Kaleidoscope of Bird Diversity

Costa Rica

March 11 - 26, 2018
Cost: $5,960
Leader: Paco Madrigal
Group Size: 10
Days: 16

Safari Overview

Explore this lush and diverse country full of colorful birds and wildlife with our experienced and knowledgeable guide. This small Central American country holds some of the most productive ecosystems in the world. We will explore a slice of tropical environments through Savegre River Valley, Carara National Park, La Selva Biological Station, and Tortuguero National Park to maximize our experiences. This is the best time for exceptional weather and to see active animals, including migrating bird species as they journey along the Continental Divide, the backbone of Costa Rica. We will also watch other animals such as monkeys, sloths, crocodiles, peccaries, and agoutis. Enjoy the friendly people and delicious food of Costa Rica at brilliantly situated lodges. We invite you to join us in exploring this popular Central American hotspot.

• Explore Costa Rica by bus, boat, and foot for magnificent bird and animal watching.
• Search for the Resplendent Quetzal, one of the most beautiful birds in Central America.
• Encounter very different forest habitats: tropical rain, cloud, and dry.
• Experience La Selva Biological station, a hotbed of tropical ecosystem research, where over 600 species are present.

Itinerary Updated: May 2016

FAQ Print Trip
Date Description Lodge Meals
Mar 11 Arrive and meet your guide in San José. Hotel Bougainvillea, San José D
Mar 12-13 Experience the Cloud forests of the Savegre River Valley and the Resplendent Quetzal. Savegre Hotel B, L, D
Mar 14-15 Discover rainforest habitats of Carara National Park on the banks of the Tarcoles River near the Pacific coast, including a mangrove boat tour. Hotel Villa Lapas B, L, D
Mar 16-17 Explore the tropical dry forests, marshlands, estuaries, and mangroves of Guanacaste Peninsula. La Ensenada Lodge B, L, D
Mar 18-19 View active Volcán Arenal and walks in Arenal National Park on tropical forest trails with great birding. Arenal Observatory Lodge B, L, D
Mar 20-22 Explore tropical lowland rainforests of the Caribbean slope along the Sarapiqui River, including visits to Braulio Carrillo National Park and the La Selva Biological Station, a world-famous tropical research facility. Selva Verde Lodge B, L, D
Mar 23-24 Boat to Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean to explore rich narrow waterways through the rainforest by boat. Laguna Lodge B, L, D
Mar 25 Return to San José for a farewell dinner. Hotel Bougainvillea, San José B, L, D
Mar 26 Flights homeward. B

Our Trip Leaders

Paco Madrigal

Paco has over 20 years of experience guiding wildlife, natural history, and birding tours throughout his native Costa Rica. He has been leading tours in Panama since 2014. He studied English and Ornithology at the University of Florida then worked at Costa Rica’s La Selva Biological Station before following his dream of starting his own tour company. His deep knowledge and charming personality make him one of our best leaders.

Detailed Itinerary

A glimpse into our journey

Arrive in San José

Mar 11

Arrive in San José by this evening for an overnight at the Hotel Bougainvillea on ten acres of beautiful gardens that attract a multitude of birds including some we might not see on other parts of the tour! We will arrange your transfer from the airport to the hotel.

Savegre River Valley

Mar 12-13

Resplendent Quetzal by Debbie Thompson

Enter the misty highland cloud forests in the Talamanca Mountains and the Savegre River Valley where we will look for a large number of species of flora and fauna. The jewel of these forests is the Resplendent Quetzal, considered by some to be the most beautiful bird in Central America. You’ll also watch birds on the Savegre Hotel’s private 400-hectare natural reserve by visiting the bird feeding stations and by walking through gardens, and along trails in the forest and along the Savegre River.

