Vara Blanca, Cinchona and Poás Volcano

Vara Blanca And Cinchona - Road To The Caribbean Lowlands

The village of Vara Blanca is located on the Caribbean slope, almost at continental divine. Route #126 leads from there into the Caribbean lowlands and as you descend passing through areas with incredible scenic views of waterfalls and mountains, and of course fantastic birding. Good birds along the road include Barred Hawk, White Hawk, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Bat Falcon, Swallow-tailed Kite, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Elegant Euphonia, Emerald Tanager, Rufous-winged Tanager, Spangle-cheeked Tanager, Golden-bellied Flycatcher, Crimson-collared Tanager, Montezuma Oropendola, Brown-hooded Parrot, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, Shining Honeycreeper, Golden-browed Chlorophonia, Tropical Parula, Red-headed Barbet, Torrent Tyrannulet, American Dipper and Red-faced Spinetail.

La Paz Waterfall Gardens (1,441 m / 4,727 ft)

La Paz is a famous tourist destination that offers access to great hummingbird feeders and good trails leading into great foothill rainforest, which are ideal for birding. The main trail, accesses a series of waterfalls ending in the beautiful La Paz Waterfall. The garden has recorded over 20 species of hummingbirds. The feeders offer good looks of the endemic Coppery-headed Emerald and other species like Black-bellied Hummingbird, White-bellied Mountain-gem, Purple-throated Mountain-gem, Violet Sabrewing, Green Thorntail, Lesser Violetear, Brown Violetear, Magenta-throated Woodstar, Talamanca Hummingbird, Green-crowned Brilliant and Green Hermit.  Other birds seen along the trails and open areas include Sooty-faced Finch, Slaty Flowerpiercer, Chestnut-capped Brushfinch, Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush, Spotted Barbtail, Red-faced Spinetail, Costa Rican Warbler, Slate-throated Redstart, Black Guan, American Dipper, Torrent Tyrannulet, Dark Pewee, Silvery-fronted Tapaculo, Collared Trogon, Orange-bellied Trogon, Ochre-breasted Antpitta, Ochraceous Wren, Nightingale Wren, Lineated Foliage-gleaner, Spot-crowned Woodcreeper, Prong-billed Barbet foraging in small noisy flocks, Green-fronted Lancebill sometimes flycatching off boulders on the river or feeding from Ericaceae, and the large and secretive Barred Hawk. At La Paz you can enjoy lunch and have access to a butterfly farm, ranarium, serpentarium and wild cats, nice to learn a little bit about the looks of the species.

The Hummingbird Gallery - Cinchona

(1,301 m / 4,268 ft)

A few minutes down the road from La Paz Waterfall you will find the "Galería de Colibríes", a rustic countryside style cafeteria known by ticos as a ”soda". Besides offering plentiful delicious meals and coffee, the property offers a roofed deck on the back from where you can see the San Lorenzo Waterfall. While enjoying the fruit and syrup feeders, you may end up spending a good bit of time here and the best are misty cool days, sunny days can be pretty slow. Hummingbird feeders attract Violet Sabrewing, Green-crowned Brilliant, Green Hermit, Coppery-headed Emerald, White-bellied Mountain-gem, Purple-throated Mountain-gem, Black-bellied Hummingbird, Green Thorntail and Magenta-throated Woodstar. The fruit feeders are visited by Northern Emerald-Toucanet, Prong-billed Barbet, Red-headed Barbet, Silver-throated Tanager, Scarlet-rumped Tanager, Blue-gray Tanager and Palm Tanager. The looks down the canyon often produce White Hawk or Barred Hawk.

La Virgen Road (778 m / 2,550 ft)

A famous stretch of gravel road off the main road. Well forested and with the direct influence of the river, this location has much to offer. Some birds species include Black-and-yellow Tanager, Slaty-capped Flycatcher, Tawny-capped Euphonia, White-ruffed Manakin, Emerald Tanager, Rufous-winged Tanager, Green-fronted Lancebill, Black-breasted Wood-Quail, Lineated Foliage-gleaner, Nightingale Wren, Bay Wren, Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher, occasionally Lanceolated Monklet and Azure-hooded Jay.

