The Wonders of the Eastern Slope Costa Rica
In Search of the Bare-necked Umbrellabird
October is perfect time to visit the tropics is search of special tropical birds. Many birds are active , many have come out of their hides and is when you can find rare species.
Because there are almost unlimited birding opportunities here, our schedule is designed to maximize our birding time and get the best of this part of Costa Rica.
Because there are almost unlimited birding opportunities here, our schedule is designed to maximize our birding time. We will repeat overnights at several lodges for additional chances to spot birds we may have missed the day before. While in the Sarapiqui River lowlands of the Eastern Slope, our field trips will include parts of three days at the world-famous La Selva Field Station of the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS). This arrangement will give us ample time to enter the primary tropical rainforest on excellent trails, as well as the chance to take advantage of the more open habitats near the visitor’s lodge. Two mornings will be spent in the subtropical and upper tropical zones of the foothills – home to numerous little-known birds not found at elevations just above or below. Two days further up in the montane forests of the Savegre-Cerro de la Muerte region will offer yet another set of bird species typical of the higher temperate zone of the mountains. These cool, oak-dominated forests are a stronghold for the magnificent Resplendent Quetzal, considered by many to be the most beautiful bird in the world. Birds are generally not as abundant or diverse in the mountains, but a high percentage of those present are unique or endemic within a limited range at these elevations in Costa Rica and western Panama – and the pleasantly cool climate makes seeking them a pleasure.
Tour Price based on 2 participants:
Double Occupancy: $ 4.400 per person
Tour Price based on 4 participants:
Double Occupancy: $ 3.300 per person
Single: $ 3.600
Note: *To organize a private tour for your convenience any time of the year, please get in touch with us!
We will be more than happy to help you!
Arrive at the San José airport where members of Geo Natura Tours will be waiting for you!
Transfer to your hotel: Since most flights arrive in the late afternoon or evening, we don´t have much planned for this day. We’ll have a brief orientation for your tour, be happy to answer any of your questions, and you’ll settle in.
Overnight: Hotel in San José
Meals: Welcome dinner is on your own tonight
Today we head west of the Central Valley towards San Ramon. Our destination is the Canto del Rio Lodge. This family-owned accommodation is nestled in the cloud forest of San Ramon bordering the Alberto Manuel Brenes Preserve. Little known as a birding destination, this region of the country will provide us with excellent opportunities to see the birds of this unique eco-system. The lodge, surrounded by a spectacular cloud forest, offers an accessible trail system showcasing an abundance of birds, myriad species of plant life such as ferns, mosses and bromeliads and hundreds of other epiphytes that provide habitat for a good number of cloud forest fauna.
What to look for: Spangle-cheeked Tanager, Morelet’s Seedeater*, Golden-browed Chlorophonia, Emerald (Blue-throated) Toucanet, Red-faced Spinetail, Collared Trogon, Golden-bellied Flycatcher, Slate-hroated Redstart, Sunbittern and Streak-breasted Treehunter - Stripe-throated Hermit, Cinnamon Hummingbird (not easy), Green-crowned Brilliant, Purple-crowned Fairy and Plain-capped Starthroat.
Overnight: Canto del Rio Lodge (Canto del Rio = “Song of the river” - you’ll hear plenty)
Meals: breakfast, lunch, and dinner
Just a short drive from the lodge, there are several pristine habitats in a higher cloud forest eco-system that will maximize our possibilities of finding birds unique to this region. This area of San Ramon has not been explored as much as other over-developed “turista-oriented” locations. We have a very good chance of seeing the Resplendent Quetzal, considered by many to be the most beautiful bird in the world and revered in ancient lore to be a divinity in northern Mesoamerican cultures.
What to look for: Black Guan, Mountain Elaenia, Black-thighed Grosbeak, Gray-breasted Wood-Wren, Black-faced Solitare, Prong-billed Barbet as well as the Great Black-Hawk. If we are lucky: the Three-wattled Bellbird, Costa Rican Warbler and the Azure-hooded Jay , Black-crested Coquette, White-necked Jacobin, Green-fronted Lancebill, Magenta-throated Woodstar and Canivet’s Emerald (not easy).
Overnight: Canto del Rio Lodge
Meals: breakfast, lunch, and dinner
After breakfast we will begin our journey today by exploring the rustic entrance road of the lower section of the Alberto Manuel Brenes Preserve. This mid-elevation premontane forest eco-system can provide us with a diverse showcase of avian species.
What to look for: Spotted Woodcreeper, Plain Xenops, Bicolored Hawk, Black Hawk-Eagle, Bicolored Antbird, Slaty-capped Flycatcher, White-breasted Wood-Wren, Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Lineated Woodpecker, Collared Aracari, Black-faced Grosbeak, and, if we are lucky, the Bare-necked Umbrellabird.
(Violet-) Crowned Woodnymph, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird and the Ruby-throated Hummingbird (ubiquitous winter resident October to April).
When we have completed our birding exploration of this entrance road hotspot, we will travel slightly northwest to arrive at our next accommodation, the Arenal Observatory Lodge. The iconic Arenal Volcano is reputed to be one of the most classic perfectly cone-shaped volcanos in the world, and the lodge gives us extraordinary views of the volcano as well as Arenal Lake (Costa Rica’s largest lake). The name, “Arenal,” means “sandy” - the volcano and lake were named this because of the large sand deposits between them. With such great views, a well-designed trail system and beautiful gardens, the Arenal Observatory Lodge will be home for the next two nights.
Overnight: Arenal Observatory Lodge
Encircled by lush forest, this cloud forest eco-system will give us an excellent opportunity to find a wide variety of spectacular birds. We’ll spend a full day exploring the gardens and grounds of the lodge as well as delving into the forest surrounding the lodge. The Arenal Observatory Lodge is one of the hottest e-bird hotspots in Costa Rica – in the Springtime, approximately 380 different species can be observed in this one hotspot!
What to look for: Montezuma Oropendola, Chestnut-headed Oropendola, Shinning Honeycreeper, Speckled Tanager, Emerald Tanager, Pale-billed Woodpecker, Rufous-winged Tanager, Blue Dacnis, Masked Tityra, Rufous Mourner, Northern Schiffornis , Coppery-headed Emerald (endemic to Costa Rica), Green Hermit, Blue-throated Goldentail, Lesser Violetear, Long-billed Starthroat, and the Violet-headed Hummingbird.
Overnight: Arenal Observatory Lodge
Now we leave the cloud forest and head east towards the lowlands of the Sarapiqui River Eastern Slope area and our next accommodation, Ara Ambigua Lodge, another fine, family-owned riverside facility oriented to birding and birders. The grounds alone support a wide variety of birds, with a number of paved walking paths. After check-in, we can take advantage of these paths as well as the lodge’s fruit feeders to enjoy birding at our leisure. After dinner we can take our flashlights out to look for Spectacled Owls and Three-toed Sloths in the trees.
What to look for: Red-legged Honeycreepers, Green Honeycreepers, Buff-throated Saltator, Mistletoe Tyrannulet*, Olive-throated Parakeet, Red-throated Ant-Tanager, Blue-gray Tanager, Red-billed Pigeon, Southern Rough-winged Swallow and, hopefully, the Crimson-collared Tanager,Violet Sabrewing, Bronzy Hermit and the Scaly-breasted Hummingbird.
Overnight: Ara Ambigua Lodge
Today we will explore the foothill forests of Braulio Carillo National Park. This eco-system is home to some of the least-known birds in Central America, but the birding here is not easy and requires a little faith and patience. At times almost nothing is heard or seen, but when the weather suddenly changes from sun to mist or if a large mixed flock appears in our vicinity, there can be birds everywhere. The potential rewards here are great, and amidst the more widespread foothill birds we may find some rare specialties.
What to look for: Lattice-tailed Trogon, Rufous-winged Woodpecker, White-ruffed Manakin, Tawny-capped Euphonia, Fasciated Tiger-Heron, Checker-throated Antwren, as well as a number of tanagers: Black-and-yellow, Tawny-crested and Carmiol’ s tanager,White-tipped Sicklebill, Band-tailed Barbthroat, Snowcap (not easy), blue-chested Hummingbird, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer, Purple-throated Mountain-gem and the Green Thorntail.
Overnight: Ara Ambigua Lodge
The Sarapiqui River lowland region, although now largely cleared and settled, harbors the richest avifauna in the country, and birds are generally conspicuous. We will explore the humid tropical lowlands and the contiguous farmlands.
We begin with a half-day visit to the world-famous La Selva Field Station of the Organization for Tropical Studies (near Puerto Viejo). The great diversity of habitats here includes tall lowland rainforest, second growth trees of varying ages, overgrown plantations, successional thickets, riverine forest, and swampy pastures. Within these habitats are numerous specialized niches. All are home to a wonderful variety of tropical birds. E-bird lists show that 395 bird species can be at this hotspot in the Spring!
Initially we will linger along the La Selva Field Station entry road, getting acquainted with the common birds of the open country and second growth. Flycatchers, tanagers, and seedeaters are abundant and conspicuous in the early morning hours.
Later in the morning we will explore the reserve trail in search of manakins, antbirds - and probably a poison dart frog! La Selva is also a great place to find Howler and Capuchin Monkeys moving through the forest canopy.
