This is one of the more famous birding spots in Panama . Though a working coffee plantation that produces some of the finest coffee in Panama, the Finca Lérida (tel./fax 720-2285, cell 6450-3848, www.fincalerida.com ) contains 650 acres of primary and secondary forest that is home to hundreds of species of birds, as well as howler monkeys, peccaries, deer, and other mammals.
There’s a good chance of seeing resplendent quetzals here January–August. The finca (country house) is up in the hills of Alto Quiel northwest of town, in a setting so picturesquely alpine you may find yourself humming the theme from The Sound of Music. That’s part of the secret of the coffee’s success: It’s grown at elevations of up to 1,600 meters, on the highest plantations in Panama.
Birding tours lead to a part of Lérida above the main estate, along a brutal road that leads through coffee and vegetable plantations that give way to dense, beautiful secondary cloud forest. The road ends at an even more gorgeous grove of primary forest, where you’re likely to encounter quetzals, howler monkeys, and nasty mosquitoes.
Because Finca Lérida is private property and visitors must go with an authorized guide, this entry does not contain directions on how to get to the bird-watching spots at the finca. These are usually arranged through tour guides. Visitors can also book a tour directly through the finca that includes bird-watching, a nature walk, a tour of the coffee facilities, and lunch. Visitors can also hike a five-kilometer trail system (using a trail map) on the finca. The chances of spotting quetzals without a good guide, however, are not great.