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Although fairly small, Costa Rica is one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world. Its variable climate, thanks to being located in the Neotropics, ensures that it gets a lot of solar exposure which helps many species of flora and fauna thrive. A long history of volcanic geological activity, alongside rising sea bed levels over hundreds of thousands of years, has created a rich and fertile land for Costa Rica’s wildlife, despite only taking up a tiny 0.03% of the earth’s surface.
As part of the thin stretch of land joining the two huge continental masses of North America and South America, the Costa Rican jungles and mountains provided passage for thousands of species that since took up residence. Sharing both Pacific and Caribbean coastlines also has a huge effect on the vast types of wildlife you can find in each corner of this fascinating country. You’ll feel like you’re nestled deep in Jurassic Park itself being surrounded by interesting critters like tapirs, ocelots, sloths, coatis, white-faced Capuchin’s and rhinoceros beetles. Costa Rica has a dazzling 150 species of frog and toad alone, the red-eyed tree frog being the most famous.
Where you can see Costa Rican wildlife
Tortuguero National Park
Explore the stunning myriad of jungle waterways at Tortuguero National Park with hidden lagoons, winding rivers and secret beaches; all jam-packed with vibrant Costa Rican rain-forest wildlife. Situated on the Caribbean coast, this beautiful destination whose name translates to ‘Land of Turtles’ will (unsurprisingly) get you up close and personal with some of Costa Rica’s finest flippered friends. Hawks-bills, green sea turtles, loggerheads and leather-backs all nest here and are protected by conservation projects.
Nesting seasons vary and you can usually see some turtles all year round, however, it’s mainly February to April for leather-backs, and July to October for hawks-bills, loggerheads and green sea turtles, in case you want to factor this into when you book your Costa Rica wildlife adventure. It’s not just turtles you’ll be seeing in Tortuguero. Take a guided tour to marvel at green macaws, iguanas, jaguars, Capuchin monkeys, otters and sloths, among many others. And, if you’re fond of bird-watching, remember to pack some binoculars as you’ll easily spot many of the 300 species of bird whilst in Tortuguero. The biodiversity of the environment here means there are homes and hunting grounds for so many different species of bird, you’ll hear them squawking and singing away as you explore. The Barra de Colorado Wildlife Refuge is also a must to visit. Hear the monkeys’ treetop calls as you navigate the network of mangrove rivers and secluded pools by canoe or kayak.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest
Situated up in the central mountainous region and next to the village of Monteverde, this magical cloud forest provides a home to thousands of diverse species and is most famous for its plethora of resident birds. Huge fans of our winged friends can seek out and marvel the rare resplendent quetzal on a guided wildlife tour.
There are early morning guided tours and night tours for you to fit around your adventure schedule. However, we’d recommend going on both so you can experience the different vibes of the jungle rhythm that Monteverde wildlife has to offer.
Armadillos, three-toed sloths, butterflies and tarantulas can all be found and spotted on a guided tour through the misty fog. As you wander around listening to the cacophony of the canopies, don’t forget to take note of all the beautiful flora around, including varying ferns, mosses, and orchids surrounded by fluttering hummingbirds. Make sure you pack sturdy shoes, some layers for both arms and legs, and a poncho/waterproof as this area of Costa Rica can be slightly cooler and experience rain showers, although less so from December to April. Still pack your sunscreen, however, and some Eco-friendly insect repellent.
This spectacular peninsula provides a truly unique Costa Rica wildlife experience for the Eco-traveller and nature lover.
You’ll find the Osa Peninsula on the southern Pacific coast, shouldered by the Golfo Dulce on the eastern shores, and Drake Bay from the northwest. If you’re looking for untouched landscapes, waterfall pools, natural forest hiking trails and hidden beaches to explore, this Costa Rica rain-forest wildlife paradise is most certainly for you.
From Drake Bay, you’ll find both the Corcovado National Park and the Caño Island Biological Reserve. Covering the western half of the peninsula, Corcovado is one of the most stunningly bio-diverse places on the planet. National Geographic sings about its natural magic, and we do too. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot an endangered puma or jaguar in the depths of the rain-forest, whilst being very likely to see a flash of red as a scarlet macaw soars above you. Monkeys and sloths are frequently encountered during a guided wildlife adventure, joining over 140 other mammals, over 460 species of bird, and a huge population of amphibians and reptiles.
If you’re a self-confessed water baby and love to dive and snorkel among the marine wildlife, then Caño Island Biological Reserve and the Golfo Dolce are not to be missed. Swim in turquoise waters with a delightful mix of tropical fish, and kayak to areas where you can see dolphins jumping and playing above the waves. There are also golden opportunities for you to see seasonal whales with their young in their natural habitat. The Gulfo Dolce – which translates to ‘Sweet Gulf’ – is a secluded inlet body of water surrounded by lush tropical rain-forest, rich with biodiversity, giving plenty of opportunities to come within breathing distance of a huge variety of Costa Rica wildlife.
See our guide on things to do in Costa Rica
Take a peek at our wildlife itineraries in Costa Rica
From 17 days / 16 nights (flexible)
Panama, San Jose - Tortuguero - Puerto Viejo - Bri Bri Village - Bocas del Toro - Boquete - Panama City
From 16 days / 15 nights (flexible)
Nicaragua, San Jose - Tortuguero - La Fortuna - Monteverde - Rincon de la Vieja - Ometepe - Granada - Managua