Category Archives: Central America

The Colors of Costa Rica: Experience a tropical Birding Paradise

Between stunning landscapes, endless biodiversity, and top-notch coffee, traveling Costa Rica sits at the top of our must-see list. During our winter destination tours, Naturalist Journeys brings you to this tropical birding paradise. The opportunity to immerse yourself in the country’s abundant wildlife is hard to pass up. These trips provide a chance to taste local cuisine, capture amazing photos, and of course, experience one of the most incredible birding tours on the planet.

Costa Rica contains a whopping 6% of the world’s biodiversity—many species existing nowhere else in the world. This wildlife oasis contains an overwhelming roster of tropical birds including parrots, guans, curassows, hummingbirds, tangers, toucans, and MANY more. One of the perks of our relaxing mornings at various lodges are the feeding stations flooded with local birds. To give you a look into the trips, we came up with a colorful list highlighting some of our favorite finds.

Scarlet Macaw 

Even the slightest glimpse of the Scarlet Macaw will put a smile on your face! We hope to find this stunning parrot soaring across the treetops in groups or pairs.

Orange-collared Manakin 

Known for its bright orange “collar” the Orange-collared Manakin boasts a unique mating call with an electric “snap” and is a delight to watch. We hope to see this bright little bird on lek.

Yellow-throated Toucan

These large, fruit-loving birds are as social as they are beautiful. We had great sightings of  Yellow-throated Toucans flying across the road as well as soaring above our heads on a recent tour.

Green Honeycreeper

While these green beauties stand out in a crowd, they actually use their unique coloring to blend in with the thick rainforest foliage. Needless to say – catching a look of a Green Honeycreeper is always a treat.

Blue Dacnis

We spot this striking blue tanager in the canopies. Although it is common to lay eyes on one of these, its beauty never disappoints.

Purple Gallinule

The Purple Gallinule dazzles with its purple feathers and blue-green wings. It even has a unique talent! This nimble waterbird uses its long, yellow legs to tip-toe across lily pads – a sight worth seeing!

It only seems right to acknowledge the two birds that deserve the award for most colorful. The Fiery-throated Hummingbird features a wide variety of colors resembling an oil-slick rainbow. Wildly designed, the Resplendent Quetzal is found in tropical rainforests ranging from Mexico to Panama and is the subject of various Mesoamerican myths. Its vibrant feathers are unmistakable and on our winter tours, we expect to see the males in full breeding plumage (hello, tail feathers).

Noteworthy Neutrals

Finally, it feels necessary to give our flightless friends some recognition. Although Costa Rica is a tropical birding paradise, there are many sights to be seen. Here are some animals you just might spot on your trip: 

Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth

The slow-moving Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth is loved by many. Our favorite attribute of this animal is its upturned mouth, giving them a constant smile.

Mantled Howler Monkey

These monkeys are local to South and Central America and known for their loud calls (that can be heard up to three miles away!) and beard-like facial features. While they prefer the rainforest, we spotted several young howlers in someone’s yard on a recent tour. Mantled Howler Monkeys are one of many endangered species in Costa Rica being displaced by habitat destruction—so it is an honor to witness them in the wild.

Whether you’re a seasoned birder, looking to add to your life list, or seeking a perfectly crafted adventure, our Costa Rica birding tour package has something for everyone. Click here to find out more about taking a winter trip to this tropical birding paradise with Naturalist Journeys.

And before you go, click the link below to get instant access to trip announcements and the latest birding news!

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Costa Rica Tourism is Both Astounding and Easy

All the Biodiversity and Less Travel Hassle

Next tours: Costa Rica Birding and Nature Jan. 5-12 and Feb. 9-16 with Pacific Coast Extension; and Southern Costa Rica Feb. 21-March 3

One of the most delightful and enduring drivers of Costa Rica tourism is the country’s astonishing variety of natural habitats, which host a rich biodiversity of plants, animals and insects. At least 5 percent of all known species found on the planet live in Costa Rica, on just .03 percent of Earth’s real estate.

