Guanacaste Bijagua Rainforest Trek

Bijagua is a small town located on the border of Guanacaste and Alajuela provinces in Costa Rica. Situated in the mountain ranges of Guanacaste, it is known for its stunning mountain views, birdwatching, wildlife and rainforests. So, if you are a nature lover and wildlife enthusiast, then set aside a day for Guanacaste Bijagua Rainforest Trek. Exploring the rainforest and observing the complex ecosystem where flora and fauna live in harmony can be insightful and rejuvenating.

All Set for Guanacaste Bijagua Rainforest Trek

It’s 7:40 in the morning as our guide Alexander, picks us up from the hotel. It’s a one-hour drive to the Bijagua rainforest, where we hope to see birds and, if lucky, some toucans and macaws. As nature lovers taking a forest bath and observing the flora and fauna up close is always on our mind. It’s our last chance to visit the rainforests and capture some birds as we are leaving Costa Rica the next day. The landscape is arid at the start of our journey, and one wonders how we will see a lush green rainforest. But that’s the beauty of the Guanacaste Province of Costa Rica, where the landscape changes every few kilometres.

Arid Landscape on the way to rainforest @Rafiq Somani

A Glimpse of Lake Nicaragua

Alexander points to the Guanacaste Mountain ranges which are enveloped with clouds in the distance. It is here that we will see the rainforests in the sleepy town of Bijagua. He points to the Tenorio volcano in the distance. Soon we see more and more trees, and very soon, we find ourselves in the middle of the rainforest. We reach the Heliconias Rainforest Lodge, a private estate, where we will be exploring the rainforests. From the entrance to the lodge, we can see a spectacular view of the lush green mountains and even Lake Nicaragua across the border. Yes, you read that right we could see Nicaragua from Costa Rica as the two countries share a border. Lake Nicaragua is the largest lake in Central America.

Near the lodge close to the valley we see the Clay-coloured Thrush which is the national bird of Costa Rica. Due to its widespread presence and tendency to live close to humans, it is well known and also mentioned in many of Costa Rica’s folk songs, short stories and novels like the Koel in India. A Turkey Vulture with a bald red head is flying above. Its keen eyes and sense of smell looking perhaps for a dead carrion its main source of food.

Numerous Species Mutually Coexist

The private estate has three suspension bridges and a 2.2 km walking trail through the rainforest to see the forest canopy and wildlife. We begin our rainforest trail, and Alexander shares facts and interesting information about the rich flora and fauna. We can hear the high pitched buzzing of the cicadas and the rustling of the leaves with occasional bird calls. The biodiversity of the Costa Rican rainforests is vast with birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects and myriad vegetation. Nature without human interference has a means of providing a nurturing sustainable environment where numerous species are interdependent and mutually coexist. It’s a lesson we humans haven’t learned till today and continue to fight over cast, creed, religion, gender, nationality, etc.

Birds in the Rainforest

As we start walking up the trail we could hear gentle noise of small streams and several bird species calls most of them camouflaged in dense forest. Among thick forest foliage we see a Crested Guan above us hopping on tall trees branches. The Crested Guan is quite large, a turkey size bird. Because of their large body size and evidently tasty meat they are frequently hunted. These bird species are essential to the biodiversity of the tropical rainforest because they are mainly frugivores (fruit eaters) and play an important role in fruit seed dispersal which helps with seed germination and forest regeneration.  As we walk further we hear an ascending flute-like voice. Alexander identifies it as Swainson’s Thrush and Rafiq with an eye for birds spots it on a branch and is quick to click it. Along our trail we also spotted few other interesting bird species namely Squirrel Cuckoo, Black-headed Trogon, Plumbeous Kite and others.

Clay coloured Thrush @Rafiq Somani
Crested Guan @Rafiq Somani
Swainson’s Thrush @Rafiq Somani
Turkey Vulture @Rafiq Somani
Squirrel Cuckoo @Rafi Somani
Black-headed Trogon @ Rafiq Somani
Plumbeous Kite @ Rafiq Somani

Walking on Suspension Bridges

The suspension bridges are at the level of the forest canopy, and it’s a pleasure to walk over them and get an aerial view of the forest. The branches of the trees are covered with moss, ferns and epiphytes and numerous other lifeforms. We can spot the insects, including cicadas, on the tree. Parakeets are squeaking and flying from one end of the forest to another. We meet another family with small kids on one of the suspension bridges. The precocious 6-year-old is amazed at what she sees and has a series of questions for the guide, who patiently answers them. I sense the girl will soon become a nature and wildlife enthusiast and hopefully a champion for saving the forests!

