December 2019 Caribbean to Cloud Forest Trip Itinerary
December 4 - 15, 2019 (12 Days)
Day 1 (Dec 4)
We will meet you at the San Jose International Airport (SJO) with private transportation to take you to a nearby hotel away from the hustle and bustle of downtown to rest up after the flight. Once at the hotel, you will be able to relax, unwind, have a drink, have dinner, and get to know your new friends. It turns out that even the big city of San Jose has some pretty good birdwatching if you keep an eye out!
A few of the birds to keep an eye out for: white-winged dove, red-billed pigeon, band-tailed pigeon, crimson-fronted parakeet, rufous-collared sparrow
Day 2 (Dec 5)
After Breakfast, we will pack our bags and head to the Caribbean! Once we arrive at Congo Bongo we will unpack and enjoy a delicious “tipico” local style lunch. Then we can walk a short trail through the jungle to a beautiful Caribbean beach to enjoy postcard views and the warm tropical waters. The eco lodge is set deep in the jungle and is home to a wide range of birds right around the cabins.
A few of the birds to keep an eye out for: rufous-tailed hummingbird, bronze-tailed plumeleteer, white-necked jacobin, purple-crowned fairy, long-billed hermit, common black hawk, red-lored parrot, black-mandibled toucan, keel-billed toucan, collared aracari, cinnamon woodpecker, lots of woodcreepers
Day 3 (Dec 6)
Today we will be joined by a professional local guide from Manzanillo for a fascinating tour of the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge. We will hike from the beach, deep into the primary rainforest, looking for parrots, toucans, trogons, poison frogs, sloths, monkeys and more! Once we emerge from the jungle, we will enjoy a local Caribbean lunch with fresh caught snapper in town before returning to the eco lodge for an afternoon siesta, or a walk on the beach. After dinner we turn on our flashlights for an incredible night hike back into the same jungle we explored in daylight this morning! Night time in the rainforest is a completely different experience. You will have the opportunity to safely explore a whole new world that wakes up when the sun goes to sleep. On this hike you may be able to see nocturnal creatures including frogs, owls, bats, snakes, kinkajous (imagine an animal that is half monkey, half cat, and half teddy bear), and who knows what else!
A few of the birds to keep an eye out for: squirrel cuckoo, blue-headed parrot, gartered trogon, slaty-tailed trogon, chestnut-backed antbird, tawny-crested tanager, bay wren, red-capped manakin, white-colared manakin,
Day 4 (Dec 7)
We get up early for a bird walk along the edge of town. The border between the small town of Manzanillo and the rainforests that surround it are home to a huge number of birds that venture out to look for food in the local gardens. After breakfast we will head up the road for an optional kayak paddle on the Punta Uva River to look for the birds that reside along the banks (if anyone does not want to kayak there is great bird watching along the road to the river as well). Next we enjoy a traditional caribbean lunch, then in the afternoon we will hop back in the vehicles for a short ride over to the ARA Project, which is reintroducing the Great Green Macaw back to the Caribbean lowlands they once inhabited. After an hour of watching Green Macaws flying all around us, we will take a short trip north to Puerto Viejo to experience the Caribbean nightlife, visit local artisans, and have a gourmet dinner at the best restaurant in town!
A few of the birds to keep an eye out for: great green macaw, bat falcon, sunbittern, gray-necked wood-rail, passerini’s tanager, golden-hooded tanager, 6 species of flycatchers, green kingfisher
Day 5 (Dec 8)
Today we head north to Cahuita National Park, where we will follow our knowledgeable local guide through the jungle to the beach to look for falcons, frigatebirds, tiger herons, white-faced monkeys, coatis, sloths and other wildlife. This is our longest hike (5 miles total), and the trail brings us through flooded jungle lowlands and along the Caribbean Sea. At the end of the hike we will find ourselves in the little town of Cahuita, where we will enjoy a delicious lunch and have a chance to peruse the souvenir shops. After a leisurely lunch and walk around town, we return to the eco lodge for a relaxing afternoon (or another jungle walk if you want). Make sure to save time to pack your bags. The next morning we will be leaving the Caribbean to head up river for our next adventure.