Carara National Park

Mar 14-15

Parque Nacional Carara by Debbie Thompson

Situated on the banks of the Tarcoles River near the Pacific coast, Carara National Park is located in a unique climate zone that joins the humid southern coastal region and the dry climate of the northern Pacific area, creating a rich mix of species from both regions. A highlight of the Carara Reserve is a chance to watch the Orange-collared Manakin dancing in its lek, an aggregation of males that perform competitive displays to attract females who are ready to mate. You’ll explore the bird-rich trails through the forests in search of tiger-herons, antbirds, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, trogons, and Royal Flycatchers. Become one with the sights and sounds around you while looking for a cooperative mixed flock foraging together, or even a glance at one of the mammal species: Collared Peccaries, Tayras, Tamanduas, or Agouti. During mid-day, when the birds are less active, you’ll find beautiful butterflies like Blue Morphos flitting about. One of the highpoints of your visit in Carara might be morning and evening stops at the Tarcoles River bridge to watch Scarlet Macaws fly to and from their nighttime roost in mangroves.

You’ll embark on a two-hour mangrove boat tour along the Tarcoles River in search of Giant Crocodiles along with shore birds, water birds and raptors in the river and in the bordering mangrove forest. If there is time, you will also explore the visitor center and walk through habitat that is home to Great Curassow and Great Tinamou, both seen side by side!

Guanacaste and the Madrigal Estuary at Hacienda Solimar

Mar 16-17

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks in the Madrigal Estuary by Debbie Thompson

Guanacaste Peninsula has a vast diversity of wildlife habitats, including tropical dry forests, marshlands, estuaries, and mangroves. The drive through the Pacific Lowlands on the Pan-American Highway passes through the arid landscapes of the Guanacaste-Gulf of Nicoya region, which has distinctive endemic flora and fauna in this special region. You will stay at La Ensenada Lodge, situated on a lovely lagoon frequented by terns.

You will visit Hacienda Solimar, a privately owned finca (ranch) located on the Gulf of Nicoya near one of the most important marshlands, the Madrigal Estuary, in Costa Rica in the lower Tempisque River Basin. More than 200 species of birds, including Collared Forest Falcon, are nurtured in this diverse estuary that contrasts with the surrounding arid deciduous forest characteristic of Dry Tropical Forest. These wetlands are of great importance to nesting Wood Storks, Snail Kites, Limpkins, Roseate Spoonbills, Bare-throated Tiger-Herons, Boat-billed Herons, and Green Herons. You’ll also listen for Mantled Howler Monkeys calling in the distance and look for other mammals including White-headed (-faced) Capuchins, Northern Tamandua, White-nosed Coati, and White-tailed Deer. You can also see Pacific Screech-Owls and Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl.

Arenal National Park and Volcano

Mar 18-19

Arenal Observatory Lodge by Debbie Thompson

Today you drive east into the highlands of the Continental Divide and down the Caribbean Slope to Lake Arenal with your first sights of the breathtaking Volcán Arenal. You’ll have time to stop for birds and picturesque views along the route. Arenal is Costa Rica’s youngest and most active volcano; it last erupted in 2010, but it can become active at anytime.

The Arenal Observatory Lodge is located within Arenal National Park and offers wonderful views of the volcano and sunsets over Lake Arenal, plus tanagers, hummingbirds, and several species of warblers at its feeders – all viewed from the comfort of its outside deck. Extensive trails around the lodge give you opportunities to walk through montane rainforest in search of woodland bird species, monkeys and mid-day butterflies. In the evening, you can choose to go owling to search for Black-and-white Owl, Mottled Owl, and Striped Owl.

Sarapiqui riparian zone and La Selva Biological Station

Mar 20-22

Black-cheeked Woodpecker by Debbie Thompson

You’ll continue down the Caribbean slope to Selva Verde Lodge in the tropical lowlands of Sarapiqui. You’ll spend three nights at this lodge situated on 500 acres of tropical forest situated adjacent to Braulio Carillo National Park and the Organization for Tropical Studies’ (OTS) La Selva Biological Station.

You’ll explore the wildlife-rich riparian zone along the banks of the Sarapiqui River for the Great Green Macaw, an endangered species that depends on the Dipteryx tree, one of the emergent trees commonly found here, for feeding and nesting.

