Location 3: West Coast (Costa Rica)
Mixed habitats with good birdwatching at this backpacking destination.
Play Costa Rica Birdwatching Bingo as you explore.
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.
- Site 1: Uvita Town Walk A fantastic walk through a range of habitats with lots of birds to be seen. (GPS coords 09.1723N 83.7393W)
- Site 2: Walk South of Uvita Beach views and some good birdwatching in the area south of Uvita known as Bahia. After crossing the large bridge from Uvita turn right (west) and head towards the beach. I saw birds all along this road. You can then pay the entry fee to Parque Nacional Marino Bellana to walk the beach where I saw a few waterbirds but not in large numbers. (GPS coords 09.1675N 83.7368W)
- Site 3: Walk East of Uvita A walk into the hills above Uvita. Keen walkers might try this early in the morning. (GPS coords 09.1791N 83.7316W)
- Site 4: Manuel Antonio A town with a national park of the same name. I saw four sloths here and lots of monkeys. (GPS coords 09.1791N 83.7316W)
- Birds Seen in 1 Week at Uvita (Winter)
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.
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!
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.
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
- possible birds: 257 species (of which 92 are likely)
- birds possible at this location but not in many other places in Costa Rica: (1 species) Ruddy-breasted Seedeater (Sporophila minuta)
- resident birds: 208 (in addition there are 14 passage, 33 winter and 2 summer)
- birds seen on 1 week research trip (winter): 101 species
- birds most often seen on 1 week research trip (winter): (starting with most common) Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus) 11x2 (m3), Great Kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus) 8x2 (m2), Cherrie's Tanager (Ramphocelus costaricensis) 8x3 (m4), Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) 6x4 (m17), Rufous-tailed Hummingbird (Amazilia tzacatl) 5x1 (m1), Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea) 5x2 (m2), Chestnut-sided Warbler (Dendroica pensylvanica) 4x2 (m2), Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) 3x2 (m3), White Ibis (Eudocimus albus) 3x3 (m6), Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus) 3x10 (m20), Roadside Hawk (Buteo magnirostris) 3x1 (m1), Ruddy Ground-Dove (Columbina talpacoti) 3x4 (m7), Streak-headed Woodcreeper (Lepidocolaptes souleyetii) 3x1 (m1), Tennessee Warbler (Oreothlypis peregrina) 3x1 (m1), Golden-hooded Tanager (Tangara larvata) 3x2 (m2), Green Honeycreeper (Chlorophanes spiza) 3x2 (m2), Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula) 3x2 (m2), Spot-crowned Euphonia (Euphonia imitans) 3x1 (m1)
- average birds seen in 1 day (winter): 45 species
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.
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