Looking for bird-spotting heaven? With more than 900 avian species, Costa Rica is one of the best places on earth for an eyeful of tropical-feathered splendor. From toucans to hummingbirds, rainbow-bright parrots and stoic herons, this Central American destination has phenomenal diversity for its small size. Ready to fly? Grab your binoculars – here are the top wildlife lodges in Costa Rica, all bookable with Culture Trip.
The country’s Central Pacific region is a lush wonderland. Book yourself into one of the eight guest rooms at the Macaw Lodge and you’ll feel right in the atmospheric heart of it. After a big, filling breakfast – and possibly a little yoga – the rest of the day is yours to spend pushing through the fecund tropical forest. Keep binox at the ready to home in on Scarlet Macaws and Amazon Kingfishers. Back at the ranch you’ll find a sustainable farm, which produces their own organic chocolate.
Ecology-minded bird-watchers flock to this sustainably certified ecolodge – for rare and magical sightings of the the migrating species that make the area their home every winter season. Right on the edge of the Caño Negro Wildlife Preserve, the Natural Lodge Caño Negro has plenty to keep its privileged guests occupied – most popular are the boat tours into the wetlands for perfect photo-opportunities. If indolence is more you, the on-site restaurant and poolside bar make recuperating easy after a day out.
What a setting, here on Costa Rica’s south coast: the sparkling blue Pacific Ocean on one side and the rainforest-cloaked mountains of the Marino Ballena National Park on the other. As the name suggests, the four-star Cristal Ballena is all about indulgence, with its Spa Cristal delivering blissful scrubs and massages. One of the most majestic hotels in Costa Rica, it can lay claim to its own jungle trails, where 200 bird species have been recorded in their hundreds, and guests can head out and about by themselves..
It’s obvious why it’s so often referred to as the “Little Amazon” – Costa Rica’s Tortuguero National Park is a verdant coastal tapestry of rich forest ecosystems and winding canals. At Aninga Lodge, where 33 roomy bungalows stand among palms, you can do as much or as little as you fancy: laze beside the Instagram-worthy, turtle-shaped pool, have a meditative massage in the spa, watch turtles crawl up the beach or take a canopy line tour into the wilderness – the lodge is inside the park itself. Besides an aviary of tropical bird species, the forest canopy is also home to monkeys, their cries ringing out.
Nature photographers love this brightly painted, boutique ecohotel. Not only is it easily accessible by public bus from the capital, San Jose, it’s plunged in rainforest and – this close to the vast Carara National Park – is a peaceful getaway for nature lovers. Bird-watching tours into the park are the main reason for being here, to spot at least some of the 350 different species. But you could always idle over a long pasta lunch with red wine then take to the cute pool. You’re bound to sight a few toucans in the jungly gardens.
The deep jungle of Piedras Blancas National Park, in southern Costa Rica, feels reassuringly isolated and unspoiled – which makes it a hotspot for bird-watching. And the Esquinas Rainforest Lodge, with its nine snug country cabins, makes a great base. Even if you don’t move beyond your porch, you’ll see hummingbirds, parrots and toucans flitting between the trees. Do try one of the daily early-morning bird-watching tours – or wander along the hotel’s own Bird Trail. True self-respecting wildlife lovers might like to book into the Jungle Villa, a two-bedroom house in the thick of the glorious rainforest itself.
A historic hacienda built by a former president of Costa Rica, the Hotel La Pacifica is located in the dry forest of the country’s Pacific coast, home to hundreds of bird species. Close to international airports in Liberia and San Jose, it’s also one of the most accessible birding lodges in Costa Rica, suitable for all budgets – choose between standard rooms and a stand-alone villa in the garden.
Surrounded by its own 10-acre botanical gardens, the Hotel Bougainvillea provides tons of bird watching opportunities for its guests right on site. The “bobo” bird is frequently found here, and the garden’s extensive flower plots attract a large number of hummingbirds. Conveniently placed in the capital of San Jose, this is a great place for bird watchers to stay when entering or leaving the country.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest is a world-renowned bird-watching hotspot, hidden away in the mountainous center of Costa Rica. At the Hotel Montaña Monteverde, guests can take guided bilingual tours of this epic natural treasure, and explore the hotel’s own 15-acre, on-site forest reserve on their own. The eco-adventure lodge also lays on zip line and tram tours through the cloud forest canopy – a nice and easy way to get your nature fix.
If you’re wowed by Costa Rica’s natural splendor during your stay, then make sure you explore the country’s hidden cloud forests. Outside of woodland, there are also plenty more hidden gems that make the country a must-visit. You can book plenty of stays there now via Culture Trip, including the best villas and best holiday apartments. Become a true local by trying the unique, delectable desserts Costa Rica has to offer.
This is an updated rewrite of an article originally by Jenn Parker.
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