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A Report from

Costa Rica, 8 March till 25 March 2007,

Joris Elst and Wim Heylen

Other participants: Christel Van Asselberghs

For additional information, please contact:

Joris Elst                                                          Wim Heylen
Kalmthoutse Steenweg 46                                   Punt 65A      
2990 Wuustwezel                                              2270 Herenthout
Belgium                                                            Belgium
e-mail :                                       e-mail :


This trip covers a 17-day trip to Costa Rica taken by Joris Elst, Wim Heylen and Christel Van Asselberghs. Our main aim was to see as many of the country endemics and near-endemics as possible. Costa Rica is situated in Central America, only 10° above the equator. In the north lies Nicaragua and in the south you find Panama. Costa Rica has a population of about 4,1 million "Ticos" (like Costa Ricans call themselves) and measures 51,000 km2.


We booked our trip through Aratinga Tours, a Belgian–owned bird tour company based in Costa Rica.  We gave them our itinerary and they did all the rest.  They booked our lodging and our car.  Also, where we wanted a guide, they took care of it.  We were very satisfied of their services and can recommend them for sure!

As stated above we had a car in our Aratinga package deal.  We had a Nissan X-trail 4x4.  We had some problems with our clutch, but we got another Nissan X-trail in less than 4 hours delivered on top of the Cerro de la Muerte for no extra money!

Costa Rica is 7 hours earlier (winter) and 8 hours (summer) than Belgium.

A little caution and common sense should see you through Costa Rica without problems.  None of us had real health issues.  We ate and drank almost anything that was on offer at the different places and had no real stomach problems.

Spanish is the only language widely spoken.  In the hotels and lodges there’s always someone who speaks English, but it’s not always the best English.  But without knowing more than Ola, dos cervezas and por favor, we made it through Costa Rica without any problems.


1.      Aratinga Tours
We booked our trip with them and we can really recommend them!

2.      Gone Birding  
Here you can find a newsletter with regularly updated bird sightings from throughout the country.  Managed by Richard Garrigues, the author of the new field guide “The birds of Costa Rica”.


8 march        Antwerp-Amsterdam (train) and flight Amsterdam-Orlando-San Jose, night in Hotel Buena Vista
9 march        birding hotel grounds, La Paz Waterfall Gardens   and Mirador Cinchona, night in Selva Verde
10 march       birding La Selva with a guide night in Selva Verde
11 march       birding La Selva entrance road and Selva Verde grounds, night Selva Verde
12 march       birding Braulio Carillo, the Las Palmas-trail, visit to the El Tapir hummingbird garden and drive to Rancho Naturailsta, night in Rancho Naturalista
13 march       birding Rancho Naturalista grounds all day with a guide. night in Rancho Naturalista
14 march       birding Silent Mountain with a private guide and drive to Tapanti NP. night in Kiri lodge
15 march       birding Tapanti with Pieter Westra and drive to Savegre, night in Savegre Mountain lodge
16 march       birding los Robles and La Quebrada trail, K76 and entrance road from Panamerican highway down to San Gerardo de Dota, night in Savegre Mountain lodge
17 march       birding Cerro de la Muerte, road to antenna’s, hotel la Georgina, K76 and La Quebrada trail, night in Savegre Mountain lodge
18 march       drive to Bosque del rio Tigre with stops on route at Vista del Valle restaurant, Los Chorros restaurant and the metal Rincon bridge and did a short walk up river for the White-crested Coquette, night in Bosque del rio Tigre lodge
19 march       birding Bosque del rio Tigre grounds all day with Abraham the host and an excellent guide and companion., night in Bosque del rio Tigre lodge
20 march       birding on route to Rincon, drive to Punta Leona hotel, birding Guacimo road. night in Punta Leona
21 march       birding figure 8-trail and vigilancia trail in Carara NP, mangrove area, night in Punta Leona hotel
22 march       birding figure 8-trail and vigilancia trial in Carara NP, mangrove boat trip and Guacimo road, night in Punta Leona
23 march       birding the Punta Leona hotel grounds, drive to San Jose, Orotina and Bougainvillea hotel grounds, night in hotel Bougainvillea
24 march       birding Bougainvillea hotel grounds and transfer to airport, flight San Jose – Miami – Amsterdam
25 march       train Amsterdam – Antwerp


All accommodation was booked through Aratinga tours.  But I checked the prices on the internet first.  The total price of our trip quoted by Aratinga tours was very reasonable and it was not worth the effort of booking it all myself.

