Location 2: San Vito (Costa Rica)
Forest and coffee plantations with colourful birds.
While you explore, find out Who Lives Here?
My favourite place is definitely Wilson Botanical Gardens thanks to the trails through the forest. Day visitors get limited access to the forest.
San Vito is a popular birdwatching destination http://www.sanvitobirdclub.org because it offers easy access to middle-elevation (800-1,200m), Pacific-side, southern-distributed bird species in Costa Rica.
- Site 1: Wilson Botanical Gardens A famous destination for birdwatching. A wide range of birds of forest and other habitats. (GPS coords 08.7854N 82.9581W)
- Site 2: Walk From Rigohouse Rigohouse is one of my favourite budget hostels in Costa Rica. This site describes a walk in the local area with excellent birdwatching. (GPS coords 08.8140N 82.9422W)
- Site 3: Hector's House A friendly family welcome you to visit the lake and marshes near their house. (GPS coords 08.8254N 82.9504W)
- Site 4: Finca Cantaros Gardens with a wide variety of habitats including flowers, forest, wetland and views over farmland. A good list of birds can be seen on a half-day visit. (GPS coords 08.8103N 82.9608W)
- Birds Seen in 1 Week at San Vito (Winter)
Transparent sections in the wing are formed by the scales falling off immediately after the butterfly has pupated. I don't know which species this is because there are so many I decided to just enjoy watching them and not try to identify them.
This information is a summary only and times/routes may have changed.
To travel to San Vito from San Jose you might catch a direct bus. If coming from other places you might aim for Ciudad Niely and then catch a one of the regular buses from there to San Vito.
If you are coming from Osa (which I suggest in some of my recommended itineraries) you could travel via Golfito. From Golfito I caught a "Colectivo" (which was actually a row of taxis filling up with four or five passengers at a time) from the pier to Ciudad Niely: the taxi driver was typically helpful, taking me all the way to the correct bus station at Ciudad. From Ciudad Niely I caught the bus to San Vito.
If you come by hire car (and you are a birdwatcher) you might try birdwatching some locations on the way, perhaps driving through the mountains via San Isidro.
The San Vito area I have described is fairly small and you could take taxis quite a bit and it would not cost too much ($10 in 2017 from San Vito to Las Cruces). There are also regular buses but if you are on a short holiday paying for a taxi can be a way to make much more efficient use of your time.
Wilson Botanical Gardens (site 1) is the best place I have found in Costa Rica for seeing agouti.
Variegated Squirrel has distinctive, silvery hairs in its tail.
Rigohouse http://www.rigohouse.com (approximately $20 a night in 2013) is run by a man called Rigo! And it is a house! There are other, cheaper, accommodations in San Vito. However, at Rigohouse you can sit on the balcony and watch an incredible number of birds feeding on the bananas that hang in the tree and feeding in the garden nearby. It is possible to bird the area around Rigohouse without paying any entry fees (see site 2 for more information). The accommodation is very basic and there are some issues including a poorly-equipped kitchen, feeling slightly cramped if it is busy, no secure storage for valuables and a lack of privacy as it is essentially dorm accommodation with only curtains or flimsy curtains separating sleeping areas. However Rigo is helpful, the birdwatching is great and I recommend it if you are on a budget and used to roughing it a bit. Find out more by phone on (506) 8701 9751 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternatively you could stay at Wilson Memorial Gardens http://www.ots.ac.cr/lascruces which is my favourite place to stay in San Vito if price is not important. If you are considering travelling during the wet season (approximately November) then you may be able to get a discounted price.
There is also plenty of other accommodation in San Vito (which is generally cheaper) and on the San Vito to Ciudad Neily road (generally more expensive but nearer Wilson Memorial Gardens and may have onsite/local walks with good birds as well).
This is a hummingbird. The small size, metallic colour and general shape are characteristic. This is a Purple-crowned Fairy which (unlike many other hummingbirds) shows areas of clear white plumage and not dirty-grey plumage.
