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Costa Rica: HUMMINGBIRD Photo Tour

Tour Overview:

Costa Rica is a dream destination for bird photographer’s. It has a series of fantastic, bird-focused lodges and a superb network of protected areas that are often accompanied by excellent bird feeders that attract an exciting list of hummingbird species. The explosion of hummingbird species in the tropics of Costa Rica makes it a very attractive destination for birding photographers with a bent for these amazing, gem-like birds. The entire United States is home to 15 regular occurring species of hummingbirds (not counting vagrants), while Costa Rica boasts a beefy hummingbird list of more than 50 species, several of which are only found there.

 

In order to capture a diverse list of hummingbird species, this tour throws a wide net across Costa Rica, covering both the Caribbean and Pacific lowlands, some sites in the foothills, and also several scenic mountain locales higher up. We have a long list of hummingbird species on offer on this tour, like Snowcap, Black-crested Coquette, Green-fronted Lancebill, White-bellied and Purple-throated Mountain-Gems, Violet Sabrewing, Talamanca and Fiery-throated Hummingbirds, Green Hermit, Magenta-throated Woodstar, and endemic species like Coppery-headed Emerald and Black-bellied Hummingbird too! We will be using multi-flash techniques to allow us to get those perfect, “frozen”, shots of hummingbirds with good backgrounds and sharp unforgettable images to take home with you from what is one of the best birding destinations in the World.

Tour Details:

2025

15 - 24 February

$4990; Single Supplement; $750

Length: 10 Days

Starting City: San José

Ending City: San José

Pace: Relaxed

Physical Difficulty: Easy

Focus: Bird Photography

Group size: 6 + 1 leader

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Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in San Jose

After arrival in the airport serving Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose, you will be transferred to a nearby hotel in the area of Alajuela. There is no photography on this day, and the first group activity will be dinner at 6:30pm on this night, so please try and arrive in time for that. A single night will be spent in Alajuela, close to San Jose airport.

Days 2-3: Hotel Quelitales

On the morning of Day 2 we will make our way east and south to Hotel Quelitales that boasts the longest list of hummingbirds of any birding site in Costa Rica, a remarkable 30+ species! The hotel grounds are home to an impressive, tall waterfall. It is at the base of this fall that one of their most local hummingbirds often perches, the Green-fronted Lancebill. At the nearby Verbena flowers we will be keeping an eye out for an array of visitors to photograph like the endemics Black-bellied Hummingbird and Coppery-headed Emerald. Other regular visitors to the flowers and feeders there include Purple-throated and White-bellied Mountain-Gems, Green Hermit, Green Thorntail, and Stripe-tailed and Scintillant Hummingbirds. While hummingbirds are the clear focus of this tour, one of the rangers has been feeding the shy Scaled Antpitta in recent years, and if it is reliable during our visit, we will photograph that species late one afternoon. Two nights will be spent at the wonderful Hotel Quelitales. While the Hotel we will be staying will undoubtedly be a great place for our hummingbird objectives, we will also make a side trip on one of these.

Days 2-3: Hotel Quelitales

On the morning of Day 2 we will make our way east and south to Hotel Quelitales that boasts the longest list of hummingbirds of any birding site in Costa Rica, a remarkable 30+ species! The hotel grounds are home to an impressive, tall waterfall. It is at the base of this fall that one of their most local hummingbirds often perches, the Green-fronted Lancebill. At the nearby Verbena flowers we will be keeping an eye out for an array of visitors to photograph like the endemics Black-bellied Hummingbird and Coppery-headed Emerald. Other regular visitors to the flowers and feeders there include Purple-throated and White-bellied Mountain-Gems, Green Hermit, Green Thorntail, and Stripe-tailed and Scintillant Hummingbirds. While hummingbirds are the clear focus of this tour, one of the rangers has been feeding the shy Scaled Antpitta in recent years, and if it is reliable during our visit, we will photograph that species late one afternoon. Two nights will be spent at the wonderful Hotel Quelitales. While the Hotel we will be staying will undoubtedly be a great place for our hummingbird objectives, we will also make a side trip on one of these.

 

Day 4: El Copal to Quinta Galeon Lodge

With some reluctance, we will leave Quelitales behind and swap one great birding lodge for another, Quinta Galeon, where we will stay for two nights. However, we will make one very special stop during the morning before we arrive there. We will visit El Copal Reserve in the foothills of the Caribbean slope of the Talamanca Mountains.  This will be specifically to photograph the dramatic Snowcap, which does not visit feeders anywhere, though regularly visits the lilac Verbena blooms around the main building there. Our morning will focus on that before we move up out of the foothills into higher elevation mountains, and Quinta Galeon Lodge.

 

Day 5: Quinta Galeon Lodge

Like Hotel Quelitales before this one, this is an epic hummingbird locale, with 24 species having been photographed on the premises (i.e. nearly half of Costa Rica’s hummingbird species), with 10-15 species typically present each day. In particular, we will be trying to photograph Blue-vented Hummingbird for which this is the only site on the tour. We will also make a special effort to try and find Plain-capped and Long-billed Starthroats, for which this also represents our best chance. Some of the other ones we will be on the lookout for are White-throated Mountain-Gem (3 species of mountain-gem may well feature on this tour), Scintillant Hummingbird, Magenta-throated Woodstar, and Green-crowned Brilliant.

