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High above Turrialba, Rancho Naturalista is Costa Rica’s foremost birding lodge is near a private reserve where some 430 birds have been recorded, while its balcony offers views of Turrialba Volcano plus hummingbirds feeding.

The main building has four rooms of varying sizes: two open onto a large communal balcony with nectar feeders, while another has its own private deck. All have a private bathroom and queen or king-size beds, and each is unique. The spacious communal living area has complimentary WiFi. Nearby, in landscaped gardens that attract birds and butterflies, four comfortable cabins contain another 10 rooms. 

With almost perfect weather year round, this a great spot for birdwatchers, naturalists and photographers, and the highlight of many trips to Costa Rica! More than 430 bird species have been recorded in the private forest reserve and surrounding area, and many hummingbirds visit the nectar feeders on the wide balcony that offers distant views of the country’s two tallest volcanoes: Turrialba and Irazú.  You can hike and bird the trails on your own, however excellent birding guides can help you make the most of your time. Specialty birds that may sometimes be seen are: snowcap hummingbird, tawny-chested flycatcher, purplish-backed quail-dove, white-crowned manakin, white-throated flycatcher, dull-mantled antbird, thicket antpitta, black-throated wren, black-crested coquette (another hummingbird), tawny-throated leaftosser, northern schiffornis and grey-headed piprites. 

There are few better places to see Costa Rica’s wildlife. In such a diverse habitat, each quiet walk invariably reveals a fairy-like helicopter damselfly, a column of leaf-cutter ants, a large blue morpho butterfly, or – if you are really lucky – a weasel-like tayra, ocelot or jaguarundi! Marauding swarms of army ants hunt on the forest floor, while grasshoppers, spiders and lizards try to escape them, and antbirds feed on the fleeing creatures. The forest streams are full of frogs – more than 15 species, including the red-eyed stream frog and the crowned frog, have been recorded here! And a night walk may reveal many unusual insects, frogs and salamanders, as well as mammals such as kinkajou, or even armadillo.

The area is also rich in butterflies and moths, and a large percentage of Costa Rica’s estimated 12,000 moths are found here! A moth lamp attracts vast numbers of moths and other insects, sometimes including harlequin beetle, lichen katydid, leaf mantis or Hercules beetle – a highlight for many visitors. From the balcony at different times of day or night you may see coatimundi, basilisk lizard, variegated and red-tailed squirrels, dusky rice rat, Brazilian rabbit, and a variety of bats. The open areas around the lodge and in the forest are home to many interesting reptiles: lizards and anoles are easily seen, while with care you may come across a snake, such as a fer-de-lance, an eyelash viper, or the harmless vine snake and mussurana.

View suggested itinerary

Key info

Wildlife trips

This accommodation is featured in the following itinerary:

Coast to Coast

Travel from coast to coast to understand Costa Rica’s complex mosaic of ecosystems, with the Caribbean and Pacific coastlines offering a great contrast to the interior’s steamy rainforests. This suggested itinerary visits some of the lesser-known parks and includes some relaxation time on the Pacific coast.

  • When to go: Jan-Dec
  • Duration inc. flights: 15 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £3,395 pp
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea