Natural Habitat Adventures has spent over three decades exploring Costa Rica’s Pacific and Caribbean coastlines, rain forests, cloud forests, national parks and wildlife refuges. Our Costa Rica Wilderness Explorer expedition features expert naturalist guides and an intentionally curated itinerary that allows travelers to explore Costa Rica and the wildlife that makes this country a globally acclaimed biodiversity hotspot.
A Bird Watcher’s Paradise
Costa Rica is a spectacular place for bird watchers and photographers. This region has ecosystems and habitats that support some of the world’s most vibrant bird populations. As a traveler on Nat Hab’s Costa Rica Wilderness Explorer, you will explore national parks, private wildlife reserves, mangrove swamps and rainforest habitats in search of birdlife, sloths, spider monkeys, crocodiles, iguanas and more.
Los Quetzales National Park is located atop the Talamanca Mountains and encompasses more than 12,000 acres of pristine cloud forest and 14 different ecosystems. This is one of the best places to spot the resplendent quetzal, an exotic crimson and iridescent green bird with flowing tail feathers. The park protects wild sections of the Savegre River, which originates high up on the Cerro de la Muerte.
This cool climate is usually covered in a haze of thick clouds. Its high elevation attracts birds and other flora and fauna that live only at such extreme elevations. Other likely sightings include the spangle-cheeked tanager and the emerald toucanet. Nat Hab travelers will enjoy lunch at Paraiso Quetzal—”Quetzal Paradise”—an ecolodge perched on a steep mountainside. From the outdoor deck, we’re sure to see dozens of hummingbirds buzzing around several feeders, offering superb close-up photo opportunities
At the 800-acre Hacienda Baru National Wildlife Refuge, travelers can explore large tracts of protected lowland rainforest, mangroves, wetlands and secondary growth, which we experience from a network of easy trails. This area is home to nearly 400 recorded species of birds.
Our expedition takes travelers to the Batsu Gardens, a birding and photography haven where every detail has been intentionally designed to enhance outstanding bird photography opportunities in a lush natural space. The name Batsú comes from Bri-Bri, a language spoken by the indigenous people of the Talamanca Mountains.
An impressive 47 bird species are endemic to the mountains and foothills of Costa Rica and Western Panama. Check out some standout birds that you might see on Costa Rica Wilderness Explorer:
Discover 8 Beautiful Birds of Costa Rica’s Southern Pacific Coast
The Scarlet Macaw and the Great Green Macaw
Fifteen species of macaw live in Central and South America. These birds are the world’s largest flying parrots. Only two species—the scarlet macaw and the great green macaw—call Costa Rica home. The scarlet macaw is more commonly found in lowland humid forests, deciduous forests and tropical evergreen forest areas on the Pacific coast. Macaws are a social species that spend their lives in groups of 3 to 4, though sometimes this can rise to 30 individuals. You’ll almost always see pairs together, as macaws are a monogamous species and mate for life. The two will fly or sit side by side, preening each other’s feathers and talking to each other with affectionate, rasping calls.
This special tanager is an endemic resident breeder of the highlands of Costa Rica and western Panama. This frugivore is small and active, with a unique orangey belly and cobalt wings, and turquoise spangles on the chest, cheek and nape. These birds are usually found in pairs following mixed feeding flocks in forests and edges.
These are large seabirds with long, angular wings that help them soar over tropical and subtropical oceans throughout the Americas. Males of this species are unique in that they have a distinctive red gular pouch, which they inflate during the breeding season to attract females. Both males and females have black plumage and long, deeply forked tails, along with long hooked bills. They forage in lagoons as well as far out to sea and nest in low-growing scrub vegetation on islands.
Hummingbirds, remarkably, can fly backward and have the fastest heart rate of any bird, with a pulse that can surpass 1,200 beats per minute. These high-energy birds need quality food to sustain this daily energy expenditure. Some white-eared hummingbirds have been found to eat 850% of their body weight per day to sustain themselves. They survive on nectar and a wide array of insects, including beetles, flying ants and daddy longlegs. Unlike the macaw, hummingbirds are mainly solitary creatures, and breeding season is typically the only time hummingbirds are seen together. In Costa Rica, you can find 51 species of hummingbird, each one displaying dazzling and vibrant colors.
Sometimes mistaken for a flamingo, the Roseate Spoonbills is a unique pink wading bird with a long, flat, spoon-shaped bill. Adults are pink overall, with scarlet wing patches, orange tails and bare pale-green heads. You can find this bird in freshwater and saltwater wetlands from the Gulf Coast of the U.S. through much of South America.
These large beaked birds are omnivores with a lifespan of 15-20 years. In Costa Rica, there are six different species of toucans, and you have the best chance of catching a glimpse of these birds in the cloud forests of Monteverde and the higher parts of the Central Volcanic Range.
The feeding habits of this bird significantly impact the ecosystem of its home in the Central American and northwestern South American lowland rain forests. Black-mandibled toucans are primarily frugivorous, meaning 90% of their diet is fruit. The seeds they consume pass through their digestive systems intact and sprout where they are deposited. These are the largest toucans in Central America and are known for their massive, bicolored bill.
The resplendent quetzal was first described by Mexican naturalist Pablo de La Llave in 1832. These birds have colorful and complex plumage and live among lush vegetation, in very moist rainforests at high elevations. There are two recognized subspecies.
Explore the Wilder Side of Costa Rica, in Comfort
On Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast lies the Golfo Dulce, an 800-acre private rainforest reserve that is one of only three tropical forest estuaries in the world. Gulfo Dulce receives tropical runoff from eight rivers which form a fresh-water gulf. With an abundance of wildlife and sea life, the biodiversity here is unlike any other place in the world. Exploring this remote area of the rainforest is a rare experience, and Nat Hab makes it even more special with accommodations at Tiskita Jungle Lodge, the only lodging in this biodiversity hotspot. Its hand-built cabins, crafted from fallen hardwood trees, survey the sea from a high ridge, allowing you to experience a tropical rainforest in comfort. More than 275 bird species thrive in this lush habitat, and our remote ecolodge on Costa Rica’s less-visited southern Pacific coast provides excellent birdwatching and wildlife viewing. Daily morning walks provide the opportunity to see coveted species like the scarlet macaw, which was successfully reintroduced by Tiskita’s owners and now flourishes on the reserve.
Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast is abundant with vibrant birdlife and outstanding wildlife viewing opportunities for all types of travelers. Join a Nat Hab trip and discover a wilder side of Costa Rica!