The plane descends through the cloud bank and the eyes take in a living mosaic of mountains, pastures, wind breaks, roads, urbanization, and wooded ravines. It’s surprising to see how close everything is; jade cloud forest on the volcanoes, city and towns in the valley, riparian zones making ribbons of green. You know its January but way down below, it looks like summer never ended. There are palm trees and a dozen shades of tropical green, the black circling specks are Black Vultures. Other, much more enticing birds await; congratulations on arriving in Costa Rica! You’ve made it to tropical latitudes where Tennesee Warblers share trees with Baltimore Orioles and Masked Tityras.
It’s all birding gravy for the next several days, so many birds in Costa Rica, it hardly matters where you stay! It would be really nice if that was the case but no, as with everywhere, Planet Earth, lodging choices have a definite impact on birding success. They play a major role in seeing more birds, that also goes for the first night of a birding trip to Costa Rica.
Even if you are only staying at that first hotel for one night, even if you don’t plan on doing any birding there the following morning, it’s worth it to play it safe and sleep in the right place. No matter what you have planned, you might end up birding there anyways, there might be time to look for owls or other birds and since this may be your one and only trip to Costa Rica, there won’t be any time to waste.
The “right” place depends on your travel situation but whether you are a lone birder traveling on the cheap, birding with family, or arriving one day before a tour, the best place for the first night should be a place that has as much habitat as possible. That way, you might see an owl or two, you might connect with a surprising number of species, and, best of all, your first morning in Costa Rica will be accompanied by a wealth of birds. It will be the welcome you deserve, a proper greeting to one of the top birding destinations in the world.
Try the following suggestions to pick the right place for the first night of a birding trip to Costa Rica.
Arriving one Day Early for a Tour
A number of people arrive one or two days before the official start of their tours. Given the propensity for airlines to rechedule and rearrange and cancel flights, this is a really good idea. This will sound like a no brainer but…if taking a birding tour in Costa Rica, you might as well stay at the same hotel as the one where the tour starts.
It will make logistics much easier, the hotel will likely have good birding on the grounds, and even if your tour does plan on birding at the hotel, it will still be worth birding there on your own. You might see birds not found during the tour and getting in some personal birding time will also act as an easy-going introduction to the birds of Costa Rica.
If the hotel is full, please read on.
A Place with Habitat
I mentioned it above but its worth reiterating; habitat is everything. Pick a place with as much habitat as possible. Some good choices for birding hotels in Costa Rica include:
- Villa San Ignacio- A lovely place where huge fruiting figs grow in the garden and a riparian zone has Long-tailed Manakin, wrens, Red-crowned Ant-Tanager, and other birds. The featured image at the top of this post shows this lovely birding hotel.
- Hotel Bougainvillea- A classic, nice hotel with extensive manicured gardens that often have a roosting owl or two and various common species.
- Hotel Robledal- Another small but nice hotel with pretty gardens and a good number of birds.
- Xandari- A boutique hotel with lots of green space and woodlands. The birding is great.
- Other lodging options in the upper parts of the Central Valley- This includes various places situated in green zones away from the main urban areas of the Great San Jose area. Several such places are covered in the recently released second version of my Costa Rica bird finding guide, “How to See, Find, and Identify Birds in Costa Rica”.
Somewhere Close to the Airport
No matter where you travel, this is an important factor to take into consideration. After a long day of standing in line and waiting for a plane to land, its pretty nice to NOT have to drive through an hour or more of traffic. Fortunately, there are some good birding hotels in Costa Rica within easy striking distance of the airport.
A Place Familiar with Birders and Birding
Although this isn’t imperative, hotels that routinely work with birders will be more likely to know that they should tell you about roosting owls or other special birds. They may be able to give you an early breakfast and may have contacts with local guides.
When planning a birding trip to Costa Rica, don’t take that first night for granted. Every morning counts, stay at a place where your first bout of birding in Costa Rica will be replete with everything from ground-sparrows to Rufous-naped Wrens, and maybe a Fiery-billed Aracari or two. I hope to see you here!
To support this blog, learn more about where to watch birds in Costa Rica, and prepare for your birding trip or tour, get my Costa Rica bird finding guide, a 900 page ebook designed to enhance your birding time in Costa Rica.