elevation approximately 2,460 feet. Rainforest trail conditions with uneven with ascents and descents.

Breakfast: Early morning coffee and cookies at the lodge with a walk along the hotel grounds and trails. We’ll then return to the lodge for breakfast.

Morning: We will board our bus and ride to the Arenal Skywalk Hanging Bridges for an expert led walking field trip along the undulating “terrain” of suspension bridges that take us through the primary rainforest. We’ll have a bird’s eye view of this pristine natural reserve through the lush vegetation surrounding us. Among the bird species we might see are mixed flocks including Streak-crowned Antvireo, Slaty Antwren, Spotted Woodcreeper, White-fronted Nunbird, and Scarlet-rumped Caciques. Other birds often seen here include Keel-billed Motmot, Rufous Motmot, Purplish-backed Quail-Dove, Spotted Antbird and the Short-tailed Hawk. We’ll return to the lodge at the conclusion of our field trip.

Lunch: At the lodge.

Afternoon: We’ll venture out with our Group Leader on the lodge’s trails and walkways for an excellent opportunity to spot motmots and jacamars.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
8
Transfer to Ensenada, Tropical Dry Forest Birding
Tempisque
B,L,D
La Ensenada Lodge

Activity note: The drive from Arenal to the Ensenada Wildlife Refuge is about 75 miles, approximately 4 hours. Elevations up to 3,000 feet. Terrain is patchy forest with uneven, undulating terrain.

Breakfast: At the lodge.

Morning: We’ll check out of the hotel, board our bus and relax as we drive to the Ensenada Wildlife Refuge in the Gulf of Nicoya area. We expect to arrive in time for lunch. This region of Northwestern Costa Rica is characterized by an endangered life zone known as semi-deciduous or Tropical Dry Forest. Prolonged periods with very little rain have determined not only the forest’s structure, but also adaptations and specializations of plant and bird life. This area has its own unique species and is important to thousands of resident and migratory birds. Ensenada Wildlife Refuge is a private refuge created to protect not only the Tropical Dry Forest, but also the natural lagoons, mangrove, and estuarine habitats connected to the Gulf of Nicoya. We’ll check in to the lodge upon arrival.

Lunch: At the lodge.

Afternoon: Little used trails throughout the property make for excellent birding in the forest around the lodge. Around mid-afternoon, we’ll head out looking for dry forest species such as the Turquoise browed Motmot and the Black Headed Trogon.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Evening: We’ll venture into the reserve for nocturnal birding. Using powerful lights to spot eyes, we’ll look for species such as night hawks, screech owls, nightjars, potoos, and thick-knees.

DAY
9
Gulf of Nicoya Study Cruise, Lodge Grounds Birding
Tempisque
B,L,D
La Ensenada Lodge

Activity note: Early morning birding on lodge grounds before returning to the lodge for breakfast. Walking up to 1 mile, undulating trails. Elevation is approximately 180 feet above sea level.

Breakfast: At the lodge.

Morning: For another fascinating kind of birding, we’ll go on a study cruise in the Gulf of Nicoya, navigating canals and inlets of mangrove swamps that offer great opportunities to observe shore birds and marine species. We might also see endemics such as the mangrove black hawk and mangrove warbler. We’ll transfer back to the lodge at the end of our field trip.

Lunch: At the lodge.

Afternoon: Next, we’ll go on a tractor-pulled cart ride around the lodge grounds, observing grasslands, lagoons, and salt ponds that are ideal for spotting shorebirds such as stilts and sandpipers. We’ll pause at a lookout point on the grounds to watch a beautiful Costa Rica sunset, then return to freshen up and relax before dinner.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Evening: With our Group Leader, we will take in an evening walk around the grounds. Then prepare for check out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
10
Transfer to the Central Valley
San José
B,L,D
Wyndham San Jose Herradura Hotel & Convention Center

Activity note: Early morning birding before breakfast on lodge grounds. Drive through the Central Valley is about 85 miles, approximately 3 hours.

Breakfast: At the lodge.

Morning: After checking out, we’ll board our bus for the return to the Central Valley and San José.

Lunch: At a restaurant en route.

Afternoon: Continuing our transfer, we expect to arrive in San José late afternoon and check in to the hotel with time to freshen up and relax before dinner.

Dinner: Hotel. During our farewell dinner, we’ll discuss the final bird count and share our favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for hotel check out and departure in the morning.

DAY
11
Program Concludes
In Flight
B

Activity note: Hotel check out by 11:00 a.m. Participants with independent travel arrangements and/or scheduled on later flights can keep their hotel rooms until check-out time on this day. Except for breakfast, all other meals on this day are on your own.

Breakfast: At the hotel. This concludes our program.






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