Costa Rica - Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge

A Birding and Photography Paradise
at the Costa Rica's Premier Wildlife Refuge.

Welcome to Caño Negro:

Located in the northern part of Costa Rica near the border with Nicaragua, the Caño Negro National Wildlife Refuge is an unmissable destination for birding enthusiasts.

This hidden gem is renowned as a birding hotspot, offering visitors an incredible opportunity to observe and photograph an impressive variety of avian species.

In this article, we will explore why Caño Negro is a must-visit location for birding in Costa Rica and delve into the unique experience it offers to birding enthusiasts and photography enthusiasts alike.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.

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Discovering the Birding Paradise:

Caño Negro is a birdwatcher’s dream, harboring one of the most diverse bird populations in the entire country. With its diverse ecosystems of wetlands, lagoons, and marshes, the refuge provides a haven for over 200 bird species. From resident species to migratory birds, Caño Negro offers a year-round birding experience like no other.

Special target of birds of Caño Negro are:

  • Agami heron (Agamia agami)
  • Black collared hawk (Busarellus nigricollis)
  • Snail kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis)
  • yellow breasted crake (Hapalocrex flaviventer)
  • American Pygmy Kingfisher (Chloroceryle aenea)
  • Green and Rufous kingfisher
  • Jabiru (Jabirú mycteria)
  • Sungrebe (Heliornis Fulica)
  • Nicaraguan Grackel (Quiscalus nicaraguensis)

This is only a very short list of the +200 species of resident and migrant birds you can spot. However, these are the most popular lifers among all.

If you have a special list of birds you would like to see, please contact us. We would be happy to advise you on the best season to visit and the best places to go birdwatching.

10 days Best Costa Rica birding tours

The National Wildlife Refuge Caño Negro is the most significant wetland in Costa Rica, located in the northern plane.

What can I do in the National Refuge of Caño Negro?

Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge – 2 nights 3 days Birdwatching in Costa Rica.

The starting offer includes:
2 overnights at Hotel de Campo, just in front of the lagoon, inside a wonderful tropical botanical garden. Also included in the package are dinners, breakfast and up to 8hrs of birding/photography Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge birdwatching tours.

The Costa Rica Birding Hotspot

With its strategic location along both the Caribbean and Pacific flyways, Costa Rica acts as a natural corridor for migratory birds. Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge, in particular, serves as an essential stopover point for countless migratory species, making it a wondeful hotspot for birdwatching enthusiasts.

Nestled within this wetland refuge is a diverse and captivating ecosystem, comprising of various habitats such as lagoons, rivers, forests, and marshes.

These diverse ecosystems provide a perfect haven for a wide variety of bird species. The lagoons and rivers of Caño Negro offer a rich aquatic environment, attracting water-loving birds like herons, egrets, crakes and jacanas.

The lush green forests and marshes provide shelter to an array of bird species, including toucans, trogons, manakies, and wrens, among others. During the very dry season (December to May), visitors to Caño Negro can witness the majestic sight of flocks of birds embarking on their migratory journey or marvel at the vibrant colors of resident species against the backdrop of this verdant paradise.

Whether you are an avid birdwatcher or simply appreciate the beauty of these winged creatures, Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge promises an unforgettable experience. Take your binoculars, jump into the boat for the greates boat tour in Costa Rica, and immerse yourself in the symphony of bird songs.

With each step, you will encounter breathtaking avian displays, a testament to the incredible richness of Caño Negro’s diverse ecosystem.

Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge

Exploring the Avian Biodiversity

The refuge is home to a wide range of bird species, including the iconic American Anhinga, the endangered Jabiru, and the elegant roseate spoonbill. Other notable species that can be spotted here include the elusive northern jacana, the striking blue-winged teal, the heron species (such as the boat-billed heron), and the magnificent kingfishers, to name just a few. With such biodiversity, birders can tick off numerous species from their checklists.

The Agami Heron (Agamia agami) is a stunning bird with dark blue plumage and a chestnut-coloured neck. It can be found near water sources within the refuge.

