Costa Rica is a lush and green paradise teeming with rare and beautiful wildlife. There are an incredible range of habitats here, squeezed into a relatively small country. No other country in the world has more bio-diversity – there are 615 different species per 10,000 square kilometres. Combined with how easy it is to travel in Costa Rica and how friendly the local people are, it comes as no surprise that this is one of the premier nature destinations in the world.
Here are 10 of the most amazing wild and wonderful animals in Costa Rica.
1. Spinner Dolphin
Dolphin sightings are not unusual in Costa Rica and you will often see one of several species playing in the waters off the Pacific coast. If you are lucky, you might even spot a spinner dolphin, which got its name because of their acrobatic, aerial 'spins'. Many of the whale watching tours will also give you a chance to spot dolphin, since the two are usually seen in the same areas. If you are on the Pacific Coast, try out Bahia Aventuras' Whale Watching and Dolphin Encounter
for only $90.
There are six different species of toucans that you can spot in the rainforests of Costa Rica, including the majestic chestnut-mandibled toucan. Carara National Park in Puntarenas is an excellent place to spot toucans, as it has a lot of primary rainforest - a tour is only $45 with Vic Tours
. Other great places to see these bright and colourful birds include Corcovado National Park, Tortuguero National Park and Monteverde Cloud Forest.
There are four species of monkeys in Costa Rica: spider monkeys, squirrel monkeys, howler monkeys, and white throated capuchin monkeys (above). The beautiful and remote Corcovado National Park
is the only place where you will be able to see all four species in the same location. We recommend a guided hiking tour
so that you will be sure to see the best that the park has to offer - the monkeys can sometimes be difficult to spot in the trees!
Costa Rica is known for its sea turtle conservation work, which is great because it is here that loads of turtles come to lay their eggs. Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas was established in 1990 to protect turtles from poachers and here you can spot them on Playa Grande from October to May laying their eggs. Tortuguero National Park is also another great place to see endangered green turtles laying their eggs from July to October. However, the most enjoyable place to bump into a sea turtle is where they spend the majority of their time - beneath the waves. For example, you have a great chance of seeing a sea turtle along the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Costa Rica Dive & Surf
can help you find your turtle with a snorkeling
or scuba diving
package starting from just $75.
5. American Crocodile
American crocodiles can be found from Southern Florida all the way down to Ecuador. There is a high population of crocodiles in Costa Rica and they grow very large – sometimes up to 13 or 16 feet long! However, they are at risk because their habitat is being destroyed by human development. One of the most well-known tours
for spotting crocodiles is on the Tarcoles River in Central Pacific Costa Rica. In this area you can also see a number of other jungle animals including lizards, iguanas, monkeys and more. Please keep your limbs inside the boat at all times!
6. Strawberry Poison Dart Frogs
It is thought that these tiny frogs have been genetically isolated for up to 10,000 years. As a result, there are multiple unique color variations within this species and the one featured in this photo is often referred to as the 'blue jeans' variety. The poison in their skin is a natural toxin created by their diet of mites and ants - their bright color alerting predators to this risk. In the lush rainforests of Costa Rica these frogs thrive and fill the air with their loud chirping sounds. The Southern Pacific rainforest of Costa Rica and Corcovado National Park are great places to try and catch a glimpse of these colorful creatures.
Sloths are strange and fascinating creatures – the way that they slowly move their awkward, gangly and hairy bodies is hypnotizing to watch. One of the best places to see sloths is at Manuel Antonio National Park
, where the jungle meets beautiful beaches. You can take a walk in the national park to spot them in the wild, or you can also try visiting the sloth sanctuary in Limon – near Cahuita. It is best to look for sloths in rainy season as the trees are flourishing during this time.
8. Giant Manta Rays
Diving on the Catalina Islands will offer you the best possible opportunity for spotting Giant Manta Rays. The word “manta” comes from the Spanish word for cloak, which describes how these creatures look as they glide through the water. The Catalina Islands are located in the Pacific and are accessible via a 30 minute boat ride from Playa Ocotal in the Guanacaste Province. There are several excellent diving sites in this region that offer access to abundant marine life; as well as seeing Giant Manta Rays you will have a good chance of spotting turtles, eels, fish and sharks. Try a two-tank dive at the Catalina Islands with Scubacaribe
There are a number of whale species in the Pacific waters of Costa Rica, including blue whales and sperm whales, but the most impressive is the humpback whale. Costa Rica has the longest viewing season for these whales in the world and it is pretty common to see mother whales and their babies from August-October and December-March. One of the best places for whale watching is Ballena Marine National Park
, just north of the Osa Peninsula.
This mammal is related to the raccoon and has a long tail and snout, and sharp teeth and claws. They are amazing acrobats, climbing down trees headfirst and jumping from tree to tree on small branches. The best places to see them is in the Montverde Cloud Forest Reserve and Corcovado National Park. Be careful in their presence because their boldness can be increased if you have some food in your hand!
These are just a few of the amazing animals that you can spot on your travels in Costa Rica, so why not start planning
your wild adventure?