Enjoy your complimentary pre-flight overnight hotel before your holiday begins, full details from our office. Read more about our Pre-flight Service here!
Day 1: Sat 6 September 2025 Arrival in Costa Rica
After relaxing in our complimentary VIP airport lounge, we fly from London to San Jose. On arrival you will be warmly welcomed by your guide and driver and escorted to our comfortable hotel. Depending on arrival time, you may be able to walk in the lovely gardens to relax after a long day of travel. The gardens are home to many spectacular tropical birds, including Lesson’s Motmot, Hoffman’s Woodpecker, Mottled Owl and Rufous-tailed Hummingbird. You will be impressed by the extensive orchid and bromeliad gardens here too. Our hotel has an amazing rock and mineral collection, with nearly every piece found in Costa Rica. Overnight: Hotel Bougainvillea.
Days 2 - 3: Sun 7 - Mon 8 September Tortuguero
Travel by bus and then boat to Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean. Here we explore the rich labyrinth of calm waterways among the mangroves, which offer excellent wildlife viewing. The area boasts 320 bird species, including Tiger Herons, Agami Herons, Sungrebe and all six species of kingfisher found in the Americas. We may also see sloths, caiman, iguanas, poison-dart frogs, freshwater turtles, basilisk lizards, the Honduran White tent-making bats and three species of monkey. We venture out along the beach in the evening to look for nesting Green Turtles. We enjoy quiet rooms by the beach, listening to the waves breaking against the shore, while relaxing after a day filled with nature. Two nights at Laguna Lodge.
Days 4 - 6: Tue 9 - Thurs 11 September Selve Verde Lodge
We travel to Selva Verde Lodge in the tropical lowlands of Sarapiqui, and spend our first 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 just a few of the avian inhabitants.
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, and 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. 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. During our time at Selve Verde on this tour, we might also see migrating raptors including Broad-winged Hawk, Turkey Vulture, Swainson's Hawk, Mississippi Kite, Peregrine and Osprey.
Animals here are not camera shy, and we might see Peccaries (wild pig), Agoutis, Coatis, both sloth species, and three monkey species. An unforgettable couple of days! We will also venture out one night for a taste of the rainforest after dark where a whole host of new creatures can be seen and heard, including kinkajous, frogs & toads, potoos, owls, bats, maybe a snake or two, opossums, and insects that come in all different shapes and colors such as stick insects, cicadas, many moths, katydids, spiders and peanut-headed bug. There is also a chance we may find bioluminescent fungi. Three nights at Selva Verde Lodge.
Days 7 - 9: - Fri 12 - Sun 14 September Savegre
After our final breakfast at Selve Verde Lodge, we travel south towards Paraiso Quetzal. We stop for a delicious lunch and enjoy the hummingbird gardens. At Savegre Natural Reserve and Spa, we spend the next two days exploring the gardens, riparian highland habitats and old growth tropical oak cloud forests surrounding the Savegre Mountain Lodge. Walking through the gardens and along the Savegre River, we hope to see Flame-coloured Tanager, Collared Trogon, Torrent Tyrannulet, Volcano Hummingbird and Grey-tailed Mountain Gem. We explore the misty highland cloud forest, home to Resplendent Quetzal as well as Fiery-throated Hummingbird, Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher, Large-footed Finch, Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Sooty Thrush, Sooty-capped Bush-Tanager, Peg-billed Finch and many more! Some of the other species we look for include Black-faced Solitaire, Spotted Wood-Quail, Buffy Tuftedcheek, Golden-browed Chlorophonia (Blue-hooded Chlorophonia), Ochraceous Wren and Ornate Hawk-Eagle. In the evenings after a delicious dinner, we will make a checklist (optional) of birds and any other wildlife seen that day. Three nights at Hotel Savegre.
