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Itinerary Advice - First Time Birding in December

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Itinerary Advice - First Time Birding in December

My spouse and I are beginning to plan a 2-week trip tentatively for the first 2 weeks in December to celebrate my 60th birthday. It would be our first trip to Costa Rica. We are mostly interested in seeing birds and wildlife. We are not super hard-core birders in terms of ticking birds off of lists, we just love seeing and learning about them. Other than walks, we’d be interested in swims in the river, hot springs, etc. but no zip lining or white water rafting. Assuming the first and last days in San Jose (possibly Hotel Bougainvillea?) that gives us 12 days. (Traveling into Liberia is slightly more expensive, but wouldn’t be a deal breaker if that made more sense.) I’m a little concerned about dealing with the heat on the coasts in accommodations without A/C in terms of being able to get a good night’s sleep. So at this point I’m concentrating on the mid to higher elevations. The places I’m considering are:

Arenal Observatory Lodge

Selva Verde Lodge

Bosque de Paz

Savegre Hotel

Rancho Naturalista

And if we get brave enough to go to the coast, perhaps Hotel Cerro Lodge.

I’m hoping for feedback on whether these locations will give us sufficient diversity (or too much overlap) and perhaps suggestions on an appropriate itinerary and amount of time spent at each (i.e which should be 2 vs. 3 days). We assume we’ll hire guides at each location, and probably rent a car to get between locations. Thanks so much for taking the time out to respond.

26 replies to this topic
Ontario, Canada
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1. Re: Itinerary Advice - First Time Birding in December

I think you should enjoy Arenal Observatory Lodge. It is in beautiful surroundings, very close to the volcano, and offers a variety of wildlife, incl. birds. We are not birders, but we saw quite a few interesting birds when staying there. If you have not already, check out the Birding post from the Top Qns about CR on the right side of the screen: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g29198… . It mentions AOL and other areas.

Brooklyn, New York
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2. Re: Itinerary Advice - First Time Birding in December

You've obviously done your homework and have selected a solid group of locations/lodges. There will be some overlap but not too much.

Cerro Lodge rooms have air conditioning plus there's a pool. And those Scarlet Macaws....

But, if the heat is really something you don't like, you are fine with the places you've selected. Though Sarapiqui area can get quite warm (though not as blazing hot as Carara/Tarcoles).

I would add an extra day or two to the AOL for day trips to Caño Negro and/or the Bijagua area.

Slovenia
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3. Re: Itinerary Advice - First Time Birding in December

Cerro Lodge is positioned on a hill offering nice breeze at dinner time. It is also great location for Tarcoles and Carara, and as mentioned by racandee, scarlet macwas are flying over it twice a day!

Indeed you have done your homework well. All great birding spots (and I will be visiting them all this July). My general itinerary will be Arenal - Sarapiqui - (Manzanillo) - Rancho Naturalista - San Gerardo de Dota - (Cabo Matapalo) - (Manuel Antonio). This could also be your general itinerary i.e. clockwise route.

You will need to rent a car as there are birds all over the country and you will want to stop often! I recommend you an SUV/4x4 type of vehicle as some of the lodges mentioned have quite rough approach roads.. My preferred rental car provider is Wild Rider, and he deals only in this type of vehicles.

And yes you can hire guides at each location but do this beforehand. Racandee might give you some names from his former birding visits. If you will contact me in September I will probably already have done my trip report (with plenty of photos, I hope so).

Edited: 14 May 2018, 17:12
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4. Re: Itinerary Advice - First Time Birding in December

Thanks so much everyone for the helpful advice. I had forgotten that Cerro Lodge has A/C. If we go to Cerro, we'd either need to add a couple more days to the itinerary or drop someplace. If you were to drop one of the other locations which would you all suggest?

Tampa, Florida
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5. Re: Itinerary Advice - First Time Birding in December

If you're not including San Gerardo de Dota you should go to Monteverde. I would think you'd like a chance to see quetzals, mot mots, and bell birds. You won't need AC up on the mountain, maybe a fireplace.

Slovenia
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6. Re: Itinerary Advice - First Time Birding in December

Day 1 Hotel Bouganville

Day 2 Bosque de Paz Lodge

Day 3,4 Arenal Observatory Lodge

Day 5, 6,Selva Verde

Day 7, 8 Rancho Naturalista

Day 9,10 Savegre Lodge

Day 11 Cerro Lodge

Day 12 Hotel Bouganville

Reasoning for 1-night stops: Bosque del Paz and Cerro Lodge are both about 2 hrs driving from Alajuela, thus giving you enough time for birding on first and last full day! But you should enter your nights into actual calendar to see if my calculation fits your available dates. And do fly into San Jose (SJO).!

Brooklyn, New York
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7. Re: Itinerary Advice - First Time Birding in December

Savegre Hotel/Lodge is in San Gerardo de Dota.

I don't know that there's enough difference bird-wise between these places to make a distinction along those lines. These places are on most bird tour itineraries for a reason.

I'd just add the time to incorporate Cerro Lodge.

Chicago, Illinois
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8. Re: Itinerary Advice - First Time Birding in December

I like Xelas’s itinerary but would modify it slightly dropping Bosque del Paz if you include Savegre & Rancho Naturalista.

Day 1 Hotel Bougainvillea

Day 2,3,4 Arenal Observatory Lodge

Day 5,6 Selva Verde or La Selva or Posada Andrea Cristina run by a family of birding guides.

Day 7,8,9 Rancho Naturalista

as there is lots to see in the Turrialba & Orosi Valleys although this is not a major tourist destination.

Day 10 Savegre Lodge

Day 11 Cerro Lodge

Day 12 Hotel Bougainvillea

If you can squeeze in 2-3 more days add San Vito down near the Panama border in between Savegre & Cerro Lodge. The Wilson Botanical Gardens/Las Cruces Biological Station have fantastic birding and Casa Botania is the place to stay. There are coffee tours in this area, local hot springs & some interesting walks and it is a beautiful mountain area where the heat & humidity are not an issue.

Depending on your departure time you could drop your last night at Hotel Bougainvillea as Cerro Lidge is just 75 minutes from the airport.

Brooklyn, New York
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9. Re: Itinerary Advice - First Time Birding in December

I would definitely drop Hotel Bougainvillea (which I love!) for Cerro Lodge if that's part of the itinerary absent a painfully early departure time. Otherwise that gets to be a lot of hopping around without a ton of benefit.

I read the post to indicate you had 14 days including first and last nights. So, taking my stab at it:

Day 1: HB (assuming you arrive in afternoon instead of morning)

Days 2-3: Sarapiqui

Days 4-6: Rancho Naturalista

Days 7-10: Arenal Observatory Lodge (incl day trip to Cano Negro)

Days 11-12: Savegre or other lodge in the area

Days 13-14: Cerro Lodge

Day 15 depart

You could always shave a day off the AOL if necessary for flight times to work etc. Order could be different too.

Edited: 15 May 2018, 01:43
Chicago, Illinois
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10. Re: Itinerary Advice - First Time Birding in December

Racandee’s itinerary is great if you put AOL as the 1st stop. Doing it between Rancho Naturalista & San Gerardo de Dota would add hours of driving to the route.

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