  • Costa Rica tourism depends on a safe neighborhood
  • Costa Rica tourism in a country the size of W. Virginia

With both Pacific and Caribbean coasts, two mountain ranges arching into its spine, highlands and valleys, white water and cloud forests, volcanoes and dry forests it’s little wonder that more than 800 species of birds have found a niche there to call home, along with 208 mammal species, 50,000 insect species, and 2,000 orchids!

  • Costa Rica tourism means ecolodges
  • Costa Rica tourism means ecolodges
  • Costa Rica tourism means ecolodges
  • Costa Rica tourism brings you close to a Red-Eyed Tree Frog
  • Costa Rica tourism may bring you a Volcano Hummingbird.

Even at our relaxed and comfortable pace, the country’s diversity and compact size makes it easy to visit many habitats here, an endeavor made even easier by Costa Rica tourism’s leadership. Nearly a quarter of the country’s landmass is protected by national parks, biological reserves, wildlife refuges or other protected areas, allowing us to travel freely from one natural jewel to another.

“They have ecotourism down to a science,” said guide Carlos Sanchez, who has led many trips for Naturalist Journeys to Costa Rica. “Infrastructure is good, the birding is well thought out…people are often surprised just how easy it is to be there.”

Costa Rica tourism means ecolodges
The aerial tram at Tapirus Lodge brings us easy canopy birding!

Costa Rica offers visitors far less friction than many other countries. The tap water is good and you don’t need a converter to use the electrical outlets, Carlos said. 

“People find they can instantly relax and focus on the birds and not have to worry about anything else.”

Our guests also get the benefit of our deep roots in the country. We have worked for more than 30 years with the same wonderful local partner.

The fact that Costa Rica is relatively small – West Virginia is a bit bigger – makes it so much easier getting from birding the rainforest canopy by aerial tram near coastal Limon to being serenaded by howler monkeys from a lowland boat safari close to the Nicaraguan border, to exploring the majesty of the Tenorio Volcano to gliding through the rain forest of Braulio Carrillo National Park.

Thanks to the magic of Costa Rica tourism, we’re able to do all of those things while maintaining a relaxed pace.

Birding the edge of La Selva Rainforest.

We have six additional tours with four other itineraries currently scheduled to Costa Rica, which is one of the most popular tourism destinations we visit, for obvious reasons! 

From guide Carlos, here are just a few examples of the birds we expect to see in each area of the October trip, as early migrating raptors and songbirds may be seen moving south:


Here we can expect to see Fiery-throated Hummingbird, Long-tailed Silky Flycatcher, Golden-browed Chlorophonia and Resplendent Quetzal. Revered by the Maya, the Resplendent Quetzal is considered by many to be the most beautiful bird in the Western Hemisphere.

Caribbean Foothills

Here we may see Snowcap Hummingbird, technicolor tanagers, including Emerald, Golden-hooded and Black-and-yellow Tanagers, along with the Black-Crested Coquette, an impish and unforgettable hummingbird.

Carribean Lowlands

Here we can expect to see Snowy Cotinga, Chestnut-Collared Woodpecker, Rufous-tailed Jacamar and Black-Throated Trogon, among others, Carlos said.

“What’s so wonderful about birding in a place like Costa Rica, is that even going up in elevation 1000 or 2000 feet will produce an entirely different set of birds,” Carlos said.

Costa Rica Tourism = Gorgeous Ecolodges

Just like the surfers flock to Tamarindo Beach, and the ladies who spa hit Tabacon, we will find different birds congregating near each of the four inviting ecolodges on our Oct. 6-15 Costa Rica’s Carribean Side tour:

  • Costa Rica tourism means ecolodges
  • Costa Rica tourism means ecolodges
  • Costa Rica tourism means ecolodges
  • Costa Rica tourism means ecolodges
  • Costa Rica tourism means ecolodges
  • Costa Rica tourism means ecolodges
  • Costa Rica tourism means ecolodges
  • Costa Rica tourism means ecolodges

Our Christmas in Costa Rica trip Dec. 22 – Dec. 29 includes visits to the Tapirus Lodge and also local favorite ecolodges Hotel La Quinta Sariquipi and Savegre Hotel, Natural Reserve and Spa.

