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The Best Sites in Costa Rica to Photograph Resplendent Quetzal

Costa Rica has a bird list of more than 900 species. Yes, that many and no, it's not a big country either! Around the same size as West Virginia, Costa Rica packs in the birds. Even better, some of those 900 plus species are high on the "most wanted" list of birders from around the globe. We are talking about spectacular raptors like the Ornate Hawk-Eagle, a glittering array of tanagers and hummingbirds, and one of the top mega birds of the world, the Resplendent Quetzal.

Although this larger than life member of the trogon family is the revered national bird of Guatamala (and does occur there), most birders see it in Costa Rica. This incredible, iridescent bird is more accessible there, along with the photo opportunities.

This stunning bird occurs in cloud forest habitats and might be most numerous in the high elevation forests of the Talamancan Mountains. Although it can be encountered in any cloud forest in Costa Rica, these are three of the best sites to photograph this eye catching mega:

Paraiso de Quetzales (Quetzal Paradise)

This well known spot lives up to its name with daily sightings of Resplendent Quetzals. On site tours keep track of quetzals that live in the area and offer tours to see and photograph them.

The Dota Valley

Many birders, nature photographers and tourists have seen their first quetzal in this beautiful, forested valley. At times, the target birds are on the side of the road, on other occasions, we need to look for them on trails at Savegre Lodge or other sites.


The classic cloud forest of Costa Rica continues to be an excellent place to connect with quetzals. At times, the iridescent birds frequent the edge of the parking lot! Most times, though, birders find them during guided walks in any number of reserves in the area.

Although healthy populations of the Resplendent Quetzal occur in Costa Rica, it can be a challenge to find, much less photograph. As with many birds in Costa Rica, getting stellar shots of the quetzal is much easier with a qualified local guide. Contact us to help you experience this incredible bird!

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