A few of the birds to keep an eye out for: bare-throated tiger-heron, boat-billed heron, magnificent frigatebird, northern jacana, collared forest-falcon, ringed kingfisher, amazon kingfisher, black-cheeked woodpecker, fasciated antshrike, laughing falcon
Day 6 (Dec 9)
In the Morning: We will bid a fond farewell to the Caribbean Sea, and venture inland to the indigenous Bribri village of Yorkin. First we will arrive in the small village of Bambu, where we will meet a local Bribri guide who will take us to the village of Yorkin by way of a 30 ft dugout canoe (with an outboard motor - you don’t have to paddle). We will travel up the Sixaola and Yorkin Rivers (the natural border of Costa Rica and Panama), looking for wading birds, toucans, kingfishers, and maybe even a neotropical river otter or two.
In the Afternoon: Upon reaching the village, we will make a short hike up from the River to be greeted by the local villagers. At this time we will have a light snack as lunch is being prepared by the women in the village. After lunch you will have the opportunity take a swim in the pristine Yorkin River and maybe swim into Panama, practice native hunting skills with a bow and arrow, and lounge in a hammock to simply enjoy the peace and tranquility the village has to offer. Before dinner, we will explore a cacao farm, learn how chocolate is made, and even make some for ourselves! The Bribri were among the first humans on the planet to learn how to make chocolate, and they are still the best at it.
At Night: Our accommodations for the night will be a large, open air, multi-level round house with private bathrooms. The buildings in the village are built the same way they were built thousands of years ago. While this is the most rustic accomodation of the trip, we will have access to basic necessities including running water, fresh bed linens, and private bathrooms. Yorkin runs on solar power, so electricity is limited and there is no internet. This will allow you to disconnect from the modern world and truly become immersed in the native culture.This is a once in a lifetime kind of experience!
A few of the birds to keep an eye out for: snowy cotinga, amazon kingfisher, ringed kingfisher, green kingfisher, pearl kite, giant cowbird, variable seedeater
Day 7 (Dec 10)
Start your day by enjoying a fantastic, farm fresh breakfast before we return to the boats for an exhilarating ride back down the river to our vehicles for the drive to Turrialba. We will stop for lunch at a little restaurant on the side of a mountain with an amazing view and abundant birds at several feeders on the porch. Then we will check into a beautiful eco lodge bordering on a fifteen acre wildlife reserve and with a magnificent view of the Turrialba Volcano. In the evening, we will enjoy a three-course meal at the lodge restaurant, have a drink, and reminisce about the adventure so far. The higher elevations are home to a whole new range of birds!
A few of the birds to keep an eye out for: blue-gray tanager, white-collared seedeater, palm tanager, groove-billed ani, long-tailed tyrant, brown jay, black-cheeked woodpecker, collared aracari
Day 8 (Dec 11)
Today we get up early, and after a gourmet cup of coffee we will enjoy a spectacular one-hour nature walk with a local guide from the lodge, through the reserve to the Aquiares River and a beautiful waterfall. The change in elevation also means a completely new variety of birds and wildlife to experience! Watch for barbets, tanagers, warblers and more. We will return to an amazing breakfast, and then we drive back in time to visit the ancient ruins of Guayabo. These are the oldest known ruins in Costa Rica, and much of it still remains buried in the jungle. You will explore these ancient ruins, still shrouded in jungle, experiencing both the remarkable history and the amazing wildlife that now inhabits this ancient city. The excavations of the ruins have created several large clearings in otherwise dense rainforest, and lots of wildlife love the transition zone the archaeologists created. Afterwards, we will head down the mountain and back to the lodge for a much earned rest and a cold drink; or a walk down to swim at the waterfall before a delicious 3 course meal.
