We didn’t want to go on a resort adventure tour so I can’t speak about the various offerings at the resort. We wanted someone who had a lot of experience for a full-time, multi-day birding adventure. I had no idea how to find or choose a guide, but thanks to the reviews on Trip Advisor we found an incredible guide, Carlos Luis Jimenez! He has been birding for many years but he still gets as excited as a first time birder. It was wonderful.
Carlos managed to pack a lot into just a few days and created a better «all inclusive» dream trip than we had at the resort. The reasonable fee included his full-time guide service, lodging, all meals, and he even pre-paid our taxi for the early morning trip to the airport. We loved all of the delicious meals at sodas (family diners) and at Arenal Observatory Lodge, and were touched by the folks at Heliconias Lodge who opened cabins and the kitchen for just our trio.
Carlos did a great job of planning our route to see as many birds as we could in the short time allowed, without rushing around. Before we even met each other while leaving the resort, Carlos had spotted a Ferruginous Pygmy Owl in a tree at the resort’s gate. Whoa! We didn’t just bird the National Parks, which were wonderful, we birded everywhere, often stopping by the side of the road to discover even more new birds. Highlights were the hummingbird hotspot in a cloud forest and a side trip to see beautiful Rio Celeste waterfall. We saw free ranging groups of howler and spider monkeys, three species of snakes, a two-toed sloth, and a family of coatimundi! One evening we went to a new frog reserve where we saw colorful leaf frogs, glass frogs and a basilisk. What a treat!
We aren’t «listers,» birders who spot a new species then quickly move on. We want to stay and enjoy behavior and really see the birds and animals, and that’s what we got: Time to absorb the moment. There are so many memorable moments, from looking across swaths of open fields with thrushes and flycatchers, to seeing Yellow-throated Toucans in the trees across the street from the gas station, to seeing dozens of hummingbirds battling over feeders to the mind-boggling colors of the many stunning tanagers of Costa Rica.
While we spent only four days birding we saw 187 «lifer» species! My recommendation is to spend as little time at the resort as you can and get out there and see the country. In the end, even though we did enjoy the swim-out room at the resort, we regret that we didn’t spend the whole time birding with Carlos Luis Jimenez.