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The Dos and Don'ts of Planning a Birding Trip to Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, the dry season is just starting to kick into gear. Since the beautiful sunny days coincide with much darker, colder weather in the north, the next few months act as the high season for tourism in Costa Rica.

Although literally hundreds of fantastic birds can be seen and photographed any time of the year,

Including birds like this Speckled Tanager...

more birders visit from December to March. If you already have a trip planned to this exciting land of hummingbirds, tanagers, and quetzals, good for you, we hope to meet you in the field! If you are thinking of coming to Costa Rica for birding in early 2020, the time is now to get that trip ready. Since many places book up early, the best and first suggestion we can make at Lifer Tours is to finish reservations ASAP. Other than that, to help with planning a birding trip to Costa Rica, here are some other tips, some dos and don'ts:

Organized Tour or on your own

There are two basic ways to see and photograph birds in Costa Rica; (1) on an organized tour, or (2) all on your own.

Do take a tour if you don't mind birding with a group, don't feel like worrying about logistics, and would rather have a local guide show you the birds. If that doesn't fit your birding style, don't sign up for a group tour. That said, it might still be good to consider a private tour given the many benefits of having a local ground agent set up the trip.

Where to Go?

This all depends on what you want to see and how you would like to do your trip but in general, do visit the best sites for birding. If you have only a week or two to work with, don't try to visit too many places on opposite sides of the country. Once again, this is where the expertise of a local experienced ground agent becomes invaluable especially if you would rather focus on bird photography.

For example, we know the best sites to see very local species like this Black-bellied Hummingbird.


A local guide is an additional cost but the value of service provided by a high quality guide is also priceless especially on a once in a lifetime trip. If you want to see more birds and have more and better photo opportunities, do work with an experienced, professional, local birding guide. Don't just hire any guide though, even if the person says that he or she has a certificate from a birding course or claims to guide birders.

Some such guides are indeed highly skilled at guiding birders but several are not and actually focus on general nature tours. Since it can hard to know which guides have the skills for guiding serious birding trips, look for reviews, recommendations, if the guides are involved in ornithological projects, and other factors that indicate high quality guiding for birders.

Dry box and dessicants

Yes, do bring these even during the dry season. A small dry box can be a lifesaver for optics and cameras during visits to humid sites like the Arenal area and Sarapiqui.

Pack light!

As with most trips, don't bring extra stuff. Do bring what you need but most extra stuff gets in the way, takes up extra space on a tour, and you might end up misplacing or losing some of that stuff anyways.

There's a lot more we could say, especially about where and where not to go but we hope that the information above can put you in the right direction for planning any type of birding trip to Costa Rica. Speaking of that, we still have space on an exciting photography tour in January and other tours later on. Want to learn more? Contact us today!

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