Are Night Tours in Costa Rica Worth the Trouble?

By patrick on

Zip lining, rappelling down a waterfall, hiking through rain forest, and seeing hundreds of exotic birds. These are just a small hand full of the many fun, adventurous, and exciting activities that Costa Rica has to offer. Even rain forest hikes can be subdivided into different categories, one of those being the “Night Tour”.

Zip lining in Costa Rica through cloud forest.

This is where you venture into rainforest in the dark of the night to look for various nocturnal creatures. These tours have become quite popular because word has gotten out that a large percentage of rainforest animals are much more active at night. That said, don’t expect to see Ocelots or other wild felines running around the woods or owls on every trip. Although that has actually happened on occasion, the usual fare include various bizarre and beautiful katydids and other cool bugs, a frog or two, and maybe a snake if you are lucky.

One of Costa Rica’s many cool bugs.

That said, some night tours seem to stand out in terms of what is seen. The night walk offered at the Monteverde Wildlife Refuge is one that comes to mind. After several seasoned travelers had told us about seeing roosting birds, snakes, and other animals on this night walk, one of the Birding Field Guides team members decided to check it out (and look for the rare Oilbirds that have been seen on it too!).

His report: “I have been a veteran of and guided many a night walk in the cloud forests of Costa Rica and Ecuador, and in the Peruvian Amazon but this was probably the best I have seen. Although you have a chance of seeing wildlife on any night walk in tropical forest, the reason that the one at the Monteverde Wildlife Refuge is better than others is because the guides are good, they do a couple walks a night, and notify each other where animals have been seen.

This makes it much easier for them to take participants right to various snakes (I saw two different beautiful green Side-striped Pit Vipers), frogs, several roosting birds, and other animals.

A beautiful, venomous Side-striped Pit Viper.

We also saw three Oilbirds, an extremely rare, little known bird in Costa Rica because the guides had found them on previous walks and took us right to where they were roosting. Without that knowledge, we would have never found those quiet, perched birds.”

An Oilbird at the Monteverde Wildlife Refuge.

Not every night walk is as good as this and you never know what you might see but if you take a night walk that is given every night of the week, you have a much better chance of seeing nocturnal wildlife, including owls, because the guides may know where those animals have been roosting or foraging. Speaking of guides, it’s also much better to take the walk with a guide because if not, you could easily spend hours searching every tree and seeing close to nothing as opposed to being brought to certain trees and parts of the forest where the guide has previously encountered owls, a roosting quetzal, or other animals.

You might even see a Bare-shanked Screech Owl!

One way to get prepared for the birds you might see on a night walk and in that same habitat during the day, is by using the Costa Rica Birds Field Guide app to familiarize yourself with them.

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