Besides the birdwatching that one can do at Rancho Naturalista, we can arrange half-day and full-day trips to sites that offer a different array of species than the ones found at Rancho.
When planning a trip it is recommended to discuss your wishes with one of the guides as they are able to tell you what site is best for the bird target list one might have.
Near Rancho Naturalista there are several top birding sites. Locations such as Rio Tuis, Cerro Silencio, Angostura Lake, Rio Platanillo, and C.A.T.I.E. are all certainly worth spending some time at. It is not surprising that these trips are popular since one can find a wide variety of birds different from Rancho. Please do note that all tours are subject to the availability of transportation and guides.
All of the half-day trip locations are within 15-30 minutes driving distance from Rancho Naturalista.
Rio Tuis Valley
A pleasant road and riverside trail running through farmland, riparian and montane forest offering opportunities for good tanager flocks including Emerald, Speckled and Black-and-yellow. The Tuis river itself offers chances for Sunbittern, Buff-rumped Warbler, and American Dipper, whilst there is constant potential for interesting raptors. The more intrepid birder may hike the upper valley all day, along the lengthy and rugged trails in search of middle elevation specialties inhabited by the Zona Protectora Rio Tuis, a cloud forest habitat connected to the vast Tapanti National Park. Interesting birding and spectacular scenery for half and full days.
Please note that the full-day hike is fairly strenuous, on a steep incline and trail condition varies considerably.
Cerro Silencio Base
The beautiful hamlet of Los Morados can offer some fine roadside birding. A major draw is a potential for excellent mixed Tanager flocks. These can include impressive numbers of Bay-headed, Crimson-collared, Speckled, Emerald and Black-and-Yellow Tanagers. The habitat combination of foothill and middle elevation makes for highly dynamic feeding flocks, which with a good fortune can produce such scarcities as Rufous-rumped Antwren and Rufous-browed Tyrannulet. The nature of the topography makes the valley a good site for soaring raptors such as Barred Hawk, Double-toothed Kite, and Black hawk-eagles and interesting parrot species such as the regionally endemic Sulphur-winged Parakeet. The Riverine environment offers chances for the enigmatic Sunbittern in addition to other typical river-associated species. The area offers easy walking along a fairly good road surface through the river valley.
The Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Centre, located on the edge of the small town of Turrialba yield a number of species encountered at Rancho Naturalista. The beautiful Campus, complete with aquatic environments, open vistas, forest patches, and botanical gardens makes it an ideal locality for Bird Photography as well as hosting a number of specialty birds. The Lake offers such interesting species as the extraordinary Boat-billed Heron, Northern Jacana and Green Ibis. A few species more typically to the Caribbean lowland also occur at this site as it sits just 602 meters above sea level (some 280m lower than Rancho Naturalista) making for an interesting addition to the premontane birding experience at the lodge.
The most sizeable body of water in the Turrialba area. A reservoir was developed as part of a major hydroelectric project on the Reventazon River. This area offers huge potential for migrants and over the last decade has played host to many regionally and indeed nationally significant species. The reservoir has created habitat for species such as Snail Kite, Limpkin, bitterns, and crakes. As well as a multitude of heron and egret species and waterfowl during the winter months. The lake edge forest patches can offer interesting migrant warbler flocks, whilst adjacent pastures and second-growth offer opportunities to see species such as Southern Lapwing, Red-breasted Meadowlark, Slaty Spinetail, and the attractive Barred Antshrike. Open views and beautiful landscapes make it a good option for photography.
If Sunbittern is on the wishlist, this is an extremely reliable site to try to see this extraordinary bird. The rural setting offers some opportunities to see birds more typical of second-growth areas as well as some true forest species in the forested ravine. Other interesting species include Torrent Tyrannulet, Fasciated Tiger-Heron, and diverse mixed feeding flocks.
There are several sites a bit further away from Rancho Naturalista that are definitely worth spending a full day at. The trips leave early in the morning around 05:00 with packed breakfast and boxed lunch. The trips can be modified according to your target list, to make the possibilities of seeing your wishbirds as high as possible. It is recommended to discuss this beforehand with the guide to make the best itinerary possible.
