Carolina Bird Club Costa Rica Bonus Trip: Feb 18–27, 2017

Note: This trip is full, with a substantial wait list.

This CBC bonus birding trip will take in some of the very best areas that Costa Rica has to offer. We will start out in the lush middle elevations on the Caribbean slope before descending to the diverse Caribbean lowlands for a 3 night stay in the lovely La Quinta Country Inn. Here we will take in several key birding areas including La Selva OTS, La Virgen del Socorro, a feeding station new Guapiles and the Old Butterfly garden. After the lowlands we will ascend to the middle elevations of the Caribbean slope near Tapanti National Park; one of the most beautiful areas in all of Costa Rica. And our final destination will take us to the highlands of Savegre, home to what many consider the most beautiful bird in the New World, the Resplendent Quetzal.

We will visit hummingbird and banana feeders throughout the trip allowing for up close and personal study of hummingbirds, tanagers, finches and much more. Professional bird guide Steven Easley will be our local guide for our trip, a highly respected authority on Costa Rican birds and other wildlife. This bonus trip is packed with excellent birding, comfortable lodging, and excellent food so join us as we explore the many wonders of Costa Rica.

Keel-billed Toucan is just one of the amazing tropical birds we will see in our Costa Rica visit  © Steven Easley
Keel-billed Toucan is just one of the amazing tropical birds we will see in our Costa Rica visit © Steven Easley

Itinerary brief:

Geographically, Costa Rica is a small country located in Central America between Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south with the Caribbean Sea to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. There have been over 900 species of birds recorded in Costa Rica with approximately 800 of these species recorded on a yearly basis. Six endemics are found in Costa Rica, 3 on the mainland and 3 on Cocos Island 600 kms (373miles) SSW of mainland Costa Rica. What is remarkable is the 90+ near endemics found in Costa Rica, 50+ of which occur in the highlands shared with W Panama.

Map of Costa Rica

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1

Arrive to San Jose Airport (SJO); meet our transport for the short transfer to Hotel Robledal for our first night.

Day 2

A short walk on the grounds of our hotel will produce many of the common birds of the area. Here we should see our first of many Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds, Great Kiskadee, Clay-colored Thrush, Blue-gray Tanager, Grayish Saltator, and perhaps the resident Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl. After breakfast we will set off on a scenic journey through coffee plantations and highland forest patches as we ascend the slope of Poas Volcano. A short stop at a hummingbird feeding station will have us looking at the Cerise-throated race of Volcano Hummingbird, Green Violetear, Magnificent Hummingbird and Purple-throated Mountain-gem along with our first Rufous-collared Sparrows and perhaps a Flame-colored Tanager or Long-tailed Silky-Flycatcher.

Soon after, we will arrive to La Paz Waterfall Garden where hummingbird species await. First however, we may want to take in the fruit feeders at La Paz which attract Silver-throated, Crimson-collared and Passerini's Tanagers along with Common Chlorospingus (Bush-Tanager). The hummingbird feeders below offer an incredible opportunity to see these jewels at very close range. Species here include Green Hermit, Green Thorntail, Violet Sabrewing, Magenta-throated Woodstar, White-bellied Mountain-gem, the endemic Coppery-headed Emerald, and the unique Black-bellied Hummingbird to name a few. Other birds in the area include Spangle-cheeked Tanager, Sooty-faced Finch and Black-cowled Oriole. The forest trails can hold mixed feeding flocks with Red-faced Spinetail, Spotted Barbtail, Spotted Woodcreeper, Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush, Bay-headed Tanager among many others.

Passerini's Tanager Green Thorntail
Passerini's Tanager & Green Thorntail (both males) are just two of the exciting birds today © Steven Easley & Kevin Easley

After an excellent lunch buffet we will walk the waterfall trail, not only for possible new birds but also the spectacular scenery as we pass by three waterfalls. We will then load up and continue downslope to the Caribbean lowlands. After checking into our comfortable lodge we will visit a site nearby where we will begin our birding of this richly diverse habitat. It is here we should see our first toucans, parrots and perhaps even the magnificent Great Green Macaw. We will have 3 nights in the area using La Quinta Country Inn as our base. Banana feeders at the lodge will provide great photography opportunities for the likes of Collared Aracari, Red-throated Ant-Tanager, Orange-billed Sparrow, and many others. Be sure and listen for Spectacled Owls in the evening around the lodge.

