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Cotinga Tours: Birder’s Paradise: March 31 - April 14, 2018

Guide: Paco Madrigal

Guest: Dave & Fiona Johnson

Tour includes:

  • 15 days/14 nights of lodging; Meals starting with breakfast on April 1, and ending with Breakfast on April 14

  • Bilingual English-Spanish speaking guide (Paco Madrigal) specializing in birds and wildlife (from March 31-April 14)

  • Pre and post-tour extensions: March 30th and April 14th at Hotel Bougainvillea, only breakfast included. All other meals can be paid for directly to the hotel.

  • Private airport transfer to Hotel Bougainvillea on March 30th, and private transfer from Hotel Bougainvillea to SJO Airport on April 15th

  • All transportation in country from April 1 to April 14 until drop-off at the Hotel Bougainvillea (after dropping off the group at the airport)

  • All tours and entrances listed below

  • Applicable Taxes (except airport taxes)

  • Pre-breakfast birding available throughout the tour, weather permitting and if tour schedules allow.

  • Owling excursions will be available one night at each location, weather permitting and where and when the guide deems is productive.


Tours and Entrances included:

  • 4 private boat tours of the Tortuguero Wildlife canals

  • 1 visit to Tapir Reserve

  • 1 visit to Cope’s garden

  • 2 full day visits to La Selva Biological Station

  • 1 visit to Cinchona Hummingbird feeders

  • 1 visit to Hacienda Solimar

  • 2 visits to Carara National Park

  • 1 two-hour mangrove Tarcoles boat tour

  • 1 visit to Paraíso Quetzal

  • 1 visit to Oak Forest Reserve​



Arrival details:

LH518: March 31st at 5:55 PM


There is only one exit for arrivals at the airport. When you exit the airport, please look for your driver who will be holding a sign that says “Welcome: Mr & Mrs Johnson”


Detailed Itinerary:


*Please note that exact meal times will be announced by the guide as the tour goes along. This is to allow for flexibility in the itinerary to be able to best take advantage of time in the field and the smooth logistics of the tour for the group as a whole. Below you will see the times that meals are served at the hotels but the group will have specific meal times to meet for most of the meals.


March 31: Arrive in San Jose where you will be warmly welcomed by your chauffeur and escorted back to your hotel.  Spend the afternoon relaxing by the poolside or taking a walk in the lovely gardens to recuperate from your long day of travel. If you feel like getting some exercise, there are lighted tennis courts available to you at the hotel. Here, you may have the good fortune of  seeing the White-eared Ground-sparrow, the Blue-crowned Motmot, some colorful hummingbirds.


(Overnight at Hotel Bougainvillea * Dinner not included this night)


April 1: Travel by boat to Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean, arriving for lunch at Laguna Lodge. Here we will explore the rich labyrinth of waterways which will afford us excellent wildlife viewing. The area boasts 320 bird species, including Tiger Herons, Agami Herons, White-fronted Nunbird, and all six species of Kingfishers belonging to the Americas. While some of these species are rare, we will be on the lookout for them and be pleased if we have the opportunity to see them. Along with birds, we may also see sloth, caiman, iguanas, poison-dart frogs, freshwater turtles, basilisk lizards, the Honduran White tent-making bats, and three species of monkeys that frequent the banks. There will be a private boat tour through the canals after lunch. You will also visit the Tortuguero National Park.


(Breakfast at Hotel Bougainvillea, Lunch served from 12:30 – 2:30 pm (today we will arrive for a late lunch), Dinner served from 7:00 – 8:30 pm, Overnight at Laguna Lodge)


April 2: Today you will enjoy 3 private boat tours of the Tortuguero wildlife canals. One will be prior to breakfast, another after breakfast and finally one after lunch. Your guide will let you know the exact times for each canal tour the night before.  


(Breakfast served from 7:00 – 8:30 am, Lunch served from 12:30 – 2:30 pm, Dinner served from 7:00 – 8:30 pm, Overnight at Laguna Lodge).


April 3: Travel to the tropical lowlands of Sarapiquí. You will have lunch en route at Restaurant Selva Tropical, and visit Cope’s Gardens and the Tapir Reserve if time permits. Spend the afternoon exploring the wildlife-rich riparian zone along the banks of the Sarapiquí River. This rain forest region at the base of the Caribbean slope is well-known for hosting the greatest diversity of tropical flora and fauna. Here the Sunbittern, Black-faced Grosbeak, and Gray-necked Wood-Rail are a few of the inhabitants of the area. This is the most likely spot on the trip to see the Great Green Macaw, an endangered species that depends on the Dipteryx tree for feeding and nesting. This is one of the emergent trees commonly found in Sarapiquí. Also lurking in the forest are two- and three-toed sloth, 3 different species of monkeys, and peccaries.


