Coffee and Birding Top 5 Destinations in Colombia

In a previous post about coffee and birding we told you about the important relationship between the coffee you consume and the conservation of wild birds and ecosystems. Colombia is the number one country in terms of bird species richness and at the same time it is a world reference for the quality of its coffee. Recently, there is a growing awareness in the coffee sector about the importance of shading coffee to obtain better flavor qualities. But the benefits are not only in terms of flavor quality, but also in environmental terms, since shade is facilitated by the use of native tree species or even fruit trees of agricultural interest such as avocado, orange, chachafruto, among others, that protect and shelter wild animals like birds, bats and bees.

There are coffee farms with different approaches to nature and bird conservation. Some, in addition to maintaining a shade grown crop, are concerned with preserving relics of primary or secondary forests that serve as biological corridors and wildlife refuges. In addition, some of these farms have understood the importance of caring for these forests near rivers and streams, as this ensures the protection and maintenance of water sources and soil. Finally, they are also concerned about the social and economic development of the local human communities.

On the other hand, these estates offer unique experiences related to coffee, from showing how it is produced from the seed, to conducting experienced tastings or barista workshops. Thus, they offer their visitors incomparable stays in typical coffee houses, unique in their architecture and colorful, where they can stay and relax. Here we will tell you which are the best coffee farms in Colombia where you can join the passion for coffee and birds.

Top 5 Coffee and Birding Destinations in Colombia

Hacienda Venecia – Caldas

226 species


Located in the countryside between Salento and Medellín, 20 minutes (10.5 km) from the center of the city of Manizales, near the Coffee Highway, towards Pereira. It is located in the Central Andean Mountain Range, near Los Nevados National Park. The area was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO due to its exclusive Coffee Cultural Landscape (PPC).

How to get there

Due to its central location in the coffee axis, there are routes from Manizales, Pereira, Salento, Medellín and Bogotá. It can be done by public transportation or private transportation organized by the hacienda.

The Farm

Hacienda Venecia is a coffee farm with 100 years of tradition with experience in growing, processing, exporting, roasting and marketing coffee. Its coffee brand is known as Hacienda Venecia, and is a coffee of Colombian origin. Its coffee plantations are surrounded by native trees and water springs, which support the movement and permanence of birds and wildlife in general.

The most interesting thing about the Hacienda, for travelers, is that it offers a variety of accommodations that encompasses all types of travelers from the most demanding high-end to the cheapest backpackers and overlanders. It has a main house, a lodge, and a hostel. Free coffee is always available at each of the accommodations. The farm has a swimming pool at the Coffee Lodge that can be used by all guests. It also offers coffee tour, coffee preparation and barista workshop, chocolate workshop, banana cooking class, bird watching, ecological walks around the reserve and horseback riding.

Environmental responsibility

Organic food production is promoted, such as happy hen eggs produced by neighboring farms. The farm also protects bees through beekeeping, providing shelter and sustenance for these important pollinators. One of their current projects is to support the local primary school located a few meters from the Hacienda Venecia. In this project, biology students from the University of Caldas teach the children of the school how to observe birds. The Hacienda offers binoculars as a gift, so that they can connect with nature and inspire older generations to care for the environment. The class also promotes the children’s interest in perhaps one day becoming birding guides.

Bird watching at Hacienda Venecia

This activity is open to the public and guests at no cost. The hacienda itself has developed a self-guided birding tour, which includes a guide, binoculars and checklist, and which is free of charge. Just over 220 species of birds can be observed here. The development of this activity at Hacienda Venecia is so important, especially for promoting this activity as part of local development and education about birds. You can even find a guide for people who do not have experience in bird watching. In the guide you can learn from how to use the binoculars, to what applications are recommended to identify and list birds, which are Merlin and eBIrd.


Colombian Chachalaca, Dwarf Cuckoo, Blue-tailed Emerald, Steely-vented Hummingbird, Grayish Piculet, Bronze-winged Parrot, Bar-crested Antshrike, Parker’s Antbird, Black-chested Jay, Scrub Tanage, Black-winged Saltator among others.

