Costa Rica bird watching in Arenal or how our hotel hooked us up with a botanical garden and homemade breakfast

Disclaimer:  I am not a “bird watcher”, but one of my good friends is and the Middle Sister is kind of becoming one.  So on our first trip to Costa Rica a bird watching adventure was on the list.

Confession: We didn’t do any research for this trip and booked a bird watching tour through our hotel. Very unlike all of us, but the guide the hotel hired was fantastic!

Our trip started at 5:30am when Jose (our guide) and Tomito (our driver) picked us up from the hotel.  It was dark and raining. Arenal Costa Rica has a wet season and a less wet season.  While we happened to be there in the “less wet season” we also came during a pretty big storm that had knocked over a lot of trees and cut power to some places.  Jose was a little concerned that we might not see as many birds as he hoped because of the heavy rain but he was very positive and led us on a great birding adventure.

This was my first bird watching trip and I didn’t really know how it was supposed to go.  The van stopped in front of a field and Jose was looking out and around.  The sun had not come up yet. On the drive he had told us some birds he thought we would see and asked if we had any birds we were hoping to see.  My friend, Mo of Russia trip and Iceland trip fame, has grown up with a birding Mom and stepdad and is a birder herself. She was able to answer all the birding questions and soon she and the Middle Sister were sitting next each other with their binoculars looking at birds and asking questions.

Bird watching

Bird watching

Bird watching

The first half of the trip was driving in the van looking for birds.  We stopped a lot.  Got out and walked a lot.  And saw a lot of birds.  It also was raining off and on and when it would really start to come down Jose would herd us back to the van.

The second half of our tour was in a botanical garden called the Eco Garden. We didn’t realize it until later but Jose and his family owned the botanical garden. Jose has degrees in biology and toxicology and had started creating this botanical garden about twelve years ago. It only opened to the public five years ago and it continues to grow.  What an amazing place!  Filled with native plants, the garden has become a home to so many creatures.  We even saw a sloth family with a baby.  
EcoGarden sign

People in garden

At the end of our tour Jose’s wife Patricia made us a traditional Costa Rican breakfast and it was cool to ask about the food and how it was prepared.  Bring on the Lizard Sauce!
Four people eat

Below is a video I made on our birdwatching adventure.

I can not recommend Jose highly enough.  He was so knowledgeable and it was a gift to see his garden and to be fed by his wife.  If in this area, please look up EcoGarden Arenal as they have way more than bird watching adventures!

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