What to look for: Just a few of the special birds possible are the Great and Little Tinamous; Green Ibis, Semiplumbeous Hawk, Russet-naped Wood-Rail*, Mealy, White-crowned and Brown-hooded Parrots, Slaty-tailed and Gartered Trogons, Amazon Kingfisher, Broad-billed and Rufous Motmots, White-whiskered Puffbird, Keel-billed Toucan and Yellow-throated (formerly known as Chestnut-mandibled) Toucan, Chestnut-colored Woodpecker, Black-striped Woodcreeper, Great Antshrike, White-collared Manakin, Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant, Long-tailed Tyrant, Stripe-breasted and Black-throated Wrens, Scarlet-rumped Cacique, Dusky-faced Tanager, and the Orange-billed Sparrow. The more open country harbors such non-forest species as Striped Cuckoo, Olive-crowned Yellowthroat, Black-headed Saltator, and the Black-cowled Oriole, Long-billed Hermit, Green-breasted Mango, and the Brown Violetear.
Overnight: Ara Ambigua Lodge
Costa Rica has four principal mountain ranges known as “Cordilleras.” Our tour began in the cloud forests of the Tilarán Cordillera, then we skirted to the east side of the Central Cordillera and today we head towards the Savegre-Cerro de la Muerte highland forest in the mountains of the Talamanca Cordillera. The highlands of Costa Rica and far western Panama are the only significant mountains between Guatemala and the Colombian Andes.
Because of this isolation, a surprising number of endemic birds are found here, many of them quite distinctive. As one goes up-slope, the percentage of species unique to this region increases, and such birds are found in the scrub and grassy openings at the highest elevations. Our first stop will be to visit the Paraiso Quetzal cabin complex owned and operated by the Serrano family. This beautiful property, surrounded by majestic Costa Rican Oak Trees (Quercus copeyensis), has walking paths and hummingbird feeders and supports a diverse population of high-altitude bird species.
What to look for: Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher, Acorn Woodpecker, Rufus-collared Sparrow, Mountain Thrush, Large-footed Finch, Flame-colored Tanager, Slaty Flowerpiercer and the Sooty-capped Chlorospingus. Volcano, Fiery-throated and Talamanca Hummingbirds. Blue vented hummingbird, hard to see because is an altitudinal migrant.
Overview: Leaving the Paraiso Quetzal, we will continue in the Savegre highlands to arrive at our destination, the Sueños del Bosque Lodge, with grounds surrounded by oak forest, affording us another chance to increase our list of highland species that afternoon. Scintillant Hummingbird.
What to look for: Resplendent Quetzal, Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush, Yellow-winged Vireo, Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher, Spot-crowned Woodcreeper, Spotted Wood-Quail. Hummer Patrol, Scintillant Hummingbird, Gray-tailed Mountain-gem (endemic to Costa Rica) and Lesser violet ear.
Overnight: Sueños del Bosque (Sueños del Bosque = “Woodland Dreams” - the name says it all)
Meals: breakfast and dinner
Today we continue exploring the Savegre-Cerro de la Muerte highlands oak forest and other high-altitude habitats within this remarkable region. In the tall oak forests of the main slopes, the birds typically roam in mixed flocks, providing an excellent opportunity to view a number of different species simultaneously. The dense forests and bamboo thickets just below the tops of the ridges are optimal habitat for several unique or endemic birds of this high-elevation eco-system.
What to look for: Black-capped Flycatcher, Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Black-cheeked Warbler, Sooty Thrush, Volcano Junco, Ruddy Treerunner, Buffy Tuftedcheek, Ochraceous Wren, Flame-throated Warbler, Collared Redstart, and Sooty-capped Bush-Tanager. Most of the preceding are endemic to these highlands but we should also find some familiar birds at the southern end of their range, including the Red-tailed Hawk (Costa Rican subspecies), Band-tailed Pigeon, Hairy Woodpecker (Costa Rican subspecies), and wintering wood warblers. Several much scarcer mountain birds also occur here, and with luck we may find the Timberline Wren, Sulphur-winged Parakeet, Costa Rican Pygmy-Owl, Ochraceous Pewee, Streaked Saltator or the Wrenthrush. Striped tailed hummingbird.
Overnight: Sueños del Bosque
Meals: brekfast, lunch and dinner
Today we head back to the capital city, San José, but we will make a couple of stops along the way in order to look one last time for some of the special birds of this highland environment that we may have missed. We plan to arrive at our hotel mid-afternoon. This evening we will have a farewell dinner together by the pool to celebrate our wonderful birding expedition to Costa Rica.
Overnight:: Country Inn
Meals: brekfast and dinner
Departure for home: The tour ends this morning with a transfer to the San José airport for flights departing to the USA or other countries. When booking your return flight please keep in mind that transfers will depart from the hotel three hours before the scheduled departing flight time. In other words, if you have scheduled an early morning flight, your departure from the hotel will be very early.