(Breakfast at Laguna Lodge, Lunch en route at Restaurant Selva Tropical, Dinner served from 6:00 - 8:00 pm at Selva Verde, Overnight at Selva Verde)


April 4 & 5: After an early breakfast, you will visit La Selva Biological Station run by the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS). The station is among the four most famous tropical research facilities in the world. We expect to see an outstanding abundance of wildlife. The station is home to more than 420 bird species, more than 500 species of butterflies, 55 species of snakes, and 120 species of mammals. A vast variety of different species of trees can be seen in the arboretum. This is the most likely place to make your Tinamou dream come true. There are three species of Tinamou that inhabit La Selva. We will be looking for Roufous Motmot, Trogons, Caciques, Purple-throated Fruit Crow, and Snowy Cotinga, among many others. Animals here are not camera shy, so there will be ample photo opportunities. Peccaries (wild pig), agoutis, coatis, sloth, and monkeys frequent this area. All of which makes for an unforgettable day. Return to Selva Verde Lodge for lunch and head back to La Selva Biological for the afternoon.


(Breakfast served from 7:00 – 9:00 am, Lunch served from 12:00 noon - 2:00 pm, Dinner served from 6:00 - 8:00 pm, Overnight at Selva Verde)


April 6 & 7: After breakfast at Selva Verde, travel to La Fortuna, visiting Cinchona’s Hummingbird feeders if time permits en route. Spend two nights at the Arenal Observatory Lodge, which offers breathtaking views of the jungle covered Arenal Volcano. Great photo opportunities! The extensive trails at the lodge allow for tremendous opportunities to view the Crimson-collared Tanagers, White Hawk, Brown-hooded Parrot, and the Golden-olive Woodpecker, along with an array of colorful hummingbirds, and three species of Toucans. If weather is on our side, one night, we will go owling in search of the Black-and-White Owl, Mottled Owl, and Striped Owl in the open fields, below the lodge.


(Breakfast served from 7:00 - 9:00 am, Lunch served from 12:00 - 4:00 pm, Dinner served from 6:00 - 9:00 pm, Overnight at Arenal Observatory)


April 8: After breakfast, travel to Guanacaste, having lunch en route and visiting Hacienda Solimar before arriving to La Ensenada Lodge. Spend the day exploring the tropical dry forests, marshlands, estuaries, and mangroves, characteristic to the northern Pacific region.  This is an ideal place to see water birds, raptors, and other species found only in this zone. In the wetlands, we hope to see Snail Kites, Wood Storks, Roseate Spoonbills, Boat-billed Herons, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Limpkins, and several species of Kingfishers. Walking through the semi-deciduous forest, we are likely to see Turquoise-browed Motmot, the Long-tailed Manakin, and several species of Parrots, Orioles, Cuckoos, Trogons, Jays, and Owls.


(Breakfast at Arenal Observatory, lunch en route, Dinner served from 7:00 – 8:00 pm at La Ensenada Lodge, Overnight at La Ensenada Lodge)


April 9: Breakfast is served from 7:30 to 8:30 am. Spend the morning birding around the lodge. Travel to Hotel Villa Lapas after lunch, situated at the edge of the Carara Biological Reserve on the banks of the Tarcoles River near the Pacific coast. We will explore the bird-rich trails through the forest, and hope to see Scarlet Macaws and Tiger Herons, among many others.


(Breakfast served from 7:30 – 8:30 am, Lunch served from 12:30 – 2:00 pm at La Ensenada Lodge, Dinner served from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at Hotel Villa Lapas, Overnight at Hotel Villa Lapas)


April 10: Spend the morning exploring the Carara National Park, a unique climatological zone where the ecosystem of the humid southern coastal region joins the dry climate of the northern Pacific area, becoming a rich meeting ground for species from both regions. Return for lunch at Hotel Villa Lapas. After a delicious lunch at the hotel, we will enjoy a two-hour mangrove tour by boat along the Tarcoles River with a local guide. During the tour we will not only be impressed by the giant crocodiles that inhabit the area but also the variety of shorebirds, water birds, and raptors.