Hacienda la Sierra – Antioquia

150 species


it is located in the Central Andean mountains of Antioquia department, Via Medellin – Fredonia, Corregimiento Los Palomos, Colombia.

How to get there

by car just one hour from downtown Medellín and two hours from José María Córdoba International Airport. Private drivers from Hacienda La Sierra can pick you up and drop you off at the airport or at your accommodation in Medellín. You can also arrive by helicopter upon request.

The Farm

Oro Molido is a family business that produces and exports premium gourmet coffees. Through the Foundation that carries the same name, they are committed to social and environmental responsibility, through sustainable practices to increase the economic growth of the region.

Hacienda la Sierra is located on the slopes of the extinct volcano Cerro Bravo. It has a large, traditional house with very spacious and luxurious rooms. From the Hacienda you can visit the village of Fredonia. Inside the hacienda you can take walks or horseback rides through the plantation and the reserve; a guided tour of the coffee harvesting process; a barista workshop; picnics on horseback. Walks through coffee plantations or along wide shady paths in the middle of walnut trees are also offered, as well as an ascent along a pre-Hispanic trail to the top of Cerro Bravo, located at 2600 meters above sea level, or the top of Cerro de Tusa, the region’s archaeological site.

Environmental responsibility

The welfare of the communities living around it, especially children and young people, are the main concern of the hacienda, offering education programs, medical brigades, research stations, art exhibitions and music training for the Peace Symphony Orchestra. Hacienda La Sierra is certified by the Rainforest Alliance for protecting the region’s biodiversity. It protects eight natural water sources, which guarantee the viability of the plantation, as well as the well-being of the local communities. At the same time, they ensure the protection of the flora and fauna and the sustainable use of the soil.

Bird watching at Hacienda la Sierra

About 150 species of birds have been reported at the farm. When we had the opportunity to visit, we completed a list of about 50 species in a short time and without much effort of walking or searching. This activity can be booked as a day trip or during your stay, the tour is done with professional birding guides who take guests or visitors through the different trails of the hacienda.


Colombian Chachalaca, Striped Cuckoo, Andean Emerald, Short-tailed Hawk, Red-headed Barbet, Azara´s Spinetail, American Redstart, Blackburnian Warbler, among others.

Finca Vista de Nieve – Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

100 species


The farm is located 14.5 km from the municipality of Minca, towards the village of Cincinati, a road that ends about 30 km from Minca.

How to get there

The only way to get to the Finca is by 4×4 car due to difficult road conditions. It is also possible to arrive by motorcycle from Minca. The inhabitants of the region generally use motorbikes for transportation.

The Farm

Vista de Nieve is one of the most special coffee farms in Colombia. It has a spectacular view of the Barranquilla – Santa Marta highway through the Magdalena swamp and the sea. Like Hacienda la Sierra, it belongs to Oro Molido, a family business that exports premium coffees.Finca Vista de Nieve is located in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, immersed in one of the most emblematic places for bird watching in Colombia, as there is a great concentration of endemic bird species. The farm, located between 1300 and 1500 m asl, has shade grown coffee plantations, where you can find several endemic species of the region. It has private lodging, a comfortable house of more than 100 years of construction. The advantage of Finca Vista de Nieve is that it offers good quality alternative accommodation in Minca for bird watchers. At the moment, no coffee or barista tours are offered there.

Environmental responsibility

As part of the Oro Molido company, Finca Vista de Nieve is also under the objectives of the Oro Molido Foundation to preserve the region through sustainable practices, in this case, by strengthening the local economy by hiring local personnel and producing a coffee of origin.

Bird watching at Finca Vista de Nieve

bird watching can be done around the house, along the road or between the paths of the coffee plantations. Lodging and food service must be reserved in advance. The place serves as the epicenter for visiting the hotspots in the area such as the Cuchilla de San Lorenzo.


Black-fronted Wood-Quail, Santa Marta Antbird, Santa Marta Antpitta, Santa Marta Tapaculo, Santa Marta Foliage-gleaner, Santa Marta Brushfinch, Santa Marta Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, White-lored Warbler, Bay-headed Tanager among others.

