In the middle of Costa Rica, nestled between the sunny Pacific and the rainforests of the Caribbean, sits the lovely Central Valley of Costa Rica.
Almost 70% of the population lives here in the provinces of San Jose, Heredia, Alajuela, and Cartago.
You may have heard that most people like living in this area because of the incredible weather.
Birdwatchers are sometimes surprised that they do not have to travel to Arenal or Monteverde to get their “most wanted” birds from their target list.
From December through September, the climate is perfect. Warm sunny days, cool evenings, and some afternoon rain.
October and November see a big increase in rainfall, but the rest of the year, it’s Pura Vida.
The San Jose International Airport (Juan Santamaria Airport) is located here too, making this area the perfect place to start and finish your Costa Rica birding adventure.
Top Birding Locations:
La Paz Waterfall Gardens (Vara Blanca)
With a convenient location in Vara Blanca, La Paz Waterfall Gardens offers easy access from San Jose.
The hummingbird gardens boasts more than 25 possible species (one of the most prolific in Costa Rica), the river trails are excellent for mixed flocks, and the trails remain one of the top spots for finding the elusive Ochre-Breasted Antpitta.
Along with the great birding, visitors can enjoy other attractions and up-close views of several beautiful waterfalls. Different Birds can be found throughout the gardens and forest.
Poas Volcano (Poasito)
Before setting out to visit Poas, check to be sure the park is open. Recent activity has caused closures, but if it’s open, the Poas Volcano N.P. is a fantastic spot for bird-watching.
Start at the visitors center and then walk the trails to the different craters.
Some of the common birds include the Fiery-Throated Hummingbird, the Yellow-Thighed Finch, and the Golden Browed Chlorophonia.
Barva Volcano (Heredia)
This hidden gem of Costa Rica is actually part of Braulio Carrillo National Park.
Barva is a fantastic place to hike and birdwatch away from the more common sites that visitors frequent.
Driving to the volcano, visitors will pass through coffee plantations, small towns, farmland, and forest.
Barva is a lush mountainous area, with Forest, massive trees, and a wide array of beautiful flora.
It’s best to be in shape to take on the trails, but the rewards are worth it as it’s a great location for spotting the Mountain Elaenia, Mountain Robin, Slaty Flowerpiercer, and if you’re really lucky, the Maroon Chested Ground Dove.
Barva is a good location for spotting some of the toughest birds in the country.
Braulio Carrillo National Park (Heredia)
Braulio Carrillo National Park is one of the largest protected areas in Costa Rica with over 50,000 hectares of primary and secondary rainforest and cloud forest.
The landscape consists of high mountains densely covered with trees, canyons and valleys with a web of rivers and streams.
It is said that there are parts of Braulio that have never been touched by man.
There are over 150 types of mammals living in this vibrant national park, including Jaguars and Tapirs and more than 500 species of birds.
Some of the top species include the Ornate Hawk Eagle, Solitary Eagle, Ocellated Antbird, and the White-fronted Nunbird.
This location is one of the most beautiful in Costa Rica and a location with such a diversity of birds, it’s a favorite for serious bird watchers.
Rainforest Aerial Tram (Braulio Carrillo)
Near the entrance to Braulio Carrillo N. P. is a great location for birding, for those who prefer not to spend the day hiking.
The Rainforest Aerial Tram offers the opportunity to explore the rainforest from the ground up.
The tour takes place on a 1200 acre private reserve.
The tram lifts guests from the forest floor up through and above the canopy for a true “birds-eye-view”. There are also trails to enjoy before or after the tram ride and birding guides on site if a guided tour is preferred.
Birders can see raptors, trogons, motmots, and much, much more.
Best Birding Lodges:
Hotel Bougainvillea is a favored starting point for birders and nature lovers visiting Costa Rica.
Guests find the gardens an amazing paradise where they can relax and discover the beauty of many Costa Rican plants and a large number of bird species.
With its 10 acres of carefully tended tropical grounds, the Hotel Bougainvillea features over 50 kinds of bromeliads, Costa Rican native trees, and numerous species of orchids, herb gardens, and cacti gardens.
The flowers draw several species of hummingbirds to the gardens.
The grounds are also one of the best places in the country to spot the elusive Prevost’s Ground Sparrow and the White-eared Ground Sparrow.