Day 3

This day in the Caribbean lowlands will certainly be one of the best days of the trip filled with an abundance of tropical wildlife sightings. We will need to get an early start to take in one of the best birding sites in the New World tropics; La Selva Biological Station. This station protects some pristine lowland rainforest in Costa Rica. As we bird the entrance road and forest trails here we hope to encounter the likes of Great Tinamou, Great Curassow, Crested Guan, Snowy Cotinga, Rufous and Broad-billed Motmots, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Keel-billed and Chestnut-mandibled Toucans, Mealy and Red-lored Parrot along with raptors, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, woodcreepers, antbirds, tanagers and much more.

Broad-billed Motmot Crested Guan
Broad-billed Motmot and Crested Guan; two species found at La Selva OTS © Steven Easley

Mammals are well represented here and the possibilities include both Two-toed and Three-toed Sloths, White-throated Capuchin, Mantled Howler, Central American Spider Monkey, Collared Peccary, and Central American Agouti. Noteworthy reptiles and amphibians include the dragon like Green Basilisk, huge Green Iguanas and Strawberry Poison Dart-Frogs.

We will return to our comfortable lodge where an excellent dinner awaits us followed by reviewing the daily list. 2nd night at La Quinta

Day 4

We will backtrack slightly from Day 2 in order to bird the forested valley of La Virgen del Socorro during the prime morning hours. Here we will search for mixed flocks which could include Collared Trogon, Russet Antshrike, Slaty-capped Flycatcher, Slate-throated Redstart, and an astonishing array of tanagers. Keep an eye out along the rocks of the rushing river below for Torrent Tyrannulet or American Dipper. On clear days it is often the raptors that steal the show with possibilities of Swallow-tailed Kite, both White and Barred Hawks and even Ornate Hawk-Eagle. In the late afternoon we will continue to explore the area near La Selva OTS for birds like Green Ibis, Bat Falcon, Long-tailed Tyrant, the localized Nicaraguan Seed-Finch and others. Dusk will find us awaiting the flight of the Short-tailed Nighthawks near a bend in a river. 3rd and final night at La Quinta Country Inn

Day 5

We will load up the van early for an incredible morning of birding enroute to our next destination. A stop at Rio San Jose will usually produce Fasciated Tiger-Heron along with Amazon and Ringed Kingfishers among other riverine habitat species. Our next stop will be at a site on the edge of Guapiles with both hummingbird and banana feeders. We should get fine views of White-necked Jacobin, both Long-billed and Stripe-throated Hermits, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer and Blue-chested Hummingbirds. The bananas attract a different set of birds and these include Passerini's Tanager, Montezuma Oropendola, euphonias, and even Gray-necked Wood-Rail to name a few. A search in the nearby forest patch often turns up roosting Spectacled Owls.

Spectacled Owl Gray-necked Wood-Rail
A day roosting Spectacled Owl and a sunning Gray-necked Wood-Rail © Steven Easley & Kevin Easley

Next we will visit the vervain flowers at the Old Butterfly Garden. Located just above the lowlands in the foothills, new species of hummingbirds here include Violet-headed Hummingbird, Crowned Woodnymph, the stunning Black-crested Coquette and with luck the incomparable Snowcap. The surrounding forest can hold mixed flocks, among them many species of colorful tanagers including Golden-hooded, Black-and-yellow, Speckled and Bay-headed.

The afternoon will find us making our way to our next bird-rich area: the Orosi Valley near Tapanti National Park. After passing through Cartago and Paraiso we will come to the coffer plantations of Ujarras. These coffer plantations are home to several key species including Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush and both White-eared and Prevost's Ground-Sparrows. In the trees above these plantations we will find squawking flocks of White-crowned Parrots and Crimson-fronted Parakeets along with an array of migrant warblers. We will arrive to our lodge in the late afternoon, where another delicious meal awaits. 2 nights at Hotel Rio Perlas.

Day 6

Tapanti National Park is one of the most scenic of all in Costa Rica. With an altitudinal range between 3,200 and 5,000 feet on the Caribbean slope, the habitat of wet pre-montane forest holds many specialties to search out this day. Near the entrance of the park we will watch for Green-fronted Lancebill as they are sometimes seen hawking for insects along the stream while the aptly named Elegant Euphonia is best looked for in the mistletoe berries. Mixed species flocks are usually a highlight at Tapanti and often include the stunning Red-headed Barbet, along with its larger but less colorful cousin the Prong-billed Barbet. Red-faced Spinetail, Spotted Barbtail, Ochraceous Wren, Three-striped Warbler, the bold White-winged Tanager along with Spangle-cheeked Tanager all regularly travel with these busy flocks. Riverside specialists here include American Dipper and the darling Torrent Tyrannulet while understory species include Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush and Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch to name a few. On the rare event we have a sunny day we will be on the lookout for soaring raptors such as Barred Hawk, and both Black and Ornate Hawk-Eagles. Time permitting we will do some owling this night in hopes of coaxing in a Bare-shanked Screech-Owl or Mottled Owl. After a long but successful day of birding you may want to take in the thermal bathing pools at the hotel. 2nd night at Hotel Rio Perlas.

