Costa Rica is famous for its biodiversity. There are few places in the world that offer such an incredible array of birds and animals in such a small area.

Costa Rica is the third country in the world with the most bird species per square kilometer. Only Trinidad and Tobago and Panama out rank Costa Rica in that regard. It is a paradise for nature enthusiasts, photographers, and especially Bird Watchers.

Among its many treasures, the Resplendent Quetzal stands out as an iconic symbol of Central America. With its iridescent plumage, haunting call, and interesting nesting habits, witnessing the Quetzal in its natural habitat is a bucket-list experience for most avid birders.

In this article we will look at the best places in Costa Rica to observe this gorgeous bird. The nesting season for the Quetzal is from late January through mid-March. It is an especially memorable experience to see the male Quetzal, in full plumage gliding through the forest with his gorgeous emerald tail flowing behind him.

Here are the top locations for viewing the Resplendent Quetzal


Resplendent Quetzal in Monteverde Resplendent Quetzal in Monteverde

Nestled in the misty mountains of the Cordillera de Tilarán, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Curi Cancha Reserve, and the Santa Elena Reserve offer a lush backdrop for Quetzal sightings. The misty cloud forest, alive with orchids, bromeliads, vines, towering tree ferns and tropical foliage provides a haven for hundreds of bird species, including the elusive Quetzal. Visitors can walk and hike on a network of well-maintained trails, immersing themselves in the pristine beauty of the cloud forest.

Monteverde’s various reserves showcase towering moss-draped trees and colorful orchids dotted throughout the forest. This is the prime habitat for the Resplendent Quetzal. Birders and photographers will be rewarded with sightings of the Quetzal’s vibrant plumage as it flits through the canopy in search of sustenance. The wild avocado trees are the favorite meal of the Quetzal, but other fruit bearing trees will often attract these birds. The easiest time to see the Quetzal in Monteverde is between February and July. There are Quetzals here year round, but they are most active and easy to see when the food supply is at its peak. Quetzals in Monteverde do migrate altitudinally as they search for their favorite food, the wild avocado. It is likely to see the Quetzal with a visit to any of the reserves in Monteverde regardless of the time you visit.

Top Locations in Monteverde:

● Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
● Curi Cancha Reserve
● Reserva Bosque Nuboso Santa Elena

Top Hotels in Monteverde:

● Senda Monteverde
● Hotel Montana de Monteverde
● Hotel Heliconia
● Cloud Forest Lodge

Resplendent Quetzal in San Gerardo de Dota Resplendent Quetzal in San Gerardo de Dota

San Gerardo de Dota / the Savegre Valley:

Enfolded in the Talamanca Mountains, the pristine San Gerardo de Dota or Savegre Valley offers a secluded retreat for both Quetzals and many highland bird species. This lush habitat boasts a cool climate. Rolling hills, sparse paramo and dense oak forests, provide a unique refuge for the Quetzal year round.

Unlike the busy tourist areas, San Gerardo de Dota offers a peaceful setting where bird watchers, photographers, and nature lovers can immerse themselves in the serenity of nature.

San Gerardo de Dota is the easiest place to see the Quetzal year round. Due to the bountiful food supply in this area, the Quetzal is not forced to migrate much, altitudinally, to find a reliable food source. This allows the area to have the largest population of Quetzals in Costa Rica.

The nesting season, from late January through early April, does provide visitors the chance to see the most activity, but it is very likely that a visit to San Gerardo de Dota anytime of year will provide great looks at this magnificent bird.

The Savegre Valley is situated on the Pacific slope of the Talamanca Mountains, this abundant valley boasts several lovely habitats or life zones. From the misty cloud forests to pristine rivers or the interesting paramo, birders and photographers will enjoy the opportunity to enjoy many highland species. Here, the Quetzal finds sanctuary amidst the towering trees and dense vegetation and remains the “king” of the highlands. Don’t miss out on the array of endemic and near endemic species that share the skies and forest with the Quetzal.

Professional birding guides, who know the area, and understand Quetzal’s habits, will lead visitors into the heart of the valley, where fantastic birds nest and forage. Knowing where the food sources are, where nesting sites exist, and what calls to listen for, help guides to ensure guests are able to find the Quetzal in the forest. We highly recommend having a professional birding guide with you on your visit to expound on your chances of seeing this bird.

Whether perched silently on a mossy branch or darting through the canopy in a flash of emerald green, encountering the Quetzal in the wild is an experience beyond true description.

Top Hotels in San Gerardo De Dota:

● Savegre Lodge
● Suria Lodge
● Suenos del Bosque Lodge
● Quetzal Paradise Lodge

Resplendent Quetzal - La Amistad International Park

La Amistad International Park:

On Costa Rica’s southern border with Panama lies the La Amistad International Park. This rugged park is the largest National Park (International Park) in Central America. It covers over 1.5 million acres of unspoiled, pristine forest. This vast wilderness, with very little contact with humans, is home to a huge array of animals and birds. This UNESCO World Heritage Site includes lowland rainforests and montane cloud forests, providing a haven for species like the Quetzal. Within its hidden trails and groves, visitors can hike the rugged terrain searching for the Quetzal in an undisturbed setting.

Traversing the trails of La Amistad International Park, adventurers may glimpse the Quetzal amidst the towering trees and cascading waterfalls that characterize the region. Remote and untamed, this wilderness offers a glimpse into Costa Rica’s most natural heartland.

Visitors to La Amistad should be aware that hikes in this region are for the physically fit.

Top Hotels near La Amistad:

● Chirripo Art Hotel
● Hotel de Montana El Pelicano

Birding the Resplendent Quetzal in Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s diverse landscapes and rich biodiversity make it a paradise for birdwatchers, photographers and nature enthusiasts alike. From the misty heights of Monteverde to the secluded valleys of San Gerardo de Dota, the country offers a myriad of opportunities to witness the beauty of the Resplendent Quetzal in its natural habitat.

As visitors immerse themselves in the breathtaking scenery and rich ecosystems of these prime Quetzal viewing locations, they gain a deeper appreciation for the fragile beauty of Costa Rica’s natural wonders.

Is seeing the Resplendent Quetzal on your birding bucket list? We’d love to help you choose the best time to plan your trip to Costa Rica and experience this beautiful bird. Whether you’re a bird watcher or a photographer, Costa Rica Focus can help you plan the perfect trip. Interested? Click here to contact us. The Resplendent Quetzal is waiting for you.

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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!

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