Costa Rica is a bird watchers paradise – it is home to a staggering 850 species of birds. Costa Rica is filled with dense tropical rainforest and rugged coastlines of the Carribean and Pacific seas. A quarter of Costa Rica is protected jungle that offers diverse and rich eco-systems. Impressive volcanoes and rolling hills makes this country a must visit. Costa Rica only covers a modest area of 19,700 square miles, therefore this beautiful country is dense with sights to see and wildlife to catch a glimpse of. This article will cover our top bird watching locations in Costa Rica.
What is the best bird watching location in Costa Rica?
1. Cano Negro National Wildlife Refuge
This is one of the most important wetlands in all of Costa Rica in terms of the many different and rare species of birds, animals, and plants that are found in the region. For the most part, the area is the temporary home of migratory birds who rest in the refuge as they cross this part of the world. This is especially true during the rainy season as you may see many migratory birds from areas as north as Mexico and beyond.
- Black-necked stilt
- Glossy ibis
- Green-backed heron
- Northern jacana
Arguably the most famous and rare of the birds in the refuge is the Nicaraguan grackle. This is a glossy black bird noted for its remarkable fan of tail feathers. The males have a slight sheen of turquoise on their head, chest, and back. The females are brown in coloring with an underbelly that is beige. They have become so rare that the refuge is arguably the only place to see the Nicaraguan grackle in Costa Rica in their natural environment.
Tip: The wet season, while making things a little more difficult to get around, is generally the best time to visit the refuge. It is during this time that the waters rise and provide a better home for the many different birds that fly through the area. You can also book a day tour which will provide you a priceless opportunity to see much of the refuge.
2. Los Quetzales National Park
As with many national parks in Costa Rica, this one is up in the mountains. So high up that there is a glacier nearby. In addition to the mountains, there are rainforests here that many birds live the year-round. The diversity of the park means that many famous birds that live in different ecosystems are representative of their unique environment. Which means you can see many different birds in one location that is rare to find.
Of the many birds in the park, the Quetzal is probably the most famous. The bright green or red feathers and the long tail make the Quetzal easy to spot and difficult to forget. Another species that really stands out is the hummingbird. You may need binoculars to see them from a distance, but the many different colors are truly striking.
Tip: To make it easier to spot the hummingbirds, look for their unique, cone-shaped nests in the foliage. The nests are small, but their unique shape means you can spot them with binoculars and see the hummingbirds nearby.
3. Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
If there is one birdwatching location you must visit in Costa Rica, it is the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Located in Pura Vida, the reserve offers arguably the widest diversity of birds in all of Costa Rica. The name “cloud forest” comes from the mists that are created by the high temperatures that combine with the water vapor from the sea.
- Blue-throated toucanet
- Brown pelican
- Owls and More
In addition, you might see the rare Resplendent Quetzalgreat or the endangered curassow, a tall, glossy bird that features a bright, yellow bill. The reserve also is the home to birds that migrate through the area, so whenever you visit will be a great time to see so many different species.
Tip: In addition to the many birds, there is a wide variety of other animals and reptiles that call the reserve home, including plenty of colorful frogs, cats, sloths, and monkeys. Plus, the reserve is known for its wide variety of plants such as ferns, lichens, and orchids. There is lots to see when you visit the reserve.
4. Palo Verde National Park
One of the most diverse environments in Costa Rica, Palo Verde National Park covers a wide range of terrain that holds many bird habitats. From wetlands to dry forests to open grasslands, you’ll find a wide variety of birds that call this area home. Plus, the Rio Tempisque flows through the park which provides additional opportunities to view the many different birds that are present.
- Black-bellied whistling ducks
- Blue-winged teals
- Glossy ibis
- Great egrets
- Green-back herons
- Roseate spoonbills
- Scarlet macaw
- Snowy-white herons
The scarlet macaw is arguably the most famous of the birds living in the park. The unique combination of red, blue, and yellow feathers makes the macaw one of the most colorful and recognizable in the forest region. In addition to the birds, there are plenty of iguanas, monkeys, and crocodiles to see.
Tip: You’ll want to visit the park during the dry season as that is the best time to access most of the locations for birdwatching. The wet season often floods many areas of the park making it difficult to see many of the birds.
5. Santa Rosa National Park
Arguably the most diverse range of environment, you’ll find at least 10 unique habitats for birds in this national park. This means that you’ll be able to travel from the forests to the marshlands and open countryside just in this park alone. That’s why you find so many different types of animals from the turtle to the coatimundi along with the over 250 different species of birds.
Of the many different species, the keel-billed toucan is arguably the most famous. It’s unique green and black body only highlights one of the most colorful bills of all birds. In addition to the keel-billed toucan, there are also motmots, yellow-breasted trogons, and the rare curassow. This is definitely the place to see what Costa Rica has to offer in terms of the wide variety of bird species in the region.
Tip: The dry season is the best time to visit because the foliage is reduced thanks to the lack of water. This allows you a better view of the birds along with some stunning scenery as the nearby beaches are revealed as well.
We are avid bird-watchers who recently retired, allowing us more time to travel the world. Fortunately, we have managed to visit numerous countries around Europe, Asia, and America. Watching and photographing birds has been a passion for many years and we are making the most of the extra time on our hands!