birding in Costa Rica

Old Dec 27th, 1999, 06:39 AM
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birding in Costa Rica

We are flexible as to time of the year to travel to Costa Rica but seeking some recommendations on places and accommodations for about $100-$140 per day for two of us. We do not speak Spanish and would like to hire private guides and travel by car (rented with a driver?). What are your suggestions: where to go, when to go. We like to go to places where are not too many tourists, we don't care about nightlife, we like to get up very early to experience bird life. We are planning on spending about 12-14 days there. Thank you to all who will take time to respond to my questions.
Old Dec 27th, 1999, 11:23 AM
Posts: n/a is one of the best sites around for info on Costa Rica. Lots of links
Also try for a BBS on Costa Rica info
Old Dec 27th, 1999, 12:21 PM
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Dear JoAnn:
Thank you for your information. I am checing out all the web sites but I am hoping to hear from those who had personal experiences when birding in Costa Rica and they would like to share with me some "must" see places to visit and accomodations or places to avoid. So many people here have wonderful suggestions and I am counting on them Thanks
Old Dec 27th, 1999, 01:01 PM
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Wanda, We spent 7 weeks in Costa Rica in '93 and went sightseeing every week end-my husband was a volunteer consultant. Our last week there, we took off on our own to Monteverde and Quepos. In Monteverde we took the guided tour, and saw and heard a vast variety of birds--including the quetzal! The next day we went hiking on our own and saw more quetzals and other birds. Our guide spoke excellent English. In fact the whole time there, we had English speaking tour guides, who were very knowledgable about the birds and animals of the area.

We would like to go back, but stay in the Central Valley around San Jose, and take trips that are 2 & 3 days long to the various areas around the country, returning to our hotel between trips.

We stayed at the Hotel Bougainvillea in Santo Domingo, just outside of San Jose for those 6 weeks and enjoyed their gardens, the excellent staff and the good food. Our second trip there, we went back to see 'our friends.' The hotel rooms are very nice size, exceptionally clean, and well appointed, and if you get a room facing the rear, you can look out over acres of bougainvilleas, and other tropical flowers.

We also went to Cartago to Lancester Gardens, and the Basillica de Los Angeles. We took a tour to Sarchi where the colorfull oxcarts are made (also furniture) and Grecia (to see the 'metal' church), we went to Poas volcano and a trip to Arenal volcano and the hot springs there. We went whitewater rafting on the river Reventazon (sp.?). While in Quepos we went hiking in Manuel Antonio NP. Anywhere we went we saw birds--although we were not specifically bird watching. Have a wonderful time in a beautiful country with the most gracious, welcoming people!
Old Dec 28th, 1999, 09:17 PM
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Thanks for the plug Joanne. My website has been rebuilt and is now: Hasta - Dennis
Old Dec 28th, 1999, 09:36 PM
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Hi Wanda,
I attempted to contact you twice on your E Mail address and it was returned both times. Go to my website: Scroll to the bottom and you'll find a free itinerary service. Just tell Senor Napole how long you intend to stay, where you want to go, and approximately how much you want to spend and he'll design a trip for you. Remember this is a free service. In the same area on my site you'll find a gentleman, Jose Pelleya, who is an excellent guide, and who owns a bed and breakfast in Alajuela. He may be able to assist you in what you want to see. Any questions just E Mail me. Hasta Luego - Dennis
Old Jan 3rd, 2000, 09:14 AM
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Your budget is generous for Costa Rica and you should have no trouble finding accommodations in that price range. In terms of when to go, we went in late November and were glad we did. It is still technically the "Green Season" rather than the high tourist season, so crowds are down and you get lower rates on hotels than you do in December-May, but it is the end of the rainy season so the weather is good.

I would highly recommend the following places to stay in your price range. Website addresses are included and they all have e-mail addresses on the websites, which you can use to make further inquiries or reservations (this was how we made most of our arrangements).

Villa Caletas, on the Pacific Coast near Carara Biological Reserve (where you can see scarlet macaws). We were there for three nights in November 1999 and highly recommend this incredible hotel, which is part of the "Small Distinctive Hotels of Costa Rica" group. It is small and intimate -- very private, with the most beautiful pool I've ever seen and excellent food. It is perched about 350 feet above the ocean. They will shuttle you down to their private beach for free or you can walk -- if you walk you will see tons of birds and other wildlife. We got a special green season rate of $85 per night plus tax for our own private villa with a balcony and a gorgeous ocean view, which definitely fits into your price range. I would particularly recommend villas 12 or 14 if you can get them. Five minutes after checking into our room we saw a toucan on the tree off of our balcony, and we saw lots of hummingbirds and other birds there too. I think you'd love it. This was the first place we stayed in Costa Rica, and the hotel sent a very nice driver, Victor Hugo, to pick us up at the airport and transport us to the hotel, which took just under 2 hours. He did not speak English but I'm sure they would send an English-speaking one if you asked them to. Hotel website:

Vista del Valle outside of San Jose, in Alajuela, about 20 minutes from the international airport. This is a great place to stay upon arrival or prior to leaving the country as it is convenient to the airport and is incredibly beautiful and comfortable. It is also convenient for lots of daytrips to other things nearby. It overlooks a gorgeous canyon preserve. Very good food and friendly hosts who will help you make other travel arrangements, tours, car rental, provide transporation to/from the airport, etc. Rates range from $85-140 plus tax including breakfast, depending on what you want, so it is definitely in your price range. We stayed in one of the "Exotic Wood Suites" called Ceibo which we loved. The website is

Si Como No in Manuel Antonio. This hotel is slightly larger and more touristy than the other two mentioned above, and a little more pricey, but it still has a lot to recommend it. For one, it is very convenient to Manuel Antonio National Park. Two, it has rooms with balconies and nice ocean views. Three, you can see lots of wildlife right from your room. We saw trees full of parakeets, lots of hummingbirds, and a tree sloth from our balcony, and saw a whole troop of squirrel monkeys from the hotel's open-air restaurant. Plus lots more wildlife in the National Park which is a very short ($5) ride away. The hotel also arranges excellent guided tours of the park, plus canopy tours and lots of other excursions. There are two very good restaurants at the hotel and a nice pool. Like Villa Caletas, Si Como No is part of the "Small Distinctive Hotels of Costa Rica" group. Our Superior" room (5B) was $145 per night including breakfast, but "Standard" rooms are less -- around $130 I think, and they may run specials too. Website:

If you have any interest in going up around Arenal Volcano/La Fortuna/Tabacon Hot Springs area, the hotel I would recommend there is Arenal Lodge. It is not as luxurious as the other properties I've mentioned here, but seems to be one of the nicer places to stay in this particular area. Rooms have volcano views, and there is a nice garden which attracts lots of species of birds. The restaurant is pretty good too. We had a Junior Suite with balcony and volcano view at $103 per night plus tax, including breakfast. If you want a Junior Suite with kitchenette you should specify that and it's a little more. Lower room categories don't have views. They also have more expensive chalets and suites. Website: You might also want to consider Arenal Observatory Lodge, which is closer to the volcano. Again, not luxurious (we went there for lunch one day), and difficult to get to since it's on a long bumpy dirt road, but still a better option than staying at Tabacon Resort (we stayed there and didn't care for it).

Finally, since you're going to be there for two weeks, you should think about flying down to the Osa Peninsula, which is one of the most biologically diverse places in this hemisphere and has glorious bird life. We stayed at Lapa Rios ( which was incredible but it is out of the price range that you specified. However, there are other places to stay in that area so I would look into it if I were you. We saw lots of scarlet macaws, toucans, fiery-billed arcaris, and other gorgeous exotic things. Many of the accommodations in the area are tented ecolodges and sounded nice. Pick up a guidebook and see what it says about accommodations near Corcovado National Park or elsewhere on the Osa Peninsula -- you should be able to find something. It is worth the trouble of getting there.

Also, since you are birders you should think about going to Monteverde to try and see the resplendent quetzal. We did not get to go there (too much to do in two weeks!), but if you do, the two places in that area that were highly recommended to us were El Sapo Dorado ( and Hotel Fonda Vela ( Both of these had rooms for under $100 per night if I recall.

If you are thinking about renting a car in Costa Rica, the one we used was Dollar, and we had no problem. It was $53 per day for a 4x4. We made the reservation by e-mail through their website:

Good luck!
Old Jan 4th, 2000, 03:28 AM
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Thank you so much for all informations and thank you JoAnn and Lisa for all details and suggestions. I am working right now on our itinerary and it will be based on your experiences. If you recall any other ideas please post them here. Thank you again
Old Jan 6th, 2000, 03:00 PM
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Old Jan 9th, 2000, 02:52 AM
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We are birders and we have been to Costa Rica on 3 trips now. There is so much to do and see there and it is slow traveling from place to place so we never get as far as we think we will on these visits but I would have to reccomend Rancho Naturalista. The owners are from the US and the guides speak English. You can make arrangements to be picked up at the airport or your hotel.
Old Jan 9th, 2000, 12:10 PM
David Turner
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We visited Costa Rica in the first two weeks of April 99 and stayed at Punta Leona, El Sapo Dorado( Monteverde), Tabacon, Arenal Observatory Lodge and El Tucano. All five of these hotels are in your price range. We also seek out the quieter, smaller places whenever possible and are softcore birders and like to hike,photograph and generally be close to nature. We travelled on our own and arranged our transportation at the hotels in which we were staying. This worked out well and with minimal hassle. All the mentioned hotels have websites and are listed in the New Key to Costa Rica guidebook. If you would like more info on any of these hotels or our experiance in general please email us at [email protected]

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