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Spotting Wildlife in Costa Rica

One of the best things about travelling in Costa Rica is seeing wildlife! The diverse ecosystems in Costa Rica allow for a wide range of wildlife to live there, and many of these species are rare! Exploring the Pacific coast, the Caribbean coast, and cloud forest areas will allow you to see the broadest range of wildlife. Seeing some of these rare animals is an experience that you won’t soon forget. Here are some tips on Spotting wildlife in Costa Rica:


Costa Rica

When you think of wildlife in Costa Rica, probably one of the first things that comes to mind are Sloths! This is probably due to the fact that there are several Sloth Rescue Centres across the country. These allow visitors to get a real close look at sloths (and sometimes babies as well!)

While seeing sloths in Rescue Centres is a great way to get up close and learn about them, nothing is more rewarding than seeing one in the wild! This can be easier said than done though as these guys are typically nocturnal. They spend most of the day sleeping curled up in trees. However, with the use of binoculars and trained guides, you will usually be able to spot a few Sloths either in one of the coastal National Parks or even in the Monteverde Cloud Forest!

There are two types of sloths in the world, the two-toed sloth and the three-toed sloth. Both can be found in Costa Rica. Specifically, the species found in Costa Rica are the Hoffman’s Two-Toed Sloth and the Brown-Throated Sloth.  

In the wild, the best place to spot sloths is up in the trees. Sloths usually only descend to the ground once a week to defecate so you will most likely see them hanging out in trees. Sloths move slowly and their fur makes them camouflage quite well with the trees. You’ll need a sharp eye to see them, but be sure, they are around!


There are four main species of monkeys that are found in Costa Rica:

  • the Howler Monkey
  • the Squirrel monkey
  • the Spider Monkey
  • the Capuchin (or white-faced monkey.)

Of the four species, the most common is the Howler Monkey. Chances are, you will hear these guys long before you see them as they are named after the loud “howl” or roar that they make. This sound can be quite intimidating at first.

Howler Monkeys often travel in groups, and because of their large size and loud noise, are particularly easy to spot in the wild. You will often find Howler Monkeys swinging from trees in the Arenal Volcano National Park.

Unlike the Howler Monkey, the Spider Monkey is not so easy to spot. These guys are swift acrobats and move quickly as they make tremendous leaps through the forest from branch to branch. If you are walking through the rainforest in Costa Rica and see the branches above you moving quite a lot, there might be a few Spider Monkeys jumping around. If you watch closely, you’ll be able to see these acrobats at work!

But even harder to see in the wild is the rarest and smallest of all the Costa Rican monkeys, the Squirrel Monkey. These little guys are typically 28-30cm long, which makes seeing them up in the trees a little more difficult. The Squirrel Monkey is considered endangered meaning there are fewer around to see. If you do want to try and spot a Squirrel Monkey, then Manuel Antonio National Park is the place to do so!

And last but not least, the Capuchin or White-Faced Monkey is the friendliest of them all. While in Costa Rica, these cuties might even climb down a tree to come and see you hoping for food. They are curious and playful animals who typically aren’t afraid of humans.

Sea Turtles

There are four species of sea turtles found in Costa Rica: Leatherbacks, Greens, Olive Ridleys, and Hawksbills. Each lives in different areas and have different nesting times meaning timing your visit right is crucial.

One of the best ways to see turtles is in Tortuguero National Park. Here is where the Green Sea Turtles are most common. In the 1960’s, the Green Sea Turtle was almost completely extinct. This was due to the large demand for them as food at local markets. But since then, Tortuguero National Park was created, in addition to laws to protect the turtles. Massive efforts were made among many organisations and now the Green Sea Turtles are back stronger than ever!

Between the months of June to October is nesting season, making spotting one, or even seeing the babies hatch, even more possible. One of the most amazing sights is when the mother sea turtle comes ashore to lay her eggs. This normally happens in the evening and you will only be able to view this with a guide as park access is limited after 6 pm.

In Tortuguero National Park it is possible to see the Leatherbacks and Hawksbills as well. Other popular areas in Costa Rica for checking out turtles is Ostional Wildlife Refuge, Santa Rosa National Park, Las Baulas National Marine Park, Osa Peninsula, and Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge.


Costa Rica is a birders paradise, with an incredible 850 species of birds! That’s 10% of the worlds’ avian species! From November til April, many migratory species come down from North America as well. The most famous bird in Costa Rica is the Resplendent Quetzal. It’s actually the national bird of Guatemala and the males long iridescent tail feathers were used in by Mayan Rulers in their elaborate head dresses. However Costa Rica’s Monteverde Cloud Forest is now one of the only areas in Central America where you still have a good chance to spot this rare and truly amazing bird.

Sloths, monkeys, and turtles are only just a few of the animals you can see in Costa Rica. There is also a huge selection of birds such as Macaws, Toucans, and Hummingbirds; wildcats like the Jaguar, Puma, and Ocelot; as well as water animals such as Whales and Dolphins! Tree frogs, alligators, and snakes also call Costa Rica home and while they may be less desirable to spot, they are equally as impressive and interesting.

One thing is for sure, while in Costa Rica you are bound to run into some pretty amazing animals. If you love wildlife, then Costa Rica might be the perfect destination for your next trip!

Make the most out of a trip to Costa Rica by joining our tour which travels through Mexico, Cuba, and Costa Rica highlighting the wildlife and some other incredible spots! Read all about this tour, here!

Good luck with spotting wildlife in Costa Rica.

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