The Black-collared Hawk (Busarellus nigricollis) is a bird of prey known for its distinctive black collar on its white neck. It surveys marshes and wetlands in search of fish and small vertebrates.

The Snail Kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis) is a raptor that specializes in feeding on apple snails. Its long, curved beak is perfectly adapted for snail extraction as it soars above the water.

The Yellow-breasted Crake (Hapalocrex flaviventer) is a small bird with a distinctive yellow breast. It inhabits dense vegetation near water bodies and has a secretive nature, making it a challenging sighting for birders.

The American Pygmy Kingfisher (Chloroceryle aenea) is a diminutive and brilliantly coloured kingfisher. It can be observed perching on low branches near water, waiting for small fish and invertebrates to pass by.

The Green and Rufous Kingfisher (Chloroceryle inda) showcases a vibrant combination of green and rufous feathers. It is an agile hunter that dives into the water to catch its prey.

The Jabiru (Jabirú Mycteria) is an endangered species known for its impressive size, standing up to five feet tall. With its long legs and large bill, it wades in shallow waters for fish and amphibians.

The Sungrebe (Heliornis fulica) is a unique bird that spends most of its time hidden among aquatic vegetation. It has a slender body and distinctive lobed toes that enable it to walk on floating vegetation.

Birding Photography in Costa Rica

Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge, situated in Costa Rica, is not only a birding haven but also a paradise for photography enthusiasts. With its astonishing landscapes, awe-inspiring sunsets, and the ease of bird observation, this refuge offers ample opportunities to capture stunning images of unique bird species in their natural habitat.

The refuge is a renowned hotspot for birdwatchers and photographers due to its diverse avian population. Here, photographers can immortalize the vibrant plumage, graceful flight, and intricate details of the avian residents. Caño Negro is home to over 350 bird species, including the magnificent Jabirus, Roseate Spoonbills, Anhingas, and many more.

One of the best ways to explore and capture the beauty of Caño Negro is through boat tours. These tours allow photographers to venture deep into the refuge’s waterways, providing spectacular opportunities to photograph birds in their natural habitat. As you glide along the tranquil canals and lagoons, you can frame the birds against the lush greenery and serene waters, creating captivating compositions.

The boat tours are led by experienced guides who possess extensive knowledge about the local bird species and their behaviours. They can help photographers identify different birds and provide insights into capturing their best moments. With their guidance, you can enhance your photography skills and learn specialized techniques to capture stunning images.

Photography in Caño Negro is not only limited to bird species. The refuge is also home to various other wildlife, including caimans, monkeys, sloths, and more. These amazing creatures offer additional subjects to capture with your camera, adding depth and diversity to your wildlife photography portfolio.

Apart from the abundant wildlife, Caño Negro’s natural landscapes are equally captivating. The refuge’s marshes, wetlands, and tropical forests provide a picturesque backdrop for your photographs. The stunning sunsets over the refuge’s horizon add a touch of magic to the scenery and offer a perfect opportunity to capture breathtaking images.

In conclusion, Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge in Costa Rica offers a remarkable experience for birding photography enthusiasts. With its diverse bird species, boat tours, and stunning natural landscapes, it is an ideal destination for photographers looking to capture unique and mesmerizing images of wildlife in their natural habitat.

Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge birdwatching tours

Boat tour in Caño Negro Refuge
for birdwatching and photography

Choosing one of our Birding/photography Packages, we guarantee you that your caño negro wildlife refuge boat tour will be private, and organized for a beautiful birding and photography experience in Cano Negro.

That means only you and your crew will be on the tour. Because of the privacy of the tour, we will coordinate with you the best time to go out to discover the Refuge of Caño Negro.

At this point, your feedback is essential. Why are you coming to Caño Negro Refuge? Are you a birdwatcher? are you a photographer? What kind of birds in Costa Rica are you looking for?

This information is fundamental to organizing the boat tour in Cano Negro according to your interests.

