Manuel Antonio National Park and the Central Pacific Area
Manuel Antonio National Park
MANP is a beautiful west-central park with several hotels nearby overlooking the ocean. Within the national park, there is a reasonable trail for general natural history that is guaranteed to be crowded with tourists. The park itself is not well-known for its birding. However, you are close to other birdy areas just outside the park like Esquipulas (Pacific foothill rainforest), El Rey (coastal marsh) and Dominical (lowland forest). Both Esquipulas and El Rey are better explored with a birding guide. Johan Chaves, who leads tours in the area, is my recommendation (see my section on "Guides").
There are a few birds that can be found rather easily in the park along some of the forested slopes and around the area hotels. Black-hooded Antshrike and Chestnut-backed Antbird are fairly common in much of the understory depending on the hotel grounds. Fiery-billed Aracari is uncommon but sometimes seen around hotels like Costa Verde. Golden-naped Woodpecker is infrequently seen around hotels and on the park trail.
Esquipulas is the name of a small community about 20 minutes east of the park in the foothills. This area has access to some very good rainforest along an unpaved road.
In about a 3-hour time frame with my guide's help, I saw birds like King Vulture, Short-tailed Hawk, White Hawk, Black Hawk-Eagle, Laughing Falcon, Fiery-billed Aracari, Charming Hummingbird, Purple-crowned Fairy, Olivaceous Piculet, Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet, Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, Bright-rumped Attila, Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Chiriqui Foliage-Gleaner, Rufous Piha, Turquoise Cotinga, Blue-crowned Manakin, Black-bellied Wren, Gray-crowned Yellowthroat, Shining Honeycreeper, Blue Dacnis, and Spot-crowned Euphonia. With Johan Chaves guiding, this area proved to be very good spot for Pacific rainforest birding. Most of my checklist birds from Manuel Antonio (classified as "MA" in the checklist) come from Esquipulas.
Esquipulas Birding Tour with Johan Chaves
El Rey is a small area of coastal marsh between Quepos and the town of Dominical to the south.
A dirt road just off the highway to the right leads through some palm stands and into a long stretch of marsh and coastal woodland near the Pacific Ocean. During the wetter months, the marsh itself is home to Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, Northern Jacanas, and Purple Gallinules. In migration, a few shorebirds can be found. On my trip, we found a rare Glossy Ibis. The coastal woodlands and grasslands on the left side of the road yielded good looks at Slate-colored Seedeaters, Scrub Greenlet, Greenish Elaenia and Pale-breasted Spinetail. We had scope views of a Mangrove Hummingbird in 2017 and an American Pygmy Kingfisher in 2018. This is a good birding location for some Pacific lowland species.