The tallest volcano in the country (3432m), offers good opportunities to see the Resplendent Quetzal, Buffy-crowned wood partridge, Wrenthrush, and both Long-tailed and Black-and-Yellow Silky Flycatchers. Birdwatching on the slopes below the National Park can also be very productive. At the National Park, the interesting paramo habitat; timberline and stunted highland forest habitats afford very good chances for the highest elevation Chiriqui endemics such as the Timberline Wren and Volcano Junco.
Distance: 2 hours 30 minutes drive time.
The most active volcano in the country (sister to the Irazu volcano) rises to 3340m and offers spectacular views and first-class birding; Chiriqui highland endemics and regional specialties are abound. Access is exclusively by 4-wheel drive. Birding the slopes to the higher elevations over the course of the day will deliver many highlights, some of which may include: Resplendent Quetzal, Wrenthrush, Fiery-throated Hummingbird, Prong-billed Barbet, Buffy Tuftedcheek, and both Long-tailed and Black-and-yellow Silky Flycatchers.
Distance: 1 hour 30 minutes drive time.
Finca Tres Equis
A family farm located in the Caribbean foothills of Turrialba, ranging from 350m to 700m elevation at the Pacuare River. This private reserve is over 300 hectares, of which over 70 percent is forest preserved and restored over the past 20 years. This site offers an interesting complement to the avifauna of the lodge as it offers many species more readily seen at lowland sites. Trogons, Toucans, Manakins, Jacamars, Fruitcrows, and Honeycreepers as well as an impressive selection of Raptors, Hummingbirds, and Tyrant Flycatchers not seen at Rancho Naturalista. A few nationally uncommon species occur here and Rufous-winged Tanager, White-fronted Nunbird, and seasonally Great-Green Macaws are distinct possibilities. The site has an excellent private road providing easy access, which descends 7km from the ridge down to the river Pacuare, birdwatching along this road can be highly productive with beautiful views across the foothills. There is also a network of interesting trails, these are physically quite strenuous and a reasonable degree of fitness is required.
Distance: 1 hour drive time.
Tapanti National Park
A vast protected cloud forest and highland National Park. The altitude varies from 1220m – 2560m, located close to Orosi, Cartago, offering many of the Talamanca highland endemic species and middle elevation specialty birds. An absolutely beautiful location with spectacular scenery and flora. Birdwatching from the main road can prove excellent, species such as Spangle-cheeked Tanager, Prong-billed Barbet, and Black-bellied Hummingbird and impressive mixed-species feeding flocks. Several trails, some of which are somewhat steep and physically demanding, also offer exciting birdwatching. This location is an excellent place to find the impressive Ornate Hawk-Eagle and offers chances for several of the scarcest birds of the middle elevations.
Distance: 2 hours drive time.
This is one of the best places in the world to see the elusive Buffy-crowned Wood-Patridge and Buff-fronted Quail-Dove. These birds, among many other highland specialty species, come to the feeders of this beautiful restaurant located in the Talamanca Mountains. While enjoying a delicious cup of quality coffee (from the region) you can watch the fruit-feeders, which attract species such as Spangle-cheeked Tanager, Prong-billed Barbet, Yellow-thighed Brushfinch and several more. Casa Dowii is not only known for its good birds but also for the great food & coffee served during your visit. This area is a great addition in terms of bird species & experience during your stay at Rancho Naturalista.
Distance: 2 hours 30 minutes drive time.
If you’re at Rancho and really want to see and photograph a Resplendent Quetzal, this is the place you want to go to. This trip must be arranged beforehand with the owners of this small lodge located in the Highlands of the Dota region. Also, possibilities abound for an array of interesting highland species. One of the specialties is the Fiery-throated Hummingbird which can be seen and photographed easily.
Distance: 3 hours drive time.
Cerro Silencio Hike
The hike to the top of Cerro Silencio is a strenuous, intensive excursion in rather unfavorable trail conditions. This is recommended to intrepid birders keen on scoring a variety of regional middle elevation specialties. Birding can be quite spectacular and truly memorable. A host of species possible can be viewed in the Silent Mountain category attached to the Rancho bird checklist. This is certainly a trail best attempted accompanied by someone familiar with the site. This tour is best attempted in the dry season (Jan to late April) when the seemingly seasonal Lovely Cotinga proves most reliable and the pastures and forest trails are decidedly less saturated. Birding can be exceptional all year round with such a diversity of fruiting and flowering seasons meaning there is never a bad birding season on the mountain.
Distance: 30 minutes drive time.