Birding in Costa Rica

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Did you know there are over 850 bird species and nearly 30 endangered bird species that can be found in the rainforests, cloud forests, and mountainous regions of Costa Rica? That is of species for such a small country. For reference, the United States only has 860 bird species that can be found throughout the country. That’s just a few more than Costa Rica — and Costa Rica is approximately the size of West Virginia!

As you can imagine, with so many types of birds in such a small but ecologically-diverse country, bird watching is one of the most popular activities in Costa Rica. Before planning a bird-watching adventure, here is some important information to know about birding in Costa Rica.


Exotic Birds in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is filled with tons of incredible wildlife — including magnificent bird species. Some of the birds in Costa Rica that will delight bird watchers include macaws, toucans, hummingbirds, trogons, motmots, owls, herons, and more.

Best Birding Destinations in Costa Rica

If you’d like the best chance of seeing incredible birds during your trip to Costa Rica, these are the best locations for birding in the country.
Palo Verde National Park

Palo Verde National Park in the Guanacaste Province is one of the best destinations for bird-watching in Costa Rica — especially if you’d like to see aquatic birds and waterfowl, like the Tiger Heron, Jabiru, and White Ibis. This national park is actually one of the best places to see aquatic birds (both native and migratory) in Central America.

At Palo Verde National Park, you can take a boat tour to Pajaros Island (Birds Island) down the Tempisque River for a unique birding adventure.

Carara National Park

Carara National Park is located on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast — just west of San José and north of Jaco. And if you want to see Scarlet Macaws during your trip to Costa Rica — this is the birding destination for you! Carara National Park is known for having one of the largest wild populations of Scarlet Macaws anywhere in Costa Rica (and in all of Central America, for that matter). These famous parrots can be seen flying in pairs or a larger flock of birds.

Carara National Park is also home to other tropical birds, including aracari, toucans, and turkey vultures

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is home to nearly half of the country’s exotic bird species in the stunning cloud forest. In fact, many of the animals and plants found in the higher elevations of the mist-covered cloud forest cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

As you explore the trails, walkways, and hanging bridges, you’ll be able to see several unique birds, including the Resplendent Quetzal — a vibrant blue and green bird with a red chest that can be found in the mountainous tropical forests of Central America. For the best chance to spot a rare Resplendent Quetzal with brilliantly bright feathers, plan your visit to the Monteverde Cloud Forest in April during the mating season.

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La Selva Biological Station

La Selva Biological Station is a protected area owned by several universities and research institutions. It is the home of over 300 scientists and students who study rainforest ecology and is considered one of the most popular and renowned locations in the world for tropical research because of its extensive laboratory facilities and prime location.

La Selva Biological Station is the best place to visit for birding if you’d like to see the most species of birds in one place — there are over 470 birds that call this area home. At the birding lodges, bird watchers can walk on elevated wooden paths and walkways to get up close and personal with resident species, like the Rufous Motmot and Collared Aracaris.

Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park is a smaller, but still fantastic, destination for birdwatching in Costa Rica. It offers diverse terrain, including mountains, rainforests, and beaches, making it a fabulous place to spot a variety of wildlife, including monkeys, sloths, and birds.

Some birds you’ll likely be able to see in Manuel Antonio National Park include the colorful Scarlet Macaw and Motmot. However, you should be on the lookout for other species as well!

La Paz Waterfall Gardens

Peace Lodge at La Paz Waterfall Gardens is one of the most popular birding destinations in Costa Rica. This well-known ecological destination offers spectacular hiking trails, incredible waterfalls, and a migration corridor for hundreds of species of tropical birds.

While you’re at La Paz Waterfall Gardens, you’ll be able to encounter toucans and more than 25 species of colorful hummingbirds in the Hummingbird Garden. Bird lovers — don’t forget to bring your camera for some incredible photo opportunities!

Osa Peninsula

The Osa Peninsula is home to Corcovado National Park — a protected area in Costa Rica known for its biodiversity and diverse array of wildlife, including jaguars, squirrel monkeys, tapirs, and, of course, an incredible array of bird species.

Over 35o types of birds live in the Osa Peninsula, including the Scarlet Macaw, Tiger Heron, and over 15 species of hummingbirds. This peninsula is crawling with wildlife (literally!), so birding tours aren’t necessary here to see incredible birds. However, heading on an early morning hike with a birding guide is a fabulous way to learn more about the diverse collection of species that live on the Osa Peninsula.

Cano Negro National Wildlife Refuge

Cano Negro National Wildlife Refuge is one of the best birding destinations in Costa Rica for aquatic birds, like Roseate Spoonbills, as well as herons, egrets, and storks. Visitors are encouraged to explore both Cano Negro Lake and Río Frío in the wildlife refuge — these bodies of water are where the majority of birds can be found during the green season.

If you are visiting Arenal Volcano or La Fortuna, you can easily book a day trip to explore Cano Negro National Wildlife Refuge. Just remember — the birds in this region are most active when the regional waters swell during the rainy season.


Stay with Special Places of Costa Rica for Quick Access to the Best Birding Destinations in Costa Rica

From the high-elevation cloud forest in Monteverde to the wetlands in Palo Verde National Park — the diverse and varied terrain in Costa Rica attracts a variety of exotic and unique birds, including the Scarlet Macaw, Resplendent Quetzal, and Keel-Billed Toucan.

tours are a fabulous way to see the most magnificent birds in Costa Rica. And staying in a central location, like one of our vacation rentals from Special Places of Costa Rica, allows you to visit as many popular birding destinations as possible during your trip!

Browse our available rentals to find the ideal place to stay during your vacation. We can’t wait to introduce you to the biologically diverse rainforests, beaches, and cloud forests in Costa Rica!


Choose Your Next Adventure

Costa Rica is the perfect opportunity for thrill-seekers and nature lovers alike to explore the beauty and diversity of this tropical paradise. From white sandy beaches to lush rainforests, Costa Rica is home to a wide range of breathtaking landscapes and activities. Whether you want to zipline through the canopy, surf the waves, or relax in a luxury eco-lodge, there is something for everyone in Costa Rica.

Other Attractions

After you have visited volcanoes and national parks you may want to observe (or cool off in) some of the many beautiful waterfalls while in Costa Rica. Be sure to view our full list of things to do in Costa Rica to ensure you’re experiencing all of the main attractions while on your vacation.


Frequently Asked Questions About
Birding in Costa Rica

There are more than 850 bird species found in Costa Rica, including hummingbirds, parrots, toucans, waterfowl, and other unique species.
The best months for bird watching in high-elevation regions in Costa Rica are during the dry season from December – April. However, if you’re hoping to see waterfowl, like herons and storks, you may have better luck during the rainy season when the water levels are higher.
Costa Rica and Panama have roughly the same number of bird species (between 850 – 890), so both countries are fabulous birding destinations. If you’re unsure whether Costa Rica or Panama is the better vacation destination for you, read through our comparison between both countries !
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