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We have seen ‘exotic’ wildlife in every Central American country, but not in the abundance we had imagined – a few snakes in Mexico, the sea life in Belize, some howler monkeys in Guatemala, a few macaws in Honduras, a bunch of spider monkeys in Nicaragua. But once we crossed the border to Costa Rica, our wildlife sightings increased instantly. In every place we visited, the mountains of Monteverde, the beaches of the Caribbean or Manuel Antonio on the Pacific coast, we spotted sloths, coatis, huge Golden Orb spiders, frogs, colorful crabs, snakes and bright Blue Morpho butterflies, tiny hummingbirds and huge iguanas. The wildlife in Costa Rica is unrivaled.

Here is a selection of our wildlife photos from our time in Costa Rica, and scroll down to the end for our top five spots to see wildlife in Costa Rica:

Monkey in Manuel AntonioThe monkeys in Manuel Antonio were the cheekiest in all of Costa Rica. They ignored the tourists…

and spent a lot of time just hanging around…

Monkeys playing in Manuel AntonioIn Manuel Antonio we also spotted some sloths sleeping high up in the trees:

Sloth sleeping in tree in Manuel Antonio… but in Monteverde we didn’t even need to search – one just lived across from our hostel in the trees by the road and used the electricity wires as a shortcut on the way home:

Sloth in Monteverde
Sloth MonteverdeIn Monteverde, we also ‘met’ a curious coati (anteater) in the woods:
Coati MonteverdeCosta Rica is also known for its great variety of butterflies, especially the Blue Morpho, but also colorful ones like this:
butterfly in monteverdeWe saw several snakes during our stay in Costa Rica – can you spot this tiny green snake in this picture?
Mini snake in Manuel AntonioThe crabs we saw in Cahuita on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast were the most colorful ones we’ve ever seen anywhere:

Blue crab in Cahuita
Coloured crab cahuita
crab in cahuitaNear the village of Manzanillo we saw hundreds of huge Golden Orb spiders sitting in their webs:
Spider web near ManzanilloIn Monteverde, the spiders were living in the ground – you will see lots of tarantula nests:

Tarantula in MonteverdeThis iguana enjoyed the views of the Pacific ocean:

Iguana by the ocean…while this big iguana hung out at the beach:

Iguana at the beach in Manuel AntonioCosta Rica is also a birdwatchers’ paradise, being home to rare species such as the blue crowned mot mot:
Mot mot in Monteverde… and countless hummingbirds:

Green hummingbird in Monteverde
Hummingbird monteverdeRaccoons might be less exotic, but still extremely cute!

racoon in Manuel Antonio

The best places to see wildlife in Costa Rica:

  • Manuel Antonio National Park: If you only have time for one place to see wildlife in Costa Rica, head to Manuel Antonio. The National Park has plenty of wildlife – monkey sightings are guaranteed,
  • Bogarin Wildlife Trail in La Fortuna. This short trail has plenty of sloths! It’s recommended to go with a guide because the sloths tend to be high up in the trees (you definitely need a zoom lens or binoculars, or field glasses provided by a guide). Admission for the trail without a guide is CRC5,000 (about US$8.50). If you don’t want to fork out the money for a guide, look out for guided tours on the trail – they know where the sloths hang out, keep your eyes peeled at what they’re looking at. You may also be lucky to see a sloth hang out further down in a tree, like we did (photo below). Another wildlife experience in La Fortuna: You can take an organized half-day boat tour down the Peñas Blancas River. On this boat ride, you’ll see monkeys, sloths, plenty of birds and other wildlife, and you’ll learn about the wildlife native to this area.
  • Crocodile Bridge – If you visit Manuel Antonio, you’ll pass this bridge on your drive from San Jose to Jaco. If you drive to Manuel Antonio from Punta Arenas, Monteverde or La Fortuna, you will also pass the bridge – a great spot to break up the long drive. The bridge, which you can find on GoogleMaps by simply typing in “Crocodile Bridge”, offers perfect views over the Taracoles River which has the largest congregation of crocodiles in all of Central America. The river is literally infested with large American crocodiles – over 2,000 of them live in the Tarcoles River! They are up to 16 feet (5 meters) long and you’ll see at least a handful crocodiles lounging on the shores of the river, if not more. If you want to get closer to the crocodiles than the bridge allows for: there are boat trips on the Taracoles River that include commentary about the crocodiles and other wildlife.
  • Ostional – If you want to see turtles nesting / hatching, head to Ostional on the Nicoya peninsula on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast. Between August and November, tens of thousands of Olive Ridley turtles and leatherback turtles come to shore here to nest, and a few weeks later, the baby turtles hatch and march into the ocean. This is a very rare occurrence – something that happens only at less than ten beaches in the entire world. While the main arribadas (arrivals) happen in the fall, they actually happen monthly year-round right after the new moon, but the fall arrivals bringing the largest number of turtles onto the shore.
  • Cahuita National Park – A National Park on the Caribbean coast, just north of Puerto Viejo. It’s only US$5 to visit, and we spotted plenty of monkeys, colorful crabs, small crocodiles, a snake, and more.
  • Tico Rainforest B&B – If you are a bird watcher, you will love this place. We spotted so many different birds at this small, rustic B&B – a bird watcher’s paradise. Also check out Culture Trip’s top ten bird watching lodges in Costa Rica..
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14 Comments

  1. Aww Ladies the pictures are gorgeous! The very first one of the monkeys is precious! I love the hummingbirds and butterflies…Seriously, now you’re adding another CA country we have to stop in. What a funky looking anteater! I adopted one in Venezuela and I loved her-Dulce was her name. I miss her. Alot.

    1. Hi Mica – a lot of budget travelers skip Costa Rica because it can be more expensive than the other countries in CA, and while that is true, it blew our minds there as to the amount of wildlife. Between the animals and the beaches, we’d say don’t skip CR, just do your research first! Let us know if you need any advice!

    1. Hey guys – actually, this poor little guy had had an electric shock recently, and was crawling around with three out of four limbs. We felt terrible for him, but the locals said he was recovering well!

  2. If the monkeys ignored you when you were in Manuel Antonio, you were lucky! When I was there, they conspired with the raccoons to steal my lunch and I had to chase them down and throw sand at them just to rescue my bag!

  3. Aww Ladies the photos are ravishing! The first of the monkeys is valuable! I cherish the hummingbirds and butterflies… Seriously, now you’re including another CA nation we need to stop in. What a hip looking insect eating animal! I embraced one in Venezuela and I adored her-Dulce was her name. I miss her. Alot…..

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