El Encanto Natural Reserve – Huila

219 species


km 2 via PNN Cueva de los Guacharos, Palestina, Huila. It is located in the area of influence of the Guacharos Cave and Churumbelos National Park, within the Andean Belt Biosphere Reserve, declared by UNESCO as a mega-diverse territory.

How to get there

you can get there by motorcycle or 4×4 truck through an open road from the municipality of Palestina Huila, which is 2.6 km away. Its location within a radius of less than 200 km from the capital cities of Popayan, Mocoa and Florence is strategic as the epicenter to travel the region. The nearest city is Pitalito, 22 km away, which has a transport terminal and airport.

The Farm

El Encanto is an ecotourism project that emerged in 1997, in the municipality of Palestina Huila. Today, it is a Civil Society Natural Reserve declared by National Parks as one of the best ecotourism destinations in the Department of Huila. El Encanto is a natural paradise surrounded by mountains, water, coffee, flowers and birds. Thanks to the effort of 20 years by the Molina Cruz family, today it offers lodging services in Guadua Cabins, typical food of the region, gourmet dishes with local ingredients, and also offers vegetarian and vegan options. This is the dream come true of this family that hopes to share with their guests the richness of their region and offer the best service. They produce a delicious organic coffee grown under shade and with permaculture practices, where more than 260 species of birds live.

Inside the reserve you can enjoy guided bird watching activities, coffee production workshops, orchid watching, arthropod watching and hiking. This is a community tourism destination where you will find the coffee landscape along with the magic of the Andean forests of southern Colombia.

Environmental Responsibility

In addition to enjoying one of the most beautiful regions of Colombia, the Colombian Massif, many farmers are being supported in their hard work to conserve natural resources as well as native fauna and flora. As a Nature Reserve, it works to improve land use, conservation, agricultural production and ecotourism. Its main objective is the preservation of natural resources and the sustainable use of them, combining agricultural production, in a permaculture system, with the conservation of Andean forest. The use of ecotourism specialized in birds, orchids and arthropods also helps to finance the reserve. By promoting sustainable tourism practices, El Encanto guarantees the conservation of these ecosystems, as well as the work and livelihood of many rural families who respect their territory. They also offer volunteer work.

Bird watching at El Encanto Natural Reserve

El Encanto offers specialized birding guide service, with 219 species of birds, among which 7 are endemic species. You will be able to enjoy the birds between 1400 and 1500 m asl as follows:

  • El Encanto Ecoturistic Reserve, subandean forest with +200 species;
  • La Riviera Natural Reserve, Andean forest, between 2000 – 2200 meters above sea level, with +300 species;
  • Alto del Oso, Andean forest between 1900 and 2100 meters with +200 species.

El Encanto also has one of the best bird feeders in the country, well adapted for bird photography.


Colombian Chachalaca, Crested Bobwhite, Tolima Dove, Tolima Blossomcrown, Indigo-capped Hummingbird, Apical Flycatcher, Dusky-headed Brushfinch, Velvet-fronted Euphonia among others.

La Palma & el Tucán – Cundinamarca

360 bird species around


The farm is located 2 hours from Bogotá, in the municipality of Zipacón, Cundinamarca.

How to get there

You can get there by private transportation leaving from the south of Bogota on the Bojacá-Cachipay road, a journey of about 65 km. This is the closest coffee destination to Bogotá.

The Farm

La Palma & el Tucán is a small producer of specialty coffee, awarded for its high quality. The plantation is surrounded by relics of Andean cloud forests. In 2017 this farm made an innovative proposal around coffee production, creating a boutique hotel to offer experiences. Among the experiences offered by the hotel, visitors can: learn about the different stages of the coffee process in an ecological coffee farm, get in touch with nature, learn about the different species and factors that make coffee special, coffee cupping workshops, learn about the machinery that is behind the processing of coffee, learn about the steps needed to transform a freshly picked coffee bean into the coffee that is packaged in the markets. The food offered by the hotel is prepared with ingredients that grow in the region.

