Picture a nation smaller than the state of West Virginia, and pack in nearly 800 regularly-occurring bird species—you have landed in the Neotropical paradise of Costa Rica. The complete bird list for this Central American gem exceeds 900 birds, including about 50 species each of raptors, hummingbirds, and warblers, plus an astonishing 80 different flycatchers.
From the Caribbean rainforest canopy to the Pacific Coast mangroves, Costa Rica’s broad range of habitats ranks it among the world’s top 20 nations for biodiversity. Beyond its impressive bird list, nature lovers can flutter along with over 1,200 butterfly species—roughly 10 percent of the world’s butterflies—as well as more than 8,000 different moths. Reptiles and amphibians combine for over 400 species, and nearly 250 mammal species include over 100 different bats.
This exceptional diversity is conserved by a network of protected lands that cover 27 percent of the country. And tucked into these protected lands are some of the most famous birding lodges in the world. Visit Rancho Naturalista in the Talamanca Highlands to search for Snowcap and Volcano Hummingbird, plus Margay, Kinkijou, and Three-toed Sloth. La Casona Lodge inside the Monteverde Cloudforest Reserve can be your base for finding the legendary Resplendent Quetzal and the handsome Three-wattled Bellbird, along with Dracula Orchid and Emerald Glass Frog. Bosque de Paz features the Scintillant Hummingbird and Black Guan, with Red-kneed Tarantulas around the lodge.
Costa Rica’s tourism infrastructure makes visiting this foreign country a tropical breeze. After an easy one-hour drive from San Jose airport, you can be watching the endemic Coppery-headed Emerald at La Paz Waterfall Gardens. Take a short flight from San Jose to Puerto Jimenez on the remote Osa Peninsula, where you can see the endemic Cherrie’s Tanager and Black-cheeked Ant-Tanager at Bosque del Río Tigre Lodge. It’s impossible to fully experience Costa Rica’s amazing diversity in a single trip, but your first trip will not be your last.
Costa Rica offers fantastic birding experiences throughout the year, with a wet season that extends from May through November and a dry season from December through April. September and October are the wettest months, making birding during this period a challenge.