- Marvel at resplendent quetzals on a birding tour in San Gerardo de Dota
- Spot over 450 bird species at Rancho Naturalista, the country's top birding lodge
- Tour Turrialba's chocolate plantations, bird-filled forests, and archaeological sites
- Enjoy private bird-watching trips and night hikes in Sarapiquí
- Glimpse tropical avian species on a boat trip in biodiverse Boca Tapada
|Arrive in San José, Transfer to San Gerardo de Dota
|San Gerardo de Dota
|Quetzal Watching Excursion, Coffee Tour & Spa Treatment
|San Gerardo de Dota
|Transfer to Turrialba, Guayabo Archaeological Tour
|Rancho Naturalista Birding Hike & Cacao Farm Tour
|Transfer to Sarapiquí, Night Forest Hike
|Tirimbina Bird-Watching Tour & Rainforest Nature Hike
|Transfer to Boca Tapada & Maquenque Wildlife Refuge
|Maquenque Bird-Watching & Nocturnal Animals Tour
|San Carlos River Cruise & Boca San Carlos Town Tour
|Transfer to San José, Depart
Day 1: Arrive in San José, Transfer to San Gerardo de Dota
Welcome to Costa Rica! Touch down in the thriving capital, San José, a cultural hub ringed by mountains and volcanic peaks that rise from the fertile Central Valley. Meet your driver for the 2.5-hour journey south to San Gerardo de Dota. This small town lies in the Savegre River Valley, shadowed by the soaring Talamanca Mountains, and is surrounded by pristine cloud forest known worldwide for its coffee plantations and bird-watching opportunities.
San Gerardo de Dota lies close to Los Quetzales National Park, a 12,355-acre (5,000 ha) stretch of wilderness comprised of 14 ecosystems and three different types of rainforest. The park is named for its large population of resplendent quetzals—this is one of the best places on the planet to spot them year-round—but it's also home to over 200 types of birds, including various woodpeckers, tanagers, and hummingbirds.
Check into Hotel Savegre, which lies in a 1,236-acre (500 ha) forest reserve in the mountains of San Gerardo de Dota, near the national park. The Chacon family has run this 3-star hotel since the 1970s, offering comfortable rooms set in wooden bungalows that blend into the natural environment. Relax in the hotel grounds, where you can see a variety of bird species, then dine on Costa Rican cuisine at the on-site Las Bromelias Restaurant.
Day 2: Quetzal Watching Excursion, Coffee Tour & Spa Treatment
Rise early for a chance to spot the region's famous resplendent quetzals on a private walk through the San Gerardo de Dota valley. This bird is sacred to native Aztec and Maya cultures, which your guide will explain as you wander through the forest filled with tropical flora. As well as vibrant quetzals, watch out for birds such as the emerald toucanet, sooty robin, and acorn woodpecker during your bird-watching hike.
After lunch, you'll explore the region's coffee culture with a trip to a local plantation. Join a guide for a private farm tour, learning about the entire coffee production process, from bean to cup. Your guide will explain the different coffee varieties and the milling, roasting, and brewing process, ending with a delicious tasting session.
Head back to your hotel afterward for a spa session accompanied by the soothing sounds of the Río Savegre. Detox in the sauna and steam room, then soak in a bubbling Jacuzzi before indulging in a massage. Afterward, retire to the Los Robles bar and lounge for drinks overlooking the forest.
Day 3: Transfer to Turrialba, Guayabo Archaeological Tour
This morning, you'll enjoy a three-hour private transfer through the mountainous landscape to Turrialba. Its eponymous volcano, which is the country's second-tallest, towers 10,958 feet (3,339 m) above sea level. Along the way, admire views of the region's jagged mountains and lush valleys. Check into Rancho Naturalista, one of the top birding lodges in Central America. Located near Turrialba, the lodge lies on 120 acres (49 ha) of protected Caribbean premontane rainforest, where over 450 species of birds have been recorded.
Settle into your room, which features Spanish colonial-style design and wooden decor; most have balconies equipped with bird feeders. While the lodge carries a 3-star rating, luxury isn't the main draw here—its unparalleled location and activities for birders are what set this destination apart.
Later, you'll visit one of Costa Rica's most fascinating archaeological sites, the Guayabo National Monument. Set in the shadow of Turrialba volcano, you'll take a private tour through the remains of this ancient city, which is thought to have housed over 10,000 people who mysteriously vanished just before the arrival of Spanish colonialists in the 16th century. Return to Rancho Naturalista afterward for a final night in this bird-lovers paradise.
