10 best places for bird watching in Costa Rica (2024)

Did you know that Costa Rica has over 900 bird species?

This makes it a top birding destination if you’re into spotting everything from tiny hummingbirds to majestic toucans.

In this post, I’ll give you an overview of the 10 best places for bird watching in Costa Rica, tell you which birds to look for, and share which ones I saw during a recent visit.

Let’s dive in!

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Birds in Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, you can expect to see a variety of birds including the iconic Resplendent Quetzal, the Scarlet Macaw, various toucans, hummingbirds, and the national bird, the Clay-colored Thrush.

You might also spot the Keel-billed Toucan, various tanagers, and birds of prey like the Ornate Hawk-Eagle.

Read next: What is the national bird of Costa Rica (and why?)

How to plan a birding trip in Costa Rica

When planning a birding trip to Costa Rica, consider staying at lodges close to nature reserves for the best access to birding spots.

Hiring local guides can greatly enhance the experience, as they know where to find elusive species. That’s what we did, and we wouldn’t have found the unique birds on our own!

Aim for the dry season, and include places like Monteverde and Carara National Park in your itinerary for a diverse birding adventure.

Read next: 10 best bird watching tours in Costa Rica

Where to go bird watching in Costa Rica

1. Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is a go-to spot for bird enthusiasts. With a whopping 400+ bird species, it’s a birding haven.

People flock here for quetzals and toucans.

But, the forest is dense, so spotting them can be a challenge. That’s where local guides come in handy, making it an excellent destination for birding adventures.

Book a tour – Monteverde Cloud Forest Tour

Monteverde Cloud Forest

2. Tortuguero National Park

Tortuguero National Park is a top birding spot in Costa Rica.

You’ll find herons, kingfishers, and more among its many bird species. There are around 400 to keep an eye out for.

It’s a place where the canals and rainforests team up for fantastic bird watching, and that’s the real deal.

Book here – Canoe experience exploring Tortuguero National Park

bird watching in Costa Rica - kingfishers

3. Corcovado National Park

If you want to see harpy eagles and scarlet macaws, Corcovado National Park is the place to go.

Over 500 bird species call this place home. It’s remote and pristine, perfect for bird watchers looking for the real deal.

Book a tour – Corcovado Los Planes Birding Tour

Wildlife in Central America

4. La Selva Biological Station

La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica boasts over half of the country’s species.

It’s renowned for sightings of exotic birds like the Green-crowned Brilliant and the Sicklebill Hummingbird.

You’ll find a ton of tanagers, flycatchers, and other unique birds in this dense rainforest.

Wildlife in Central America

5. Arenal Volcano National Park

Arenal Volcano National Park is a birding gem with around 400 species.

You can spot the Yellow-eared Toucanet there, which is a pretty big deal since it’s usually found in limited areas.

Also, keep an eye out for colorful tanagers and parrots.

Book a guide – Bird Watching Near the Arenal Volcano

bird watching in Costa Rica - Yellow-eared Toucanet

6. Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park is home to over 270 species.

You can see flashy flyers like the Fiery-billed Aracari and the elusive Golden-naped Woodpecker.

It’s a small park, but it’s packed with bird-watching action.

Book a tour – Private Bird Watching Esquipulas Manuel Antonio

bird watching in Costa Rica - Fiery-billed Aracari

7. Palo Verde National Park

In Palo Verde National Park, you’ll find nearly 300 bird species, including the Jabiru Stork and Roseate Spoonbill.

It’s one of Central America’s most important sites for migratory birds, so you can expect a rich birding experience in its wetlands.

Take a wildlife tour – Palo Verde Boat Safari (1/2 day)

bird watching in Costa Rica - Roseate Spoonbill

8. La Fortuna Wildlife Refuge

La Fortuna Wildlife Refuge in Costa Rica is a solid spot for bird watchers.

It’s known for keel-billed toucans and motmots, among other species.

With around 300 bird species in residence, it offers a no-frills birding experience in a serene setting, making it a straightforward choice for bird enthusiasts.

bird watching in Costa Rica - keel-billed toucans

9. Carara National Park

Carara National Park is a birding hotspot, with over 400 species.

You’re likely to see the Scarlet Macaw or the Black-hooded Antshrike there.

It’s a transitional zone, so it’s got a unique mix of dry and rainforest birds, making it a top pick for variety.

Read next: 12 best places to see wildlife in Costa Rica

bird watching in Costa Rica - Black-hooded Antshrike

10. Curi-Cancha Wildlife Reserve

Curi-Cancha Reserve is a chill spot for birding in Monteverde with about 200 species.

You can catch the Resplendent Quetzal there, which is a real treat.

It’s less crowded than other places, so you’ve got a good shot at seeing some unique birds without a bunch of people around.

Book a tour with Esteban – Curi cancha birding Tour

Monteverde Cloud Forest

FAQ – Bird watching in Costa Rica

What are the best months for bird watching in Costa Rica?

The best months for bird watching in Costa Rica are during the dry season, from December to April.

Read next: The best and worst time to visit Costa Rica

Where is the best place in Costa Rica for birds?

The best place for bird watching in Costa Rica can vary depending on what you’re looking to see, but Monteverde Cloud Forest is often cited as a top destination for its biodiversity and opportunities to see rare and colorful birds like the Resplendent Quetzal.

What is the most common bird in Costa Rica?

The most common bird in Costa Rica is the Clay-colored Thrush, known locally as the Yigüirro.

It’s so prevalent and significant to the culture that it’s been designated the national bird of Costa Rica.

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