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Capture the remarkable biodiversity of Costa Rica’s cloud forests and rainforests with our expert photographer Chris Mattison, focusing on wildlife and macro photography with subjects ranging from mammals to insects and plants.

The forest floor offers incredible richness for the macro enthusiast, with many smaller species that are wonderfully camouflaged and may look like broken twigs, nibbled leaves or even bird droppings. Finding them usually involves hunting at night along forest trails, an exciting experience at any time, but especially when there is the possibility of a chance encounter with a tarantula, many brightly coloured leaf frogs or even snakes. Rainforests vary in character depending on altitude and topography: moving from one valley to another often results in a whole new selection of species.

Costa Rica is an established wildlife destination, and on this tour we have selected locations and lodges that are high quality, both in standard and in the photographic opportunities they offer.

Typical itinerary

  1. Day 1: Fly to San José and transfer to birding lodge

    We take a daytime flight to San José and then drive northwest for around an hour and a half to a lovely birding lodge set in the montane forest of the Pacific slope. We arrive by late afternoon, in time for dinner and our first night walk in the reserve.

    Accommodation: Bosque de Paz Lodge, 2-nights

  2. Day 2: Bosque de Paz Private Reserve

    We spend the day exploring on foot and photographing the wealth of colourful hummingbirds to be found here, along with mammal species such as agoutis, pacas and a great variety of frogs.

  3. Day 3: Transfer to Boca Tapada de San Carlos

    Today we drive north to the San Carlos River, near the border with Nicaragua, where primary and secondary rainforest in the Maquenque Wildlife Refuge area offer outstanding bird photography.

    Accommodation: Maquenque Ecolodge, 3-nights

  4. Days 4-5 : Boca Tapada de San Carlos

    We have two full days to explore the rainforest and partake in various photography workshops that make use of the hides and set-ups for staged photography in the area, with dedicated gardens for wildlife watching. We also visit nearby Laguna de Lagarto Lodge to use their two photography hides for birds (including vultures), as well as their hummingbird feeders, and staged photography for snake and bat feeding.

  5. Day 6: Continue to the Savegre Valley

    After breakfast we drive south for around five hours to San Gerardo de Dota in the Savegre Valley, beside Los Quetzales National Park. We stay here for three nights to give us plenty of opportunity to photograph the resplendent quetzal. In the afternoon, after checking into the lodge, we head out on a walk in the montane forest.

    Accommodation: Trogon Lodge, 3-nights

  6. Days 7-8 : Savegre Valley & Los Quetzales National Park

    Our time in the area is spent between early morning and afternoon photography sessions targeting the resplendent quetzal and other bird species, along with walks in the montane forest that offer opportunities for more macro photography to capture the local flora, with its colourful alpine and exotic species. 

  7. Day 9: Continue to the Osa Peninsula

    This morning we have a final early session to photograph resplendent quetzal. Then, after breakfast, we drive south for around five hours to our lodge at the edge of Corcovado National Park, the jewel in the crown of Costa Rica’s national park system. With a stop for lunch en route, we should arrive by mid-afternoon. We stay here for two nights and make the most of the proximity to the park to explore and photograph the rainforest.

    Accommodation: Ecoturistico La Tarde, 1-night

  8. Day 10: Rainforest photography

    We spend the whole day and the evening in the field, with fantastic opportunities for macro photography, as we look at frogs, insects, flowers, exotic plants; there is also great birding here, as well as opportunities to photograph mammals.

    In the late afternoon we head to Bosque de Cabo on the tip of the Osa Peninsula, arriving in time for dinner. 

    Accommodation: Bosque del Cabo Lodge, 3-nights

  9. Day 11: Osa Peninsula & Golfo Dulce

    This morning we explore the rainforest adjacent to the lodge and in the afternoon we head out on a dolphin-watching and snorkelling excursion in Golfo Dulce, home to resident and migratory communities of bottlenose, spotted dolphins, spinner dolphins and – occasionally – false killer whales.

    We stop en route at the botanical garden of Casa Orchideas to see its delightful collection of orchids, bromeliads, heliconias, cycads, ornamental and fruit trees, ginger plants, spices, herbs and medicinal plants. While exploring the gardens we may also see tanagers, hummingbirds, toucans, macaws, various frogs and the other life. 

    In the evening we walk in the reserve around the lodge to look for nocturnal species.

  10. Day 12: Osa Peninsula rainforest

    We enjoy a full day exploring the private reserve, with photography workshop sessions. Trails lead us through the forest to deserted beaches on both the Golfo Dulce and Pacific Ocean. The area’s residents include flocks of macaws, toucans and parrots, while monkeys, coatis, kinkajous, agoutis, and sloths are daily visitors.  Peccaries are often seen, and from time to time even jungle cats such as puma, jaguarundi, ocelot and jaguar are spotted at the lodge.

  11. Day 13: Fly to San José and depart

    This morning we transfer to Puerto Jimenez and board a short flight back to San José, where we connect with our international flight home.

