Guatemala 2018





Conservation Birding with Atlanta Audubon: The Wood Thrush, Shade-grown Coffee, and Mayan temples


Saturday, November 24 to Monday, December 3, 2018


Atlanta Audubon is thrilled to once again offer an international birdwatching trip. For 2018, we have selected Guatemala as our location and Cayaya Birding as our local tour operator. Guatemala was chosen because of its amazing avian life, containing many regionally difficult species, and since it is a location that strongly connects with our conservation programs. During this trip we will not only see many exciting and beautiful bird species, but we will also visit shade-grown coffee farms in the Pacific slope highlands and search for wintering Wood Thrush at Tikal National Park. Though the focus of the trip is birdwatching, there will be some time to enjoy Mayan ruins, local markets, and participate in a coffee harvesting tour.


Trip Overview


Day 1: Arrival in Guatemala City

We will arrive in Guatemala City on Saturday, November 24. Our local guides will arrange our pick-up at the airport and transfer to the hotel. The first night will be spent in Guatemala City.


Day 2: Guatemala City to Los Tarrales

Bright and early, we will depart for Tecpán (1.5 hr. drive). We still stop for breakfast en route and spend the morning birding around Tecpán. This area is comprised of high-elevation (7,900 ft.) pine-oak forest. Here we will target the endemic Pink-headed Warbler as well as other species of interest including Rufous-collared Robin, Blue-throated Motmot, and Blue-and-white Mockingbird. After grabbing lunch in a nearby village, we will drive (2 hr.) to the Los Tarrales Reserve. Tarrales is located on the southern slope of the Atitlán Volcano and is a known birding hotspot. We will spend the late afternoon exploring around the lodge, with hopes of seeing White-bellied Chachalaca, Yellow-naped Parrot, Rufous-naped Wren, and Cinnamon Hummingbird. Dinner will be back at the Los Tarrales Lodge. We will spend the next two nights here.


Day 3:  Los Tarrales

An early morning 4-wheel drive ride (45 min.) from the lodge will take us up the lower volcano slope to an elevation of 4,600 ft. Here we will hike in rainforests and shaded coffee farms, looking for Azure-rumped Tanager and other highland endemics. Some expected Nearctic-Neotropical migratory birds using the Tarrales shade coffee plantations as wintering habitat include: Tennessee Warbler, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Baltimore Oriole, and Wilson’s Warbler. More than 350 bird species have been reported at Los Tarrales. After lunch back at the lodge, we will head out for more birding in the shade-grown coffee farms and the forest fragments that dot the landscape. Target birds for this afternoon include Tody Motmot, White-eared Ground-Sparrow, and White-winged Tanager.


OPTIONAL: Hike to the habitat of Horned Guan  

Day 3 also offers a unique opportunity for those who are interested. Instead of partaking in the events above, up to three participants can opt to go on a search for the amazing Horned Guan. An early morning four-wheel drive ride (45 min.) from the Los Tarrales will take you to the starting point. At the beginning of the hike, we will be at an elevation close to 4,600 ft. From here, we will hike to an elevation of 8,200 ft. and into the habitat of the Horned Guan. This is a 3 to 4 hour hike (each way) on steep and often uneven terrain on the upper slope of the Atitlán volcano. This hike is strenuous, and it requires very good fitness. While the birding can be spectacular, especially the Guan itself, please think long and hard before committing to this opportunity. Adam will join whoever wants to pursue this trek. An additional cost applies (details below).


Day 4: Los Tarrales to Lake Atitlán

Another beautiful morning will be spent on the grounds of Los Tarrales. Today, we will likely focus our efforts on secondary forests and additional shade coffee farms. Focal birds will be species restricted to the Pacific slope such as Pacific Parakeet and Long-tailed Manakin. After lunch, we will proceed to the nearby town of Santiago Atitlán with a stop on the way to look for Prevost’s Ground-Sparrow, Blue-and-white Mockingbird, and, with some luck, Slender Shear-tail 

and Sparkling-tailed Hummingbird. We will spend the night in a hotel in Santiago Atitlán, on the shores of Lake Atitlan.     


Day 5: Lake Atitlán to Antigua Guatemala

After leaving the hotel, we will proceed closer to the Lake Atitlan in hopes of seeing Belted Flycatcher, Cabanis´s Wren, and Rusty Sparrow among many others. Next, we’ll  proceed to Antigua where we will enjoy some down time in this gorgeous colonial town. Depending how the morning and early afternoon unfold, there will likely be some optional afternoon birdwatching. We will stay out until dark to look for nocturnal birds. Dinner and lodging will be back in Antigua.


Day 6: Antigua Guatemala

On day 6, we will drive to Cerro Alux (30 min.) for a visit to the pine-oak forest. Some expected highland specialties here are Blue-throated Motmot, Blue-and-white Mockingbird, Hooded Grosbeak, Crescent-chested Warbler, and Gray Silky-Flycatcher. After a tasty lunch nearby, we will continue on to El Pilar to spend the afternoon birding. El Pilar Reserve is primarily pine-oak forest but there are also shade-grown coffee farms as well as some more open areas. Tufted Flycatcher, Black-capped Swallow, Black-vented Oriole, and Bar-winged Oriole will hopefully put on a show for us. Hummingbird feeders in this area attract eight different species, including Magnificent Hummingbird, Berylline Hummingbird, Rufous Sabrewing, and Azure-crowned Hummingbird. Fingers crossed!