The sweet songs of the sparrows can be heard throughout the gardens.
A wonderful place to start or finish your birding adventure.
Xandari Hotel and Spa
Art and architecture are highlights of the Xandari experience in Costa Rica.
24 spacious villas nestled on a 40-acre plantation are surrounded by lush gardens, with terraces facing spectacular views of Costa Rica’s Central Valley day and night.
A private forest reserve with rivers, five natural waterfalls, and 2.5 miles of trails offers excellent birding.
The gardens, filled with native plants of Costa Rica, attract hummingbirds and top bird species of the region.
The Peace Lodge is an 18-room, Five-Star, Boutique Hotel located on the grounds of the World Famous La Paz Waterfall Gardens.
At 5,200 feet above sea level the temperature is cool and refreshing and the air is crisp and clean from the surrounding rainforest.
The hotel boasts an incredible hummingbird garden, guests can see more than 25 different hummingbirds.
The mornings are amazing as all the hummingbirds arrive to have their breakfast.
The trails are fantastic for finding a variety of forest species.
Costa Rica has many great places for birding and this hotel provides great birding and many other fun on site activities and attractions.
Poas Volcano Lodge
Poas Volcano Lodge is a stunning and unique mountain hotel nestled into rolling pastures, with breathtaking views of Poas Volcano and the northern Caribbean Plains of Costa Rica.
Guests are welcome to enjoy the nature trails created throughout the farm. Well kept paths take visitors through farmland and virgin forest.
Birdwatching is great in this area, common birds include the Silvery-Fronted Tapaculo, Sooty Robin, and the Red-Headed Barbet.
The hotel is loaded with Costa Rican charm.
This small boutique hotel is conveniently located just 3 miles from the San Jose Airport. The location provides easy access to the airport for the first and last nights in Costa Rica.
As a family owned and operated establishment, El Robledal prides itself on friendly, personalized service.
Along with tranquil surroundings, the hotel offers a refreshing swimming pool, and on site dining.
The unique location of this hotel draws interesting bird species. Common are the Crested Bobwhite, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, and the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.
Villa San Ignacio
Hotel Villa San Ignacio has been renovated to recall its original rustic charm of a Costa Rican hacienda.
The quiet gardens and forest trails allow guests to explore and find different types of wrens, sparrows, and hummingbirds which are common to the gardens.
The location is a great spot for birding.
Finca Rosa Blanca
Finca Rosa Blanca is a lovely boutique hotel located on an organic coffee plantation in Heredia.
The combination of the disturbed land of the coffee plantation and the forest surrounding Finca Rosa Blanca makes for excellent birding.
Almost 150 different birds have been seen on site.
Guests love to enjoy a fresh cup of organic coffee and breakfast, in the morning, overlooking the plantation.
The weather in the center of Costa Rica is one of the biggest draws to visiting this area.
This region follows the Pacific weather pattern. Visitors can expect dry, sunny weather from December through April. Mid-April, some afternoon showers begin, and the flowers bloom, the trees turn green and the entire valley is beautiful with colorful trees and flowers.
Good weather continues until mid-September when showers are more frequent, October brings the heaviest rains of the year, and then November continues being rainy the first half of the month.
Except October and early November, visitors can expect exceptional weather.
January through March tends to be windy and dry.
Our favorite months are May, June, July and August, when visitors enjoy a mix of sun and rain (which does create the optimal conditions for birdwatchers.
If you are enjoying a privately guided tour, your guide will act as your driver and get you to the top birding spots in the region.
If you are on an independent tour you can explore the area on your own with a rental vehicle or even use the public transport system to some areas.
It’s important to know that 70% of the population of Costa Rica live in the Central Valley, so traffic is busy and very heavy during rush hour, expect delays and allow extra time to get around.
Uber is available in the area, as are taxi and transfer services.
If you would like more information about a birding or photography tour to Costa Rica, we would love to help you plan your adventure.
Inquire below to reach us at Costa Rica Focus. Let’s talk about your next (or first) Costa Rica trip.
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Costa Rica Focus is a birding tour company that offers customized Costa Rica birdwatching tours for individuals or groups of people and guided by a knowledgeable birding expert who will help you spot and learn about the beauty of the birds of Costa Rica. Let’s talk about your Costa Rica birding vacation!