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Are you visiting Costa Rica and would like to go birding for a day or two to see a Resplendent Quetzal or Scarlet Macaw? How about birding in Costa Rica and seeing a King Vulture, Ornate Hawk-eagle, or glittering hummingbirds and gorgeous tanagers? All of these birds and many more are possible on birding day trips from San Jose and aren’t all that difficult to to see in Costa Rica….if you know where to find them.

Whether you go birding in Costa Rica on your own or with a guide, birding in Costa Rica is always exciting. Nevertheless, a local, knowledgeable guide will always be able to show you more, especially if he has stake-outs for species such as King Vulture, Black and White Owl, Lattice-tailed Trogon, Black-crowned Antpitta, Black and Yellow Tanager, and dozens of other birds that are tough to find when birding in Costa Rica. I know the best places to find these and many of Costa Rica’s bird species and would be happy to show you them on birding day trips in Costa Rica.

The main advantage of living in Costa Rica’s Central Valley is being within an hour or two drive of almost every habitat that Costa Rica has to offer. Although the Central Valley itself is heavily urbanized, the Scarlet Macaws and fantastic birding at Carara National Park are less than two hours away, the Resplendent Quetzal and endemics of the high Talamancas are about an hour and a half from San Jose, and the excellent, Caribbean foothill forests of Braulio Carrillo can be reached in less than an hour.

I offer one to three day tours to these and other sites. In addition to the following sample itineraries, I am available for guiding customized to your needs and target species.

Tour price varies by site and itinerary and does not include park entrance fees or meals. If using your rental vehicle, day trips from San Jose are $90 for 1-4 participants. If using my vehicle, day trips from San Jose are generally $130 to $140 for 1-4 participants.

Please visit my Flickr photostream to view images of Costa Rican birds you might see.


Only an hour’s drive from the city, the fantastic, Caribbean slope, foothill rain forests of Quebrada Gonzalez are the closest, most accessible rain forests to San Jose. This is also a good day trip to take while staying in the Sarapiqui (La Selva) area as it takes a bit less than an hour to get there and hosts a good number of bird species not found in the lowlands. The dense vegetation and a tall canopy of the rain forests at Quebrada Gonzalez can be tough to bird but always produce rare species difficult to see elsewhere. Some of the specialties that I frequently see at this site, (a spot I have been birding since 1993) include: King Vulture, Hawk-Eagles, other raptors, Crested Guan, Snowcap, Lattice-tailed Trogon, Yellow-eared Toucanet, Cinnamon Woodpecker, Black-crowned Antpitta, Russet Antshrike, White-ruffed Manakin, Nightingale Wren, Black-headed Nightingale Thrush, Pale-vented Thrush, and many tanager species that troop through the forest in large, mixed flocks.

Tour Quebrada Gonzalez details with site list


Looming over the Central Valley, Irazu Volcano is very close to San Jose. Only an hour’s drive from the city, the upper slopes of the volcano offer up excellent, high elevation birding. Often overlooked by birders visiting Costa Rica because high elevation forests are usually visited on Cerro de la Muerte, Irazu offers up most of the same suite of birds and is more suitable as a day trip as it is closer to San Jose. In addition to birds, visitors also get the chance to look into its immense crater. Although much of Irazu is used for agriculture, the good road that ascends the volcano provides access to patches of habitat that harbor a good variety of high elevation bird species.  Acorn Woodpecker, Resplendent Quetzal, Ruddy Treerunner, Black-capped Flycatcher, Gray-breasted Wood-Wren, Sooty Robin, Zeledonia, Yellow-thighed Finch, and Flame-colored Tanager are a small sample of species likely to be seen when birding Irazu, Costa Rica. Irazu is also one of two easy, accessible sites to see Volcano Junco and Timberline Wren.

Irazu Volcano Tour details with site list


Carara National Park and vicinity offers up some of the best birding in Central America due to its mix of lowland rain forest, dry forest, mangroves, and wetlands that provide habitat for an amazing array of bird species. More than one hundred bird species are typical for a day of birding around Carara (our group actually had 150 on the 2008 Christmas Count). A site less than two hours by car from San Jose, the two days we spend birding around Carara will be jam-packed with a wide variety of bird species. A short list of specialties frequently seen when birding Carara are: Great Tinamou, a variety of waterbirds, Crane Hawk and many other raptors, Ruddy Quail-Dove, Black and white Owl, Scarlet Macaw, Costa-Rican Swift, Scaly-breasted Hummingbird, Blue-throated Goldentail, Baird’s Trogon among 5 trogon species, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Spectacled Antpitta, Black-hooded Antshrike, Dot-winged Antwren, Orange-collared Manakin, many flycatchers including Sulpher-rumped and Royal Flycatchers, Rufous-breasted Wren among 7-8 wren species, Mangrove Vireo, and more!