The hotel consists of nine wooden cabins, all with terraces and an open-air shower in the middle of the coffee plantations. They are built with an eco-friendly vision, as if they were palafittes. Interio Magazine published a review of the particular architectural concept envisaged for the hotel. The idea was to maintain coherence with the coffee brand and add value by being respectful to the environment and landscape. The location of the cabins was carefully chosen so that each had optimal orientation in terms of lighting and view. They were named after nine varieties of coffee. The farm’s rugged topography allows all the cabins to be surrounded by a unique natural environment.There is a main house, overlooking the Valle de la Mesa, where the restaurant, the kitchen, a bar for tasting and drinking coffee, and outdoor jacuzzis are located. The Hotel also offers an ideal space for corporate, educational and recreational events.

Environmental responsibility

La Palma & El Tucán has a model of inclusive, purposeful and value-driven coffee farming, working with over 100 traditional coffee growing families in the region. The community project (called “neighbors & crops”) benefits coffee growing families in the area by supporting fair trade and agro-ecological farming methods. Small coffee growers strive to create a sustainable business by marketing their product, so La Palma & el Tucán offers a solution by distributing and processing coffee in a fair manner, so that farmers can focus on the care and quality of the product. All the coffee is roasted and distributed by Libertario Café, which has two stores in Bogotá and Cartagena.

Bird Watching at La Palma & El Tucán

Bird watching is done at the Pedro Palo Lagoon located 8 km, 20 minutes, from La Palma and the Toucan. Inside the farm you can also visit the coffee plantations to watch birds.


Southern Emerald-Toucanet, Tropical Parula Blackburnian Warbler Yellow Warbler  Canada Warbler  Andean Guan  Booted Racket-ta Turquoise Dacnis Moustached Puffbird American Redstart Black-crested Warbler Yellow-billed Cacique Mourning Warbler, among others.


About the author

Sara Colmenares 

Current director of Sula. Doctor in Biological Sciences. Her main interests are to explore and understand the organism – environment interactions, taking advantage of emerging knowledge for the management and conservation of species and ecosystem services. She is currently working as a consultant in functional ecology, ecosystem services and conservation projects in Colombia related to ecotourism and birdwatching. 

Did you know birds can be saved by the coffee you drink?

The coffee belt, in fact, is one of the areas with a great diversity and richness of bird species in Colombia. The temperate regions, between 1200 and 1800 meters above sea level, with temperatures between 17 and 23° C and average annual rainfall of around 2000 mm, offer optimal conditions for coffee cultivation, and are also regions that constitute a crucial habitat for many species of birds.  

A bit about Coffee History

Coffee originated in Ethiopia, Africa, where it was consumed in infusions or by chewing its leaves. But it was the Arabs who were responsible for its expansion, first throughout the Arab world in the 16th century, then in Europe in the 17th century and finally in America around the 18th century. It is believed that coffee was introduced to Colombia in the early 18th century by Jesuit missionaries, being the main region of expansion of cultivation in Santander and Norte de Santander, in the east of the country. Later, coffee production began to expand to other departments and by 1850 it had reached Cundinamarca, Antioquia and Caldas. By the end of the 19th century, coffee was already the main export product for which Colombia received foreign currency. In the 20th century, the smaller producers made their way and the leadership of coffee development moved to the western part of Colombia.  

In 1959 the character of Juan Valdez was born and the Colombian Coffee office was opened in Tokyo, making Japan the second largest consumer of Colombian Coffee in the world. In 1984 the distinctive brand Café de Colombia is created an identifies colombian coffee in all corners of the world. 

Today, coffee crops are grown almost all over the country, except for 9 of the country’s 32 departments where  geographical conditions are not suitable for coffee. Conditions such as flat, arid or swampy lands in Sucre, Córdoba, Atlántico, Arauca; or jungle and rocky lands of the Guyanese shield like Guainía, Vichada, Guaviare; or humid, floodable and sandy Amazonian lands like Vaupés and Amazonas.  On the contrary, coffee extends through all the mountain ranges of the Andean region, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the Serranía del Perijá, as well as in the Pacific and in each of the Andean foothills of the three mountain ranges and the Colombian massif, covering a wide variety of ecosystems. 

