Quetzal Quest

Eco-Safari Adventures – Quest for the Quetzal – Pampas and Rain Forest Birding Adventure


Tropical Birds of Costa Rica…
Birding is best from mid October all the way through to mid March
A quest for the Quetzal, Scarlet Macaw and some of Costa Ricas 850 bird species – Visiting La Selva, Carara National Park, Savegre, etc.

Price on Request

Partner & Guide

Who is it for? The answer is that this active bird-watching tour is designed to cater for the needs of both, the avid birder, as well as nature enthusiasts who wish to immerse themselves for long hours in the various natural habitats identifying as many bird species as possible with the help of a specialist Bird-watching Tour leader.

Accommodation will be in rustic but comfortable and well-appointed Rainforest and Mountain Lodges – all with en-suite toilets and hot-water showers. Two of the eco-lodges that we use don’t have standard electricity and instead use energy from solar panels and self-generated electricity for general use, showers, etc. Our guides are bilingual and lead activities included birding walks on National Park and Private reserves, a boat trip on the Sarapiqui River and a crocodile boat safari on the Tarcoles River. All meals are included. Out transportation is a private, small minibus or 4X4 vehicle.


We had a great time; our guide Mario really made the trip. His knowledge of plants, wildlife, and of course birds was remarkable. We logged 251 birds; about 235 new to me! We also saw all four species of monkeys, Two-toed and Three-toed Sloths, and much, much more. My favourite lodge was La Quisinga, and my least favourite was up the volcano, but we did see about 22 Resplendent Quetzels. Costa Rica was more than I had ever imagined. All in all we had very few problems and one hell of a good time!
Jeffrey J Mondville – December 2005

I’m just writing to let you know we had an excellent trip thanks. The accommodation was first class throughout and all the transfers worked smoothly. Best of all though was Mario who we found to be an excellent guide. Not only did he have an extensive knowledge of birds and their calls, but he was very knowledgeable about all forms of wildlife and plants. He also has a very pleasant personality and we found him very easy to get on with. We managed to see over 300 species of birds, which I think is very impressive. I would not hesitate to recommend this trip and look forward to revisiting Costa Rica sometime in the future…
George & Eileen Foxton – March 2006

The trip was very good, excellent. The guide and driver were the best we have had on any of our expeditions. We saw 352 in 2 weeks. The Guide was superb.
Steve Allcock – May 2007


Costa Rica Birding

Did you know that there are more bird species in Costa Rica than in the entire United States and Canada combined? Yes, Costa Rica is home to over 850 bird species . all within a country the size of Wales! The potential the country has for bird-watching and wildlife observation is simply enormous, being described by many Ornithologists as matchless anywhere else on earth. It has been frequently said that Costa Rica is nature’s treasure chest of birds, this surely is no exaggeration but it is the pursuit of the more elusive birdwatcher’s dream, like the Great Tinamou, Rufous Motmot, Slaty-backed Forest Falcon, Coppery-headed Emerald, Mangrove Hummingbird, Ocellated Antbird and even the Resplendent Quetzal – a bird endemic to Central American bird, considered sacred by the ancient Mayan civilization – which can with patience and good fortune, turn your expedition into an experience of a lifetime.

The Tour

Day 1: San Jose

Arrival and transfer from airport to our hotel – a thirty minute drive
Overnight: Cafetal Inn or similar

Day 2: San Jose – La Paz Waterfall – La Virgen de Sarapiqui

After breakfast, we will head north and drive into the Caribbean lowlands, making various stops which will provide us an ideal opportunity to familiarize ourselves with many of the bird families we will be encountering during our stay in Costa Rica. En route, we will visit the Valley of La Virgen de Socorro – a middle elevation Caribbean slope area – we will spend some time birding on the mountain slopes around La Paz before continuing to Sarapiqui. This afternoon we will explore the trails around the hotel – Nightfall comes very quickly in Costa Rica and after dark, we hope to spend some time spotlighting for night birds and mammals.
Target Species: amongst these are: the Fiery-throated Hummingbird, Sooty-capped Bush-Tanager, Slaty Flower-piercer, Mountain Eleania, Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush, and Black-and-yellow Silky-Flycatcher.
Overnight: La Quinta Inn

Day 3: La Selva Biological Station & Boat Trip on the Sarapiqui River

Morning spent exploring the network of trails at La Selva Biological Station, which encompasses 1,600 hectares (3,900 acres) of tropical wet forests. This reserve has four major tropical life zones – primary lowland tropical forest. Over 400 species of resident and migratory birds have been recorded in the reserve, representing almost half of Costa Rica’s bird species and providing first class opportunities to observe birds. Later in the afternoon, we will take a boat trip on the Sarapiquí River, which no doubt will be a great opportunity to see waterbirds like the Green Ibis, Jacanas, Egrets, Kingfishers and even the nocturnal Boatbill heron!