(Breakfast served from 6:30 – 9:30 am, Lunch served from 12:00 noon – 1:30 pm, Dinner served from 6:30 – 8:30 pm, Overnight at Hotel Villa Lapas)


April 11: Spend the full day exploring the Carara National Park. This is truly one of the highlights of the tour, where we hope to find the Orange Collared Manakin dancing in their lek. This is a great location to spot antbirds, up to five different species of Trogons, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, and even if we are extremely lucky, Royal Flycatchers.


(Breakfast served from 6:30 – 9:30 am, Lunch served from 12:00 noon – 1:30 pm, Dinner served from 6:30 – 8:30 pm, Overnight at Hotel Villa Lapas)


April 12: Travel to Cerro de la Muerte. We will spend the morning exploring the misty highland cloud forest reserve at the Paraiso de Quetzal, where up to 20 pairs of quetzals have been seen. We will have lunch at Paraiso de Quetzal, and then continue to Hotel Savegre, nestled in a quaint highland valley nearby, also home of the Resplendent Quetzal.


(Breakfast at Villas Lapas, Lunch at Paraiso Quetzal, Dinner from 6:00 – 8:00 pm at Hotel Savegre, Overnight at Hotel Savegre)


April 13: Spend the day exploring the bird rich habitat in the Savegre River Valley. Walking through the gardens and along the Savegre river, we can hope to see Flame-colored Tanager, Collared Trogon, Torrent Tyrannulet, Volcano hummingbird, and Gray-tailed Mountain Gem, to name a few. You will also visit the Oak Forest Reserve. In the evening after a delicious dinner, we will go over the birds, reptiles, mammals, and any other wildlife seen that day.


(Breakfast served from 6:30 – 9:00 am, Lunch served from 12:00 – 3:00 pm, Dinner served from 6:00 – 8:00 pm, Overnight at Hotel Savegre)


April 14: After breakfast, you will be taken back to the SJO airport in time for your departure flight.


(Breakfast at Hotel Savegre, Lunch not included)


Departure details:

LH519: April 14th at 7:50 PM **You will be dropped off at 11:30 am at the airport to allow for check-in time and due to scheduling of departure flights for other members of the group.


Important notes and conditions:

  • Meals are pre-arranged and prepaid so if clients want to make changes to the schedule that result in missing a pre-arranged meal, there will be no refund and guests will assume the additional cost of the missed meal elsewhere for the themselves and the guide if applicable.

  • Airport exit taxes are not included and are approximately $30 per person (Most airlines are including them now, so please check with airlines for details.)

  • Tips to guides and hotel staff not included (Tipping is customary and merit-based in Costa Rica).

  • Alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, and costs of a personal nature are not included

  • International airfare not included

  • Any additional airport transfers have an additional cost of $50 each.

  • There is no refund available for unused tours, in the case that guests decide to stay behind.

  • All bird and wildlife species mentioned in the itinerary are mentioned for illustrative purposes to give you an idea of what lives in each area. We do not guarantee seeing any of specific species on this trip.


Hotel Contact Information:


Hotel Bougainvillea

Toll-Free: +1-866-880-5441

Local Phone: +8 (506) 2244-1414


Laguna Lodge

Toll-Free: +1-888-259-5615

Local Phone: +(506) 2253-1100


Hotel Selva Verde

Toll-Free: +1-800-451-7111

Local Phone: +(506) 2761-1800


Arenal Observatory

Toll-Free: +1-877-804-7732

Local Phone: +(506) 2290-7011


Ensenada Lodge

Local Phone: +(506) 2289-6655


Villa Lapas

Local Phone: +(506) 2637-0232


Savegre Lodge

Local Phone: +(506) 2740-1028


Cotinga Tours

Toll-Free: 1-888-205-6415

USA Office: 1-202-413-2275

Costa Rica Office: +(506) 2266-1011

Mobile phone in Costa Rica: +(506) 8880-9457

Guide phone (Paco Madrigal): +(506) 8712-8024

***When dialing within Costa Rica to any of the Costa Rica phone numbers, you won’t need to dial +(506), you just dial the 8 digit phone number.


General Information and Guidelines:


Financial Arrangements: The fee for this tour is quoted in USD and is per person in double occupancy. Single occupancy requires payment of a single supplement. Rates are based upon group rates: if the tour does not have sufficient registration, a small-party supplement may have to be charged. Please note, that we have not had to charge a small-party supplement in the past.


Tour includes: (Unless otherwise specified in your specific itinerary) all meals, starting with breakfast on day 2 and ending with breakfast on the final day of the itinerary; all lodging during the tour as specified in your itinerary; ground transportation during the tour in a modern and spacious air-conditioned vehicle with clear glass windows; all park entrance fees and all special tours as specified in your itinerary; a full-time private bilingual professional guide specializing in birds and natural history; 10% gratuity to restaurant staff only.


