Wings Over Costa Rica

  • Trip Type: Land
  • 11 Days | Round-trip San Jose
  • Group Size: Max 16

Expedition Details


With around a quarter of its land protected from development, Costa Rica is a bird lover’s delight. Discover the country’s winged wonders on a bird-watching expedition from the central highlands to the coastal jungle. Immersed in the misty cloud forest or near a sputtering volcano, peer up at a dazzling array of avifauna on guided visits to pristine national parks, nature reserves, private sanctuaries, and research centers. Crisscross the tree canopy on swinging bridges, go on a river safari, and hike trails that lead to resplendent quetzals and more.

Trip Highlights

  • Train your eyes and binoculars on the trees in Costa Rica’s biodiversity hotspots, including lowland and coastal tropical rain forests, volcanic foothills, and cloud forests.
  • Spot colorful tropical species such as resplendent quetzals, tanagers, macaws, toucans, spectacled owls, and hummingbirds.
  • Visit research centers including the renowned Monteverde Institute, surrounded by cloud forest, and learn about conservation and sustainability efforts from National Geographic grantees.
  • Get a treetop view of birdlife while crossing hanging bridges suspended in the jungle canopy around Arenal volcano.

Itinerary - 11 Days

Day 1 — San Jose/Heredia

Land at the San Jose airport and transfer to quaint Heredia, known as the “City of Flowers” for its bountiful gardens and lush surroundings. This afternoon, go on your first birding walk around the tropical gardens of our hotel. Enjoy a welcome dinner with fellow travelers tonight.
Hotel Bougainvillea (D)

Day 2 — Sarapiquí

Visit the house and bird sanctuary of local artist Jose Alberto Pérez, a wildlife photographer and avid birder. Then explore the foothills of central Costa Rica’s volcanic range and keep an eye out for antbirds, black-crowned antpittas, spotted barbtails, and more. Transfer to our eco-lodge tucked in the pristine Selva Verde Rainforest Reserve, a prolific birding destination.
Selva Verde Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 3 — La Selva

Depart early for a trip to La Selva Biological Station, a research center in a protected lowland tropical rain forest. Explore the trail system and get immersed in its spectacular biodiversity. More than half of the country’s 886 bird species make their home here, including well-known species such as great green macaws, great curassows, keel-billed toucans, spectacled owls, and pied puffbirds.
Selva Verde Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 4 — Sarapiquí/Arenal

Venture to Bogarín Trails and set off on foot in search of toucans, parrots, boat-billed herons, and other colorful inhabitants of the rain forest. Continue on to the Peninsula Road, a stretch of gravel where more than 140 bird species have been spotted in a single day thanks to the location’s intersection of guava orchards, second-growth forest, and foothill rain forest. Continue on to the jungle surrounding Arenal, one of the world’s most famous volcanoes.
Arenal Observatory Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 5 — Monteverde

Rise early and head to the hanging bridges of the Arenal Sky Walk, where you can get a bird’s-eye view of local wildlife at their most active time of day. Watch for ornate hawk-eagles, yellow-eared toucanets, bare-necked umbrella birds, and more. Come down from the treetops and travel to Monteverde Institute, founded in 1986 by community members and National Geographic researchers. Learn how their legacy advances the scientific community’s knowledge of tropical ecosystems and birds.
Hotel Fonda Vela (B,L,D)

Day 6 — Monteverde

Spend today exploring the legendary Monteverde National Park, a misty cloud forest teeming with biodiversity. Bird sightings here could include the highland tinamou, Chiriquí quail-dove, gray-throated leaftosser, and, if you're lucky, such rare feathered showstoppers as the resplendent quetzal, considered a sacred symbol by the Maya and Aztec people. After a full day at the park, retreat to your mountainside lodgings.
Hotel Fonda Vela (B,L,D)

Day 7 — Carara

After breakfast, transfer to Carara National Park, an intact coastal rain forest near the Pacific where the Amazonian and Mesoamerican ecosystems converge. Board a private boat and glide down the Tarcoles River, searching for avian activity along the water and mangroves. This is a particularly popular nesting spot for scarlet macaws as well as migratory and coastal species such as the clay-colored robin and great curassow.
Hotel Villa Lapas (B,L,D)

Day 8 — Carara National Park

Embark on a daylong avian adventure in Carara National Park. Keep your eyes peeled for some of the 360-plus species that have been recorded here, from orange-chinned parakeets and hummingbirds to one of Costa Rica’s largest remaining wild populations of scarlet macaws.
Hotel Villa Lapas (B,L,D)

Day 9 — Los Quetzales National Park

Take a scenic drive down the coast to Los Quetzales National Park, a cloud forest nestled among the mist-shrouded Talamanca Mountains. At the park, grab your binoculars and take to the trails in pursuit of the striking quetzal, known for their vibrant green and red feathers and long tails, as well as colibri, trogons, tanagers, and hummingbirds.
Savegre Mountain Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 10 — Savegre

Enjoy one final day of birding in Costa Rica as you explore the grounds and trails of our hotel’s nature reserve. Well-known species here include favorites such as the resplendent quetzal, long-tailed silky-flycatcher, wren thrush, volcano junco, and fiery-throated hummingbird. Gather tonight with your fellow travelers to compare bird lists and enjoy a farewell dinner.
Savegre Mountain Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 11 — San Jose/Aloft

After breakfast, transfer to San Jose for your international flight home.

National Geographic Expert

Noah Strycker

Noah StryckerNoah Strycker is Associate Editor of Birding magazine, the author of three well-regarded books about birds, and a regular contributor of photography and articles to all major bird magazines. He blogs regularly for the American Birding Association. Noah set a world “Big Year” record in 2015—sighting more species of birds than anyone had before in a single calendar year—and his 2017 book, Birding Without Borders, relates the experience. Noah has studied birds on six continents with field seasons in Panama, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Australia, Antarctica, the Galapagos Islands, and the Farallon Islands. He also works as a naturalist guide on expedition cruises to Antarctica and Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, literally spreading the inspiration of birds from pole to pole. Noah’s first book, Among Penguins, chronicles a field season working with Adélie Penguins in Antarctica. His second, The Thing with Feathers, celebrates the fascinating behaviors of birds and human parallels. Noah is also a competitive tennis player, has run five marathons, and hiked the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada. He is based in Oregon, where his backyard has hosted more than 100 species of birds. Noah is the author of the forthcoming National Geographic book Birds of the Photo Ark, which celebrates photographer Joel Sartore's portraits of birds.

Noah will join the following departures:

Jan 09 - 19, 2019
Jan 30 - Feb 09, 2019


  • Jan 09 - 19, 2019
  • Jan 30 - Feb 09, 2019

Expedition Cost



Price is per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $1,250.

Activity Level


Travelers should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include city walking tours, visits to sites, game drives, or easy hikes, with options for more physical activities such as hiking, kayaking, snorkeling and biking.

Click here for a description of all activity levels.