How to discover the amazing wildlife of Costa Rica
Award-winning wildlife documentaries such as Planet Earth are watched by tens of millions of people. There clearly is an appetite to learn more about the world’s wonderful creatures and the ever-changing environment they inhabit. And more importantly, how we can help protect these animals, many of which are endangered. However, there is nothing more visceral and thrilling than seeing wildlife in their natural habitat. With hushed tones, a rustle in the canopy of trees, and a glimpse of fur - it can be a truly memorable experience. One that makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck, moments that can move you to tears.
Seeing wildlife in Costa Rica
While Africa is often the destination of choice in order to see wildlife, Costa Rica is fast becoming one of the best countries to spot a whole host of incredible animals. It has a staggering 500K different species and accounts for six per cent of the world's entire species population. Not only that, but Costa Rica is also one of only 20 countries with the highest biodiversity in the globe.
With that in mind, if you really want to see an incredible variety of animals, insects and creatures then a wildlife holiday to Costa Rica is the perfect way to get close to nature. You'll be taken to some of the best parks, forests and reserves for spotting animals in the wild, with expert guides and trained naturalists on hand to help you seek out creatures big and small.
Further down, you'll find more information about our Costa Rica wildlife tours, but first we've taken a quick look at some of the incredible wildlife you could spot in this stunning Central American country.
When it comes to birds in Costa Rica, think quirky and colourful! Costa Rica is home to six different species of toucan including the black mandible and the rainbow-billed. These unusual birds, famed for their oversized beaks, have an unusual call which can be heard distinctly throughout the rainforest, although with their coloured bills and necks, they can easily be spotted in the tree canopies, too. They’re a social bunch and like to hang out in small flocks, and like nothing better than feasting on fruit and on insects.
The King of the Wild and the only big cat to inhabit Costa Rica, the endangered jaguar is extremely elusive and you’ll be lucky to see one. This fierce cat loves to live near rivers, and because much of Costa Rica’s jungles are protected reserves, there is ample room for the jaguar to roam. The jaguar’s coat resembles that of a leopard although they are much larger and stockier, and make formidable predators - ‘jaguar’ actually means pouncing killer. Jaguars are known to inhabit several nature reserves but you’re best chances of spotting them are in Tortuguero, Corcovado, Monteverde and Santa Rosa National Parks.
These gentle creatures spend 90% of their lives upside down and asleep. There is much love for sloths - from their smiling faces to their laidback demeanours. There are two types of sloth - the three-toed and the two-toed, and six different species in Costa Rica, of which there are many. With a guide who knows where to look, just by hiking in several of the National Parks including Corcovado, and Manuel Antonio you should help achieve sloth-spotting success. Our wildlife holidays in Costa Rica included guided walks to both of these parks.
Crocodiles and caimans
The American crocodile can be found in Costa Rica’s mangrove swamps and rivers and can grow up to five metres long! Because of hunting and loss of habitat, numbers of crocodiles are dwindling, however, it is still possible to get within safe distance of these fearsome reptiles, particularly in viewing spots including ‘Croc Bridge’ and on our croc safari in the Tortuguero Canal.
Caimans which are the smaller than crocodiles, but still a fair size, and the spectacled caiman has a bluish-greenish colour or a yellow/brown twinge it can camouflage easily in the still muddy floors of swamps and lakes. You shouldn’t have a problem spotting them as Costa Rica has many!
Costa Rica is home to four different monkeys - Capuchin (white-faced), Spider, Howler and Squirrel monkeys and wildlife enthusiasts will be thrilled to see them. Watch as troops of up to 40 monkeys swing from tree to tree foraging for fruits and insects and playing with one another.While Capuchins can use tools to open seeds and nuts, Spider monkeys can let go with their arms and hang from treetops with their tails. Howlers’ screeches can be heard from up to three miles away and Squirrels spend 99% of their lives in trees!The country has a healthy population and you will be able to see them in National Parks including Manuel Antonio.
Red-Eyed Tree Frog
It is believed that this amazing amphibian’s scarlet bulging eyes are a true warning to predators considering them for dinner. When it feels threatened it flashes its eyes and reveals its huge webbed orange feet and blue and yellow flanks. Yet despite its appearance, the Red-Eyed Tree Frog is not venomous and it resides in lowland rainforest canopies feasting on crickets, flies and moths with their sticky tongues.
Found in forests all across Costa Rica, Ocelots are twice the size of a domestic cat but with a stunning speckled coat. Often the target of hunters for their beautiful fur, they are endangered and their only natural predator is the jaguar. They’re largely nocturnal animals who stalk monkeys, iguanas, frogs and rabbits but unlike other cats, they can swim. Ocelots can be seen in Corcavado and Monteverde.
Our Costa Rica wildlife tours
Our signature wildlife holiday is Wild Costa Rica. It's a 16-day trip that'll take you to both east and west coasts, visiting five national parks along the way. Here are some of the tour's highlights:
A wildlife cruise in Tortuguero National Park
Night hikes in La Tirimbina Biological Reserve and Curi-Cancha Cloud Forest Reserve
Visit to a volcanic hot spring
Watching colourful butterflies in Monteverde
Bird-watching in Carara National Park
Wildlife sightings aren't guaranteed, so it's important that you know where to look (and when). At every stop on the tour, we've arranged entry to parks and reserves, and ensured that we've got the right people with us to help seek out wildlife without disturbing it. Having that kind of expertise on tap allows you to have a truly effortless wildlife adventure - which is the best kind, we think!
If you want to see some of these amazing creatures and more our Costa Rica tours will take you back to nature and enjoy some spectacular sightings
Ting has a serious case of wanderlust. Having travelled to over 40 countries, it’s her mission in life to make her way through her ever-growing list. Her two young sons have also caught the travel bug, and recent trips have seen them making snow angels in Iceland while watching the Northern Lights, as well as walking alongside elephants in South Africa.
Ting | About the author
Receive inspiration in your inbox
Subscribe to our newsletter for holiday inspiration and the latest special offers
Why choose a Titan Travel tour or cruise?
Our award-winning collection of holidays covers all seven continents, with carefully planned itineraries ranging from rail journeys and river cruises, to small-group adventures and trips exclusively for solo travellers.
VIP travel service
Smooth transfers to and from home with unlimited mileage
From excursions to hotels, entry tickets and dining packages, we include more than any other tour.
Be guided by some of the most passionate and knowledgeable tour managers in the world, on hand to help every step of the way.
Feel free to amend or extend your travel plans, up until final payment, and enjoy free time on your tour with us too.