  • Costa Rica means ecolodges
  • Costa Rica means ecolodges

Our three “classic” Costa Rica tours, Jan. 5-12, Feb. 9-16, and March 3-10 include stays at Savegre Mountain Lodge, Rancho Naturalista and SarapiquiS Rainforest Lodge.

  • Costa Rica tourism means ecolodges
  • Costa Rica tourism means ecolodges
  • Costa Rica tourism means ecolodges
  • Costa Rica tourism means ecolodges
  • Costa Rica tourism means ecolodges
  • Costa Rica tourism means ecolodges
  • Costa Rica tourism means ecolodges
  • Costa Rica tourism means ecolodges
  • Costa Rica tourism means ecolodges
  • Costa Rica tourism means ecolodges

These three trips offer a post-tour extension to the Pacific Coast, with stays at La Ensanada Lodge and Villa Lapas Lodge.

  • Costa Rica tourism means ecolodges
  • Costa Rica tourism means ecolodges
  • Costa Rica tourism means ecolodges

Carlos highly recommends that “serious birders” book the extension, because it produces dramatic birding every day, and visits a niche area of dryland forest in Costa Rica. Here we see birds found nowhere else in the country, including Streaked-backed and Spot-breasted Oriole, Banded Wren and Black-headed Trogon. Birders may also see Double-striped Thick-knee, Scarlet Macaw, White-Throated Magpie-Jay, Turquoise-browed Motmot and the huge, bill-rattling Jabiru, a stork with up to a 9-foot wingspan and the tallest flying bird in North America.

A Jabiru in flight is a thing to behold!

“This extension really adds so much to their trip,” Carlos said of the Pacific Coast 5-day, 4-night post-tour extension, which includes both a boat tour and a tractor tour of a working farm. “Sunsets there are so amazing, we see a wide spectrum of birds, and it’s really relaxed and easy birding.”

Birding Belize … Why We Love It!

At Naturalist Journeys we are thrilled to offer a grand array of Neotropical birding tours. Our expert guides vie for the chance to lead groups in Belize. For many reasons, we love birding Belize! Find out ….

Deciding where to bird in the Neotropics, which includes both Central and South America, can seem like a daunting task, and rightfully so. There are many lodges to choose from, and each country has its own draw. We suggest a stair-step approach in which you gain skills and knowledge with each visit, making the most of your time and budget.

Birding Belize
Violaceous Trogon by Peg Abbott

Continue reading Birding Belize … Why We Love It!

Highlights from Our Belize Birding Tour

Every winter, Naturalist Journeys heads to Belize for a number of fun-filled trips. Here are highlights from a 2016 Belize birding tour.

Belize Birding Tour
Group at Pook’s Hill Ruins, Naturalist Journeys Stock

The highlights detailed in this blog post were from a February 2016 Belize birding tour …  and this trip was extra special: Naturalist Journeys‘ owner Peg Abbott celebrated her 60th birthday on the trip; it was a bit of a reunion with long-time travel companions, which made for a whole lot of fun. You can read the full trip report here.

Without further ado, here are the highlights, day by day. Continue reading Highlights from Our Belize Birding Tour

Birding the New World Tropics

Birding the New World Tropics is incredible, but where to start!?

Birding the New World Tropics
Group Birding in Colombia, Naturalist Journeys Stock

We often travel with birders who are new to or working their way through birding the New World Tropics. But if you’re not a pro, it can feel a little overwhelming. So before you dive right into South America, “The Bird Continent,” with species numbers over 1500 in destinations like Colombia or Peru, we recommend a stair step approach to keep it fun, and not daunting! Each trip you take builds your neotropical knowledge so that when you do travel to the highest diversity locations, you arrive with more experience.

Below is a great destination guide to help you make the right choice about your next trip.
Continue reading Birding the New World Tropics