10 Full Day Itinerary for Wildlife Photography Trip

Old May 11th, 2021, 12:18 PM
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10 Full Day Itinerary for Wildlife Photography Trip

Looking for advice on 10 full days in early to mid December for avid wildlife photographers (but must return by evening on the 10th day to SJO as we fly out early on the 11th day and Iím not counting the day we fly in as we get in very late and will stay by SJO). The big debate is Ė is it worth it to stay in 2 places for 4-5 nights or go to a 3rd place and chance that each place you may only have 1-2 days to photograph that area due to rain which we know is inevitable.

Going with my dad (70 and fit) and while we both like birds, I would like to see some other types of wildlife as well at least one different type of terrain that CR has to offer. We both like to hike as well and may only do 1 adventure type thing (zipline). We have no interest going to a beach area just to go to a beach and relax. Itís all about wildlife and birds Ė the more colorful and unique, the better.

I thought I had figured out our trip but now after going down the rabbit hole of more research and reviews, Iím questioning it. I originally thought just Arenal, Monteverde and then added in Tortuguero. But not I am wondering if thatís just too much time going between places esp with Tortuguero. I wonder if Arenal and Monteverde are too similar. Then I started reading more about Osa and how you can fly there and I wondered if thatís maybe where we should spend some of our time. Then, I also wondered if logistically we should stay in Arenal and somehow get a driver to take us to Cano Negro and actually stay there a night so we have more than a couple hours on the river and go to a different area that way.

We would love to hear any recommendations for 10 full days, 9 nights. Weíve wanted to do this trip for a long time and are fine spending some extra cash if it means we get more individualized or smaller group tours and are good with private guides as well. Currently have reservations at Tortugeuro lodge, Monteverde lodge and trapp family (to allow ourselves a choice) and Arenal Observatory lodge. I think we definitely want some time at AOL but the question is how much time and what other area (s) would give a good balance of wildlife?



Thank you in advance for your suggestions!
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Old May 11th, 2021, 06:39 PM
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We've been to all of those places. By far the best wildlife we've ever seen has been on the Osa Peninsula. We saw all four species of monkeys there, scarlet macaws flew by our cabin every day, and we also saw toucans and an anteater. Great hiking. We stayed at Bosque del Cabo - pretty pricey, but it was amazing. The Arenal Observatory Lodge is great for birding - we saw lots of toucans, aracaris, oropendolas, tanagers, honeycreepers, etc. Also tons of coatis and occasionally monkeys. Excellent hiking there as well, and they have a free guided hike every morning. I'd recommend hanging out at the bird feeder area; every morning they put out fresh fruit, and the birds come flocking. Monteverde is really good for seeing quetzals. Tortuguero has nice birding as well, and we went in turtle season so we got to see those too. Not much hiking; most tours are done via boat. Manuel Antonio has lots of sloths and monkeys; we've seen several at Tulemar Bungalows where we've stayed. Great if you like beach time, but seems like maybe not the best choice for you.
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Old May 11th, 2021, 06:42 PM
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We've done the Cano Negro tour several times with Desafio - excellent for seeing water birds, caimans, sloths, long-nosed bats, and monkeys. We even saw an albino howler monkey on one of our trips. I probably would just do the day tour there; you should see plenty.
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Old May 12th, 2021, 08:46 AM
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Thanks Volcano Girl. What do you think makes the most sense to combine: Osa and AOL, Osa and SGdD or Osa and Monteverde? I feel like I'm leaning towards Osa and AOL because the birding is so great at AOL. Unless my dad really wants to see Quatezel then I'm thinking it make may more sense to see birds at AOL even with the additional travel time but would love any opinions.

I was able to snag 4 nights at Bosque del Cabo in Osa that's refundable so I have that as an option. If we went the Osa / something else combo, then it would be 5 nights in Osa and 4 nights elsewhere. Unless we split that time up differently ... how many days/nights would you recommend if we did Osa/AOL vs Osa/SGdD vs Osa/Monteverde?

Any thoughts are greatly appreciated!
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Old May 12th, 2021, 08:52 AM
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Sorry - I have 4 nights at Bosque and a 5th night on hold at Luna in Osa. So we could do 4N or 5N in Osa and 4N or 5N elsewhere ... or split it differently if there is a different option I haven't seen.
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Old May 12th, 2021, 09:31 AM
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Our two favorite areas are the Osa and the Arenal area, so that would be my pick. Monteverde is a pain to get to and not much there other than quetzals and the cloud forest; it can also be quite chilly - we had to wear sweatshirts and fleece jackets when we were there. Awesome that you were able to get Bosque del Cabo. I think you will really love it. They have excellent guides as well. We stayed in the Tucan cabin, and it had a cool outdoor bathtub. Monkeys swung over my head one day when I was taking a bath. If you do the Cano Negro tour when you're in the Arenal area, that is very similar to what you would see in Tortuguero other than the turtles.

By SGdD I assume you mean San Gerardo de Dota. We've been there as well - excellent for seeing hummingbirds and quetzals, not much else there. We stayed at the Savegre Lodge.
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Old May 12th, 2021, 09:34 AM
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One other place that has really nice birding is the Selva Verde Lodge, not sure if you've looked at that one, but it's good for a couple of nights. Lots of toucans there. If you're interested, try to get a room back by the river since the rooms toward the front can have road noise.
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Old May 12th, 2021, 12:17 PM
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awesome - this is very very helpful! Thank you so much. I'll chat with my dad and see if there is anything else that pops into our minds to ask for this level of planning. Once we totally finalize the main locations, I'm sure there may be more questions which hopefully I can find answers to in the forum and if not, I can ask away. thanks again!
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Old May 12th, 2021, 12:43 PM
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Here are a few photos I've taken to give you an idea.
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Old May 12th, 2021, 12:54 PM
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In the Arenal area, in addition to Cano Negro, I'd recommend going to the Bogarin Trail if you have time. It's a trail owned by local brothers who act as guides. You need to do the guided tour to see anything - caimans, sloths, colorful poison dart and red-eyed tree frogs, and birds there.

