Location 11: Tapanti (Costa Rica)
Forest and fields with birds including higher-elevation species.
Play Wildlife Bingo as you explore.
Along the trail/road before and after the Parque Nacional Tapanti entrance there many good views into the forest. The sections of trail that drop down towards the river have good visibility for birdwatching.
Tapanti is a popular destination for hiking, mountain biking and family picnics. The main habitats are forest, farmland and a large river.
There are barbecue facilities at the national park. You can drive your car into the park but if you are a keen hiker you might walk from the entrance to make for a longer day walk. Tapanti's popularity is boosted because it is close to San Jose. So, although it is known as an excellent place for birdwatching some people are put off by the large number of other tourists.
The trails are generally between 1,200m and 1,400m and I think it is mainly a birdwatching destination. For birdwatchers this location offers Caribbean-side bird species not found at lower elevations and so can be a good addition to a Costa Rica itinerary. To see the specialist height birds I had to go to the far, southern end of the trails in the public area of the park.
- Site 1: Parque Nacional Tapanti Forests, rivers and lots of birds. (GPS coords 09.7576N 83.7802W)
- Site 2: Walks From Kiri Lodge Various walks with excellent birdwatching and some great rural views. (GPS coords 09.7736N 83.7956W)
- Birds Seen in 1 Week at Tapanti (Winter)
On first impression this must either be a Collared Redstart or a Slate-throated Redstart. The yellow face means it must be a Collared Redstart. I often saw both species near each other, so if you are trying to see both have a good look around if you see one of them!
This information is a summary only and times/routes may have changed.
If you are travelling by bus you first need to catch a bus to Cartago. From Cartago buses in the direction of Tapanti are those that go to Orosi and/or Puricil. In 2013 the bus stop in Cartago in the direction of Tapanti was at 9.5144N 83.5507W. I strongly recommend saying you want a bus to Puricil and not particularly mentioning Orosi: you may be told to change buses at Orosi but because Orosi is a popular tourist destination that is known as being part of Tapanti you don't want to mislead someone into thinking that is where you are trying to go. Puricil is 6km from the park entrance and may be a practical distance for you to walk (although remember it can be very hot). Also, a taxi might be possible (perhaps $5-10 in 2013 prices).
If you can only get to Orosi it is a very long walk (maybe 15km) to Tapanti. I did this and because I was staying at Kiri Lodge I did not mind and it was an interesting walk however it is a very long way! Apparently a taxi costs approximately $30 (in 2013 prices) from Orosi to Tapanti if you are thinking of this.
Once you have got to Kiri Lodge (assuming you are staying there) then you can walk to all the recommended sites. Kiri Lodge is fairly isolated but there is plenty of walking to do nearby. If you have a hire car then you can do some extended exploring along the rural roads.
I recommend Kiri Lodge http://www.kirilodge.net which as well as offering excellent service is also a local, sustainable business worth supporting. You can contact them by email at email@example.com or by telephone on (506) 253-2272 or (506) 2200-9287 or (506) 8394-6286. They have cabins which are $20 for single occupancy or $30 for up to 8 sharing (2014 prices). Food is charged separately and very good.
There is other accommodation at Tapanti. For example, if you like camping there is "Finca Los Maestros"; telephone (506) 8854-4059 or (506) 8993-2943.
Birds of Tapanti
- possible birds: 226 species (of which 69 are likely)
- birds possible at this location but not in many other places in Costa Rica: (2 species) Ornate Hawk-Eagle (Spizaetus ornatus), Golden-bellied Flycatcher (Myiodynastes hemichrysus)
- resident birds: 191 (in addition there are 9 passage, 24 winter and 2 summer)
- birds seen on 1 week research trip (winter): 93 species
- birds most often seen on 1 week research trip (winter): (starting with most common) Common Bush-Tanager (Chlorospingus ophthalmicus) 33x3 (m8), Rufous-collared Sparrow (Zonotrichia capensis) 16x3 (m7), Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus) 15x2 (m3), Yellow-faced Grassquit (Tiaris olivaceus) 15x3 (m7), Chestnut-sided Warbler (Dendroica pensylvanica) 14x2 (m2), Clay-colored Robin (Turdus grayi) 13x2 (m5), Slate-throated Redstart (Myioborus miniatus) 11x2 (m2), Spangle-cheeked Tanager (Tangara dowii) 11x2 (m3), Silver-throated Tanager (Tangara icterocephala) 9x2 (m3), Montezuma Oropendola (Gymnostinops montezuma) 9x2 (m3), Tawny-capped Euphonia (Euphonia anneae) 9x2 (m2), Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) 8x8 (m17), Dark Pewee (Contopus lugubris) 7x1 (m1), Social Flycatcher (Myiozetetes similis) 7x2 (m2), Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera) 7x1 (m1), Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus) 6x3 (m4), Ochraceous Wren (Troglodytes ochraceus) 6x2 (m2), Golden-hooded Tanager (Tangara larvata) 6x2 (m2), Purple-throated Mountain-gem (Lampornis calolaema) 5x1 (m1), Spotted Barbtail (Premnoplex brunnescens) 5x1 (m1), Wedge-billed Woodcreeper (Glyphorynchus spirurus) 5x2 (m2), Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans) 5x1 (m1), Brown Jay (Cyanocorax morio) 5x5 (m8), Blue-and-white Swallow (Notiochelidon cyanoleuca) 5x8 (m12)
- average birds seen in 1 day (winter): 47 species
Tapanti is a bit busier than some of the other birdwatching locations in Costa Rica. However, if you are birdwatching in Costa Rica you are trying to get to a range of habitats, elevations and geographical areas. I think Tapanti is a good complimentary choice that adds more variety. For this reason, and because I enjoyed the scenery, I recommend Tapanti.
The open habitats are mainly fields grazed by cattle. Rufous-collared Sparrows and Yellow-faced Grassquits were everywhere! Flycatchers were a common sight and birds of prey were often visible flying overhead (keep an eye open for Ornate Hawk-Eagle which the national park rangers say is seen fairly regularly here).
One of the main sounds in the open pastures is the trill of the Yellow-faced Grassquit. Also, some chirping from Rufous-collared Sparrows and some singing from Clay-coloured Robins.
On the road between Orosi and Kiri Lodge there are open habitats, mainly coffee fields and some small villages. I saw some good birds but found the walking quite tiring and there were stretches where I saw fewer birds. I don't regret walking up and I enjoyed seeing the landscape changing as along the road. However, unless you are a keen walker and have plenty of time you probably want to get straight to Kiri Lodge and start exploring from there.
There is one river flowing through Tapanti. The paths would generally go close to the river only briefly (although some of these were fantastic, scenic spots). When I found a good view of the river I would always watch for a few minutes and often a bird would appear; mainly specialist flycatchers (such as Torrent Tyrannulet) and American Dipper.
In the forest I saw an unbelievable number of Common Bush-Tanager. Because Common Bush-Tanager are often in mixed flocks this means there is a great strategy for birdwatching in the forest. Simply listen for the Common Bush-Tanagers (they make a characteristic chirping sound) and then look around for other birds which are either following or ahead of them.
At Parque Nacional Tapanti the road would often have a drop to one side: in many places this offered a view into the tops of the trees and therefore put some species of birds at eye level. If I thought I heard something (and sometimes even if I didn't) I would regularly stand in such places and watch: I often saw good birds by doing this.
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.