Suspension Bridge @Rafiq Somani

A World in a Piece of Forest Floor

Alexander picks a piece of the forest floor and points at the number of varied organisms growing on it. The complex ecosystem on the small piece is a testimony to the larger and vast rainforest. We keep observing different plants; a tree that constantly sheds its bark and doesn’t allow any other vegetation to grow on it is described as a ‘Selfish Tree’ by Alexander. He points to another more ‘Giving tree’ that has allowed epiphytes, creepers, moss, and other flora to grow on it.

Forest Floor @Rafiq Somani

The Evasive Toucan

Rafiq is happy capturing all the birds in the camera. But the toucan is still elusive. Suddenly Alexander stops on hearing a bird call and gestures with a finger on his lips to be silent. It’s a toucan. We know it is somewhere close, but the thick forest canopy prevents us from seeing it. We move in the direction of the sound, which is close. But alas it is evasive, and we can’t spot it. So close, yet so far.

Humming Birds Aplenty

We have spent more than 2 hours trekking in the rainforest, and it is close to lunchtime as we head back to the Heliconias Rainforest Lodge restaurant. As our lunch is getting ready, Rafiq is busy trying to capture the busy Humming birds in his camera. These tiny birds are the toughest to capture in the lens because of the speed at which their wings flutter. The moment you manage to focus your camera on them …boom in the next micro second, they are gone. There is always excitement and a high degree of challenge to capture them. Finally, he manages to click a few species.

Blue-throated Goldentail
Blue-throated Goldentail
Violet-headed Hummingbird
Violet-headed Hummingbird
Violet-headed Humming Bird
Violet-headed Humming Bird
Violet-headed Humming bird @Rafiq Somani

Sloths Spotting

After lunch, Alexander tells us he will take us to a neighbouring private estate in downtown Bijagua to see sloths. He parks the car, and we sneak into a private property through barbed wires. Trespassing a private property is certainly not something we do every day and by no means recommended. A horse is grazing on the field, and we walk towards the forest. On a tree, we spot a sloth and its baby. It is afternoon time, so the slot is lazy and barely moves.

Slot with baby @Rafiq Somani

Blue Jeans Frog

We then head to a river stream, and Alexander searches near the banks for a frog. We spot the Blue Jeans frog, scarcely an inch or two long! It gets its name since its legs are blue, as if it has worn blue denim jeans! Alexander cautions that the frog is poisonous, and so we decide to stay at a safe distance and resist the urge to photograph it on our palms. Later at a souvenir shop, we picked a magnet with a painting of the blue jeans frog instead. On our way back we spot a troop of Black Howler monkeys jumping on trees.

Blue Jeans Frog @ Rafiq Somani
River Stream @Rafiq Somani

Bijagua is also well known for Rio Celeste, a gushing waterfall inside the Tenorio Volcano National Park. You may want to explore it along with the rainforest trek. 

The Guanacaste Bijagua rainforest trek is an insightful and refreshing excursion if you are in the Guanacaste province of Costa Rica. You will see the rainforest ecosystem and the numerous adaptations of flora and fauna. Our suggestion would be to go without any expectations of seeing a specific bird or animal (unlike us, who were keen on seeing macaws and toucans), so it’s a bonus if you see any of the elusive creatures.

Getting There

Nearest Airport: Liberia Airport is located 44 km away. It will take you 1 hour 15 minutes to reach it from the airport.  Where to Stay: You can check for hotels on the net depending on comfort and budget. We stayed at the El Mangroove Autograph Hotel. Travel Tips: Please wear your trekking shoes and hats and carry raincoats as it might rain. Carry enough water and some energy bars with you. Apply insect repellent spray before heading to the Guanacaste Bijagua rainforest trek. Cost: The guided rainforest trek, along with lunch and pick up and drop from the hotel, cost us US$160 per head. Contact details of guide: Alexander Bermudes +50688466560