Tips for a better vacation in Costa Rica

Best time to visit Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge

The best time to visit Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge in Costa Rica is from December to April. During this period, the dry season is in full swing, making it easier to explore the refuge’s diverse ecosystems and spot various wildlife species.

The dry season offers better visibility for wildlife viewing and hiking along the network of trails within the refuge. It is an ideal time to witness the amazing spectacle of migratory birds that flock to Caño Negro. Birdwatchers will be thrilled to observe vibrant species such as herons, egrets, spoonbills, and ibises.

Additionally, the dry season brings lower water levels, which concentrate animals near the remaining water sources. As a result, visitors have a higher chance of encountering caimans, turtles, and various fish species, as well as mammals such as monkeys, sloths, and anteaters.

December to April is the dry season, when the water levels are lower and the birds are more active. This is the best time to see migratory birds, such as the roseate spoonbill, jabiru stork, Oriols, and Warblers.

Also it is the best time of the year to spot a lot of caimans, turtles, iguanas and basilisks.

May to November is the rainy season, but not so strong as you can find on the mountain side of Costa Rica. During this time of the year, the water levels are higher and the vegetation is more lush. This is a good time to see resident birds, such as the eagrets and herons, trogons, resident wrens, woodpeckers and the resident Black-collared hawk.

If you are planning to go birdwatching, the dry season is the best time to visit. However, if you are interested in seeing the rainforest in its full glory, the rainy season is also a great time to visit.

Ultimately, the best time to visit Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge is a matter of personal preference. Consider what you are hoping to see and do, and choose the time of year that best suits your interests.

What to bring? BINOCULARS

Pleeease… Bring at least a decent binocular. Animals like to stay away from us. So at least a decent binocular is a must to spot any kind of animal. The minimum recommended size for a binocular is 8×36 or 8×40 is a very good decision. Today you can purchase a good binocular for $100. Try to avoid the cheapest binoculars, especially when you go for birdwatching.

Repellent and Mosquito “plaquitas”

Repellent and Mosquito “plaquitas” (in Google, just type “plaquitas mosquitos”.

YES, in Costa Rica, ALL around Costa Rica we do have mosquitoes. Try to buy the repellent in Costa Rica, is stronger.

Also, for your hotel room, we do have a special electric item, is an electric burner with an insert, in Spanish is “plaquitas”, that works perfectly, and you buy it in every supermarket.

Long pants and long sleeves

Long pants and long sleeves. I know is hot. But when we visit nature, the refuge, especially when we go for a walk, or during a night walk for frogs, long pants and long sleeves are a must.

Good pair of shoes, avoid flip-flops

Good pair of shoes. Please, avoid “chancletas”, flip-flops, any kind of flip-flop when you visit nature. Best shoes investment? By rubber boots. You can purchase this in any hardware store in Costa Rica, they are cheap.

Rubber boots are the best idea especially when you visit Costa Rica during the rainy season.

A decent camera

A decent camera. Even if taking pictures are not your thing, cellphone cameras are useless for nature pictures. They work fine for panoramic, but if you like to take a picture of a monkey, will be useless. If you like to travel light, look for a bridge camera. 

Cellphone local chip-card

Cellphone local chip-card. Purchase a pre-paid local line. They work fine in all of Costa Rica. So you will be sure to have internet for WhatsApp and other communication. Sometimes, when you travel to a hotel that is not close to a city, there is no cables company that offers the service. So hotels do not have good wifi service.

Birdwatching App

If you are a birdwatcher, is very useful to have a good cellphone, a good Bluetooth speaker, and the application of Merlin Bird ID. (for Android and IOS) Install this app at home, download the bird package for Costa Rica and Nicaragua. This is the best way to attract birds around. For example, when you have a moment in the garden of your hotel like we do at Hotel de Campo, use the sound. Call the birds.

If you need any other information, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach us.

Contact & Prices

Next step? just contact Birding Costa Rica Tours with Renzo

For your next trip to Costa Rica, consider planning a Birding vacation in Costa Rica with Renzo Sturmo.

All our packages are custom-made. So be as specific as you can at the time to request information about the package