Tag Archives: Costa Rica wildlife

Must See Wildlife in Costa Rica

Revered for being one of the most bio diverse countries on the planet, the wildlife in Costa Rica is an animal lover’s dream playground. So enriched is the country with unique and interesting creatures, that you need not even specifically go on dedicated wildlife-watching tours, if you don’t have the time or wish to keep expenses down. For in Costa Rica, wildlife is everywhere.

The most common, the most famous, the most beloved and even the most feared: here is the top wildlife in Costa Rica.


What they lack in size, insects more than make up for in sheer numbers in Costa Rica, where they make up almost 60% of ALL the wildlife species. Here, you’ll see over 1,200 vibrantly colorful butterflies, which equate to more than 10% of all butterfly species on the planet. Together with an impressive array of bee species, butterflies are responsible for the enormous variety of flora which blankets Costa Rica in its entirety.


Four species of monkeys inhabit the luscious forests of Costa Rica and the fabulous thing about them is that they live and travel in big troops, so once you spot one you will have time to grab your camera and, soon enough, you’ll spot several. These noisy and clever creatures can be sneaky and have been known to steal visitor’s lunches, so hold on to your foodie stash the moment you hear the cries of the cheeky mantled howler monkey.


wildlife in Costa RicaOut of the 900 species of birds found in Costa Rica, over 600 live there permanently. Non-birders can’t help but notice the more eye-catching species like the magnificent toucans and scarlet macaws, but fact is this is one of the most respected dedicated bird-watching destinations on the planet. From the lovely Yiguirro, the country’s national bird, to the stunning quetzal and impressive jabiru, Costa Rica’s birds come in all colors, shapes and make for astonishing viewing. In total, you’ll find six species of toucans inhabiting all the wonderful forests throughout Costa Rica.


Ever-smiley sloths are arguably everyone’s favorite Costa Rica wildlife and even if going in search of them gives you a crick in the neck it will be well worthwhile once you come face to face with this goofy character. Sloths do a mighty fine job of camouflaging in the canopy of low and mid-elevation forests and spotting them can actually be quite pesky. So channel your inner sloth, move slowly and carefully and you’ll no doubt soon see one just ‘hanging about’.

Sea Turtles

Renowned as one of the world’s premier turtle nesting destinations, Costa Rica is home to 5 out of the 7 existing sea turtle species, with each species preferring certain stretches of beaches. So take it slow when visiting Costa Rica, and follow our turtle-watching guide to get the most out of your trip.


Given Costa Rica’s prime location, its pristine seas are brimming with migrating whales in July and March, the gargantuan sea kings and queens make their yearly pilgrimage.

If catching a glimpse of these magnificent beasts is a priority, check out our guide to whale watching in Costa Rica for more detailed info.

Tree frogs

Over three-quarters of all of Costa Rica’s amphibians are frogs, the most notable of which is the red eyed tree frog. As a great many of frogs are nocturnal, the best chance of spotting several species of frogs is to go on a nighttime hike, but we do recommend you take a local experienced guide with you. Not only will it be safer for you but you’ll also see many, many more creatures than you would on your own.


The Costa Rica racoon gets a lot of flak from North American tourists, with many first-time visitors assuming they are as bothersome as those back home. But this gorgeous coatimundi is much more placid but just as curious, so although you should definitely never approach one or try to pet one, there’s no reason to run away screaming! But yes…do make sure you don’t wave your sandwich around should you spot one. They are very sweet…but they still wouldn’t turn down a free lunch!


Now here’s a species of wildlife you should definitely admire from a little distance! In Costa Rica, you’ll find two crocodilians: the large American crocodile and the much smaller and less threatening spectacled caiman.


Between November and May, large pods of dolphins can be easily spotted swimming off the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Although dolphins live along this coast all year long, winter is when they breed so your chances of spotting many of them on a boat outing, are infinitely enhanced.

Big cats

Costa Rica is home to several big cats, many of them remaining elusive and very difficult to spot. Of the 7 species, the most coveted would have to be the jaguar and the puma, with the former being the largest wild cat in the country, growing up to an impressive 2 meters in length. Of all the top wildlife in Costa Rica, the jaguar remains the hardest to spot in the wild.

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Meet Some of Costa Rica’s Cutest Creatures

Renowned as one of the world’s most bio-diverse hubs, Costa Rica is home to a near infinite array of exotic wildlife. Over half a million different animal species call this country home, which equates to almost 5% of our planet’s fauna. Although there are some creatures you may not want to run into during your Costa Rica adventure trip (the common eyelash viper, for example, isn’t cuddliest of all!) there are plenty more which are incredibly adorable.

Here’s our selection of the cutest creatures you could ever hope to find in Costa Rica. But beware! Cute does not always mean approachable…

Include a few days of wildlife spotting, at the beginning or end of your Costa Rica Rios adventure trip, and you’re bound to have a truly unforgettable experience.

One of the most magnificent felines in existence, the jaguar is as stunning as he is elusive. Having become almost completely extinct in North America (and critically endangered in the south) jaguars are some of the most revered and protected animals in Costa Rica. Central America’s largest cat is solitary, shy and a master of camouflage, so spotting one in the wild is about as likely as winning the lotto. Still, some people manage both, so who’s to say you won’t be the next lucky punter? Head to Parque Nacional Corcovado or La Amistad, where chances may still be slim, yet are still worth a shot.