Target Species: Chestnut-coloured Woodpecker, Scarlet-rumped Cacique, Blue-chested Hummingbird, Rufous and Broad-billed Motmots; Little and Slaty-breasted Tinamous; Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, Snowy Cotinga, Slaty-tailed, Black-throated and Violaceous Trogons, Plain-coloured Tanager, White-fronted Nunbird, Gray-necked Wood Rail, Semi-plumbeous Hawk, Agami Heron, Sungrebe, Bare-necked Umbrella-bird and the Great Green.

Overnight: La Quinta Inn

Day 4: Sarapiqui – Turrialba

An early morning birding walk at the hotel grounds will help us spot some of the common Costa Rican birds like Prevost’s and White-eared Ground-sparrows. Then, we will head for Turrialba area which is home to some 400 birds. This afternoon we will spend some time birding on the Valley of Turrialba (between Irazu and Turrialba volcanoes) and the surrounding forests and with some luck see a wide variety of birdlife

Target Species: Little Tinamou; Black-cheeked Woodpecker, Collared Aracari, Palm, Passerini’s; White-lined Tanagers; Green-breasted Mango; Green Heron; Purple Gallinule; Black-chested Hawk; Yellow-bellied Flycatcher; Bronzed Cowbird; Great-tailed Grackle; White-throated Crake; Baltimore Oriole; Rufous-tailed Hummingbird and Green Thorn-tail.

Overnight: Volcan Turrialba

Day 5: Turrialba Area

Our lodge is located on the outskirts of Turrialba volcano and just about 5 Km. from the crater, it covers various life zones including the Tropical Rain Forest, the Cloud Forest & the Paramo Forest. We explore some of the transitional forest and venture into “La Zocola” which is a primary forest area which survived the cattle-raising activity. It’s possible to see around 78 species of uncommon birds, including the Resplendent Quetzal.

Target Species: Resplendent Quetzal, Cattle Egret; Little Tinamou; Black-cheeked Woodpecker, Collared Aracari, Brown Jay, Blue-grey, Palm, Passerini’s; & White-lined Tanagers; Green-breasted Mango; Green Heron; Purple Gallinule; Northern Jacana; Black-chested Hawk; Band-backed Hawk; Yellow-bellied Flycatcher; Bronzed Cowbird; Great-tailed Grackle; White-throated Crake; Baltimore Oriole; Rufous-tailed Hummingbird and Green Thorn-tail.

Overnight: Volcan Turrialba

Day 6: Turrialba – Savegre Area

Early morning, we will head south and into the Cordillera de Talamanca and Cerro de la Muerte. ascending gradually from about 6000 feet in the Central Valley to approx 11000 feet at its highest point. We will pass through a variety of habitats (farmland, lush Tropical Forest, Cloud Forest and Parámo) Lunch will be at Finca Mirador de Quetzales – we will spend some time birding on the grounds of this location, before we finally head for Savegre area for a two-night stay. The Parámo has a very limited and fragmented distribution in Costa Rica. There are a number of bird species inhabiting the Parámo of Costa Rica and neighbouring Panama that are found nowhere else in the world.

Target Species: as above

Overnight: Savegre Mountain

Day 7: Savegre Reserve & Dota Region

This morning will be spent exploring Savegre Reserve and Valley (7200 ft) with its famous oak forest and epiphyte vegetation. Here we will start our quest for the Resplendent Quetzal, along with other rare species exclusive to this region. We will return to the hotel in time for a hearty lunch. Later in the afternoon, we will continue and venture up to 11000 feet to explore the Parámo Forest which is usually covered with mist and home to the Resplendent Quetzal and other species of the Trogon family, endemic to this type of forest.

Target Species: Silky Fly-Catcher, Coppery Headed Emerald Hummingbirds, Cerise-throated Hummingbirds and the Peg-billed Finch, Resplendent Quetzal.

Overnight: Savegre Mountain

Day 8: Savegre – Bahia Ballena

After spending some time around the hotel grounds trying to spot any of the bird species that may have eluded us, we will drive southeast to the Pacific coast, a 1 ½ hour drive will take us to La Cusinga in Bahia Ballena. Perched on a rocky bluff, this lodge overlooks some of Costa Rica’s most pristine beach and offers countless opportunities to explore both the marine world and lush rainforest nearby. The temperature and humidity at La Cusinga will be much higher than you will have experienced in the mountains yesterday, and you will therefore be taking things easy this afternoon.

According to field studies undertaken by the Costa Rican Ornithological Association (Asociacion Ornitologica de Costa Rica) there are currently 226 bird species that can found at La Cusinga and its vicinity.

Note: The itinerary can be shortened to 9 Days/8 Nights version, in which case the group or part of the group would return for an overnight in San Jose today (on day 8).

