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Birding Costa Rica middle elevations

Birding Cinchona, Costa Rica

***Update*** Although tragically, the town of Cinchona was destroyed in the 6.2 earthquake of 1/8/2009 and the original Cafe de Colobries destroyed, it has been rebuilt. Fruit and hummingbird feeders attract many of the same bird species and it should improve with time.

Costa Rica has become quite developed for birding. Although lacking in canopy towers, the field guide has been updated, there are lots of excellent professional guides, protected areas with bird lists throughout the country and hummingbird feeders at many sites visited by tourists. Not all of the feeding stations, though, are accessible to the public. Cinchona is the exception; the feeders attracting up to ten species of hummingbirds, amazingly close looks at Emerald (Blue-throated) Toucanets, both Barbet species and others are at an accessible roadside stop and only cost $1.

Cinchona is located along the alternate, slower, curvier route to Sarapiqui that passes by Varablanca. It is about two hours by car from San Jose, three hours by bus. Last week, I did the three hour ride for a day of hummingbird madness; a welcome change from busy, almost birdless San Jose. Leaving on the 6:30 bus, the comfortably empty bus quickly filled up en route; we must have picked up passengers at every scheduled and unscheduled stop until folks were standing in the aisles. About 9:30, I happily relinquished my seat upon arrival at Cinchona, and stepped off the bus into fresh cloud forest air.

The Vista Cinchona hummingbird feeding station

The balcony was buzzing with birds.

One of the most common species was a Costa Rican endemic; Coppery-headed Emerald.

Great looks at Brown Violetear

Aside from very close looks at 10 species of hummingbirds, the fruit feeders also attracted Emerald (Blue-throated) Toucanet

You can get ridiculously close to Emerald Toucanets here!!

many Silver-throated Tanagers

Crimson-collared Tanager and

The Yiguirro or Clay-colored Robin

The views of a waterfall in a beautiful cloud forest filled canyon weren’t all that bad either.

For lunch I ate at the soda next door. They also had fruit and hummingbird feeders with much of the same. Although it was the quiet time of the day for birding, I still managed to see a Squirrel Cuckoo.

The rain starting at noon, I opted for the 1 PM bus back to San Jose as the following bus wasn’t until 5 P.M.

Tips and notes:

A sunny day might be good for raptor species.

Don’t be shy about giving a donation at the feeders.

If you have to take the bus, get the 6:30 A.M. to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui via Varablanca at the Caribeños bus terminal.

Make sure you tell the driver Cinchona or you might end up in the Sarapiqui lowlands (not too bad of an alternative actually).

This is a good site to combine with the nearby Virgen del Socorro road.

Don’t forget to stop at the beautiful La Paz waterfall!

Bird species recorded:

Bat Falcon: One flew into view carrying a small bird, a Green Violetear buzzing it the whole time.

Crimson-fronted Parakeet: flyovers

Squirrel Cuckoo

Blue and white Swallow

Green Hermit: occasionally at feeders

Brown Violetear: lots

Green Violetear: also lots, sometimes flaring their “violet ears” in typical hummingbird rage.

Violet Sabrewing: big, beautiful purple males.

Green-crowned Brilliant: a few always present.

White-bellied Mountain Gem: a few.

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird: 1 at the front feeders.

Coppery-headed Emerald: lots.

Emerald (Blue-throated Toucanet): a few coming in very close at banana feeders.

Red-headed Barbet: a pair in vicinity.

Prong-billed Barbet: a few.

Gray-breasted Wood Wren: a few heard.

Clay-colored Robin

Brown Jay


Slate-throated Redstart

Common Bush Tanager

Palm Tanager

Silver-throated Tanager: lots

Blue-gray Tanager

Crimson-collared Tanager

Passerini’s Tanager

Sooty-faced Finch: calling from understory

Variable Seedeater

Rufous-collared Sparrow

Montezuma Oropendola

15 replies on “Birding Cinchona, Costa Rica”

We visited Cinchona on July 29th – what a find! Well worth the trip and the time. We asked for coffee and the owner was gracious enough to provide it along with a plate of cookies, insisting that it was included in the $1 admission (which we of course added to).

Be sure to plan on an adquate amount of time to enjoy this spot.

Thanks for the thorough write-up; its a great help in describing to some friends who are going down soon.

Hey, that’s my home!!!
I am glad you liked it, I’m the owner’s son and you will be always welcome!
By the way, nice pictures!
And just to let you know, we had, like two years ago, a very special guest: it was an albino hummingbird! I got a couple of pictures but it was really hard to identify it!
Thanks for the coments you made about my HOME!

My home was destroyed because the earthquake, I was at hom with my mom and little sister but we all are fine.
Congratulations to you because you knew one of the most wonderfull places for bird watching in Costa Rica, and the greatest place in the world.
ThankYou because I know you did enjoy the place and you can tell everybody how wonderfull was that place, please!!!!!!

Hi Federico,
I’m sorry about the earthquake tragedy and happy to hear you all are OK. Myself and several other guests went on an earlier trip to the Cinchona area with Pat. It was indeed a wonderful and memorable place and we are grateful we had a chance to visit it. We saw many types of hummingbirds just inches from us, overlooking a lush mountain side. We also stopped at a waterfall. We took alot of pictures and talk about it when telling people about our trip.


Ola Federico,
We’re very happy to hear you and your family are o.k. We have traveled around your beautiful country with your father. Every chance we get to travel to Costa Rica we make a point to stop at your home-it saddens us that your place is gone forever! We are fortunate to have been able to experience such a great place…..My husband made the piece of glass with the yellow flowers…Sound familiar??? Our hearts go out to you, your family, your country. Your place was always a highlight of our trip-your mother was always there to greet us 🙂 Wish we could be there to help out ….. Give your family our love! Love Autuhm & Mark Muntean

Gracias a todos. Certanly, one of the most beautiful places in this planet. Beried there is one unique piece of art in glass that Mark and Autuhm made and left there as a tribute of the beauty. Gracias again.

The species abundance and diversity in and around Cinchona is unparalleled. Cinchona is nestled between Braulio Carrillo National Park and Poas Volcano National Park, just a short drive from the Central Valley. The dense rainforest blankets the land, making it a prime location for expansive biological corridors, promoting protection of all native species. Many rare birds frequent this particular elevation and habitat. The commanding views are some of the best to be had in all of Costa Rica. Creating biological corridors enriches the future of all living on this planet. The flora and fauna are recovering from the powerful earthquake that destroyed the town, but the community needs our help and support for years to come…


I’ve been looking for you for years. I have emailed your old email address many times but have not recieved a reply. Speaking to a Costa Rican friend here in Fort Myers, I was told about the earthquake, and this website.I’m so sorry about the loss. I hope your family are all well.
I hope you remember Scott Davis and I. You spent a week with us as a guide in 2001. We went to Baldi at La Fortuna and traveled around most of the country including Vista Cinchona. You might remember my friend Jackie. You met her on the trip also. She lived in Carman de Guadalope. Scott and I have been back many times and I always think of you and Vista Cinchona. Since we last saw each other, I have gotten married and I brought my wife down last November. We love Costa Rica and plan to relocate this year. We are coming back down the first week in August and I would love to get together and see you and introduce you to my wife. Please email me if you have a chance.

Tim Cook
Fort Myers, Florida

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