Costa Rica March - April 2003

Safety What to take When to go Health Travel Accommodation


The only real hazard in Costa Rica is the bad roads - watch out for pot holes and blind bends. There are also poisonous snakes and frogs but you will be lucky to see them.

What to take

See my other 'what to take' advice pages, a waterproof jacket would be useful and something warm if you go up the volcanos, as a cold wind blows up there.

We both have Opticron 10 x 42 binoculars - the 'High Resolution' and Sequoiah models. On this trip I also took my Opticron Piccolo Telescope with 30x WA eyepiece and a Cullmann Video tripod. In hindsight the scope and tripod were unnecessary as they weren't much use in the forest and places like Rancho Naturalista have a scope set up for you. A scope is useful on the Tarcoles estuary though, to sort out Terns and distant waders.

We used the Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica by Stiles and Skutch which is the book to have as the local guides know the plate numbers !

When and where to go

We decided to go in March/April which is just before the wet season. The North American migrants are starting to head north and the local birds are starting to breed. It is 'high season' so you need to book well ahead - especially for Rancho Naturalista.

We decided to stay in three main locations, Savegre in the high mountains, Rancho Naturalista on the Carribean slope and the Pacific coast at the end, for a bit of relaxation.


The usual jabs are required and we didn't bother with Malaria tablets.


We flew Manchester - Amsterdam (KLM) then Amsterdam - San Jose with a brief stop at Miami (MartinAir - a KLM subsidiary). Our first flight was delayed due to fog at Amsterdam which is common. We missed the connection but KLM managed to get us there via Mexico - albeit 6 hours late. To make up for the inconvenience they upgraded us to Business Class. Others weren't so lucky and one group were delayed a whole day ! I would probably go via the USA next time and I believe United Airlines go from Manchester.

A big thank you to Sonia at Costa Rica Gateway for making all the arrangements.

Costa Rica Gateway arranged for transfers between the various hotels, lodges and the airport and they were very reliable and friendly drivers in all cases.


We stayed at a wide range of accommodation - mostly full-board 

San Jose - The Hotel Bougainvillea is fairly handy for the airport and has beautiful gardens with White-eared Ground Sparrow as well as a number of the more common Costa Rican birds. Food was OK, there is a swimming pool and a free shuttle bus into the city centre.

Savegre - Savegre Mountain Lodge was in a nice setting by the river with basic rooms, buffet style meals and they could arrange a local bird guide (Melvin who can find you the local specialities)

Rancho Naturalista - Fantastic bird watching here and loads of Hummingbirds. If you stay here a week, they throw in a day trip out. There is also horse riding and other day trips available. Good food and you get the services of a bird guide during your stay. We had Frederic Van Hove who was very good, or Steve Easley who can spot the most elusive skulkers !

Villa Lapas - a nice relaxed place by a stream with access to the forest. Swimming pool and buffet food. You need a taxi (12 US dollars return trip) to get to Carara National Park or the Tarcoles Estuary which can be booked through reception.

Punta Leona - a holiday complex by the Pacific. Two beaches, swimming pools etc. There are a few trails and there are guided walks which can be booked through reception a day ahead. It is down a long drive though, so again, you need a taxi to get to Carara.


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