Birds of San Vito
- possible birds: 243 species (of which 84 are likely)
- birds possible at this location but not in many other places in Costa Rica: (13 species) Scaled Pigeon (Patagioenas speciosa), Brown-throated Parakeet (Aratinga pertinax), Blue-headed Parrot (Pionus menstruus), Garden Emerald (Chlorostilbon assimilis), Snowy-bellied Hummingbird (Saucerottia edward), White-tailed Emerald (Elvira chionura), Ruddy Foliage-gleaner (Automolus rubiginosus), Lance-tailed Manakin (Chiroxiphia lanceolata), Black-chested Jay (Cyanocorax affinis), Masked Yellowthroat (Geothlypis aequinoctialis), Rosy Thrush-Tanager (Rhodinocichla rosea), Streaked Saltator (Saltator striatipectus), Crested Oropendola (Psarocolius decumanus)
- resident birds: 198 (in addition there are 13 passage, 30 winter and 2 summer)
- birds seen on 1 week research trip (winter): 135 species
- birds most often seen on 1 week research trip (winter): (starting with most common) Clay-colored Robin (Turdus grayi) 11x2 (m4), Chestnut-sided Warbler (Dendroica pensylvanica) 11x2 (m2), Cherrie's Tanager (Ramphocelus costaricensis) 11x2 (m3), Rufous-tailed Hummingbird (Amazilia tzacatl) 9x2 (m2), Variable Seedeater (Sporophila americana) 8x2 (m2), Blue-crowned Motmot (Momotus momota) 7x2 (m3), Social Flycatcher (Myiozetetes similis) 7x1 (m1), Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus) 7x2 (m2), Mourning Warbler (Oporornis philadelphia) 7x2 (m2), Blue-gray Tanager (Thraupis episcopus) 7x2 (m2), Buff-throated Saltator (Saltator maximus) 7x2 (m2), Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus) 6x5 (m12), Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) 6x2 (m2), Red-crowned Woodpecker (Melanerpes rubricapillus) 6x2 (m2), Tennessee Warbler (Oreothlypis peregrina) 6x2 (m2), Yellow Warbler (Dendroica petechia) 6x1 (m1), Golden-hooded Tanager (Tangara larvata) 6x2 (m3), Lesser Goldfinch (Carduelis psaltria) 6x2 (m2), Ruddy Ground-Dove (Columbina talpacoti) 5x2 (m2), Great Kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus) 5x2 (m2), Rufous-breasted Wren (Thryothorus rutilus) 5x1 (m1), Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta varia) 5x1 (m1), Bananaquit (Coereba flaveola) 5x2 (m2), Silver-throated Tanager (Tangara icterocephala) 5x2 (m3), Yellow-faced Grassquit (Tiaris olivaceus) 5x1 (m1), Great-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus) 5x4 (m7)
- average birds seen in 1 day (winter): 32 species
San Vito is positioned on the Pacific-side. It is very close to Panama so ideally located for bird species with a limited, southerly distribution. The elevation of approximately 1,000m is home to a lot of speciality birds on the Pacific-side so, for this reason as well, San Vito is an important place for getting a good "Costa Rica bird list".
The main habitats are coffee plantations, farmland and forest edge. I found the lack of forest made birdwatching in San Vito generally easier compared to a lot of the other locations in Costa Rica. I recommend that if it is likely to be a hot/sunny that you try to birdwatch early as I found the birds to be easier to see (and the temperatures more tolerable) compared to the middle of the day. On a cooler day with more cloud-cover this is less important. Wilson Memorial Gardens also offers forest habitat which adds more species variety and gives a way to escape the heat of the day.
In general, I was seeing a lot of flycatchers, tanagers, saltators, sparrows, wrens, orioles and other active feeders. Along many of the roads were extended hedgerows: these could be more difficult to birdwatch as birds often stayed hidden as they moved along. Even at a relatively high elevation, San Vito still has large numbers of birds to see.
One of the most difficult-to-identify groups of birds in Costa Rica is the flycatchers. I find San Vito better than most for giving prolonged views of flycatchers and my first stay definitely helped me to develop my identification of this group.
This article is part of the Nature Travel Guide and was published on June 2017.
Even more articles including detailed site descriptions, illustrated wildlife-watching activities, self-guided walks, itinerary recommendations, birdwatching overviews and mammal-watching overviews are available in the premium eBooks.