Home to over 900 rare and resplendent species, Costa Rica is a paradise for bird lovers. Visit three distinct ecosystems and experience unforgettable guided birdwatching excursions on this 6-day itinerary. Hike past parrots and toucans in the volcanic jungles of Arenal, search for the iconic quetzal in the lush Monteverde Cloud Forest, then head to the coast to spot flocks of scarlet macaws in the biodiverse eden of Carara National Park.

Highlights

  • Hike the lush jungles around Arenal Volcano
  • Cruise across the scenic Lake Arenal
  • Search for the resplendent quetzal in the Monteverde Cloud Forest
  • See scarlet macaws & crocodiles along the Tárcoles River
  • Experience the remarkable biodiversity of Carara National Park

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival & Transfer to La Fortuna Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 2 Birdwatching at Arenal Volcano & Lake Crossing to Monteverde Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 3 Birdwatching in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Monteverde
Day 4 Transfer to Tárcoles River Tarcoles
Day 5 Birdwatching in Carara National Park Tarcoles
Day 6 Depart Costa Rica San José

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival & Transfer to La Fortuna

Arenal Volcano
Morning mists over Arenal Volcano

Upon arrival in San Jose, meet your guide and begin the journey north, in the direction of the northern plains, where Arenal Volcano begins to crown. The rich land is covered with different plantations, such as pineapple, cassava, bananas, and more. During the 2.5 hour drive, enjoy an introduction to Costa Rica and some recommendations for your trip. The guide will explain your itinerary in greater detail and answer any further questions you may have.

After settling into your accommodation for the night, have dinner at the hotel or, if time permits, set out to explore the village of La Fortuna, which is home to plenty of fine dining options and some nightlife, too.

Day 2: Birdwatching at Arenal Volcano & Lake Crossing to Monteverde

Purple throated hummingbird
A purple-throated hummingbird

Early this morning, a professional birdwatching guide will pick you up at the hotel and take you for a sunrise birdwatching tour around the Arenal Volcano area. Close to 900 species of birds can be found in Costa Rica, and more than 500 of those have been spotted around in Arenal. Well–marked, well-maintained trails through the primary and secondary rainforest, open pastureland, and hardened lava flows offer numerous habitats and birding opportunities. Some of the more spectacular local residents include three-wattled bellbirds, fasciated tiger-herons, sunbitterns, laughing falcons, red-lored parrots, great curassows, northern jacanas, steely-vented hummingbirds, and keel-billed toucans.

In the afternoon you'll set off for Monteverde Cloud Forest, with a trip that combines comfortable door-to-door transfers with a fun and scenic cruise across the tranquil Lake Arenal, which offers beautiful views of the majestic volcano and the forested Tilaran Mountains. You'll also have the chance to see a variety of wetland birds along the way, such as kingfishers, flycatchers, waders, and other exotic species that abound on the lakeshore.

After being picked up from your hotel in Arenal and driven to the Lake Arenal dam, you'll board a covered boat. This is where the scenic 45-minute cruise across the lake begins. Next, an impressive 1.5-hour journey up the mountainside on a steep road offering stunning views of the lush, green valley takes you to your Monteverde-area hotel.

Day 3: Birdwatching in the Monteverde Cloud Forest

A team of birding experts will help you locate the quetzal
A team of birding experts will help you locate the elusive quetzal

The Monteverde region is famous for its 26,000-acre (10,521 ha) Cloud Forest Reserve, which is home to countless wildlife species and avian varieties. Suspension bridges throughout the reserve allow for walks above the forest canopy, which afford plenty of opportunities to spot exotic fauna and flora, including the greatest number of orchid species on the planet.

From start to finish, the goal of today's tour is to identify as many birds as possible. Monteverde is home to some 400 species, which are scattered among the forests and mountains of the region. You'll spend the morning hiking the Curi-Cancha trails and searching for birds on a tour that lasts 5 to 6 hours depending on the endurance of the group.

The Curi-Cancha Reserve extends across 237 acres (96 ha) and protects both primary and secondary forests. It is one of the area’s best birding sites, offering visitors the opportunity to see species like the orange-bellied trogon, keel-billed toucan, blue-crowned motor, resplendent quetzal, and blue-throated golden tail. Its trails are well maintained (although sometimes a bit muddy) and extend for several miles.

Day 4: Transfer to Tárcoles River

Crocodiles are a common sight along the Tarcoles River
Crocodiles are a common sight along the Tárcoles River

Today you'll head south down the central Pacific coast to the village of Tárcoles. Located within Carara National Park, Tárcoles is known for its colorful macaws as well as the giant crocodiles that congregate on the banks of the adjacent Tárcoles River. The river’s upper reaches form the northern border of the Carara Biological Reserve, home to countless species of birds such as boatbills, bare-throated tiger herons, double-striped thick-knees, mangrove warblers, and American pygmy kingfishers. Get settled into your hotel and spend the rest of the day at your leisure, resting up for another memorable hike tomorrow.

Day 5: Birdwatching in Carara National Park

Flocks of scarlet macaws call Carara National Park home
Flocks of scarlet macaws call Carara National Park home

After breakfast, transfer to Carara National Park for a guided birding tour. Home to an impressive jungle and easy trails, Carara is considered one of the country’s best birding destinations. This protected area encompasses 12,900 acres (5,220 ha) and is home to some 48% of Costa Rica's bird species, including the main attraction—the scarlet macaw. Travelers come from far and wide to see what constitutes the largest remaining wild population of these birds in the country. The reason for the park's wide variety of species is its location in the transitional area between tropical dry forest and the humid Pacific rainforest. Besides birds, you're sure to spot white-faced and howler monkeys, toucans, and iguanas. 

Following the tour, the rest of the day and evening are at your leisure.

Day 6: Depart Costa Rica

Sunset over Costa Rica
Sunset over Costa Rica

This morning you'll enjoy one last leisurely breakfast in Costa Rica. At the appropriate time, you will transfer about an hour by road back to San José and the international airport, where you'll catch your flight home. Safe travels!