Day 1 - Saturday 11 January
After relaxing in our complimentary VIP Airport Lounge, we fly direct from Gatwick to San José to be met by Paco and escorted to our hotel. San José is in the central valley of Costa Rica, where at this time of year days are warm as an English summer, while nights can be pleasantly cool. Depending on our arrival time we may be able to relax with a birding walk in the lovely gardens. This is a good place to see Blue-crowned Motmot, Rufous-capped Warbler, Hoffman's Woodpecker, Baltimore Oriole, Buff-throated Saltator and our first kiskadees, parakeets, tanagers and hummingbirds. Our flight may have an evening arrival in which case we just relax and have dinner! Overnight Hotel Bougainvillea, San José.
Day 2 - Sunday 12 January
Travel to Cerro de la Muerte. We spend the morning exploring the misty highland cloud forest reserve at the Finca Mirador de Quetzales. One of the most sought-after birds of any trip to Costa Rica must surely be Resplendent Quetzal, a bird that many consider the most beautiful in tropical America. You have excellent chances of good views of this bird today! We have lunch and stay overnight at the Albergue de Montana Savegre, nestled in a quaint highland valley, deep in the realm of the Resplendent Quetzal. Overnight Albergue de Montana Savegre.
Day 3 - Monday 13 January
Spend the day exploring the bird rich habitat in the Savegre River Valley. Walking through the gardens and along the Savegre River, we hope to see Flame-coloured Tanager, Collared Trogon, Torrent Tyrannulet, Volcano Hummingbird, and Gray-tailed Mountain Gem, to name a few. In the evening after a delicious dinner, we will go over the birds, reptiles, mammals, and any other wildlife seen that day. Overnight Albergue de Montana Savegre.
Day 4 - Tuesday 14 January
Travel to Hotel Villa Lapas, situated at the edge of the Carara Biological Reserve on the banks of the Tarcoles River near the Pacific coast. After lunch at the hotel, we will explore the bird-rich trails through the forest, and hope to see Scarlet Macaw and Tiger Heron among many others. We visit Playa Azul and the surrounding area. This is an amazing place for shore birds and water birds as well as Parrots, Orioles, Macaws and Owls. We expect an impressive variety of water birds and raptors, including the Roseate Spoonbill, several species of heron, Anhinga, Kingfishers, Crested Caracara, Mangrove Black Hawk and Mangrove Warbler to name a few. You will also experience excellent views of Giant Crocodiles as you travel through the mangroves. Overnight Hotel Villa Lapas, where Scarlet Macaws fly over daily.
Day 5 - Wednesday 15 January
Spend the day in the Carara Biological Reserve, a unique climatological zone where the ecosystem of the humid southern coastal region joins the dry climate of the northern Pacific area, becoming a rich meeting ground for species from both regions. This is truly one of the highlights of the tour, where we hope to find Orange Collared Manakin dancing at their lek. This is a great location to spot antbirds, up to four different species of Trogon, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, and even Royal Flycatcher. Overnight Hotel Villa Lapas.
Day 6 - Thursday 16 January
Travel to Guanacaste to explore the tropical dry forests, marshlands, estuaries, and mangroves, characteristic to the northern Pacific region. This is an ideal place to see water birds, raptors, and other species found only in this zone. In the wetlands, we are likely to see Snail Kite, Wood Stork, Roseate Spoonbill, Boat-billed Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Limpkin, and several species of Kingfisher. Walking through the semi-deciduous forest, we are likely to see Turquoise-browed Motmot, Long-tailed Manakin, and several species of Parrot, Oriole, Cuckoo, Trogon, Jay, and Owl. Overnight La Ensenada Lodge.
Day 7 and 8 - Friday 17 & Saturday 18 January
We spend two nights in the Arenal area, which offers breathtaking views of the jungle-covered Arenal Volcano, often with great photo opportunities. This is a birding and wildlife hotspot, and the stunning natural beauty will astound you. The extensive trails at the lodge allow for tremendous opportunities to view Crimson-collared Tanagers, White Hawk, Brown- hooded Parrot and Golden-olive Woodpecker, along with an array of colorful hummingbirds, and three species of Toucan. One night, we will go owling in search of the Black-and-White Owl and Mottled Owl in the hotel grounds. The extensive trails at the lodge allow for tremendous opportunities to view Crimson-collared Tanager, White Hawk, Brown-hooded Parrot, and Golden-olive Woodpecker, along with an array of colorful hummingbirds and three species of Toucan. One night we will go owling in search of Black-and-White Owl, Mottled Owl, and Striped Owl in the open fields below the lodge. Overnight Arenal Observatory Lodge.