  12. Day 14: Arrive UK

Key info

  • Duration and price including flights from/to UK: 14 days from £5,995 pp
  • Duration and price excluding international flights: 13 days from £5,395 pp
  • Single supplement: From £665
  • Group size: 10
  • When to go: Jan-Dec
  • Departures: Please contact us for departure date details.
  • Included in the price/package:
    • Domestic flight Puerto Jimenez to San Jose
    • 12 nights accommodation in lodges
    • All meals
    • All transfers
    • Guided activities as per described in itinerary
    • Some photographic hides and special permits
    • All parks and conservation fees
    • Photography tuition
  • Activities available:
    • Birdwatching
    • Boat trip
    • Nature drive
    • Photography
    • Swimming
    • Walking

Expert leader

Chris Mattison

Photo of Chris Mattison

Chris has an honours degree in zoology from the University of Sheffield and specialises in natural history photography. He is a past Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society and a member of several natural history societies.

Over the years he has made many field trips, independently and as a tour leader, to various parts of the world, including North, Central and South America, the Galapagos Islands, southern and East Africa, South East Asia and Madagascar.  His speciality is reptiles and amphibians but he has a broad interest in all aspects of natural history. He has lectured to audiences in England, Scotland, Wales, Sweden, Finland, Holland and the United States on natural history and nature photography and, since 1982, has written over 20 books and many magazine articles, mainly on reptiles and amphibians.

Featured locations:

Los Quetzales National Park

The most recent addition to Costa Rica's national parks, Los Quetzales extends across three types of rainforest, and 14 different ecosystems. Mostly cloud forest, it protects a crucial habitat for a number of plant and animal species, notably the resplendent quetzal, after which the park was named.

  • Where: Central Pacific
  • Ideal for viewing: resplendent quetzal, collared trogon, fiery-throated hummingbird, sooty robin, black guan
  • Excellent for: Wildlife photography, Wildlife for families, Birdwatching

Corcovado National Park

For a fitting finale to your visit, take the scenic flight to the remote beautiful Osa Peninsula, on the Pacific Coast. It is a natural paradise with a remarkable species count. You can stay at either a rustic lodges or a tented camp on an idyllic beach amidst lush tropical splendour, surrounded by wildlife!

  • Where: Puntarenas Province
  • Ideal for viewing: jaguar, scarlet macaw, tamandua, tapir, ocelot
  • Excellent for: Birdwatching

Osa Peninsula

On the Pacific coast, just north of Panama, the wild and remote Osa Peninsula juts into the ocean, combining with Corcovado and Peñas Blancas National Parks to create the country’s foremost natural highlight. It is home to an astonishing range of wildlife, including giant anteater, tapir, squirrel monkey and jaguar.

  • Where: Southern Pacific coast
  • Ideal for viewing: harpy eagle, scarlet macaw, giant anteater, Baird’s tapir, white-faced capuchin monkey

Maquenque Wildlife Refuge

The wetland of Maquenque Wildlife Refuge is located in the northern lowlands, close to the mouth of the Rio San Carlos. Rich in indigenous plants and animals, it is one of the few remaining nesting sites of the endangered great green macaw, as well as other vulnerable species such as manatee and jaguar.

  • Ideal for viewing: great green macaw, agami heron, roseate spoonbill, green ibis, sunbittern
  • Excellent for: Wildlife photography, Birdwatching
Featured accommodation:

Bosque de Paz Lodge

Set in a private reserve just over an hour’s drive northwest of San José, between Juan Castro Blanco and Poás Volcano national parks, this small lodge is in a jungle paradise, surrounded by magnificent cloud forest and rainforest. Consisting of just 12 rooms, it is the perfect stop en route to Sarapiqui.

Bosque del Cabo Lodge

Exquisitely located at the tip of the Osa Peninsula, this delightful lodge is surrounded by well laid-out gardens on its own 350-hectare reserve. Lying between the Pacific Ocean, Golfo Dulce and pristine rainforest on the edge of Corcovado National Park, there is plenty of wildlife to discover here.

Ecoturístico La Tarde

This rustic, family-run lodge is surrounded by primary rainforest, home to abundant wildlife such as big cats, Costa Rica’s four monkey species, frogs, birdlife and native plants. Accommodation is in safari-style tents and is a good option for anyone interested in exploring the Osa Peninsula’s unique environment.

Maquenque Ecolodge

This characterful, relatively new property (a working cattle ranch) lies in a remote spot across the Rio San Carlos, quite close to the border with Nicaragua. Adjacent to the private Maquenque Wildlife Reserve, its 14 well-appointed rooms offer comfortable accommodation in an extremely peaceful setting and relaxed atmosphere.

Trogon Lodge

This pleasant birding lodge stands on a private reserve of some 40 hectares of farmland, close to Los Quetzales National Park. It sits at an altitude of around 2,300 metres, beside a rushing stream and surrounded by lush gardens with dazzling flowers and hundred-year-old oak trees.