You’ll visit La Selva Biological Station, one of the world's most important sites for tropical ecosystem research. Each year, many scientists and students from some 25 countries come here to study tropical ecology – perhaps you will run into scientists along the trails conducting their studies. La Selva is home to more than 420 species of birds, 500 species of butterflies, 55 species of snakes, 120 species of mammals, and hosts a variety of different species of trees on its 4,000 acres of old growth and disturbed tropical wet forest. Paco grew up nearby and used to work as a naturalist in this area, so he knows it very well. La Selva is the most likely place to find any of three species of tinamous in Costa Rica, plus woodpeckers, aracaris, tanagers, Rufous Motmot, trogons, caciques, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, and Snowy Cotinga. Also be on the look out for peccaries (wild pig), agoutis, coatis, sloths, and the monkeys that frequent this area.

Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean

Mar 23-24

Boating Tortuguero National Park by Debbie Thompson

Travel to Tortuguero National Park will be mostly by boat through small resort areas and agricultural land as well as secondary forest before you reach your lodge just outside Tortugero National Park.

At Tortuguero National Park, you will boat the rich labyrinth of peaceful narrow and wide waterways, keeping an eye out for wildlife active along the banks and overhead. This area boasts 320 bird species, including tiger-herons, Agami Heron, White-fronted Nunbird, and all six species of kingfishers belonging to the Americas. You may also see caiman, iguanas, poison dart frogs, freshwater turtles, basilisk lizards, the Honduran White tent-making bats, and three species of monkeys that frequent the banks. You will also look for Slaty-tailed Trogon, Montezuma’s Oropendola, American Pygmy Kingfisher, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, and Sungrebe.

If there is time, you may visit the Caribbean Conservation Center to enjoy the outstanding exhibits of nesting turtles and forest ecology with information on recent Leatherback Turtle activity in the area.

Return to San José

Mar 25

American Pygmy Kingfisher by Debbie Thompson

Depart by boat downstream through Tortuguero National Park where Brown-throated (Three-toed) Sloths are sometimes visible in the trees. Drive from the Caribbean coast through Braulio Carrillo National Park en route to San José. Tonight you’ll enjoy a farewell group dinner at your lodge.

Fly home

Mar 26

Depart San José for your flights homeward.

Costa Rica

Explore this lush and diverse country full of colorful birds and wildlife with our experienced and knowledgeable guide.

9.991539, -84.198725

Cost & Payments

Costs (in US$)

Type Cost Per Person
Trip Cost, double occupancy $5,960
Single Supplement $890

We reserve the right to charge for cost increases that occur between when we set tour prices and the date of travel, for example, changes due to the cost of lodging and transportation. If you are a single traveler and you desire, we will find a roommate for you. If we cannot find you a roommate, we may charge you a single supplement fee. Single rooms are subject to availability.

Payment Schedule

Payment Due Date Amount Per Person
Deposit Due now to reserve your space $500
Second June 1, 2017 $1,000
Final October 15, 2017 Remaining balance

Payments will be due based on the schedule above. All reservations require a deposit to confirm reservation of your space. For reservations made after a due date, all past payments will be due with registration. By sending your initial deposit, you agree to accept our payment schedule as a contract. If payments are still outstanding two weeks after the due date, your space may be forfeited.


Until the Final Payment due date, deposits are refundable except for a cancellation fee of $150 per person, which can be applied toward another tour if reserved within six months of the cancelled trip’s departure date. No refunds are given after the Final Payment due date.

Dates Forfeited Amount per Person


  • All leaders, transport, park entry fees, and permits for all activities unless described as optional.
  • Airport transfers to and from Hotel Bougainvillea on March 11 and March 26.
  • Accommodations for the nights of March 11 through 25.
  • Meals from dinner on March 11 through breakfast on March 26.
  • Chilled bottles of water carried in the vehicle.
  • Gratuities for group meals.
  • Trip Materials – information about flights, packing, entry and departure requirements, airport transfers, gratuities, etc.

Not Included

  • All airfare, airport and departure taxes, and excess baggage fees. Approximately $450 to $800 round-trip from the continental US to San José, Costa Rica, (subject to change).
  • Passport and visa fees.
  • Gratuities: tipping is, of course, discretionary, however we suggest budgeting about $18 to $25 per participant per day for March 12 to 25 with our leader (about of $252-$350 total per participant).
  • Emergency medical and evacuation insurance and Trip cancellation insurance. Read more about travel insurance.
  • Items of a personal nature such as laundry, telephone calls, medical costs or hospitalization, room service, alcoholic and other beverages, and items not on the regular menu, etc. If you have special dietary needs, please indicate them on your Reservation/Release Form.


Temperatures vary greatly where you’ll be traveling – the Pacific coast is often hot while the cloud forests can be surprisingly cool. December through May is the dry season, but rain can be encountered any time. The average daytime temperatures in March are 80 to 84 °F (~27 to 28 °C), with highs in the 90s °F (~32+ °C) possible. It will be very humid in the afternoon throughout the lowland areas. In contrast, the highlands can be very cool and in the cloud forest temperatures can be in the 50s °F (~10 °C).

Fitness Level

You will view most wildlife by walking along trails or from small boats. Walks are generally a few hours and include flat trails, uneven terrain, and hills. Paco will offer optional night walks when he thinks it will enhance your overall wildlife experience; if you have high energy levels, you might like to join him. Night walks are weather and moon dependent.


Airfare is not included in trip costs. Detailed logistical information and the contact information for our recommended flight-ticketing agent are included in the Trip Materials we will send you. Please let us know if you are arriving earlier or staying later as we are happy to assist you with any extra overnights that you might want to arrange.

Flights you (or a travel agent) book: Arrive in San José (SJO), Costa Rica, by the evening of March 11.
Depart from San José (SJO) anytime on March 26.


Why go to Costa Rica in March?

March is part of the dry season, giving more opportunity for rain-free days. March also is good for migratory bird species.

I’m not an expert birder; will I enjoy Costa Rica?

Birds are the main focus, so it is geared toward birders. That being said, you only need to enjoy bird watching to fully appreciate this tour. Our leader, Paco Madrigal, is very accommodating to both beginner and advanced birders. We do see mammals on this safari too.

Do I have to go on every bird outing?

We often go out to find wildlife in the morning, afternoon, and some nights, returning to our lodge in-between. If you choose not to join any of our outings, you can stay at the lodge or in and around our safari vehicle. Many of our lodges maintain bird feeders and gardens that attract a variety of birds and are sure to keep you occupied.

Is it safe to travel in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica has always been safe and stable compared with other Central and Latin American countries. Our previous safaris have not had any issues, and our leader Paco Madrigal, who was born and raised in Costa Rica, knows the regions we visit very well.


Lodging ranges from rustic to modern, all with private baths. Most lodges do not have air conditioning in the rooms but will have fans. Almost all lodges have open-air common areas for dining and lounge areas.



Travel is by mini-bus and occasionally by small boat. The mini-bus is a modern and spacious air-conditioned vehicle.


  • Non-smoking policy: We have a strict non-smoking policy. Smoking is not permitted at any time or any place during our tours.
  • Maximum time in the field: We try to spend as much time in the field as possible, sometimes resulting in long days but giving you a more in-depth experience.
  • Itinerary route: The itinerary route, stops, and plans are subject to change by unforeseen circumstances beyond our control, such as weather or road conditions.
  • Additional forms: For some of our tours, you may be asked to fill out additional forms (e.g., medical questionnaire).
  • Medical conditions and travel risks: Travel to remote places is exciting, but it is important to understand and accept the risks, both medical and logistical. Minor medical problems can usually be treated, but because we are often far from medical facilities, there can be no expectation for immediate medical treatment or evacuation, even in cases of trauma. Anyone with health problems needing close medical supervision should not consider going on this tour. Bring enough medication for the duration of the trip for any chronic medical needs, since pharmacies are usually not available. When you send your deposit and signed Reservation/Release Form, you certify to us that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions that would create a risk for yourself or for other trip participants.