Hotel Buena Vista
We stayed only one night and birded the hotel grounds first thing in the morning.  It’s a good hotel to go to after a long flight from Europe.

Selva Verde lodge
We stayed here for 3 nights.  It’s a fantastic place to stay and it’s close to La Selva.

Rancho Naturalista
We stayed for 2 nights in this overpriced place.  The birding in the forest behind the lodge is still very good and worth a visit, but the balcony is absolutely not that special…

We stayed here for 1 night only.  It was definitely the cheapest place where we stayed.  The rooms are basic, but clean and comfortable.  It’s the perfect place to bird Tapanti NP.

Savegre Mountain lodge
We stayed here for 3 nights.  It’s a very nice place with good birding around the lodge.

Bosque del rio Tigre lodge
We stayed here for 2 nights.  This is a special place.  Nice setting and excellent birding.  Worth a visit also because the owner/guide Abraham knows where the good birds are.

Punta Leona hotel
We stayed for 3 nights.  We stayed here because Villa Lapas was fully booked.  We didn’t see many birds on the hotel ground, but the swimming pool was great!

hotel Bougainvillea
We stayed our last Costa Rican night here.  A nice hotel with a good garden, which had 2 new species at the end of our trip.


San Jose Airport


Tarcol bridge


La Selva suspension bridge


Selva Verde suspension bridge


Selva Verde


Turnoff to La Selva


La Selva Biological Station


La Paz Waterfall Gardens


Marshy area (Olive-crowned Yellowthroat)


Braulio Carillo - Quebrada Gonzalez (start of Las Palmas trail)


El Tapir butterfly garden (Braulio Carillo)


Turnoff Rancho Naturalista


Prevost's Ground-Sparrow


Silent Mountain (car)


Clearing Silent Mountain (entry point)


Clearing Silent Mountain (furthest point)


Kiri Lodge - Tapanti


Dusky Nightjar stakeout


Antenna road on Cerro de la Muerte


Turnoff to Guacimo along main road


Bosque del Rio Tigre lodge


Bridge along Guacimo road (Long-tailed Manakin)


Hotel Bougeainvillea


Striped Owl stakeout near Jaco (on Se Vende sign)



We want to thank Frederic Van Hove (for excellent local knowledge), Pieter Westra (from Aratinga Tours, for excellent logistics), and Kevin Easley (who helped us out with some good birding spots). VISITED SITES

Below is a list of the sites we birded. Most of them are very well described in various trip reports and publications.

The gardens are worth an early morning visit and are a good place to get the trip list started.  Best birds we had here were White-eared Ground-Sparrow and Plain-capped Starthroat.  We took the Coffee-trail in the garden.

A rather commercial park, but with a lot of feeders and a great hummingbird garden.  Best birds we saw here were Coppery-headed Emerald, Magenta‑throated Woodstar, Sooty-faced Finch and Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch, among others.

A nice place to stop for a short while as we did.  Good hummer-feeders with Coppery-headed Emerald, Violet Sabrewing and Green Thorntail, among others. Also Red-headed Barbet and Golden-browed Chlorophonia on and around the feeders.

A classic place for a birder visiting Costa Rica.  When you want to bird the rainforest you have to hire a guide from the head quarters.  Make sure you get a good guide, because the one we got for the morning was not very good, although we did see some good birds, such as Crested Owl, Sungrebe, Sunbittern, Semiplumbeous Hawk etc.

In the afternoon we got another guide and she was very good and we could get grips of a lot of good birds in the afternoon. Among them Bare-crowned Antbird, Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant and Blue-chested Hummingbird.

