Peccary at La Selva Biological Station. Photo © Christopher P. Baker.

Peccary at La Selva Biological Station. Photo © Christopher P. Baker.

One of Costa Rica’s premier birding sites, Estación Biológica La Selva (tel. 506/2766-6565), four kilometers (2.5 miles) south of Puerto Viejo, is a biological research station run by the Organization of Tropical Studies (OTS). The station is centered on a 1,500-hectare (3,700-acre) reserve—mostly premontane rainforest but with varied habitats—linked to the northern extension of Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo. More than 420 bird species have been identified here, as have more than 500 species of butterflies, 120 species of mammals, and 55 species of snakes. The arboretum displays more than 1,000 tree species.

It is often booked solid months in advance. Reservations are required.Almost 60 kilometers (37 miles) of trails snake through the reserve. Some have boardwalks; others are no more than muddy pathways. Rubber boots or waterproof hiking boots are essential, as is rain gear. Guided nature walks ($30-40) are offered at 8am and 1:30pm daily, and an early-bird bird-watching tour ($30) departs at 5:30am. Visitors who overnight can take a nocturnal tour ($40). You cannot explore alone, and only 65 people at a time are allowed in the reserve; nonscientists are restricted to certain trails. Still, the wildlife viewing is phenomenal. On two recent visits, I photographed peccaries almost within reach, plus saw lots of poison dart frogs, snakes, crocodiles, and several great curassows. It is often booked solid months in advance. Reservations are required.

You can even overnight in comfortable dormitory-style accommodations (reservations c/o OTS, tel. 506/2524-0627, $98 s, $194 d, including meals, tax, and guided hike) with four bunks per room and communal baths; some are wheelchair-accessible. Meals are served right on time, and latecomers get the crumbs.

The OTS operates a shuttle van from San José ($10) on Monday, space permitting (researchers and students have priority), and between La Selva and Puerto Viejo Monday-Saturday. Transporte Caribe (tel. 506/2221-7990) buses from San José will drop you off at the entrance, from where you’ll need to walk two kilometers (1.2 miles) to La Selva.


Excerpted from the Tenth Edition of Moon Costa Rica.