Insider’s Guide to Birding Costa Rica

Just like miners searching for the sparkle of a precious gem in a wall of stone, birdwatchers scan green walls of vegetation for bright lights of color. There are few places on earth as rewarding for birdwatching as Costa Rica. But when and where should you go?  Here’s the insider’s guide to birding Costa Rica.

Birding Costa Rica

Though relatively small in size, Costa Rica is home to one of the highest levels of bio-diversity in the world. The country’s cloud forests, humid lowlands, dry forests and mangrove swamps are some of the 6 ecological zones and more than 12 ecosystems that are home to more than 900 species of birds. That is more than the United States and Canada combined! All this in an area about the size of West Virginia, making all those birds very accessible and sightings of each species on your Bird Bucket List highly likely.

Costa Rica Humming Bird

Costa Rica is on a volcanic land bridge that united the continents we call North and South America millions of years ago, the formation of which played a large role in the diversification of avian species. Birds were able to travel and mingle; for example, hummingbirds came from the south, while birds like the jay came from the north.

About 600 of Costa Rica’s bird species are smart enough to stay here year round, making any time of year a good time of year for birdwatching. However, the fall migration from North America to South America (August to December) and the return trip (January through May) are the best times to see the migratory species.

The Costa Rica Tourist Board ( ) and the Costa Rica’s Ornithologist Association ( recognize several hotspots for Costa Rica birding.  Tours can be arranged to stay at core sites—the best lodges and locations for birdwatching in four provinces. You can select a tour according to your target birds, available time or preferred ecosystem.

Some of Costa Rica’s most popular birds are toucans, scarlet macaws, motmots, and the quetzal. And fortunately for those interested in birding Costa Rica, they can all be found in relative close proximity. Here’s a few locations to see them:

The bird aviary at Diamante Eco Adventure Park In Guanacaste ( ) is a wonderful chance to have an up-close, interactive experience with toucans. The privately owned park is home to wild birds and more. Enjoy the opportunity to take pictures with rainbow-beaked toucans perched on your arm. You may even get a chance to feed them! While you are at Diamante Eco Adventure Park spend time in the Butterfly Garden where you can stand just inches from the feeders and have many different species of butterflies buzz your head.


Scarlet macaws are easy to spot at the Carara National Park, home to the largest remaining wild populations in Central America. Unlike humans, scarlet macaws mate for life. They can be seen flying together in pairs or in a flock. They are easy to spot because of their striking plumage in vibrate primary colors, but also because they are always squawking to one another. Wild macaws can reach 40-50 years of age—75 years in captivity–but often do not live much longer than their mate.

Birding Costa Rica features Scarlet Macaws

Motmots live in many areas of the country. In Guanacaste it is very easy to spot them and it is always a treat to catch a glimpse of the turquoise and emerald motmot with its “Q-tip” tail!

If you are serious about spotting the elusive quetzal, visit the Monteverde Cloud Forest during April’s mating season. Sightings are relatively rare, but you will be rewarded with the sight of a creature that has been revered for centuries for their brilliant emerald, red, and white feathers. If you are not fortunate enough to see a quetzal, don’t dismay! Your trip will not be wasted. Monteverde is estimated to be the home of upwards of 400 different bird species.

Birdwatching Costa Rica

So, grab your binoculars and try birding Costa Rica. Come search with us for Costa Rica’s jewels of the jungle!

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Costa Rica Golf Courses in Guanacaste

If your idea of the perfect vacation has to include golf, then the many beautiful Costa Rica golf courses have got you covered. Guanacaste, Costa Rica is rapidly becoming a world-class golf destination. Many golfers adore Costa Rica for its picturesque courses that double as a nature walk. Mark Twain said, “Golf is a good walk spoiled.” Not in Costa Rica!

Some of the top-rated golf courses in Costa Rica are in Guanacaste. Specifically, there are 3 championship courses within one hour of Playas del Coco, Playa Hermosa and the Papagayo Peninsula.

I have played all three and have to say my favorite is the Arnold Palmer course; however, I have scored better on the Hacienda Pinilla course.

This area is ideally suited for the game of golf. Not only is it summer year-round, but the courses treat the player to the best of Costa Rica’s flora and fauna. The fairways are framed by the mountains and lined with rainforest. Wildlife occasionally distracts your tee shot, and tropical birds cross your ball’s flight path.

The Arnold Palmer Golf Course at Papagayo Peninsula’s prestigious Four Seasons resort ranks in the top 20 courses in the world according the Travel and Leisure, and it places among Golf Digest’s “Best 100 Courses Outside the United States.”

Costa Rica golf courses

Positioned on the Papagayo Peninsula’s high plateau and overlooking Bahia Culebra, almost all the holes have breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. You will enjoy cool, prevailing breezes as you make your way through the 125 acres of undulating fairways with large, contoured greens.

If your golf isn’t up to par, at least enjoy the trip around the course which is a certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary.

Costa Rica golf courses

Tee times can be purchased by non-guests when available. It costs $230 to play 18 holes and includes use of the practice range, a cart, and water. Clubs and golf shoes are available for rent. The greens fee drops to $165 after 12:30 pm.

The Garra de Leon golf course on the grounds of the luxurious Westin Playa Conchal is the oldest of Guanacaste’s championship courses, designed by Trent Jones II and inaugurated in 1996. This course is an almost 7,000-yard paradise that winds its way from the ocean’s edge up into the hills of an old teak ranch and then delivers you back to the sea again. The par 71 course is relaxing and fun for golfers of all levels.

It was the first of all the Costa Rica golf courses to be certified by Audubon International for the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for its environmentally friendly efforts, providing an “eco-golf” experience.

The fairways wander through native forest and around lagoons, along the beach and over ravines, everywhere distracting the player with panoramic views of the sparkling blue Pacific Ocean.


Golf at this Playa Conchal course costs $180 for 18 holes with a cart, and there are discounts for tee times later in the afternoon. Six-month and one-year memberships can be purchased for those planning to make Guanacaste their home.

The Hacienda Pinilla Golf Course at JW Marriott was designed by well-known architect Mike Young. It is a 7,200-yard course spread over a rolling coastal landscape. To some it reminds them of the famed links courses in Scotland, without the foul weather! The layout conforms to the natural contours of the land, weaving through the tropical forest and along the shores of the Pacific. This par 72 course gives golfers an exceptional and immaculately maintained place to enjoy a round with family and friends.


The Hacienda Pinilla course has also been named an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary for its preservation of the ecological balance through design and maintenance. It costs $150 to play here, and the price includes a cart and use of the practice facilities. Residents of Costa Rica pay $85 for 18 holes and an extra $20 to use a cart. A month-long pass costs $300. Year passes are also available.


Rumor has it that there are a few more more Costa Rica golf courses in the works for Guanacaste. So golfing a different course each day of the week may not be too far in the future!

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