Tour does not include: International airfare; airport departure taxes; alcoholic beverages; soft drinks; tips to guide(s), drivers, and hotel staff; phone calls; laundry, or items of a personal nature.


Tipping: Tipping (restaurants, porters, drivers and guides) is not included on our tours. It is entirely appropriate to tip. Customary tipping guidelines for group tours (10+ participants): $5-10 per day per client for guide(s) and $3-5 per day per client for the driver; $2 per day per room for hotel maid service and $1 per bag per service for porters. What you decide to tip within these guidelines should be based on the merits of the service provided. Guidelines for small private tours vary and are available upon request


Payments and Procedures: A nonrefundable deposit of $650/person for tours are due upon registration, unless otherwise specified in your specific itinerary. Registration is on a first-come, first-served basis. Tour payment in full is due on or before 90 days prior to tour start date. Once you have booked, we will send you an invoice for payment of the deposit via email within a week of your booking confirmation. You have the choice to pay by credit card digitally, using the instructions on our invoice, or you may send a check by mail to 5762 Main St. Elkridge, MD 21075. Make checks payable to Cotinga Tours. You will receive an invoice for the balance due around 75 days prior to tour start date.  Once you have your airlines tickets, booked please remember to fill out our online flight itinerary form


Cancellations and Refunds: Cancellations and Refunds are made according to the following schedule unless otherwise stated in the itinerary: If a cancellation is made ninety days or more before the tour start date, the deposit is not refundable, but any payments covering the balance will be refunded. If cancellation is made between 89 and 65 days before the tour start date you will receive a 50% refund less the non-refundable deposit. If cancellation is made fewer than sixty-five days before the tour start date, no refund is available. This policy and fee schedule also applies to any transfers from one tour to another. To protect your investment, we highly recommend purchasing comprehensive travel insurance that covers trip cancellation, trip interruption, and loss or damage to optics and equipment. You do have the right to transfer your booking to another person, provided you are unavoidably prevented from coming on the holiday. You are responsible for any extra costs that such changes incur. ALL CANCELLATIONS MUST BE RECEIVED IN WRITING TO ONE OF THE FOLLOWING EMAIL ADDRESSES: or


Singles: We will always try to accommodate clients who request single rooms. This is not always possible, and clients may be asked to share for all or part of the tour. In this case we would not charge the single room supplement for the portion of the holiday where the room is shared. We will also try to accommodate clients traveling on their own but wishing to share, however, if we are not able to pair you with another single we will have to charge a single supplement.


Tour Alteration: We do our best to remain true to our advertised itinerary; however, we reserve the right to modify the tour. Our clients will be promptly notified of any changes. We ensure that any changes will not adversely affect the high quality of our tours.


Surcharges: We determine the price of our tours well in advance. There is the possibility that unexpected costs may occur. Rather than cancel the tour we may levy a surcharge. Please note that we have never had to levy a surcharge.


Safety: Clients must observe any instructions given by our leaders about logistics, safety and conservation. Failure to do this could lead to dismissal from the group, as could any behavior that, in the opinion of the leader, is severely detrimental to the safety, welfare and enjoyment of other members of the group. In the event of expulsion of any client, no refund for the unused portion of the tour will be granted, and the client must bear any extra expenses involved in returning home under these circumstances. We will avoid being out in the field during heavy rains or winds for safety reasons.


Clothing: Lightweight cotton field clothing is the norm for Costa Rica tours. Long-sleeved shirts, a hat, sunglasses, and strong sunscreen are recommended for protection from the sun. Also, please be sure to have a pair of good water resistant lightweight hiking boots/shoes or comfortable, closed walking shoes and a second pair of lightweight shoes. Mud boots are not necessary, but if you have them and wish to bring, you are more than welcome. You will also want to bring short-sleeved shirts and shorts for hot weather, as well as a swimsuit, if you wish to take advantage of the swimming pools found in many of the hotels or take a dip in the ocean. Generally, the weather will range from warm to hot and humid (75 - 90 degrees Fahrenheit) in the lowlands. In the highlands temperatures on average range between 50-72 degrees Fahrenheit). You will want to bring a light jacket for the cool evenings in San Jose. A wind-breaker/rain coat is also essential. For highlands we recommend a warm fleece jacket as well as gloves and a hat for cold weather. Generally, trails should not be so muddy as to require rubber boots during the dry season (December-April); water-resistant closed footgear is best. Do not forget a small umbrella and/or rain poncho/rain jacket. Also, you will want to bring water shoes or athletic sandals (like Tevas or similar) for any wet landings for boat transfers/tours if applicable to your itinerary.


