Central America & the Caribbean
Stretching from Belize to Panama, the tiny set of countries forming Central America are true titans of biodiversity. Relative to their sizes, no other countries on the planet contain the variety of plants and animals found here, where North and South America join. Lush jungles and cloud forests, over a thousand species of birds, and some of the world’s most unique and exciting lodges are highlights of the region.
Panama has emerged as the hottest destination in Central America. We are proud that VENT was the first nature tour company to take people to the now-famous Canopy Tower, and its sister property, the Canopy Lodge. Each of these destinations offers excellent accommodations and outstanding birding. Our Canopy Tower tours regularly record 300 species of birds and an impressive suite of mammals, from anteaters, to monkeys, to sloths. These tours are excellent for people who do not have a lot of time to travel or who wish to experience the Tropics while still enjoying quality accommodations and cuisine. Tanagers, toucans, motmots, hummingbirds, cotingas, and orioles are some of the flashier bird families typically encountered on our Canopy Tower tours. Side trips to renowned Pipeline Road, Metropolitan Park, Cerro Azul, and the Miraflores Locks on the Panama Canal make an already great trip a perfect one!
Tucked away in a quaint and scenic valley west of the Canal Zone, the Canopy Lodge is a paragon of tranquility. Visitors are treated to a secluded lodge boasting luxurious accommodations and delicious cuisine served at an outdoor dining room. All through the day, legions of beautiful tropical birds file through the ample gardens of the lodge grounds, while at night, the gurgle of a tumbling stream gently lulls you to sleep. The entire setting presents one of the most enchanting experiences to be had anywhere in the American Tropics. Our Canopy Lodge tours are designed as pre- or post-trips to our Canopy Tower tours, but may be taken individually.
Perched on the doorstep of South America, the Darien region of Panama offers superb birding centered on a genuine wilderness experience. This tour is designed for the more intrepid traveler, who doesn’t mind a few nights of camping in a remote area to “get away from it all.” VENT has visited the Darien for many years, and our leaders and participants alike continually report their amazement at the numbers and diversity of birds found there. Seeking out many of the local and regional specialty birds is one of the more alluring aspects of this tour.
The cool Chiriqui Highlands in far western Panama are the realm of Resplendent Quetzals and Flame-throated Wwarblers. Our annual tour there is an excellent complement to our February Canopy Tower tour. Costa Rica is a world-class destination bestowed with an embarrassment of natural riches. Famous for decades among birders, scientists, and other nature lovers, Costa Rica rests near the pinnacle of worldwide birding. In a country this small, there exists an avifauna approaching 900 species—a list greater than that of the United States! A traveler could journey to Costa Rica and never see it all, but our tours are designed specifically to showcase the best of the best. Our Best of Costa Rica and Summer Costa Rica tours are our most complete Costa Rica itineraries. Each trip visits four distinct destinations: the Pacific and Caribbean lowlands, the cool highlands, and subtropical mid-elevations, all providing a remarkable cross section of tropical birds and habitats.
For those with less time, our Short Costa Rica tours offer action-packed weekend through weekend departures emphasizing two key environments: the Caribbean lowlands and the temperate highlands. Our tours provide an excellent introduction to an abundance of colorful tropical birds, ranging from toucans to hummingbirds to quetzals, plus many regional specialties and difficult to find species.
Our Christmas Holiday in Costa Rica tour provides a relaxing, easy-paced holiday getaway. On this relatively short trip we will have six days of exciting birding—the first four days on the Caribbean slope and lowlands, and a final two days on the Pacific coast.
Tiny Belize is another of Central America’s natural history meccas. Our tours utilize the incomparable Chan Chich Lodge, set amid hundreds of thousands of acres of pristine lowland jungle. The list of descriptive terms one could apply to this most unique lodge is unlimited. VENT was also the first tour company to bring people here, back in 1988, and we’ve been returning ever since. Without doubt, our tours to Chan Chich offer the greatest combination of birding and mammal-viewing in all of Central America. Past tours have recorded jaguars, mountain lions, ocelots, anteaters, and howler and spider monkeys, in addition to bird lists approaching 300 species.
Our trips generally include visits to Crooked Tree Lagoon, an astonishingly immense and wild natural wetland where Boat-billed and Agami herons and a slew of other waterbirds share space with a dazzling collection of hawks, hummingbirds, and other tropical birds. A short stay at Hidden Valley Inn provides access to Central America’s highest waterfall, Orange-breasted Falcons, and the Mayan ruins at Caracol. The islands of the Caribbean are living laboratories of evolution and island biogeography. Nearly everything that occurs on them is range-restricted in one way or another. Some of the islands of the Greater Antilles host as many as 30 species of endemic birds and a menagerie of other regional specialties. Reptiles, plants, and lizards share the same distributional patterns as the birds and contribute to the unique biological makeup of the islands.
Our Jamaica tour is a terrific week-long traipse across the length of a lush Caribbean island. Highlights include a 4-night stay at a 19th nineteenth century English great house, questing for all of the island's endemic birds, including the spectacular streamertail hummingbirds, and visiting such out-of-the-way places as Cockpit Country and the Blue and John Crow mountains.
The Dominican Republic affords a true birding adventure in the Greater Antilles. A close look at this colorful country reveals superior birding possibilities; a stunningly beautiful landscape of limestone hills, rocky coastline, forested mountains, and pristine thornscrub; and a massive inland lake sitting 130 feet below sea level.
A trip to Trinidad is essentially like experiencing a slice of South America. The centerpiece ofto this trip is a delightful stay at the world- famous Asa Wright Nature Centre. Side trips to the Caroni Swamp for Scarlet Ibis and a hike to Dunstan Cave for Oilbirds are featured activities. With so many places to experience, let VENT be your guide to travel in Central American and the Caribbean!