Day 9 - Sunday 19 January
Travel to Selva Verde Lodge in the tropical lowlands of Sarapiqui. Spend the afternoon exploring the wildlife-rich riparian zone along the banks of the Sarapiqui River. This rain forest region at the base of the Caribbean slope is well-known for hosting the greatest diversity of tropical flora and fauna. Here Sun Bittern, Black-faced Grosbeak and Gray-necked Wood-Rail are a few of the inhabitants of the area. This is the most likely spot on the trip to see Great Green Macaw, an endangered species that depends on the Dipteryx tree for feeding and nesting. This is one of the emergent trees commonly found in Sarapiqui. Also lurking in the forest are two- and three-toed sloth, 3 different species of monkey, and peccaries. Overnight Sueno Azul.
Days 10 and 11 - Monday 20 & Tuesday 21 January
We spend the next two days at La Selva Biological Station run by the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS), a highlight of the tour. The station is among the four most famous tropical research facilities in the world. We will see an outstanding abundance of wildlife. The station is home to more than 420 bird species, more than 500 species of butterflies, 55 species of snakes, and 120 species of mammals. This is a tremendous place for tinamous– three species inhabit La Selva. We will also be looking for Rufous Motmot, Trogons, Caciques, Purple-throated Fruit Crow, and Snowy Cotinga among many others. Animals here are not camera shy, and we might see peccaries (wild pig), agoutis, coatis, sloth, and monkeys. An unforgettable couple of days! Overnight Sueno Azul.
Day 12 and 13 - Wednesday 22 & Thursday 23 January
Travel by road and boat to Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean. Here we will explore the rich labyrinth of waterways which will afford us excellent wildlife viewing. This amazing and unforgettable area boasts 320 bird species, including Tiger Heron, Agami Heron, White-fronted Nunbird, and all six species of Kingfishers belonging to the Americas. Along with birds, we may also see Neotropical River Otter, sloths, caiman, iguanas, poison-dart frogs, fresh-water turtles, basilisk lizards, the Honduran White tent-making bats, and three species of monkey that frequent the banks. Overnight Laguna Lodge
Day 14 - Friday 24 January
Return to San José, birding on the way, for a farewell dinner and an overnight stay, to rest up for departing flights the next day. Overnight Hotel Bougainvillea, San José
Day 15 - Saturday 25 January
Breakfast before departing for the airport to return home. We arrive in London Gatwick on the morning of Day 16 (26 January).
Please note: all itineraries are given as a guide only. Actual holiday content may vary according to the judgement of your guide, and elements beyond our control (eg weather).
LOCAL FRUIT IN COSTA RICA
Tropical fruits in Costa Rica are exotic, flavourful, delicious and plentiful. Virtually all are locally grown, which generally means fruit is ripe and ready to eat. At breakfast and other mealtimes you might find bananas, pineapple, watermelon, mango and papaya on offer; please try them!
Many Costa Rican fruits are not found in Europe, and subject to availability Heatherlea will treat you to some of these as we travel, purchased directly from local sellers, washed and prepared for your delectation. Here are some, with local names in italics.
AVOCADO – but not as you might know it! These very large fruits are grown in the lowlands, and are wonderful when ripe and ready to eat. Often the outer skin just peels easily away, leaving soft and tender fruit.
MALAY APPLE/CUSTARD APPLE – ‘manzana de agua’. Two white, pulpy fruits which are a kind of mango, very sweet and tasty.
PERUVIAN GUAVA – 'guayaba'. Very small, red in colour.
STARFRUIT – ‘carambola’. Tart, though lovely in juice and also used in cooking and salads. Often fresh from the tree.
JAMAICAN PLUM – ‘jocote’. A very small kind of mango.
RAMBUTAN – 'mamon chino'. A large and refreshing lychee. Split in half to reveal the fruit, then suck from the stone inside.
MANGO/PASSION FRUIT - Nothing like at home, fresh and very tasty!
SOURSOP – ‘guanabana’. Large, green, and from the same family as ‘Custard Apple’.
CAS – Another local fruit from the guava family, sour to taste, though excellent when made into juices or jams.
DRAGON FRUIT – 'pitaya'. From an epiphyte cactus plant, bright pink outside and inside, juicy and mild in flavour, often used in ice cream.
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