Day 7

A visit to a nearby forested track not far from our hotel will give us another opportunity to search out the specialties of the middle elevation Caribbean forest. Mixed flocks are always possible so we will be on the lookout for Immaculate (Zeledon's) Antbird, Streaked Xenops, Scaly-throated Foliage-gleaner, and Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant; you have to love some of these names!

After loading up the van we will set off for the cool highlands. Climbing out of Cartago on the Pan American Highway, we will soon reach the montane oak forest of the Talamancas. Almost every birding stop will add new and unique species to our growing bird list, many of which can only be seen in the highlands of Costa Rica and western Panama. A stop on the entrance road to our lodge will produce many of these at very close range. Flame-colored Tanager, Sooty-capped Chlorospingus (Bush-Tanager), Yellow-thighed and Large-footed Finches, Volcano Hummingbird, White-throated Mountain-Gem will all be evident as well as an old friend from the oak forests of Western US; the Acorn Woodpecker. We will arrive at our mountain retreat located beside the Rio Savegre in time for a delicious dinner with fresh trout being the speciality of the area. 2 nights at Savegre Mountain Lodge

Day 8

Birding the grounds of our lodge is simply magical. Birds seem tame here and will no doubt include Mountain Elaenia, Tufted Flycatcher, Long-tailed Silky-Flycatcher, Collared Redstart and Flame-throated Warbler. The hummingbird feeders at the lodge will include White-throated Mountain-gem, Green Violetear, Volcano, Scintillant, and Striped-tailed Hummingbirds. Forest species nearby can be more elusive but we hope to get good views of Spotted Wood-Quail, Emerald Toucanet, Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush and Chestnut-capped Brushfinch to name just a few. Our quest this morning however, is to locate the most stunning of all Costa Rica's species, the superb Resplendent Quetzal.

Flame-throated Warbler Collared Redstart
Two specialties of the Costa Rica highlands; Flame-throated Warbler & Collared Redstart © Steven Easley & Kevin Easley

We will have an excellent opportunity to see this amazing bird during our time here. After breakfast we will take a short open-air ride by 4x4 vehicle up a steep track to reach the productive trails of Los Robles and Quebrada. Here in the primary oak cloud-forest we will search for Spot-crowned Woodcreeper, Buffy Tuftedcheek, Ochraceous Pewee, and Black-cheeked Warbler to name a few. The afternoon will find us searching out birds like Sulphur-winged Parakeet, Yellow-winged Vireo, Wrenthrush (Zeledonia), and many more specialties. The best time to see the Dusky Nightjar is at dusk and we will make a special effort for this localized highland endemic. 2nd night at Savegre Mountain Lodge

Resplendent Quetzal
The incomparable male Resplendent Quetzal © Steven Easley

Day 9

Leaving Savegre, we will make a short southerly diversion to high altitude where the windswept paramo (at 11,0000 ft above sea level) is home to specialities such as Fiery-throated Hummingbird, Sooty Thrush, Timberline Wren, and Volcano Junco. From here, we will travel further south to visit a lodge with hummingbird and banana feeders. Here we hope to add the likes of Long-billed Starthroat, the localized White-tailed Emerald and with luck White-crested Coquette to our hummingbird list. The bananas attract Cherrie's Tanager (Pacific cousin of the Passerini's), Speckled Tanager, White-naped Brushfinch and occasionally even a pair of Red-headed Barbets. Two wildly attractive birds to look for in the mistletoe berries are the Elegant Euphonia and the vibrant Golden-browed Chlorophonia. Swallow-tailed Kites can often be seen here as they gracefully glide over the hills.

After lunch we will backtrack into the Central Valley, work our way through the bustling capitol of San Jose, and eventually arrive to the Hotel Robledal for our final night of the tour. A farewell dinner will certainly be the time to reminisce about our favorite bird and experience of our time together in beautiful Costa Rica.

Days 10

We will take the hotel shuttle the short distance to the airport where we check-in for our Int'l flight home.

Trip Information

Entrance fees and activities as outlined in the itinerary are all included in the price.

