I flew to Costa Rica a little early (the class didn't start until July 27th), and spent three days in and near the Reserva Biológica Bosque Nuboso Monteverde. I stayed at Monteverde Inn all three nights ($30/night, internet access and breakfast included). This also includes access to their trails (from 6 am to 4 pm), which were actually pretty good, and included some birds that I did not see in the actual cloud forest reserve. There are also two-hour night hikes available on the trails, which are $20 if you are staying at Monteverde Inn. I went on one night hike, and saw raccoons, coatimundis, a two-toed sloth, and various invertebrates (including red-kneed tarantula; see Costa Rica Inverts for a picture). Overall, I was a little disappointed in the number and diversity of birds in the cloud forest preserve. There were birds, but just not as many I was expecting. I rented a small 4x4 SUV from Hertz; with insurance, it was about $85/day. I wouldn't say that 4-wheel drive is required to get to Monteverde, but the added clearance was appreciated for some parts of the road. It took me about 3 hours to get from the rental car location to Monteverde, and would take much longer in a normal car.
I met the students at the airport on July 27th, and we traveled to the field station in the afternoon. As soon as we arrived at the field station, I found Slaty-tailed Trogon, Rufous Motmot, and Broad-billed Motmot. We spent the next 8 days at the field station, exploring the two forest tracts as well as the other habitats on the 350 hectare property. We had lectures on 5 afternoons, and the students carried out group and individual projects. I demonstrated mist-netting for the students, and we were able to catch a few birds (pictures here). There were two night hikes while I was there, both being led by Dr. LaRoy Brandt. These were rather successful, with kinkajous, red-eyed treefrogs, smoky jungle frog, Mottled Owls, and many invertebrates (see picture links below). Our best find was a large Fer-de-Lance, which LaRoy almost stepped on. There were a lot of birds at La Suerte, I really enjoyed my time there.
On August 5th we traveled to Tortuguero and spent the night at Hotel Vista al Mar. We went to the rather touristy town on the afternoon of the 5th, and took a 2-hour tour of the canals on the morning of the 6th. Overall, there were a lot of people at Tortuguero, although I was able to see some good birds. On the 6th I returned to San Jose for an early morning flight on Sunday.
Please feel free to email me if you have any questions, corrections, or help with invertebrate identifications. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.