Day 7: Antigua Guatemala to Tikal

Before sunrise, we will need to head to the airport for a domestic flight to Flores (50 min. flight). Our local birding and archeology guide will meet us at the airport in Flores to transport us to Tikal National Park (1.5 hr. drive). The rest of the day will be spent  birding and exploring the environs of Tikal. Some target species here include Chestnut-colored Woodpecker, Tawny-winged Woodcreeper, Stub-tailed Spadebill, Mangrove Vireo, Yucatán Flycatcher, Rose-throated tanager, Green-backed Sparrow, and Gray-throated Chat. We will spent the night at hotel within the Tikal National Park, at the edge of the forest, giving us access to the grounds first thing in the morning.


Day 8: Tikal

Today, we will spend the entire day exploring Tikal National Park, an ancient Mayan site surrounded by lush rainforest. More than 400 bird species have been recorded here. In addition to the amazing birdlife, the temples and adjacent communal areas will provide breathtaking scenery. Atlanta Audubon’s focal conservation species for 2017-18, the Wood Thrush, is one of the most common migrant birds at Tikal. We hope to see many and be awed to see “our” spotted friends so far from “home”. Other target birds at Tikal include Ocellated Turkey, Orange-breasted Falcon, and Black-throated Shrike-Tanager. Our guides at Tikal will combine birding with history of this ancient Mayan city.


OPTIONAL: Night birding in Tikal.


Day 9: Tikal

Another magical day birding around Tikal. This morning we will focus on some scrub habitat with the hopes of finding Mangrove Vireo, Northern Bentbill, and Pheasant Cuckoo. Additionally, we will target some swampy forests that harbor Gray-throated Chat and often one can come across a mixed flock containing ant-tanagers, Black-throated Shrike-Tanager, Lesser and Tawny-crowned Greenlet, as well as Ivory-billed, Ruddy and Northern Barred Woodcreepers.


In the afternoon, we will transfer back to Flores and catch our flight back to Guatemala City.  We will spend the night in Guatemala City and enjoy our last evening abroad.


Day 10:  Departure

Private transportation will take us from the hotel to the Guatemala City International Airport. Then it is back to the land of pimento cheese and fried green tomatoes.     


Trip Specifics


Services Included:

  • One expert birding tour leader from Cayaya Birding (fluent in English and Spanish) and a co-leader from Atlanta Audubon (Conservation Director Adam Betuel).
  • Bound checklist of the birds of Guatemala.
  • Acoomodations in all destinations (double room with private bathroom and hot shower). A non-shared room is available for an additional fee.
  • Private terrestrial transfers as indicated in the itenerary in a comfortable, air-conditioned bus, including pick-up and drop-off at the airport.
  • Domestic flights (Guatemala to Flores to Guatemala).
  • All meals
  • All entrance fees to national reserves.
  • Tips for hotels (except hotels in Guatemala City), transportation, local guides in nature reserves (Tarrales, Atitlan, Tikal), meals.
  • Taxes


Services NOT included:

  • Additional drinks and alcoholic beverages.
  • Tips for porters, hotels in Guatemala City, and main tour leader of Cayaya Birding. You can tip the tour leader directly if you enjoyed your tour.
  • Travel insurance (STRONGLY recommended).
  • International flights and airport taxes.
  • Souvenirs and gifts
  • Snacks and other items desired during the trip. 

Group Size Limit: 10


Tour Price:

  • Atlanta Audubon Members (or other regional Audubon chapter members) - $3,570
  • Non Members - $3,820


* The initial deposit of $500 may be paid online using a credit card. Those who wish to pay the 2nd and 3rd payment with a credit card will be sent a PayPal invoice. The additional 2.2% fee that PayPal charges us to use that service will be added to the invoice.

** Exact final cost TBD. Hotel availability may have a minor effect on trip cost.


Additional Charges (Optional)


Single Supplement: $300 (for those who prefer an un-shared room at all lodging locations)


Optional hike to the habitat of Horned Guan in Los Tarrales Nature Reserve:

Very early morning four-wheel drive ride (45 min.) from the Los Tarrales lodge ascending the lower volcano slope to an elevation of 1,400 m. From there hike to an elevation of 2,200 to 2,600 meters to look for the Horned Guan. This is a 3 to 4 hours hike (each way) on steep and uneven terrain on the upper slope of the Atitlán volcano. The hike is very strenuous, and it requires very good fitness. A maximum of 3 persons is recommended in the group to keep allow a good chance to find the Horned Guan. Additional cost per person:  $95.00 for one participant, $65.00 for two participants, $55.00 for 3 participants.




1.       $500.00 due to reserve spot on trip.

2.       Half of cost (less $500) due by May 1, 2018.

3.       Full payment must be made by August 1, 2018.


Cancellation: In the event of tour cancellation due to weather, strike, war, quarantine, or other unforeseen emergency situation, a 100% refund will be given, less any expenses incurred by the tour operator.  


If notice of cancellation by the participant is received by August 1 2018, a refund of all payments (less a $50 cancellation fee) made will be given.  If notice of cancellation is received between August 2 2018 and 2.5 months before the departure date (September 1 2018), a 50% refund of the tour fee will be given.  Thereafter, all deposits and payments are non-refundable.


Number of bird species expected: 225 to 250


Click HERE to download a complete itinerary and additional information on the trip.