A few of the birds to keep an eye out for: montezuma oropendola, green hermit, lineated woodpecker, spotted woodcreeper, black-headed tody-flycatcher, brown jay, white-collared manakin, masked tityra
Day 9 (Dec 12)
Today we go to the Volcano!!! After breakfast we drive up the mountain to see the caldera of the Irazu volcano. Aside from the amazing views, the change in elevation gives us the chance to see a different variety of birds and wildlife as we climb the slope (including several endemic species). We will stop for lunch at a great restaurant not far from the volcano. Next we drive along the Pan American Highway up the Talamanca Mountains to the Savegre Valley, home to the little mountain town of San Gerardo de Dota. We will stay in a gorgeous eco lodge, set in a beautiful garden that is home to a remarkable variety of birds found nowhere else on Earth! An incredible number of species found in the valley are endemic to these highlands.
A few of the birds to keep an eye out for: volcano junco, volcano hummingbird, sooty thrush, common chlorospingus, band-tailed pigeon, scintillant hummingbird, large-footed finch
Day 10 (Dec 13)
We are getting up early this morning, really early (but there will be gourmet coffee, don’t worry), to find one of the most beautiful birds in North America - the Resplendent Quetzal. These remarkable birds are generally hard to find but the Savegre Valley is home to a sizable resident population of these rare birds. Our local birding guide knows the secret spots to find the quetzal, as well as many other stunning birds! After an amazing morning of bird watching we will drive up the valley to Miriam’s Restaurant, which makes the best Rainbow Trout you’ll ever have, and they have a world famous bird feeder in the back. Next we return to the lodge where you can enjoy the spa, have a drink at the lounge, or go for a walk through the beautiful gardens and along the Savegre River. The Lodge is also home to the Batsu Garden - a photographers dream - a beautiful garden designed to attract a wide range of birds and with an array of bird feeders so we can see these colorful creatures up close. When you tire of hummingbirds zooming all around you and tropical parakeets and tanagers perching on nearby branches, we will return to the lodge to relax and enjoy drinks and good company around the fire.
A few of the birds to keep an eye out for: resplendent quetzal, golden-browed chlorophonia, sulphur-winged parakeet, white-throated mountain-gem, magnificent hummingbird, acorn woodpecker, red-headed barbet, townsend’s warbler, collared redstart, silver-throated tanager, sooty-capped chlorospingus, wilson's warbler
Day 11 (Dec 14)
We are going to get high this morning… really high. The mountain above the Savegre Valley is called Cerro de la Muerte (Mountain of Death) because of how difficult it was to cross before roads and cars (no one dies here anymore). We will drive up the mountain, above the timberline, and enter the Paramo - where it is so high that not even trees can grow. At the top we will be on the third highest peak in Costa Rica. On a clear day you can enjoy a view that stretches across most of Costa Rica, from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean. The Paramo is home to birds found nowhere else on the planet. Next we will drive a little farther down the road to a little roadside service station that has an incredible number of hummingbirds that come to feeders set up right in front of your table. It is a great spot for a hot cup of coffee or hot cocoa to warm up. We will go back to Mirriam’s for lunch (because you will really want that trout again), then we head back down the valley to relax or enjoy a walk along the Savegre River to a waterfall before dinner at the lodge.
A few of the birds to keep an eye out for: fiery-throated hummingbird, volcano junco, peg-billed finch, slaty flowerpiercer, melodious blackbird, yellow-bellied siskin, timberline wren
Day 12 (Dec 15)
All good things must come to an end. However today we will not say “Goodbye,” we will say, “Until next time and Pura Vida!”
Today our journey takes us down the mountain, back to San Jose, where we will catch our flights and depart this beautiful country. With us we will take lifelong memories, friendships, and a much longer life list... made on an adventure like no other.
Note: Each day has a morning excursion to look for birds and wildlife. After lunch everyone will be free to either relax or go back out looking for birds in the afternoon. We are always ready to get up really early for a pre-breakfast bird walk or an impromptu night hike if anyone wants to get some extra exploring in. In addition, if anyone wants to go out in the afternoon to look for birds we can set up awesome additional hikes and excursions.