Day 4: Rancho Naturalista Birding Hike & Cacao Farm Tour
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Take a private bird-watching trip with one of Rancho Naturalista's specialist guides this morning. Begin by discussing which species you're most eager to see, and your guide will take you to the best locations for sightings. Hike among 4 miles (7 km) of trails that take you through advanced secondary and primary forests, with elevations reaching 3,937 feet (1,200 m). Have your binoculars ready to spot everything from toucans to antbirds, woodcreepers, manakins, and tanagers.
This afternoon, you'll visit a nearby cacao farm to discover how locals have produced chocolate here for generations. Tour the plantation with an expert guide, who'll take you through the entire production process, from cacao seed to bar, ending with a tasting session. Afterward, return to Rancho Naturalista for a final evening in your rainforest resort.
Day 5: Transfer to Sarapiquí, Night Forest Hike
Today, you'll travel 2.5 hours to Sarapiquí. This region stretches from the central volcanic mountain range across the vast northern plains to Nicaragua and is studded with national parks. The Río Sarapiquí, popular with kayakers and rafters, brings life to the landscape, which is carpeted in premontane rainforest and plantations where locals grow everything from bananas to coffee and cacao.
Enjoy the views as you drive, passing mountains, canyons, and palm plantations. Stay at Selva Verde Lodge, a 3-star eco-hotel set in a 500-acre (200 ha) rainforest reserve. Follow elevated walkways that blend in with the jungle to your room with a forest-view balcony. After settling in, head to the pool for a swim or tackle one of the reserve's jungle trails; staff offer complimentary daily bird-watching tours.
This evening, take a private night hike through the rainforest to see nocturnal wildlife. Cross the Tirimbina Suspension Bridge into the forest, the path illuminated by headlamps and flashlights. With your guide's trained eye, you may encounter some of the forest's most elusive animals, like the sloth, red-eyed tree frog, porcupine, and kinkajou.
Day 6: Tirimbina Bird-Watching Tour & Rainforest Nature Hike
Continue your wildlife adventure this morning with a bird-watching tour in Tirimbina, a hotspot for avian activity due to its river-laced primary and secondary rainforest. Look out for over 365 species of birds, including the sunbittern, snowy cotinga, and black-crested coquette.
After lunch, take a private nature hike through a preserved slice of rainforest. Your guide is on hand to teach you about the unique native flora and fauna that field researchers regularly study. Listen to the buzz of the forest and take in the sights and smells during your trek, then return to your lodge for a relaxed evening.
Day 7: Transfer to Boca Tapada & Maquenque Wildlife Refuge
Today starts with a 1.5-hour journey north to lesser-visited Boca Tapada. Set in the northern lowlands, this area is a paradise untouched by mass tourism. Much of the landscape is protected by the Maquenque Wildlife Refuge, which provides a haven for animals such as the endangered great green macaw, which comes here to nest, as well as a kaleidoscope of other birdlife, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals.
Check into Maquenque Ecolodge, which lies inside the wildlife refuge bordering the powerful Río San Carlos. Stay in a rustic bungalow complete with a lagoon-view terrace or a quirky treehouse among the canopy; each features solar-powered hot water and access to canoes for exploring the waterways. Head down to the garden pool or wander tranquil trails that crisscross the 68 acres (27 ha) of rainforest surrounding the 3-star lodge.
Day 8: Maquenque Bird-Watching & Nocturnal Animals Tour
Spend the morning bird-watching in Maquenque. Rise at 5:30 am for the best sightings, following your personal guide through gardens and past lagoons to a forest path and nesting site. The forest here is home to over 592 bird species, including migrating varieties from Nicaragua. Highlights include honeycreepers, jacamars, and hummingbirds.
The afternoon is yours to lounge by the pool or book a bird-watching, hiking, or kayaking trip with one of the lodge's experienced guides. Feast on Costa Rican dishes with panoramic views of the mountains and lagoons at El Paso de la Lapa restaurant before your private night tour. Venture into the rainforest with a guide to witness nocturnal animals in their natural habitat. Look out for frogs, snakes, spiders, and even alligators as you learn about the area's intricate ecosystems.
Day 9: San Carlos River Cruise & Boca San Carlos Town Tour
After breakfast, walk down to the lodge's pier, where you'll board a boat for a cruise down the Río San Carlos. Drift downstream, your guide pointing out everything from tortoises to king vultures as you journey close to the Nicaragua border. You'll stop to explore the traditional town of Boca San Carlos, where you'll meet the locals and get a glimpse into their daily lives.
Your final afternoon is free to spend as you please. Take a last walk through the forest, canoe across the peaceful lagoon, or simply sit on your terrace with a cocktail. For the ultimate relaxation, book a pamper session at the rainforest spa, where you can savor a variety of massages and facials accompanied by the sounds of nature.
Day 10: Transfer to San José, Depart
Today your luxury Costa Rica birding adventure comes to an end. Take a private three-hour transfer back to San José in time to catch your homebound flight. Safe travels!
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