Costa RicaCosta Rica

       white face monkeys on branch tortuguero
  - Costa Rica

Top Wildlife Hotspots

Top Wildlife Hotspots

There’s nothing like glimpsing your first scarlet macaw or howler monkey while trekking through verdant jungle. Nature lovers from around the world come to Costa Rica for the sole purpose of wildlife watching. Whether you’re interested in tracking the resplendent quetzal or spotting an elusive tapir, you’ll be surrounded by a rich and diverse collection of flora and fauna in these wildlife hotspots.

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Corcovado National Park

Costa Rica’s true wilderness frontier, Corcovado is the only national park that has all four species of monkey found in Costa Rica: howler, spider, white-faced and squirrel. Watch flocks of scarlet macaws feast on wild sea almond trees; glimpse giant anteaters, white-lipped peccaries and Baird's tapirs along miles of rugged hiking trails that weave by isolated beaches. Situated on the Osa Peninsula, Corcovado is one of the few places in Costa Rica where you can observe rare and endangered species like the magnificent jaguar. The dry months of January through April are the best times to visit; be sure to hire a local guide – a knowledgeable pathfinder will enhance your wildlife watching experience and ensure safety on remote trails.

La Selva Biological Station

Prepare yourself for rustic rainforest exploration at this 3,900-acre private reserve. Located on the outskirts of Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui, in Costa Rica’s lush northern zone, La Selva is home to more than half of Costa Rica’s bird species, more than 70 types of bats and 500 species of butterflies. Hike alongside students and scientists in this pioneer site for conservation and education. La Selva also hosts five of the six feline species in Costa Rica. Experience the area’s exuberant vegetation with your naturalist guide on a half or full-day tour, complete with hands-on activities.

Manuel Antonio National Park

Monkeys are the name of the game in this popular beachfront park. Everyday encounters with curious troops of white-faced monkeys are all too common, but keep a look out for the adorable and endangered squirrel monkey as well. Manuel Antonio’s glorious beaches are a vision of tropical perfection. Trails will take you through perpetually green forest home to white-nosed coati, three-toed sloths, raccoons, basilisk lizards and hundreds of glittering hummingbirds. Early morning is the best time to avoid the crowds; guided tours are not essential as wildlife is literally everywhere here, though you’ll learn and observe more with the expertise of a local guide.

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Located high along the continental divide, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve lures some of the world’s most avid birders. More than 400 avian species are found here, including three-wattled bellbirds, black guans, bare-necked umbrella birds, hummingbirds, and the iridescent wonder known as the resplendent quetzal. Bring your binoculars and watch the quetzal flash its dazzling ruby breast and emerald green tail feathers from March to June, during its nesting season. The reserve’s varied terrain also houses coatis, capuchin monkeys, three-toed sloths and agouti. The cloud forest is often humid, rainy and misty, so pack rain gear!

Tortuguero National Park

Watch the wildlife explode around you as you explore the luxuriant waterways of Tortuguero National Park. You’ll see five species of heron, anhinga, caiman and egrets as your boat wends through the maze of black water canals. The lush tropical vegetation is brimming with sloths, toucans and massive green iguanas as well as howler, spider and white-faced monkeys. Keep your eyes peeled for vibrant strawberry poison dart frogs and red-eyed tree frogs, both of which are common in the forests. If visiting between March and October, be sure to take an evening turtle tour to observe green sea turtles nesting on the beach.

Tips for Wildlife Watching:

  • Hire a Naturalist Guide: your tourism dollars will help the local economy and you’ll see more wildlife with the expertise of your knowledgeable guide.

  • Listen carefully and keep quite: pay attention to the smallest sounds, they may reveal a camouflaged lizard or hidden sloth in the trees.

  • Bring a good pair of binoculars and insect repellent for beach walks and rainforest hikes.

  • Dress in quick-dry clothing: weather can be unpredictable, be prepared with sturdy hiking shoes and rain gear.

  • Be patient: remember that Mother Nature isn’t on a schedule. The best times for wildlife watching are typically early morning and just before dusk.

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