Poás Volcano Lodge (1,904 m/6,247 ft)

To us in Tropical Feathers this is one of the best lodges in Costa Rica. Beautiful landscape, amazing architecture in the main lodge with exquisite decorations and lounges with fireplace, beautiful and very comfortable rooms, delicious food and great service, oh! and of course great birds. All make this lodge a great place to start or end your trip to Costa Rica. But not only this, it has immediate access to Vara Blanca and Cinchona, and it is within a short 25 minute drive to Poás Volcano National Park. The lodge offers 5 large rooms inside the main lodge and 6 smaller and cozy rooms on adjacent buildings. Also a wonderful field house is available for rent if you want to enjoy a longer stay in this area. The lodge's driveway, the feeders and gardens offer access to highland species, the most typical birds include: Yellow-thighed Brushfinch, Sooty-capped Chlorospingus, Slaty Flowerpiercer, Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush, Gray-breasted Wood-Wren, Ochraceous Wren, Hairy Woodpecker, Spot-crowned Woodcreeper,  Ruddy Treerunner, Flame-throated Warbler, Wilson's Warbler, Collared Redstart, Chestnut-capped Brushfinch, Mountain Elaenia, Northern Emerald-Toucanet, Black Guan, Purple-throated Mountain-gem, Scintillant Hummingbird, Red-billed Pigeon and Prong-billed Barbet. Good chances to see Bare-shanked Screech-Owl and Dusky Nightjar just before dinner time!

Poás Volcano National Park (2,708 m / 8,884 ft)

The Poás Volcano National Park is one of most visited natural areas in Costa Rica. Accessed by a good road and with excellent trails the parks offers, in good weather conditions, spectacular views of one of the largest active craters in the world. The visitor center offers good coffee and a souvenir shop.

The Poás Volcano soars 2,708 m above sea level and is one of the most spectacular volcanoes of Costa Rica with breathtaking scenery. The main crater is a huge depressed caldera that measures almost 2 kilometers in diameter and 300 meters of depth. There is a small 350 meter diameter lake at the bottom of the crater, temperatures range from 65-95°C. The high sulfur and acid content reduces the pH almost to zero, condition that possibly makes this the most acidic natural water body of the world.

To the southeast, there is another cone known as Botos, which was the center of volcanic activity until approximately 7500 years ago. Today it contains a spectacular cold water lake that measures about 400 meters in diameter. The eruptions of Poás Volcano have been recorded at least since 1747. This long history of eruptions includes almost 60 episodes. The most violent one took place on January 25th, 1910, an immense ash column rose 8,000 meters into the air. The most recent period of eruptions lasted from 1952 to 1954.

The best trail for birding starts just before reaching the crater observation area, it leads to the Botos Lagoon and keeps on going through a nice forest taking you back to the visitor center. The path is undulating and most of it is paved. The habitat here is basically a transition from tropical cloud forest into paramo, so in the upper levels of the park you encounter a combination of small trees, bushes, chusquea bamboo, and a few large trees. The most dominant trees are Escalonias, surely beautiful with their crooked branches and small leaves. Other plants include Ericacea, various Melastomataceae, bromeliads, orchids, large Gunneras and schefflera trees. The Botos Lagoon Trail can produce birds like Silvery-fronted Tapaculo, Gray-breasted Wood-Wren, Black-and-yellow Silky-Flycatcher, Sooty-capped Chlorospingus, Slaty Flowerpiercer, Black Guan, Ruddy Treerunner, Large-footed Finch (with a slightly different song compared to those of the Talamancas), Mountain Elaenia, Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Resplendent Quetzal and Fiery-throated Hummingbird. If you get lucky you might come across a Highland Tinamou, specially before day visitors arrive in the morning or after midday. In November we have recorded Highland Tinamous calling all over the woods, curiously this event doesn't match with the current breeding season data.