If you don’t want to hire a guide for the rainforest you can bird the entrance road for free up until the head quarters.  This is also great birding!  We got among others Great Curassows, White-collared Manakin and Fasciated Antshrike.

We spend every evening on the bridge over the river.  Short-tailed Nighthawk was seen on every visit.  On one night we also had a Great Potoo hunting from a high post!! 

We did the Las Palmas trail that started at the ranger station.  We had a first antswarm here that was accompanied by some very nice birds such as Ocellated Antbird!  The birding was good here with other good species like Streak-crowned Antvireo, Nightingale Wren and Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher.

We also visited a little hummingbird garden (El Tapir) a bit further along the way to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui.  There we had Black-crested Coquette and Snowcap!

On the first afternoon we went immediately to the hummingbird feeders in the forest.  They were of course great, although we didn’t see any new hummingbird species at Rancho.  The first morning we watched the feeders from the balcony and then went into the forest above the lodge with Leo, a very good guide.

After lunch we went back into the forest with Leo and at dusk we watched the hummingbird bathing pools. A nice way to see Snowcap and Purple-crowned Fairy!

We birded Silent Mountain with a private guide, hired by Aratinga tours.  Pablo Elizondo sure knew his way around at Silent Mountain and he also knew some places of good species (ie. Silvery-fronted Tapaculo) along the trail.

We went up there for the Lovely Cotinga, but sadly they had not been seen for many months.

We were guided here by Pieter Westra of Aratinga Tours.  We made some roadside stops, and birded the Oropendola and the Arboles Caidos trail.  The Oropendola trail was easy to walk and held a few good birds.  The Arboles Caidos trail was steep up and steep downhill, not many birds but good ones!! (ie. Ochre-breasted Antpitta)

We birded the road from the Pan-American Highway to the Savegre mountain lodge when we arrived.  The next morning we birded the lodge gardens and the hummingbird feeders before breakfast.  One of the first birds in the morning was Resplendent Quetzal!  After breakfast we did the La Quebrada and the Los Robles trail.  Although we heard some Zeledonias we never could see them. The general birding was very nice up here.  Later we birded the entrance road again. At dusk we got Dusky Nightjar close to the Pan-American Highway.

During our stay at Savegre mountain lodge we visited this paramo area.  We went along the road to the radarstation and the Providencia road at K76.  All highland species were easily seen in the proper habitat except Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher which we sadly missed…

We also visited la Georgina restaurant for Fiery-throated Hummingbird which were common around their feeders.

We stayed at Bosque del rio Tigre lodge.  We birded the Rincon area 2 times, a good place to wander around the mangroves (ie. Mangrove Hummingbird and Yellow-billed Cotinga!!) At Bosque we were almost constantly guided by Abraham, the host of the lodge, who knew the birds very well.  We saw a White-crested Coquette at a stake-out, Uniform Crake was easy along one of the trails behind the lodge, White-throated Crake was found along a little stream in the village nearby and the endemic Black-cheeked Ant-tanager was easy around the lodge and even visited the feeders around the main building. 

We birded the figure 8-trail and the riverside trail both with a guide and on our own on 2 different days.  On both occasions we had some good birds.  Although when we went in on our own we saw the better species, so a guide is not really necessary here!  On our own we saw for example Streak-chested Antpitta, Stub-tailed Spadebill and Blue-crowned Manakin.

We took the boat trip which is really nice.  We saw some quality birds during our boat ride, but missed for instance Mangrove Hummingbird; luckily we already had it at Rincon. 

Close to Carara and we visited twice during our stay there.  If you are not going to Guanacaste during your trip, this is the place to spice up your trip list with dry country species.  We easily saw Long-tailed Manakin, Banded Wren, White-throated Magpie-Jay and many others!

Of course we stopped here to look for the famous pair of Black-and-white Owls.  We easily found them with a little help from a local who saw that we were looking for the owls.

Full Bird list for the trip


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