Dr Duncan James > Nature Travel Guide > Planet Earth > the Americas > Costa Rica > West Coast

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Nature Travel Guide

Location 3: West Coast (Costa Rica)

Most information in the images is repeated in the text, except some features of the maps.

Most information in the images is repeated in the text, except some features of the maps.

Mixed habitats with good birdwatching at this backpacking destination.

Play Costa Rica Birdwatching Bingo as you explore.

In Uvita I saw many species of bird on the Uvita Town Walk. At Manuel Antonio I saw 4 sloths.

The west coast of Costa Rica is popular with backpackers and party lovers. The budget accommodation, easy transport and some good open-habitat and forest wildlife watching attracted me to visit. This location runs from sea level up to 500m and has Pacific-side species of birds.

The forest at Manuel Antonio is protected as a national park. In other places, such as at Uvita, walking quiet inland roads can give you views of very similar forest that is often not protected. To the north, and included in the Nicoya location, is Carara National Park with more forest where I have seen a good variety of birds in addition to monkeys and peccaries.

Most information in the images is repeated in the text, except some features of the maps.
I have seen sloths in many different forests in Costa Rica. However, I have had the most luck seeing them at Manuel Antonio National Park and others have reported the same.

Most information in the images is repeated in the text, except some features of the maps.
A Howler Monkey silhouetted against the sky. The dark black colour including dark face identify the species. The Spider Monkey is similar but has a pale outline to the eyes and mouth.


This information is a summary only and times/routes may have changed.

You are probably visiting this site if you are either using this as a stop off while on a driving tour or if you are on a backpacking itinerary. Finding this by car is easy and it is likely to be en-route, for example while travelling between the Osa Peninsula and Parque Nacional Carara. If you are taking a public bus then you are likely to be on the San Jose to Ciudad Neily route. In this case you must be very careful as the route can either go along the coast via Uvita or go further inland via San Isidro. So, make sure you take the correct bus!

Most information in the images is repeated in the text, except some features of the maps.
I photographed these Scarlet Macaws at Palo Verde.


If you are visiting Manuel Antonio there is a lot of accommodation. This includes budget and better-quality options within 500m of the park entrance.

Cascade Verde Hostel http://www.cascadaverde-costarica.com is a short walk from the centre of Uvita up towards the hills. The owners are friendly, it is clean and tidy, well run and is not so much of a party-hostel as others in the area. I found it to be a good base for wildlife watching with some great birds nearby and in their gardens: I even saw a Little Tinamou in a garden of a nearby property.

Uvita is a popular resort, particularly for the beach and partying, so there is plenty of other accommodation. You can search for "Uvita" or "Bahia" (Bahia is the name of the area to the south of the bridge, towards the beach) to find more options.

Most information in the images is repeated in the text, except some features of the maps.
This is a trogon. They often sit completely still high in the trees without being disturbed when someone walks past. This means that if you stop and scan you are more likely to see them. Because of the place it was seen and the overall colours I identified this as a Slaty-tailed Trogon.

Birdwatching the West Coast

The West Coast is in the same geographical area (as far as birds are concerned) as the Osa Peninsula and San Vito. San Vito is specifically chosen for its height and has many unique birds while the Osa Peninsula has rainforest of international importance. So, is it even worth doing another site on the Pacific side? Not necessarily. However, if you are on a longer trip (maybe 4+ weeks) then stopping at Uvita gives some new places to explore and for the keen birdwatcher you might see some species that for some reason were having a bad year at another location you visited.

The West Coast has a lot of towns, villages, agricultural land and other open habitats. I found that while I was birdwatching/walking I repeatedly saw flycatchers, pigeons/doves and other typical open-habitat birds. Additionally, there is forest further inland: I saw some "over-spill" of forest birds into the open habitats.

This is a coastal location and there are plenty of rivers running down to the sea. Also, a lot of the agricultural land has ditches. Conditions vary depending on the time-of-year: during the wet-season (approximately September-December) there can be a lot of wet fields attracting lots of waterbirds. During the rest of the year there is less standing water, however being coastal it is still a good place to see waterbirds.

This article is part of the Nature Travel Guide and was published on June 2017.

Larger-scale information relating this page include the Planet Earth, the Americas and Costa Rica articles.

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.

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