Days 10 - 12: Mon 15 - Wed 17 Sep Drake Bay Wilderness Lodge
A new location for Heatherlea, we transfer to the south, and enjoy the next three days at a wonderful Pacific location. Corcovado National Park is one of the most biodiverse places in the world, and this location is like paradise for nature lovers. We are in the midst of an area which contains 2.5% of the whole world's biodiversity! It is possible, although not guaranteed, to see Baird's Tapir here. There are species of anteaters, all four monkey species that live in Costa Rica, including Central American Spider Monkey (which we don't see elsewhere), reptiles, tent making bats, and of course many birds, including Red-capped Manakin, Green Kingfisher, Great Tinamou, Crested Guan, Scarlet Macaw, and Crested Owl, all possible from the trails. We also take a relaxed though exciting boat trip through the mangroves, and Paco says: "One of my favorite things to do in this area is explore the Sierpe mangrove looking for Yellow-billed Cotinga, roosting Potoos, and the endemic Mangrove Hummingbird."
A very special destination here is Sirena Ranger Station, the last bit of civilization a visitor will encounter before the land turns to thick jungle. While much of the wild Corcovado rainforest remains inaccessible, Sirena Ranger Station is relatively easy to access by boat. The highlight here is the experience of raw jungle and its wildlife, but even the boat ride in and out memorable. We follow the gorgeous jungle-filled coastline south along the peninsula, passing by a gushing waterfall and the lengthy stretch of beach between San Pedrillo and Sirena.
In the Drake's Bay area, also new to Heatherlea, we look for birds not found on our other itineraries including Yellow-billed Cotinga (a species endemic to Costa Rica and Panama), and have more chances to see a variety of other birds including Fiery-billed Araçari, King Vulture, Elegant Tern, Tawny-winged Woodcreeper, Costa Rican Swift, Olivaceous Piculet, Panama Flycatcher, Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet, American Oystercatcher and Riverside Wren.
We take a whale-watching boat to seek Humpback Whales heading south with young. Of course, nothing is guaranteed, though we have chances slightly better than 50% for Humpback, and we might also see Beaked, Pilot, Fin, and/or Blue Whale, plus Orca and False Orca. Also possible are Bottlenose, Spotted, Common and/or Spinner Dolphin.
Seabird species to look out for include Magnificent Frigatebird, Brown, Masked and Red-footed Booby, Wedge-rumped Storm-Petrel and Royal, Black and Sandwich Tern.
The area is also known for its coastal habitats and rich marine life and we explore the nearby forests, home to Howler Monkey, White-faced Capuchin, Green Iguana, Basilisk Lizard and other reptiles, as well as excellent birdlife including Fiery-billed Araçari, King Vulture, Grey-cowled Wood-Rail, Elegant Tern, Tawny-winged Woodcreeper, Smooth-billed Ani, Scaled Pigeon, Striped Owl, Costa Rican Swift, Olivaceous Piculet, Panama Flycatcher, Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet, American Oystercatcher, Riverside Wren, and a variety of waders. Overnight for three nights at Drake Bay Wilderness Lodge.
Day 13: Thur 18 September Hotel Bougainvillea
A leisurely travel day up the Pacific coastline to San Jose stopping to enjoy lunch and birding en route at a breath-taking location as we return to the very comfortable hotel where our holiday began. Overnight at Hotel Bougainvillea.
Day 14: Fri 19 September Departure
After breakfast and a leisurely morning, we depart for the airport and our international flight home, arriving on the morning of Day 15, Sat 20 September.
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.
– 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.
– 'guayaba'. Very small, red in colour.
– ‘carambola’. Tart, though lovely in juice and also used in cooking and salads. Often fresh from the tree.
– ‘jocote’. A very small kind of mango.
– 'mamon chino'. A large and refreshing lychee. Split in half to reveal the fruit, then suck from the stone inside.
- Nothing like at home, fresh and very tasty!
– ‘guanabana’. Large, green, and from the same family as ‘Custard Apple’.
– Another local fruit from the guava family, sour to taste, though excellent when made into juices or jams.
– 'pitaya'. From an epiphyte cactus plant, bright pink outside and inside, juicy and mild in flavour, often used in ice cream.