Rancho Naturalista is among the most famous Costa Rica birding lodges and one of the finest of Central America. Over 430 species of birds have already been recorded on the Rancho Naturalista grounds and its direct surroundings. Very active fruit feeders and sugar feeders, a good trail system going to various types of habitat, great nearby local birding sites and the availability of experienced specialized birding guides combined with an exellent service and great food makes Rancho Naturalista the ideal place for birdwatching in Costa Rica and a wonderfull gateway for hikers, photographers and naturalists
Rancho Naturalista is located about 65 km east of San José, a pleasant 2 to 2,5 hour drive along paved roads through some rural parts of the country passing by coffee and sugarcane plantations. The lodge is pleasantly located around 900 masl, the perfect altitude to escape from the tropical heat of the lowlands.
Rancho Naturalista is a small lodge family owned and operated, mostly catering to birdwatchers, naturalists and photographers and offers 15 comfortable rooms. 4 are located in the main building and have direct acces to the famous birding balcony. There are 11 private casitas with their own veranda with mountain and garden views. The main building is made in traditional colonial style and includes a comfortable sitting area with free wireless WIFI and a cozy indoor and outdoor dining area. From the world famous birding balcony already more than 250 birdspecies have been recorded…Very active fruitfeeders attract colourfull birds like tanagers and woodpeckers, while around the many sugarfeeders a dozen of hummingbird species can be expected. An extensive trail system gives acces to secundary and primary forest where some of the more typical forest birds an be appreciated.
• Birding and wildlife attractions:
Anyone with a serious interest for birdwatching in Costa Rica should consider spending a few days in Rancho Naturalista. The best way to start your day birding is from the birding balcony: cup of fresh Costarican coffee in one hand, binoculars in the other…The birding balcony offers easy birding with many colourfull birds coming to the fruitfeeders like Passerini’s Tanager, Golden-hooded Tanagers, Bllue-gray Tanagers, White-lined Tanagers, Black-cheeked Woodpeckers, Orange-billed Sparrows, Gray-headed Chachalacas, Montezuma Oropendola’s and Collared Aracari’s being the most common ones. Ocasionally Crimson-collared Tanagers and Scarlet-rumped Caciques might join in. Sightings of keel-billed Toucans, White-crowned and Brown-hooded Parrot are common in the nearby trees. The hummingbirdfeeders around the main building are usually busy with Green Thorntails, White-necked Jacobins, Green-breasted Mango’s, Green-crowned Brilliants and Rufous-tailed Hummingbird. Besides that some of the most spectacular hummingbirds of the country like Snowcap and Black-crested Coquette can be seen near the verbena flowers planted in the garden. Hummingbirdfeeders placed in the forest attrct even more species and are usually the best place to watch the Snowcap and can also produce Brown Violetear and Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer. Highly recommanded is a visit to the hummingbird bathing pools in a nearby creek a short walk away from the lodge. Comfortable sitting benches are placed here to enjoy the view of several hummingbirdspecies hovering over the water and dipping in several times in order to wash of the sticky sugar water and nectar. Species include Snowcap, Violet-crowned Woodnymph and the occasional Green-crowned Brilliant. Besides hummingbirds also other birdspecies might be seen using the pools like Dull-mantled Antbirds, White-throated Spadebill, Black-headed Nightingale-thrush and almost on any day at 5:30 pm a Twany-throated Leaftosser joins in. The Rancho Naturalista forest trails gives acces to great birding habitat and can produce some interesting middle elevation species with mixed flocks with possibilities for Rufous Motmot, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Spotted Barbtails, Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Spotted Woodcreeper, Russet Antshrike, Plain Antvireo, White-breasted Wood-wren, Olive Tanager and Red-throated Ant-tanager. The availability of experienced specialized birding guides in Rancho Naturalista is an extra feature that will help to get the most out of your birding. They are very familiar with the local avifauna and might know a stake out for nocturnal birds like Mottled of Crested Owl and will help you with the local specialities including some birds of Costa Rica that are very hard to see anywhere else like the Purpllish-backed Quail-dove (sometimes seen walking around on the forest floor), the rare and very local Tawny-chested Flycatcher and the White-crowned Manakins.
Rancho Naturalista also serves as a base for exploring some great nearby birding areas offering even more species:
• The valley around the Tuis River is a good place to look for Sunbittern, Rufous-browed Tyrannulet and the mythical Lanceolated Monklet and can produce mixed species flocks with the colourfull Emerald Tanager and Black-and-yellow Tanagers.
• For people with good fysical condition and the desire to see some of the rarest and most special birds of Costa Rica a visit to the Silent Mountain can be arranged. Rarities include Sharpbill, Red-frontlet Parrotlet, Lovely Cotinga and Strong-billed Woodcreepers.
Aratinga Tours will help you organize the logistics like transportation, packed lunch and local guide for people interested in visiting Silent Mountain or Tuis River.