 

Days 6-7: Paraiso Quetzal Lodge

Once again, we will move from one premier bird photography locale to another. Paraiso Quetzal Lodge will being the highest one of the entire tour, located at 8695ft/2650m above sea level, and set within lush montane Oak forest in “Quetzal Country” that is surrounded by the scenic peaks of the high Talamanca Mountains. There are some excellent set ups here to take shots of the fabulous Fiery-throated Hummingbird, Talamanca Hummingbird, Lesser Violetear, and Volcano Hummingbird. Other feeders on site can also produce good opportunities to photograph species like Flame-colored Tanager, Yellow-thighed Brushfinch, and Large-footed Finch. Two nights will be spent at this wonderful cloudforest lodge.

 

Day 8: Paraiso to Alajuela

After some final photography with cloudforest hummingbirds, we will head back west and return to Alajuela for the final two nights of the tour.

 

Day 9: Cinchona

We will make a day trip out to one of Costa Rica’s hidden gems, Cinchona. This unremarkable looking café not only has great local food but also has some great feeders for both hummingbirds and other birds and has therefore become a regular stop for both international and local bird photographers. Among the hummingbird we will be hoping to shoot, will be Violet Sabrewing, White-bellied Mountain-Gem, Coppery-headed Emerald, and Rufous-tailed Hummingbird. Away from hummingbirds the other feeders may hold our attention too, as we try to capture some of their visitors too, which might include Northern Emerald-Toucanet, Red-headed Barbet, Prong-billed Barbet, or Crimson-collared, Silver-throated and Scarlet-rumped Tanagers. At the end of a busy day, we will return to our hotel near San Jose’s international airport for the final night of the tour.

 

Day 10: Departure from San Jose

There is no photography planned for this day and so you are free to leave whenever you wish (you may also leave late at night the previous day too).

Trip Considerations

PACE: Relaxed. There may be some early mornings in order to capitalize on good light and activity, but most days will have several hours of downtime to relax or download photos – this is often in the late afternoon when the light may be poor. The drives on this tour are not especially long, with just one approaching 3 hours and another two of around 2hrs30mins only.

PHYSICAL DIFFICULTY: Easy to moderate. A lot of the time is spent near feeders which are accessed by only short walks. There will be longer walks for opportunistic photography, though many of these may be considered optional if you would prefer to stay near the feeders. Some time is spent in the mountains, with one lodge (Paraiso Quetzal) located at 8695ft/2650m.

CLIMATE: In the lowlands, it is quite humid and temperatures usually vary from about 68°-95°F (20°-35°C). At the higher elevations it is much cooler, with temperatures ranging from about 46°-75°F (8°-24°C). Rain is possible anywhere. While we do not intend to shoot in heavy rain, it is a good idea to bring rain protection for both you and your gear in case we get caught out in an unexpected downpour.

ACCOMMODATION: Good to excellent. All have private, en-suite bathrooms, full-time hot water, and 24h electricity. Wi-fi is also available in all lodges, though often it only works in the public areas and not inside the rooms.

WHEN TO GO: While we often schedule this tour from January to April (which averages drier), it can be run as a custom tour any time of the year. Even during the wetter months, rain typically comes in short, intense downpours, and bird activity can be superb when they finish.

PHOTO PHILOSOPHY: Most of the time will be spent on birds coming to feeders and in areas near the feeders. The rest of the time will be spent targeting birds along roads or short tracks/trails. This tour is all about getting nice photos of birds, and not about seeing large numbers of species. If you are a casual photographer and don’t want to miss seeing the harder forest species, you may enjoy one of our other Costa Rica birding tours more.

Other Information

TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS: A valid passport is required; the passport must be valid for at least six months past your intended stay. Tourist visas are currently not required for citizens of the US, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and all EU countries. Visas are currently only required of nationalities mainly in Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East. Travel requirements are subject to change; if you are unsure, please check with the nearest embassy or consulate, or ask our office staff for help.

 

WHAT’S INCLUDED?: Tips to drivers, local guides, and lodge/restaurant staff; accommodation from the night of day 1 to the night of day 9; meals from dinner on day 1 (unless you arrive too late for dinner service) to breakfast on day 10 (if you have a very early departing flight, you may miss the included breakfast on the last day); safe drinking water during meals (if eating at a restaurant that includes no drinks, reasonable non-alcoholic beverages will be provided for that meal); Tropical Birding tour leader from the evening of day 1 to the evening of day 9; one arrival and one departure airport transfer per person (transfers may be shared with other participants of the same tour if they are on the same flight; if the San José hotel has a free airport shuttle, you will be expected to use it and private transfers will not be provided). Ground transport for the group to all sites in the itinerary from day 2 to day 9 (for smaller groups the guide will drive and, for larger groups there will be a driver); a printed and bound checklist to keep track of your sightings  IF NEEDED(given to you at the start of the tour – only electronic copies can be provided in advance).

 

WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED?: Optional tips to the tour leader; tips for luggage porters if you require their services; flights; airport departure tax; snacks; additional drinks apart from those included; alcoholic beverages; travel insurance; excursions not included in the tour itinerary; extras in hotels such as laundry service, minibar, room service, telephone calls, and personal items; medical fees; other items or services not specifically mentioned as being included.

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