Other items to bring: Pack a flashlight, water bottle or canteen, binoculars, a rain poncho and a small folding umbrella is also a good idea for mist and light rain. Your guide will have one spotting scope to share with the group, however, if you would like to bring one it would be welcomed. On forest trails, you will only be allowed to use closed shoes, like walking shoes or lightweight hiking shoes/boots. We also recommend that you bring water-shoes or Teva style athletic sandals that fasten around your ankles for water-landings if your itinerary includes an area where water-landings are required (flip flops are not recommended for water-landings). Make sure to bring sufficient digital storage space for your camera, as well as camera battery charger.


Documents: Travelers are responsible to make sure they have all the proper documentation for entry into Costa Rica and must check with their local authorities for up to date information on this topic. At the time of the writing of this document, a current US/Canadian/UK/EU passport is adequate for entry into Costa Rica; a visa is not necessary for US, UK, Canadian & EU citizens; You will be issued a tourist visa as a stamp in your passport upon arrival at the port of entry. Passports must have an expiration date that does not expire sooner than 6 months after the date of your departure from Costa Rica (return date to your home country). HOWEVER, PLEASE CHECK WITH YOUR LOCAL AUTHORITIES FOR UP TO DATE INFORMATION, AS THESE REQUIREMENTS TEND TO CHANGE OFTEN. COTINGA TOURS IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY MISINFORMATION REGARDING REQUIRED DOCUMENTS.  IT IS THE TRAVELERS RESPONSIBILITY TO VERIFY AND ACQUIRE APPROPRIATE DOCUMENTATION REQUIRED TO ENTER COSTA RICA.


Health Precautions: Although at the time of this writing, no vaccinations are required for entry into Costa Rica, up-to-date tetanus protection is recommended. Please consult your physician. Health requirements change frequently, so please check with your doctor/local government’s health department regarding recommended immunizations. Travelers are required to make sure they find out the most up to date information on vaccinations and meet all requirements for their travel and entry into Costa Rica. The drinking water is good almost everywhere in Costa Rica, but we do recommend drinking bottled water during your trip. We provide bottled water throughout the tour (one small bottle per day per clients that you can refill), and most hotels will provide purified water dispensers where we encourage you to refill your water bottles. We recommend that you bring an ample supply of any medication you think you might need during the trip. Imodium tablets are recommended for traveler's diarrhea, if your doctor approves. We are traveling to remote areas where pharmacies will not be available. If you take prescription drugs, it is important that you bring with you enough to cover the duration of your trip.


Insect Protection: Ses mosquitos, chiggers and "no-see-ums" can be a problem in some areas. Most guests choose to use a lotion or spray (small plastic squeeze bottle and/or a pump-style container) of insect repellent that has close to 100% DEET. You may want to consider bringing a supply of anti-itch allergy cream or gel, which can be useful in reducing irritation from stings or bites. Some cortisone creams are available without prescription. Also, Flowers of Sulphur has proven effective for chigger protection. (Always consult your doctor when deciding which insect repellents and anti-itch creams to purchase and use during your trip) Lightweight long sleeve shirts and long pants are also a deterrent to biting insects. Tucking loose-pant legs into socks is also helpful in preventing chigger bites.


Baggage: Please check with your airline carrier for current baggage restrictions. We request participants to limit their baggage to one medium-sized suitcase and one carry-on, if possible, as space in the vehicle will be limited. Depending on your itinerary, excess luggage can be stored at your arrival hotel, if you so desire. As a precaution, we suggest you pack your travel documents, medications, toiletries, a change of clothes, and your binoculars/cameras in your carry-on bag both for flights and while traveling in our ground transportation. If your itinerary requires a domestic flight within Costa Rica, please take note of the following luggage restrictions based on your specific airlines: For Sansa air flights:


Miscellaneous: Laundry can be done by the hotels at which we stay on this tour at an extra charge (rates are available at the hotel reception). The voltage in Costa Rica is 120 (as in the USA); however, some lodges require adapters for polarized plugs (one prong larger than the other).


Departure Tax: You must pay a tax to depart Costa Rica. The approximate fee is the equivalent of US $30.00 (Subject to change) and may be paid in either currency. Most airlines are now including this in their airfare, so please consult with your airline to find out if this is included in your ticket price or if you will be expected to pay at the airport on your departure day

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