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 3 February 2024 - Depart London, arrive Costa Rica
After relaxing in our complimentary VIP Airport Lounge, we fly from London to San José to be met by our Guide and escorted to our hotel. San José is in the central valley of Costa Rica, where days are warm as an English summer, and nights can be pleasantly cool. Depending on our arrival time we may be able to relax with a gentle stroll 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.
Days 2 & 3: Sun 4 & Mon 5 February - Savegre
Another wonderful experience, as we travel to the misty highland cloud forest reserve at the Finca Mirador de Quetzales. We stay here for two nights, nestled in a quaint highland valley deep in the realm of the Resplendent Quetzal, one of the most sought-after birds of any trip to Costa Rica and a bird that many consider the most beautiful in tropical America. You have excellent chances of seeing this bird! We visit feeders at a number of places to boost our lists and obtain exceptional views of hummingbirds, tanagers, warblers, woodpeckers and woodcreepers, and take short walks, again with our vehicle in close attendance. Overnight Savegre Hotel.
Days 4 and 5: Tue 6 - Wed 7 February - Villa Lapas
We drive to the edge of the Carara Biological Reserve on the banks of the Tárcoles River near the Pacific coast. After lunch at our hotel, we enjoy birding in the immediate vicinity, and hope to see Scarlet Macaw and Tiger Heron among many others. During our stay we visit Playa Azul and the surrounding area, an amazing place for shore birds and water birds as well as parrots, orioles, macaws and owls. On a boat trip along the Tárcoles River we expect an impressive variety of waterbirds and raptors, including Roseate Spoonbill, several species of heron, Anhinga, kingfishers, Crested Caracara, Mangrove Black Hawk and Mangrove Warbler to name a few. Depending on local tides, we may cruise to the very mouth of the river, where passage terns and waders congregate, or delve deep into the mangrove forest in the comfort of our motorised vessel, gently cruising the calm waterways and getting very close to birdlife. We should also experience excellent views of American Crocodiles as you travel through the mangroves, and see Nighthawks overhead as we conclude a memorable trip. Overnight Hotel Villa Lapas, where Scarlet Macaws fly over daily.
Day 6: Thur 8 February - Ensenada
A very different environment as we travel to Guanacaste to explore the tropical dry forests, marshlands, estuaries, and mangroves, characteristic to the northern Pacific region. This is a beautiful location on the Pacific coastline, and an ideal place to see waterbirds, 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. Strolling through the semi-deciduous forest, we might see Turquoise-browed Motmot, Long-tailed Manakin, and several species of Parrot, Oriole, Cuckoo, Trogon, Jay, and Owl. Watch out for the large and fearless White-throated Magpie-Jays, which have a habit of raiding tables in the restaurant! Overnight La Ensenada Lodge.
Days 7 & 8: Fri 9 & Sat 10 February - Arenal Observatory
We spend two nights in this spectacular area, and from our hotel can enjoy breath-taking views of the jungle-covered Arenal Volcano, often with great photo opportunities. This is a birding and wildlife hotspot and the extensive natural beauty will astound you. The bird feeders here are well worthy of an extended view, as regular visitors are changing places throughout the day and Coatimundi are common on the lawn below. Above the feeders, watching from the balcony, we might see an array of raptors, parrots and woodpeckers, and nearby gardens hold tanagers, warblers and hummingbirds. Emerald and Crimson-collared Tanager, White Hawk, Brown-hooded Parrot and Golden-olive Woodpecker are just a very few of the birds available here. One night, we may go owling in search of Black-and-White Owl and Mottled Owl in the hotel grounds. Overnight Arenal Observatory Lodge.
Day 9, 10 & 11: Sun 11, Mon 12 & Tue 13 February - Selva Verde
We spend the next three nights and two days around 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. Animals here are not camera shy and we might see peccaries (wild pig), agoutis, coatis, sloth, and monkeys. We enjoy gentle walking ahead of our vehicle, which will follow closely behind so walking is minimised. An unforgettable few days! Overnight Selva Verde Lodge.
Days 12 & 13: Wed 14 & Thur 15 February – Tortuguero NP
We travel by road and boat eastwards across the country to Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean shore. Here we will explore the rich labyrinth of waterways by boat at dawn and dusk, with the opportunity to get close to Sungrebe, both toucans, all six American species of kingfisher, Neotropical River Otter, sloths, caiman, iguanas, poison-dart frogs, fresh-water turtles, basilisk lizards, the Honduran White tent-making bats, Morpho butterflies and three species of Costa Rican monkey. Excellent wildlife watching at leisure! This amazing and unforgettable area boasts 320 bird species, including Tiger Heron, Agami Heron and White-fronted Nunbird. Our easy pace allows time here for optional birding sessions around the grounds of the hotel and the adjacent beach. Overnight Laguna Lodge.
Day 14: Fri 16 February - Bougainvillea
We return to our very comfortable hotel in San José, birding on the way, for a farewell dinner and a final overnight, before transferring to the airport the next day. Overnight Hotel Bougainvillea, San José
Day 15: Sat 17 February - Depart to UK
Breakfast before departing for the airport to return home. We arrive in London on the morning of Day 16 ( Sun 18 February).
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.