Wildlife and Birds


The variety of landscapes and microclimates in this relatively small country provide home to a huge diversity of species. The network of National Parks, Reserves and Refuges cover 25% of the country's territory and provide an excellent opportunity to see wildlife in their many different natural habitats.

The rainforest floor provides home to tapir, peccaries, deer and agoutis. Monkeys and sloths conceal themselves in the rainforest canopy. Wild cats such as Jaguar, Puma and Margay are native to Costa Rica but as they are nocturnal sightings are rare. Other inhabitants of the rainforest floor include the mesmerizing leaf-cutter ants, enchanting butterflies such as the Blue Morpho and Owl Eye, the bright yellow eyelash viper snake and countless beetles, grasshoppers, centipedes and millipedes. A guided night hike through the forest may bring sightings of frogs, bats, scorpions, kinkajous and armadillos.

Caimans and crocodiles can be found lurking in rivers and lagoons and Atlantic Green Turtles come ashore between July and October to lay their eggs on the beaches at Tortuguero on the northern Caribbean coast. On the Southern Pacific coastline dolphins can be found and humpback whales migrate along the coastline from Alaska and Antarctic at different times of the year.

In the Caribbean lowland rainforest poison dart frogs such as the Strawberry, Blue Jeans frog and the Green and Black Poison Dart Frogs are commonly seen particularly after rain showers, other species of poison dart frog can be seen in the rainforests of the Osa Peninsula. The iconic Red-Eyed Tree Frogs are nocturnal and come down from the canopy at the beginning of the rainy season to lay eggs (May and June) and can be more easily spotted during this time.


Costa Rica is a birdwatcher's paradise, over 850 species of bird have been recorded. Experts and novices alike can enjoy the birdlife as colourful tropical birds such as toucans, tanagers and motmots are highly visible in tropical landscaped gardens and the rainforests. Many lodges have onsite trails and expert guides that will help spot the more elusive birds.

The cloud forests of Monteverde region, San Gerardo de Dota and Bajas del Toro are rich with bird species and are ideal places to spot the many species of hummingbird including the Violet Sabrewing, Green Crowned Brilliant and Purple Throated Mountain Gem. Trogons can be seen in the cloud forests including the Resplendent Quetzal and Blue Crowned Motmots, Montezumas Oropendulas and Black Guans.

Look out for Boat-Billed heron, Yellow Crowned Night Herons and Amazon Kingfishers by lagoons, rivers, mangroves and wetlands. Magnificent Frigates and Brown Pelicans can be seen on the coast.

The endangered Scarlet Macaw and Green Macaw can be found in certain areas, their beautiful colours flashing against the green of the rainforest.

6 Species to Spot



Likelihood to see: High in certain areas such as Cahuita, Monteverde, Manuel Antonio and Tortuguero Parks.

There are two types of sloth in Costa Rica, the Brown Throated Three Toed Sloth and the Hoffman's Two Toed Sloth. The three toed sloth is active during the day and so is more commonly seen. Both species eat leaves and spend the majority of their time in the canopy, and can be difficult to spot.



Likelihood to see: High - Howler monkeys and White Faced Capuchin monkeys are the most visible particularly in Arenal and the rainforest lowlands. Squirrel monkeys are endangered and restricted to Manuel Antonio and the Osa Peninsula.

There are four types of monkey found in Costa Rica, the Mantled Howler Monkey, White Faced Capuchin Monkey, Spider Monkey and the endangered Squirrel Monkey. The male Howler Monkey's territorial howl can often be heard in the early hours. The Capuchin Monkeys are most prevalent in Costa Rica.


Tree Frog

Likelihood to see: High in certain areas such as Arenal, Osa Peninsula and after rains.

The Red Eyed Treefrog has long been an icon of Costa Rica Tourism, and these tiny little frogs with their bulbous red eyes are fascinating to spot. However, these nocturnal creatures predominantly dwell in the rainforest canopy, and venture down from the treetops during mating season to lay their eggs. Costa Rica has several different species of poison dart frogs and these brightly coloured toxic creatures are great fun to spot once you know how to find them.

Scarlet Macaws

Scarlet Macaw

Likelihood to see: Medium on the Osa Peninsula.

These magnificent endangered very large birds are found along the Central Pacific coast, particularly the Osa Peninusla. Their loud squawking means they can often be heard before they are seen and they can be found in pairs or small groups feeding on fruit trees.


Green Turtle

Likelihood to see: High in Tortuguero during nesting season.

Four different turtle species lay their eggs on the Costa Rican coastline. The Green Turtle lays its eggs between July and October on the Caribbean coastline and night tours can be taken at Tortuguero beach. Olive Ridley Turtles nest on an area of the Nicoya Peninsula and smaller numbers of Leatherback and Hawksbill nest along both the Pacific and Caribbean beaches.



Likelihood to see: Medium - Higher with binoculars and a guide.

The larger Chestnut Billed and Keel Billed Toucans are often spotted when flying over rivers, the distinct shape of their bills silhouetted against the sky. Often to be found feeding on fruit trees, listen out for their low croak. The Collared and Fiery Aracari are smaller toucans, and look very similar, however they occupy distinctly different regions in Costa Rica. The Collared Aracari is commonly found in the Caribbean lowlands and the Fiery Aracari in the central and southern Pacific region.

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