Costa Rica’s diverse wildlife is one of the country’s biggest attractions. Luckily, Costa Rica’s tropical climate and lush jungles make for frequent sightings of exotic animals and birds. Whether on the beach or in a national park, tourists can spot some of the country’s most beautiful birds, unique mammals, and amazing amphibians.
Costa Rica is home to four different species of sea turtles that visit the Caribbean and Pacific coasts each year. Unfortunately, three out of the four species are endangered due to habitat destruction, pollution, and poaching. The world’s largest sea turtle, the Leatherback, can be found in Guanacaste province from October through March. The Green-Sea Turtle is found in Tortuguero National Park in Limon province, which is also the largest nesting site for the species in the Western Hemisphere. Hawksbill Sea turtles are the hardest to find, but are occasionally seen on the Atlantic coast from May to November. Lucky tourists may have the opportunity to view mass nesting called arribada by the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle, where hundreds of thousands of sea turtles will gather on local beaches to lay their eggs. This can be seen throughout the Pacific coast.
Many whale species visit the warm waters of Costa Rica to mate, give birth, and raise their young each year. The Humpback whale is the most common whale to see on Costa Rica’s Central and South Pacific coasts. The town of Uvita is one of the best places to see the Humpbacks, especially during the months of July, August, September, January, and February. There are also great viewing opportunities in the province of Guanacaste. Tourists can take whale watching tours that leave from the town of Tamarindo and the nearby Gulf of Papagayo.
The perfect place for scuba diving and snorkeling enthusiasts, Costa Rica is home to a wide variety of migratory marine species, in addition to over 400 species of fish. Thanks to the country’s protected marine parks, tourists can experience the richness of the ocean. Rays, West Indian Manatees, dolphins, sharks, and eels can all be spotted off of the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. One of the best places to get close to nature is Cano Island, which is known for its great underwater visibility and close proximity to aquatic species such as sharks, dolphins, and whales.
Costa Rica is home to six different species of wild cats: the ocelot, margay, jaguar, puma, jaguarundi, and oncilla. These wild cats can be found throughout Costa Rica’s protected forests and National Parks. The two largest big cat species in Costa Rica, the jaguar and puma, are also the two most difficult species to find. Thanks to these cats’ stealthy ability and quiet demeanor they are rarely viewed- even when close to humans. The margay and ocelot are medium sized nocturnal cats that primarily live and hunt in jungle tree tops. A lucky nature lover may be able to spot these cats while they sleep during the day. Finally, the jaguarundi and oncilla are Costa Rica’s smallest wild cats. They live closer to the ground and hunt a variety of rodents and reptiles. These cats are more likely to live in proximity to humans and their tracks are often mistaken for domesticated house cats.
One of the most common animals for tourists to observe, Costa Rica’s four species of monkeys are seen throughout the country’s forests and green spaces. The Mantled Howler Monkey is one of Central America’s largest monkeys and is known for its- you guessed it- loud howl. This species is commonplace throughout Costa Rica and is particularly visible near the beaches of Guanacaste. The White Face Monkey and Central American Squirrel Monkeys are smaller and live along the Central and South Pacific coasts. Known for their devious personalities, these monkeys are particularly prone to stealing hiker’s lunches.
The Geoffey’s Spider Monkey is unique due to its prehensile tail, which allows them to swing easily between trees and supports their total body weight. This monkey can be commonly found on the Pacific Coast, as well as Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. To see all four different species of monkeys head to Corcovado National Park.
One of Costa Rica’s most treasured animals, the country is home to two different varieties of sloths. Hoffman’s Two-Toed Sloth is a nocturnal animal that can usually be found sleeping on trees in the middle of the day. The smaller Brown Throated Sloth is the most common three-toed sloth in the world and is more active than the Hoffman. If you are interested in viewing sloths, the animals are more prevalent closer to the Panamanian border. For this reason, the Osa Peninsula and South Pacific are prime sloth viewing areas. Due to their camouflage appearance and tree-top location sloths can often be difficult to find. For this reason, it is recommended to hire a guide or head on a sloth tour if you would like to increase your chance of seeing the animal.
Costa Rica is home to nearly 150 varieties of tree frogs, most of which are located in the country’s rainforests. However, the most iconic and sought after species is the Red Eyed Tree Frog. This creature is known for its blue, green, and yellow coat along with its bright red eyes. Other popular varieties of tree frogs include the Poison Dart Frog, Glass Frog, Lemur Leaf Frog, and Splendid Leaf Frog. Tourists interested in seeing a wide variety of frogs should head to various amphibian research sites, such as Costa Rican Amphibian Research Center or La Selva Biological Station. Tree frogs are also more common along the Caribbean coast and Manuel Antonio National Park on the Pacific Coast.
Thanks to Costa Rica’s abundant and diverse natural landscapes, the country is a popular destination for birdwatchers. In a single park, nature lovers have the opportunity to observe over 300 species of birds. Some of the most beautiful are the Trogons, White Throated Magpie-Jay, Blue crowned Motmot, and Bluegray Tanager. However, the three most spectacular birds are the Quetzal, Scarlet Macaw, and Hummingbirds.
With their bright red bellies, green backs, and prominent tail, the Quetzal has a regal appearance that has made it one of the most sought after birds in Central America. The Northern Plains and Central Valley region of Costa Rica are some of the best places to spot a Quetzal.
Costa Rica’s gardens and green spaces are filled with over 50 varieties of hummingbirds. For this reason, tourists are likely to cross paths with many different kinds of hummingbirds on their trip. Some of the best places to view the energetic creatures are the Monteverde Cloud Forest and Poas Volcano.
The Scarlet Macaw can grow up to 33 inches in length and is known for its colourful appearance. This bird loves to travel in groups and usually reside in tall trees. Their loud noises can make groups relatively easy to find, and a popular sight among birdwatchers and naturalists.
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