SlothOne of the most beloved and comical creatures in Costa Rica, not to mention the most adorable, the sloth is laziness personified. Here is a creature so reluctant to move that he sleeps, eats and even gives birth while hanging on a tree branch. Known for doing nothing much besides feasting on leaves and sleeping, the sloth may appear to be an easy target, yet this ingenuous creature has managed to survive and thrive phenomenally well in South America. The sloth is mostly only vulnerable to predators whenever it descends to ground to relieve itself yet thanks to its painfully slow metabolism, this is something he need do only once a week. Costa Rica is home to two species: the brown-throated three-toed sloth, and two-toed Hoffamnn’s, both of which boast the typical dreamy eyes and saintly smiles for which the animal is so renowned. In the Costa Rican wild, sloths are mostly found in the lower forests of the Osa Peninsula, Tortuguero and Puerto Viejo. Sloths are also found within Manuel Antonio National which is a small National Park in the Central Pacific Conservation Area located on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. If however you dream of a close and personal encounter, however, include a visit Sloth Rescue Centre in Cahuita, the only one of its kind in the world.

Baird’s Tapir
The Baird’s Tapir is one of those peculiar creatures that looks like it’s a hybrid of several animals’ spare parts. With the stocky body of a rhino, and the too-short- trunk of an elephant , this unusual tapir is the largest land mammal in Central America and, although not a classical beauty, it certainly boasts a rather enticing look. The tapir is so muscle-rich, that it can usually take on a challenge from a mighty crocodile and come out on top. Although its sturdy build has ensured its survival among fellow four-footed creatures, Baird’s Tapirs are still constantly battling for survival against humans. The Parque Nacional Corcovado is where you need to go, to ensure the best bet of spotting one in the wild.

White-nosed Coati
CoatiThere aren’t many people who could remain stone faced at the sight of a teddy-bear like coati. This adorable creature is distantly related to the common racoon, yet boasts a much longer, upturned nose. At a quick glance it can easily be mistaken for an overweight squirrel, especially as it has a long and fluffy tail, which it keeps erect through thick foliage to guide his troops through forests. To see one of these cuties in action, keep your eyes peeled to the ground as you hike through the Arenal, Corcovado Volcano National Park, or Irazu Volcano.


Costa Rica OcelotThe natural reserves of Arenal and Monteverde are ideal places to see ocelots, the third-largest cat in Costa Rica. Ocelots boast a rather wide territory and can be found from Texas all the way to southern Argentina. As mysteriously elusive as the jaguar, the ocelot is often referred to as a dwarf-leopard, although it does display quite a distinctively different look. Its stupendously spotted coat is something for which the ocelot has been fervently hunted in the past, and in Costa Rica it is still considered a severely threatened species.

Sea Turtles
Sea TurtleHead to Tamarindo if travelling in the months between December and February to see Leatherback Turtles, or to Ostional (further south) if travelling at any other time. Here is where you’ll likely spot Green turtles, which tend to come much more frequently to shore.  From March to October you can also head to the Caribbean side of the country and the Tortuguero National Park to see Giant Leatherbacks, Hawksbill and Green Turtles nesting.

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Taking It Slow: In Search of Turtles in Costa Rica

Turtles are known for taking it slow and basking in the sun in Costa Rica. They love swimming in the coastal waters and are sometimes found on the beach, especially during nesting season. If you’re looking for turtles in Costa Rica, you’ll find three different types at Tortuguero National Park in Costa Rica. Tortuguero is home to the Green Sea Turtle, Giant Leatherback and Hawksbill Turtles. It’s fascinating to watch the hatchlings crawl from their nests down to the water. It typically happens at night, when the sand is cooler.

Green Sea Turtles

The Green Sea Turtle is one of the oldest species on Earth, existing before even the dinosaurs. They have green skin and brown, black, yellow, gray, green or olive shells. They are an endangered species, also referred to as the Eastern Pacific Green Turtle, and are sometimes simply called green turtles. They are one of the few species that leave the sea and come onto land to sun themselves when they’re not nesting. They are the largest of the sea turtles. Adults commonly weigh in above 300 pounds and can be as much as five feet long. The females nest on the beaches from July to October.

 Giant Leatherback

Leatherback turtles often grow more than three feet long, weighing in at close to a ton. Their large front flippers can grow to be more than eight feet long, giving them a distinct advantage in the water. Leatherbacks are dark gray or black with white speckles and a much lighter underside. The females come ashore between February and June to dig nests and lay their eggs. When the turtles hatch, they all move down the beach, paddling through the surf and into the water. Most males will never return to land. The Giant Leatherback is the largest known living turtle species. It’s a deep diver that spends more than 99 percent of its day swimming. It doesn’t have a bony shell like most other types of turtles. There are ridges on Leatherbacks, but they have no claws in their flippers and no teeth in their mouths. They use spines in the throat and horny points on the upper lip to eat. They are an endangered one of several endangered species protected in Costa Rica

Hawksbill Turtles

The Hawksbill Turtle typical grows up to just under three feet long. They weigh in at a maximum of 200 pounds.  Hawskbills are named for their hawk-like beaks for mouths. They are among the most endangered turtle species, often hunted for their colorful shells. They eat mostly sea sponges, using their sharp beaks to catch them. Hawksbill Turtles are harder to spot around the beaches of Tortuguero, because they like to nest in seclusion about every two weeks beginning in July. They usually build a maximum of four nests per season, laying 150 to 200 eggs per nest.

If you love turtles, and sea turtles in particular, be sure to tell our staff when you’re booking your vacation with Costa Rica Rios. We’ll help you find the best turtle-watching spots to see these fascinating creatures. Contact Costa Rica Rios today to make plans and reservations.


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