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How to See Costa Rica’s Wildlife

Dreaming of experiencing Costa Rica's wildlife and rich biodiversity?

April 15, 2022

As one of our most biodiverse countries, Costa Rica is one of the best destinations for wildlife watching. Approximately a quarter of the Central American nation consists of protected jungle that provides a safe habitat for birds, mammals, and reptiles. What’s more, Costa Rica rates highly in terms of sustainability and eco-initiatives.

What wildlife can you see in Costa Rica and where?

Costa Rica is home to over 500,000 species of wild animals. With 30 national parks in total – where do you start?


There are around 900 varieties of birds in Costa Rica. Six species of toucan reside in Costa Rica’s jungles. The keel-billed variety is the variety you are most likely to recognize, with their multi-colored beaks and necks. You may spot flocks of toucans in the foliage dining on tropical fruit, seeds, and insects.

50 species of hummingbird live in Costa Rica, representing all the colors of the rainbow. These are commonly sighted – beating their wings at the speed of lightning in the vast rainforests.

Other examples of birdlife include robins, macaws, resplendent quetzals, and pelicans.

The Monteverde Cloud Forest ranks at the top of the list for birdwatchers and flora enthusiasts. 10% of the plants found in the reserve cannot be seen anywhere else on the planet. Accessible via boat or plane, Tortuguero National Park contains eleven different types of habitat and is another leading destination for birdlife as well as turtles.

Reptiles and amphibians

Iguanas, crocodiles, vipers, and basilisks are just some of the reptiles and amphibians to look out for in Costa Rica.

Red-eyed tree frogs are well-camouflaged thanks to their lime green bodies. However, those bulging red eyes give the game away. As the frogs are nocturnal, they are a challenge to see. They are present in the lowland areas such as the Tortuguero National Park, the Manuel Antonio National Park as well as the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.

Meanwhile, cane toads are the largest species of toad. They live in most regions of Costa Rica and are frequently spotted.


Four species of monkeys reside in Costa Rica: howler monkeys, spider monkeys, squirrel monkeys, and capuchin monkeys. Monkeys may be seen across the country but if you want to stand a chance of seeing all four, Corcovado National Park is the only place where that’s possible.

Coatimundis are a member of the raccoon family distinguished by their pointed muzzles and bushy, ringed tails. They are present in most of the parks and reserves across Costa Rica.

Baird’s Tapirs inhabit forests and wetlands such as the Corcovado National Park. They may also be spotted in the Parque Nacional Juan Castro Blanco.

Although rarely sighted, jaguars do dwell in the Corcovado and Santa Rosa national parks.

Marine species

Scuba divers and underwater enthusiasts should visit Parque Nacional Isla del Coco. Liveaboard excursions provide the opportunity to bear witness to one of the largest schools of hammerhead sharks as well as manta rays and dolphins.

Visit Parque Nacional Marino Ballena between December and April or from late July for the chance to spot migrating humpback whales.

How to visit Costa Rica

If you have your heart set on seeing wildlife while in Costa Rica then you are highly recommended to hire a guide or join an organized tour. Otherwise, you stand a chance of missing these creatures who are accustomed to camouflaging themselves. Furthermore, a knowledgeable guide can share valuable insights with you and answer all your questions.

Contact me to start planning your wildlife retreat in Costa Rica

Ready to embark on your own journey to the extraordinary?