I'd also recommend a trip to the natural hot springs - Tabacon if you like fancy or Eco Termales for smaller with some local charm; we like to go in the evening since there are very few evening activities, and it's better when the weather has cooled off.

There are also Hanging Bridges in the area, but wildlife can be hard to spot there.
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Old May 13th, 2021, 07:25 AM
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wow those are great shots Volcanogirl! Assuming those are around osa and arenal? As for guides in Osa, do you hire a guide with Bosque or thru Bosque? I haven't researched as much on Osa as I have on Arenal and would love to know any good recos for tours or small group tours or private guides in Osa and how that works - when to book, how to book, etc.

We both have zoom lens (400mm) and extenders so hoping to get a couple of great shots like these (you take so many and only a handful are worthy lol!). I've read about the Bogarin trail so it's great to hear that it's good. I can't thank you enough!
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Old May 13th, 2021, 09:19 AM
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The toucan and snake were taken at Selva Verde. The Emerald Tanager was taken at the Arenal Observatory Lodge off the observation deck at the fruit feeder. Sloth and red-eyed tree frog at the Bogarin Trail in La Fortuna/Arenal. And the coati at the Arenal Observatory Lodge. My Bosque del Cabo pics were taken a few years ago so I'd have to dig those up, but just wanted to give you an idea of some of the things you could see.

Yes, at Bosque del Cabo, they have their own guides. We used Phillip for one general tour and Carlos for a birding tour. A few years ago so not sure if they're still there, but all their guides are good. You can just reserve through them. Most people don't even leave the BdC property since it's isolated and has such great wildlife, and all meals are served on the property. They didn't even have locks on the doors when we were there. Some people hike into Corcovado, but I don't think it's necessary unless you just have a strong desire to do it.
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Old May 13th, 2021, 11:38 AM
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And here's the view from our room at the Arenal Observatory Lodge; we like the Smithsonian rooms. The view is often enshrouded in foggy mist so seeing it like this was pretty spectacular. Happy to help with any questions you have. And happy we can start traveling again.
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Old May 13th, 2021, 01:09 PM
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Agreed - SO happy we can travel again! AOL looks so lovely! I'm so glad I snagged a room early on in my search and then can adjust if needed. I read so much great stuff about it, I wanted to snag a room and then decide how many days, etc. I got all turned around with all these other amazing places but AOL seems to be something we would not want to miss. And I am heavily leaning towards Osa/Arenal - just need to talk it over with my dad. Both places seem like spending 4-5 days each would be good vs moving around every couple days.

I'm still confused on a couple things for Bosque. I can certainly email them too but would be happy to get your perspective as ll. Are the meals all included or is that on top of the room rate? How soon should we book a guide with the hotel and/or any other guides? It sounds like most people just stay in bosque but if there are any other recommendations for Osa/Bosque/the park for wildlife or hiking, please let me know.

thanks so much!
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Old May 14th, 2021, 06:36 AM
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Yes four or five days in the Arenal area is perfect. We've been there about ten times, and that's how long we usually stay. Lots to do and see. The Arenal Observatory Lodge is set away from town out by the lake. Are you planning on renting a car while you're there? They had a shuttle that goes into town at certain times of day when we were there. You had to pay for it, not sure if it's still running given Covid, etc. For Bosque del Cabo, we only stayed three nights, but most people do stay longer. If you want to reserve one of their guides, I think you're fine just to reserve when you get there. They keep the number of guests small. You also might want to check the weather report before you reserve. If it's raining, you won't see nearly as much. December is outside the traditional rainy season though, which in general runs May through December, but of course they can get rain at any time of year. We went in July, the height or rainy season, and didn't get any. We felt lucky.
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Old May 14th, 2021, 06:40 AM
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thanks volcanogirl thats helpful! We are not planning on renting a car and I read about the shuttle to town from AOL. I think we'll be ok either synching with the shuttle or having taxis. I may pop back onto this thread once I've chatted with my dad or start a new thread if there is a more specific question we have. You've been really helpful - thank you so much!
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Old May 14th, 2021, 07:39 AM
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You're welcome, happy to help! Sorry that should read May through November, not December. If you do any tours like ziplining, they'll usually pick you up and drop you back off at your hotel. We used Sky Trek for ziplining. Taxis into town will be pricey, but as long as you budget for that no worries. You can also hire guides through Desafio if you need one; we've had excellent guides through them. One took us hiking out by the dam, and we saw monkeys, a peccary, and an anteater out there, toucans as well. Hope you guys have a wonderful time.
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Old May 19th, 2021, 07:20 AM
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One other spot you might like. If you end up going to Selva Verde, lots of people there were raving about a nearby spot called Dave and Dave's - a great place to get birding photos. We haven't been, but it gets great reviews if you want to check it out.
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Old May 23rd, 2021, 08:05 AM
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Just make sure you can get between places without a car. Due to COVID there may be restrictions on shuttle operations.

I had some exciting times traveling in "GREEN SEASON" but it was the beginning of November. Things should be less risky when you are going.

Last edited by mlgb; May 23rd, 2021 at 08:08 AM.
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