Birds Expect over 250 species on this tour with a good representation of Costa Rica's hummingbirds, toucans, motmots, trogons, tanagers, oropendolas and much more. A checklist will be provided to each participant. Every evening, either before or after dinner, we will go over our daily checklist.

Mammals La Selva is the best area for mammals on this tour with possibilities of seeing Mantled Howler, Central American Spider-Monkey, White-faced Capuchin, both Two-toed and Three-toed Sloths, Tamandua (Lesser Anteater) White-nosed Coati, Collared Peccary, and Central American Agouti. Tapanti holds other mammals, though often more difficult to locate, and these include Alfaro's Pygmy-Squirrel and Red Brocket Deer. By far the most common mammals are squirrels with Red-tailed Squirrel and Variegated Squirrel being the common ones.

Photography opportunities are excellent at feeder sites and around the lodges. Depending on your equipment and skill you will have good chances on the wider trails in the forested areas we will visit.

Meals All meals from breakfast–Feb 19 through breakfast–Feb 27 are included in the price. Dinner the night of arrival (Feb 18) is not included in the price as it depends on our flight schedule. The hotel we will be staying has a restaurant where you can order a-la-carte and pay for directly to the hotel for this meal.

Special Diets Our agents in Costa Rica will pass on all such requests to the hotels and they will do their best to ensure (but of course cannot guarantee) that your needs will be met.

Water Safe drinking water will be provided on the bus throughout the trip in the form of refill jugs.

Transport By comfortable Toyota Coaster which has seats for 16+ passengers. It is equipped with AC and is the perfect vehicle for our tour to Costa Rica. We will have a safe and dedicated driver with us throughout our tour.


Level of activity to expect: Costa Rica is a mountainous country so expect some trails to be steeper in parts - these will be taken slowly, with frequent stops to bird and rest. The walking effort is mostly easy, but can be moderate at times due to the terrain and/or altitude at a few spots. At Savegre, we will be birding at elevations over 7,000 ft above sea level with a couple of hours at a higher elevation, in the paramo zone, of around 11,000. Insects February being the dry season, you should not expect a lot of annoying insects during our time in Costa Rica. That being said, insect repellent is always good to have on hand in case we do run into mosquitoes or other annoying insects.

Weather February is during Costa Rica's dry season but rainfall can occur anytime. The lowland areas are hot and humid in the middle of the day while the middle elevations are very pleasant. In the highlands it can get cold but never below freezing. A fleece should be brought for the time in the highlands.

A VALID PASSPORT IS REQUIRED TO ENTER COSTA RICA FROM THE USA and you must have at least 6 months left on your passport to enter so be sure your passport does not expire before Aug 18, 2017.

Group Size 7 to 9 participants

Price per person double occupancy based on 7 participants: $ 2,380

Price per person double occupancy based on 9 participants: $ 2,100

Single supplement: $ 490

(Single supplement applies to anyone staying in a room by themselves, hotels charge more for single rooms)

What is included in the price: As per the itinerary all accommodations from Feb 18 till Feb 27. All meals from breakfast Feb 19 through breakfast Feb 27. Fulltime local guide Steven Easley from Feb 19 AM till Feb 26 PM. Transportation by comfortable Toyota Coaster which has seats for 16+ passengers. We will have a safe and dedicated driver with us throughout our trip. All activities and park entrance fees. 4x4 truck ride Savegre. Airport pickup and drop-offs.

What is NOT included in the price:
Airfare to and from San Jose, Costa Rica and travel insurance
Tips to local guide, driver, hotel staff, waiters, etc.
Any items of a personal nature such as phone calls, laundry, internet service etc.
Sodas or alcoholic beverages that are not provided as included in the meals
Airport Exit Tax of $29 USD per person (check your flight ticket as it is often included)

About the Trip Leaders: Sherry Lane lives in Wilmington NC with her husband and 2 sons. She has led birding field trips for Cape Fear Audubon. She recently returned from a family/friends birding trip which she organized and led to Costa Rica. She has been on birding trips to Panama, Colombia and Brazil. She works as a Physician Assistant, but her passion is tropical birding.

Steven Easley lives in Costa Rica near Turrialba with his wife Magdalena. Steven is a very accomplished nature photographer, specializing in birds. His wealth of knowledge on all things natural will be evident from day one whether it is butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies, leafhoppers, reptiles or amphibians. Steven has been guiding in Costa Rica for the past 13 years. He is a bird guide who is serious about birding but also wants everyone to have a good time in the process. A

Interested birders: Contact Sherry Lane for registration information.
Group is limited to 9 participants on a first-come, first-serve basis.