Carara Cerro lodge tour details with site list

If you have any questions, or need information about where to see target species, please feel free to contact me at:


or by phone: 716-778-2091 (9-5 weekdays)

skype: patrick-odonnell

(Costa Rica number): 8318 33 29

tour reservations

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20 Responses to “Costa Rica Birding Tours”

  1. Hi again Patrick. I am thinking we will want to engage you for at least one and probably 2 one day tours when we are down your way Jan/Feb. A trip to your patch sounds very attractive as well as easy to manage logistically. We will be staying just outside of Cd Colon near el rodeo. I continue to gain a great value from your blog as well as your input on the other ones. Talk with you down the line. Mike

  2. Hi Mike,

    Thank you, I will be looking forward to that. Once you have dates set for your trip, let me know right away as I am already getting guiding requests for January and February. There is some nice birding around El Rodeo. A friend of mine has been urging me to check out a site in that area. I will blog about it when we check it out- might do that this week.

  3. Hi Mike,
    we will be in Costa rica Nov. 20 to Dec. 4 .
    We will be staying at the westin playa in Guanacaste ..
    Do you tours for that area and which one would they be ?

  4. Hi Mike,

    We’re going to coming to Costa Rica in late March, staying the first two days in the San Jose area. Is there any chance we could make arrangements to go birding with you?

    Sherrie Downing

  5. @Sherrie- Since my wedding anniversary is around that time, I probably won’t be able to guide you but I might be able to set you up with someone else. I will contact you soon.

  6. Hi Patrick,

    I will be in CR from 5 sep until 10 sep, staying in San Jose, I am most interested in getting some great hummingbird pictures. I would probably need you for at least one, and possibly two day trips on either the 6th 7th or 8th.

  7. I am in San Jose June 19-21 (depart June 22) and I would like to book the 2 day Carara Cero trip, or another days trip(s) if you have them scheduled. If you are not available any contacts would be helpful

    Thank you

  8. Estimado Pat
    mis felicitaciones por su blog, me gusta mucho y aprendo enormemente de las aves de este país. Comentarle que tenemos una mini estación biológica, en el Pacífico Sur, y que estamos comenzando a hacer giras de aves por la zona. Somos biólogos españoles, que al igual que usted se enamoraron de costa Rica y decidieron quedarse. Mi compañero es herpetólogo, con más de 15 años de experiencia en las selvas tropicales, ha descrito más de 40 nuevas especies en Venezuela y viene dispuesto a continuar con su labor científica y docente en Costa Rica. Mi pasiones son las aves, mariposas, fauna marina, y el rescate de fauna silvestre. Igualmente adoro poder trabajar como educadora ambiental infantil siempre que puedo.
    Reciba un cordial saludo, espero que podamos conocernos muy pronto.

  9. @Susana- Gracias, me alegro oir de ustedes, espero visitarles algun dia.

  10. Hi Patrick,
    This might be a bit far in advance, but my husband and I are planning to visit CR in May 2014 (we’re from Texas). It will be our first visit, and we are very excited! We plan to mostly bird on our own, but would like to book at least one trip with you if possible. I understand that May is the beginning of the rainy season, but hopefully it will not be full on yet. This will be my husband’s first trip to the tropics, except for a trip to the Mexican cloud forest. I’ve been to Panama once, about 20 years ago. We’re both avid birders, and also love herps. How far in advance do you recommend finalizing our date(s) with you? I think we’d like to do your 2-day trip to Carara for sure. And possibly one of your other, 1-day trips as well.

  11. @Dawn- Thanks for your interest in my tours. It’s fairly rainy in May but not too much to ruin birding. Finalizing dates within 4 months would be good. I will contact you by email.

  12. We have rented a villa in Atenas February 16 to March 8 2014. We would like to book several day tours and possibly an overnight if required. My wife is a birder and I try to photograph what she sees. We have birded through much of Central and South America and did a nature tour of Costa Rica in 1998. Please indicate if you are available.

  13. @ Noel- I have emailed you.


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