Birding in Our Area

Local birding guides.

There are many companies specializing in birding tours in Costa Rica, including some Costa Rica-based companies we’ve mentioned on our General Traveler Info page. But if you are looking for a good birding guide while visiting our area, we have several recommendations.

  • OTS’s Las Cruces Biological Station/Wilson Botanical Garden has naturalists that can guide  you on their grounds and forests. Contact them for more information.
  • Casa Botania’s Pepe Castiblanco is an experienced bi-lingual birding and nature guide who knows our area–and other parts of Costa Rica–very well. Contact Casa Botania for more information.
  • The San Vito Bird Club conducts regular bird walks on Sundays and occasionally on other days led by one of our expert birders, so consult our home page’s Latest Announcements for such walks.

Local Birding Sites

Costa Rica is known for its many diverse habitats and the southern region is no exception to this. Within a 90-minute drive of San Vito, one can find secondary and primary growth forests, sea-level grasslands, pre-montane cloud forests, and marshy wetlands. Below you will find brief descriptions of five local birding hotspots that are easily accessed from San Vito and some of the principal species you can expect to find at each one. More complete lists are available on our Bird Lists page.

For your convenience, we have divided these sites according to whether we recommend going with a guide or on your own. The SVBC periodically visits all these sites on day trips so you can always contact us if you are planning to visit!

Sites you can comfortably visit on your own.

OTS’s Las Cruces Biological Station/Wilson Botanical Garden:
About 10 min. from San Vito on the road to Ciudad Neilly.
More info

Finca Cantaros, Private Nature Reserve:
In Linda Vista, about 5 min. from San Vito, halfway to Las Cruces Biological Station.
More info

La Gamba Road:
South of San Vito and west of Ciudad Neilly.
More info

Rio Negro:
Between San Vito and the neighboring town of Sabalito.
More info

Sites where a guide is recommended.

San Joaquin Wetlands:
near the airstrip outside of San Vito on the road to Sabalito.
More info

Yellow-throated Toucan (Photo: Harry Hull)

View from Canopy Tower, Las Cruces/WBG

Canopy Tower view, Las Cruces/WBG (Photo: Harry Hull)

OTS’s Las Cruces Biological Station/Wilson Botanical Garden is a well-known natural history travel destination with a bird list of more than 400 species. A guided walk is included in the cost of accommodations and if you wish to focus exclusively on birds that can be arranged. The open area known as the Robert and Catherine Wilson Botanical Garden has many birds that are not found in the adjacent Rio Java Forest Trail and vice versa, so this site is best served with a visit of at least two nights. A Canopy Tower is easily accessed in the forest and provides an eagle-eye view of the surrounding countryside as well as soaring raptors and speeding swifts. For more information about Las Cruces, visit its OTS website; for its official bird list, click here.

Finca Cántaros from high point

Finca Cántaros (Photo: Harry Hull)

Finca Cántaros, just down the road toward San Vito from OTS/Las Cruces, is one of the area’s most beautiful nature reserves with garden habitat, secondary forest and a large lake. It is also has interesting archeological artefacts, and private tours can be arranged. The bird list is extensive, and the owners are enthusiastic nature lovers who maintain the best gift shop in the entire region, filled with attractive hand-made, native crafts. For more information about Finca Cántaros, visit its website; for its bird list, click here.

Countryside near Rio Negro

Countryside,Rio Negro (Photo: Harry Hull)

Rio Negro is a secondary growth forest patch with a wide,flat trail that is a short drive from Sabalito, the next-largest town east of San Vito. This is one of a very few sites in the country where Lance-tailed Manakin is reliably found in January-March. Additionally, we often come upon foraging flocks that include Bi-colored Antbird, Red-crowned Ant-Tanager, Plain Antvireo and more. The trail head is adjacent to an old wooden house. Park to the left-hand side of the house and follow your nose. It is a one-way-in and same-way-out trail that is easy to navigate. For a more complete list of species this site is noted for, click here.

Forest edge along La Gamba road

Forest edge, La Gamba road (Photo: Harry Hull)

La Gamba Road is south of San Vito and west of Cuidad Neilly. It features an open grassland habitat at sea level with many species not found in San Vito like the Red-rumped Woodpecker, Rusty Margined Flycatcher, Red-breasted Blackbird, Veraguan Mango and more. It heats up during the day so we recommend getting an early start. At the end of this road is the well-known Las Esquinas Rainforest Lodge where you can find Black-cheeked Ant-Tanager in the adjacent forest. Or you can take a left-hand turn and drive to Golfito where shorebirds, terns, gulls, frigatebirds and herons can easily be found. For a more complete list of species this site is noted for, click here.

San Joaquin Wetlands. Photo: Harry Hull

San Joaquin Wetlands. Photo: Harry Hull

The San Joaquin Wetlands are near the airstrip just outside of San Vito.  A Spanish-speaking guide might be helpful; also a birding scope. Access to this unusual habitat has been restricted recently to a very small area next a house. It is well known among birders for Chiriqui Yellowthroat, Masked Duck, Ruddy-breasted Seedeater and more. We recommend visiting Finca Cantaros for better access to wetland species (see note above). For a more complete list of species observed at San Joaquin, click here.