Scarlet macaws, marine turtles, humming-birds, sloth, leaf-cutter ants, quetzals, marine toads, monkeys ...
Blue Morpho butterflies, tanagers, poison-arrow frogs, crocodiles, toucans, bats, iguanas, parrots - the list of Costa Rican wildlife seems endless, and there are many opportunities to see these animals. If you want to read a short description about certain wildlife please consult our Fauna Page. The most important, interesting and frequently seen species are:
Opossums, Anteaters, Sloth, Armadillos, Bats, Central American Squirrel Monkeys, White-Faced Capuchin Monkey, Central American Spider Monkey, Mantled Howler Monkey, Coyotes, Grey Foxes, Northern Raccoon, White Nosed Coati, Kinkajou, Striped hog-nosed Skunk, Spotted Skunk, Hooded Skunk,
Southern River Otter, Grison, Jaguar, Yellow Margay, Oncilla, Ocelot, Puma, Jaguarundi, White-Lipped Peccary, White-tailed deer, Red Brocket Deer, Baird's Tapir, Central American Agouti, Paca, Red-Tailed Squirrel, Variegated Squirrel, Porcupine, Eastern Cottontail, Forest Rabbit, West Indian Manatee, Hump-Back Whale, Common Dolphin, Bottle-Nosed Dolphin,
Tinamous, Magnificent Frigate bird, Brown Pelican, Anhinga, Cattle Egret, Green-Backed Heron, Boat-Billed Heron, Yellow-Crowned Night Heron, Bare-Throated Tiger-Heron, Roseate Spoonbill, White Ibis, Green Ibis, Wood Stork, Jabiru, Black-Bellied Whistling-Duck, Muscovy Duck, Blue-Winged Teal, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Lesser Yellow-Headed Vulture, King Vulture, Osprey, American Swallow-tailed Kite, Black-Shouldered Kite, Black-Chested Hawk, Common Black Hawk, White Hawk, Roadside Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Crested Caracara,
Yellow-Headed Caracara, Laughing Falcon, Harpy Eagle, Black Guan, Grey-Necked Wood Rail, Purple Gallinule, American Coot, Sungrebe, Sunbittern, Herring Gull, Laughing Gull, Spotted Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Sanderling, Northern Jacana, Band-Tailed Pigeon, Ruddy Ground-Dove, Short-Billed Pigeon, Ara Macaw, Great Green Macaw, Mealy Parrot, Orange-Fronted Parakeet, Squirrel Cuckoo, Groove-Billed Ani, Spectacled Owl, Common Pauraque, Great Potoo, Common Potoo, White-Collared Swift, Lesser Swallow-Tailed Swift, Hummingbirds, Long-Tailed Hermit, Green Hermit,
White-Necked Jacobin, Violet Sabrewing, Green Violet-Ear, Fiery-Throated Hummingbird, Resplendent Quetzal, Ringed Kingfisher, Belted Kingfisher, Green Kingfisher, Blue-Crowned Motmot, Turquoise-Browed Motmot, Chestnut-Mandibled Toucan, Keel-Billed Toucan, Lovely Cotinga, Three-wattled Bellbird, White-Throated Magpie Jay, Brown Jay, Montezuma Oropendola,
Chestnut-Headed Oropendola, Snakes, Ameiva Lizard, Green Basilisk Lizard, Green Iguana, Ctenosaur, Leatherback Turtle, Olive Ridley Turtle, Green Turtle, Spectacled Caiman, American Crocodile, Poison-Arrow frogs, Marine Toad, Butterflies, Hummingbird Flower Mite, plus over 35'000 other species of insects.
Unless you spend you entire time in San José, you cannot fail to see some tropical wildlife in Costa Rica. Many people come specifically to spend their days watching wildlife or birds, and many companies arrange guided natural history tours.
Tours aren't cheap and will be beyond the pocketbooks of shoestring travellers. Here are some tips for budget travellers who want to view as much wildlife as possible (though travellers on one of our tours should also follow these suggestions). The National Parks and preserves are all good places for observation, but private areas such as gardens around rural hotels can also yield a good number of birds, insects, reptiles, and even monkeys. Always be alert for these possibilities. Early morning and late afternoon are the best times to watch for wildlife activity anywhere; the hot and bright middle of the days is when many animals rest. Carry binoculars. an inexpensive lightweight pair brought from home will improve wildlife observation tremendously; they don't have to be the most expensive.
Have realistic expectations. Wildlife is plentiful in the fantastic rainforest environment, but it is hard to see because the vegetation is so thick. You could be 15 m from a jaguar and not even know it is there. Don't expect to see jaguars, ocelots, tapirs, and many other mammals, which are shy, well camouflaged, and often rare. Concentrate on things that are easier to observe and enjoy them - most of the animals listed at the very beginning of this article can be seen fairly easily if you visit different parts of the country. Walk slowly and quietly; listen as well as look.
The single best areas for wildlife watching, are the Península Osa and the canals of Tortuguero. both are the two most difficult areas to get to, which is perhaps why the animals have remained relatively undisturbed. Other excellent places are the National Parks, especially Santa Rosa, Tortuguero, and Caño Negro, although all of them are good. Of these Santa Rosa is the easiest to get to on a tight budget (a bus from San José passes the park entrance, then you can walk in). But they are all definitely worthwhile.
Pictures by Angela and Jörn Malek. The team of Discovery Travel World wishes you the best of times in our little paradise called Costa Rica.
Text by Lonely Planet.