Coffee Regions of Colombia – Copyright

Shade-grown Coffee and Birds Conservation

In recent years, the importance of maintaining a balance between natural ecosystems and crops of any kind has been recognized. In the case of coffee, sustainable practices such as shading the crop with native trees has become an ecological and economic added value. It has already been demonstrated in Colombia that there is a greater diversity of birds and bats in shade-grown coffee plantations attracted to the insects, nectar, and fruit that trees provide, compared to traditional plantations exposed to the sun and devoid of trees. The conclusion is that with greater tree connectivity and the presence of forests in the plantations there is a greater presence of wildlife. Even small increases in tree cover – between 7% and 13% – can make a significant difference to birds.

In Colombia, migratory birds need to find high quality habitats to replenish their energy, and coffee plantations, with a mixed landscape of forest and plantation, offer birds the quality of habitat required to recover. And this applies to resident birds as well. Trees not only benefit coffee and birds and wildlife in general, but they also help maintain soil and water by preventing erosion and landslides, adding nutrients to the soil, storing carbon, etc. There are more than 40 species of North American migratory songbirds that benefit from shade grown coffee, including the Tennessee warbler (Leiothlypis peregrina), Blackburnian warbler (Setophaga fusca), Summer tanager (Piranga rubra), Black-and-white warbler (Mniotilta varia) among others.  

It has also been found that the shade favors the slow maturation of the bean, giving it time to develop all its properties, creating a softer coffee because it contains less concentration of carbohydrates (CENICAFE). In traditional crops, sunlight accelerates the production of coffee beans and increases yields, which translates into a faster profit for the farmer but results in a loss of forest, and therefore a loss of wildlife. Every day consumers have become more selective when buying a brand of coffee, and appeal for conditions such as: 

  1. A greater presence of species, such as birds and insects, which exercise important biological control, instead of an excess of agrochemicals,
  2. Farms committed to saving forests and conserving biodiversity 
  3. Support to small producers who use agrochemicals less regularly and keep their crops more frequently immersed in forests and natural stubble. 
  4. Taste

Main birding and coffee destinations in Colombia


In the area of Nariño there is a great variety of plant formations such as dry forests, Choco forest, mountains and paramos, each one differentiable thanks to the altitudinal and climatic level. The Nariño coffee region is surrounded by the Amazon slope and the tropical forests of the Pacific coast, which provide an immense asset of biodiversity. Coffee crops, besides being basic to the economy of the Nariño region, are extremely important in the process of environmental conservation and sustainability. They are home to 33 species of trees used as shade trees, whose supply of seeds, fruits and flowers are used by many birds, especially from the Thraupidae family, specialist birds such as toucans and migratory birds. Nariño has approximately 1048 species of birds, including 155 species with some type of migration and 242 species that are contemplated within one of the criteria for bird conservation at the international level (AICA/IBA). According to a publication in the scientific journal Biota Colombiana (Vol. 12, number 1, Calderón et al 2011) the department of Nariño stands out as an important center for the conservation of birds in Colombia due to its high number of endemic and range-restricted species and the fact that it is considered by some authors as a speciation center, especially for the hummingbird group. 

Coffee Triangle (Caldas, Quindío, Risaralda, Valle del Cauca) 

The Coffee Triangle, also known as coffee axis, is a territory composed of six zones located in 47 municipalities of the departments of Caldas, Quindío, Risaralda and Valle del Cauca, surrounded by an area of influence or buffer zone. The geographic position of the coffee axis determines an environment enriched by the influence of the altitudinal gradients of the central and western Andean mountain ranges that generate unique ecosystems producing the so-called coffee cultural landscape (PCC).  The PCC demonstrated an exceptional universal value that incorporates human and family effort, the culture developed around coffee, the social capital generated by the coffee and the coexistence between tradition and technology. These reasons made the Coffee Cultural Landscape be declared as a World Heritage by UNESCO on June 25, 2011. 

In studies carried out by the National Coffee Research Center in Colombia (CENICAFE, Technical Report 265), more than 600 species of birds have been registered in the coffee zone, which constitutes more than 20% of the avifauna reported in the country. The most visited birding hotspots in this region are:  National Natural Park Tatamá with recognized sites such as Montezuma Hill in Pueblo Rico, the Cerro de la Línea and the Aguabonita Reserve in Apía, as well as the environmental corridors of municipalities such as Mistrató and Santuario. Los Nevados National Natural Park with all its several access routes, the Otún Quimbaya Flora and Fauna Sanctuary, the Rio Blanco Reservethe Barbas Bremen Canyon, and the Riosucio road to El Jardin in Antioquia.  

Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta 

According to the Alliance for Critical Ecosystems (ALPEC), coffee growing began in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in the first decades of the last century with the establishment of large coffee farms such as Cincinnati, Vista Nieve or La Victoria owned by foreign families. Coffee growing is one of the most important economic and productive activities developed in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and is the engine of the economy in a wide area known as the coffee belt that has an estimated total area of 168,000 ha.

Due to the rainfall, latitude, high slopes, and soil types of the Sierra Nevada, coffee cultivation requires permanent shade. These productive systems present characteristics similar to natural habitats and maintain patches or corridors of vegetation through basins and micro-basins, benefiting the conservation of birds. 72 species of migratory land birds, use those plantations as a place of season and permanence, including 19 species of conservation targets in the USA and Canada. They also benefit endemic or threatened species. Of the 18 species of restricted range distribution (Endemic Bird Area – EBA) in elevations of the coffee zone, 11 were recorded in shaded coffee plantations. Of the 13 threatened species recorded in the coffee zone, 9 species use shaded coffee plantations as their habitat. Know more about the birds you can find at Sierra nevada in the post here.


Santander’s coffee is recognized for its quality and soft flavor, subtly chocolatey and very balanced. It is mostly cultivated with the shade-grown method, which gives it special characteristics and, in addition, protects biodiversity. Santander is the second department in Colombia in terms of the number of species registered, after Antioquia, according to preliminary results of the Santander BIO project, led by the Departmental Administration and executed by the Universidad Industrial de Santander (UIS) and the Alexander von Humboldt Biological Resources Research Institute of Colombia.  

According to the researchers, the department has land from the Magdalena Medio to the highlands of the eastern Andean mountain range. This vast transition from dry to humid areas makes the biological diversity very large, even greater than in the Amazon. The outstanding natural areas are the Serranía de los Yariguíes, the Chicamocha Canyon, the Almorzadero Páramo, the Sanctuary of Flora and Fauna Guanentá Alto de Río Fonce, the Paturia Wildlife Sanctuary among others, bringing together paramos, cloud forest, tropical rain forest, wetlands and arid areas.

The richness of birds in Santander is very high, representing almost 8% of the birds of the planet. Birds’ habitat in Santander has been damaged by deforestation due to mining, livestock and agriculture. However, projects have emerged such as the La Mesa de Los Santos Coffee Park, a project created by the farm Hacienda El Roble, which produces one of the finest and most expensive coffees on the planet. In this place there are 300 hectares of shaded coffee with native tree species, benefiting around 126 species of birds. There are other coffee regions, such as Suaita, where it is also possible to find shaded-grown coffee plantations that favors many local and migratory birds.   


The south of Huila is a coffee region that borders on natural areas of great interest such as the Guácharos Natural National Park and the Colombian MAssif. Studies in the area conducted by Cenicafe, found about 280 bird species, concluding that the most outstanding environmental condition is the presence of fragments of native oak forests which sustains a great part of the diversity of the area. The coffee crops, which also use the shading system, become important buffers for the loss of habitat in the region. Threatened species such as Dusky-headed Brushfinch (Atlapetes fuscoolivaceus) and Tolima Dove (Leptotilaconoveri), which are protected by these coffee areas, can be found in the coffee plantations. 


Now you know that you can make magnificent bird watching tours around shade – grown coffee farms covering almost all the main birding routes in the country and all of the main coffee profiles in Colombia. Wait for our next entry where we will tell you about the farms and coffee plantations where you can combine the passion for birds and coffee. 


About the author. 

Sara Colmenares 

Current director of Sula. Doctor in Biological Sciences. Her main interests are to explore and understand the organism – environment interactions, taking advantage of emerging knowledge for the management and conservation of species and ecosystem services. She is currently working as a consultant in functional ecology, ecosystem services and conservation projects in Colombia related to ecotourism and birdwatching.