Few places in the world can boast so many different bird species in such a small area. However, bird-watching requires some knowledge of where you are going, what you’re looking for, and the best season.
No self-respecting ornithologist would be caught in the field without his copy of A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica by F. Gary Stiles and Alexander Skutch; Birds of the Rainforest: Costa Rica by Carmen Hidalgo; or A Travel and Site Guide to Birds of Costa Rica by Aaron Sekerak.
Even with these in hand, your best bet is to hire a qualified guide or to join a bird-watching tour. Of the dozens of superb freelance guides, I recommend Karla Taylor (tel. 506/8915-2386, www.tortuguerovillage.com/karlastravelexperience ). Another standout is eagle-eyed Pietra Westra (tel. 506/2574-2319, www.aratinga-tours.com ). He leads bird-watching tours in fluent English, Dutch, or Spanish; his website provides an excellent primer on birds.
In Costa Rica, dozens of companies offer bird-watching tours, including Costa Rica Expeditions (tel. 506/2257-0766, www.costaricaexpeditions.com ) and Horizontes (tel. 506/2222-2022, www.horizontes.com ).
In North America, Cheeseman’s Ecology Safaris (tel. 408/741-5330 or 800/527-5330, www.cheesemans.com ); Field Guides (tel. 512/263-7295 or 800/728-4953, www.fieldguides.com ); and Holbrook Travel (tel. 800/451-7111, www.holbrooktravel.com ) offer bird-watching tours to Costa Rica.
In Europe, Journey Latin America (tel. 020/8747-8315, www.journeylatinamerica.co.uk ) offers a 16-day bird-watching tour.