Target Species: as above

Overnight: La Cusinga

Day 9 & 10: Tres Hermanas & Coastal Explorations

Wake up early and enjoy a cup of coffee witnessing one of the most spectacular views of the Pacific coast. We will spend these days exploring the private grounds of the lodge following mountain trails which will take us through Reforested areas, farmland and primary forests. Afternoons may be spent discovering the rainforest-surrounded beach at Playa de Arco which is part of Ballena (Whale) Marine National Park. This park was created to protect its various coastal marine habitats, also endangered species like the Pacific hawksbill turtles that live and nest here, and the humpback whales that visit the park every year from both Northern and Southern hemispheres – providing not only great coastal discovery but also an opportunity to have a dip on a pristine and secluded Pacific Beach.

Target Species: Brown Pelican, Brown Booby, Neo-tropical Cormorant, Osprey, Crested Caracara, Peregrine Falcon, Orange-chinned Parakeet, White-crowned Parrot, Bronzy Hermit, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Purple-crowned Fairy, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Red-capped Manakin, Blue-crowned Manakin, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Tropical Pewee, Yellow-bellied Eleania, Mistletoe Tyrannulet, Summer Tanager, Black-cheeked Ant-Tanager, Blue-black Grassquit and various species of Trogons like the Slaty-tailed, Massena, Baird’s, Black-headed and the Violaceous.

Overnight: La Cusinga

Day 11: Bahia Ballena – Manuel Antonio – Carara

An early morning walk, will take us on Los Ajos trail – visiting a unique forest where some of the trees are estimated to be around 1000 years old. Later in the morning, we will head for Carara, visiting Manuel Antonio National Park enroute – This park encompasses 687 hectares (1685 acres) of land, plus 55.000 hectares (135.905 acres) of marine reserve. Its main natural communities include the primary forest, secondary forest, mangrove forest, lagoon and beach vegetation. The park includes 12 small islands just off the coast, which are excellent bird refuges. Manuel Antonio is also home to 109 species of mammals and 184 species of birds.

Target Species: Fiery-billed Araçari, Chestnut-backed Ant-bird, White-necked Jacobin, Baird’s Trogon, Orange-collared Manakin, Blue-throated Goldentail and Blue-black Grosbeak.

Overnight: La Cusinga Lodge

Day 12: Carara National Park & Neighbouring areas

Most of today will be spent at Carara National Park which with an area of 12952 acres, supports one of the few areas of pristine lowland tropical forest left on the Pacific slope, hosting a very large and diverse bird life of over 360 species, including one of the America’s most magnificent birds, the Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao), an endangered species, which is found in reduced populations and only in three locations of Costa Rica. During your visit your will explore key habitats featuring the lush evergreen forest, secondary forest, scrub, wetlands, mudflats and mangrove thickets, each of which has its own range of species. Today you can expect to amass an impressive list of birds.

Target Species: Great Curassows, Fiery Billed Aracari, Laughing Falcon, Yellow-headed Caracara, Collared Forest-falcon, Gray and Roadside Hawks, Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers and Streak-backed Oriole.

Overnight: Villa Lapas

Day 13: Carara – Boat Safari on Tarcoles River – San Jose

Tarcoles river, home of one of largest colonies of crocodiles in Costa Rica, with specimens which length range between 10 to 23 feet. The area where the river merges with Guacalillo estuary, and then both blend into the ocean is one of the best locations to see endangered birds such as the Mangrove Cuckoo, Mangrove Hummingbird, Mangrove Vireo and the Panama Flycatcher, although these birds tend to spend most of the day in the forest, they roost in the Mangroves. This afternoon we will return to San Jose for our last night-stay in Costa Rica..

Target Species: Mangrove Cuckoo, Mangrove Hummingbird, Mangrove Vireo, Panama Flycatcher, Pelicans, Boat-billed Herons, Roseate Spoonbill, Wood Stork, White Ibis, Bare-throated Tiger-heron, American Purple Gallinule, Black Skimmer, Magnificent Frigatebird, Mangrove Warbler, Mangrove Black-hawk, Panama Flycatcher and American Pygmy-kingfisher.

Overnight: Cafetal Inn or similar

Day 14: Airport & Home


The price will include only: Accommodation on Double occupancy basis; private transportation throughout; airport transfers; meals; bottled water, entrance fees (Poas Volcano National Park, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Carara National Park and Manuel Antonio National Park), Boat trip on Tarcoles River and services of a professional Bilingual guide/driver specializing in Birds. Sales tax (13%), Tourist Tax on lodging (3.39%) and Restaurant service charges for all meals provided (10%)

Not included: Flights to and from Costa Rica, medical expenses & insurance, drinks at dinner, alcohol, tips, insurance & items of a personal nature such as laundry & phone calls. Single room supplements apply for anyone travelling alone.

Please note: This is a sample programme, planned months in advance. The tour can be operated in different order other than as described above. Arrangements (routes or facilities) are subject to variation by the operator depending on local conditions and hotel choice may vary due to availability

NB All Anytime Tour itineraries are essentially drafts – the final itinerary will be arrived at during discussions with the clients and tailored to the client’s individual needs and is, of course, subject to the availability of accommodation etc. and any changes in local conditions. Our aim is to arrive at an itinerary which gives you the maximum chance to see the birds [& etc.] you want to see.

October 2013

Be like a little bird - spread the word