Costa Rica is, without a doubt, a naturalist’s dream. Costa Rica wildlife thrives in ecosystems ranging from mangrove swamps and tropical rainforests to mountains and coastal beaches. The sheer variety is enough to astound and amaze! Unlike many destinations, where humans have driven wildlife into the deepest parts of their habitats, Costa Ricans embrace their natural surroundings.
A Wild History
Around 3 million years ago, Costa Rica rose up from the ocean (thanks to the numerous volcanoes) and began to form the land bridge between North and South America. As time went on, the species in these two very different landmasses started to mingle and mix, right around where Costa Rica would eventually be. Thanks to millions of years of history, this country is perfectly placed for prime wildlife adventures.
Must-See Costa Rica Animals
The rainforests and jungles of Costa Rica contain more than 230 species of animals. When venturing into the wilderness, don’t expect to find the large wild cats of your childhood films! (Unless you’re one lucky visitor!) See monkeys swinging from the branches, sloths lounging in the crooks of trees, brightly colored tree frogs, coatis, jaguars, and tapirs peering out from forested corners.
Costa Rica is also home to the giant blue morpho butterfly, and contains more butterfly species than the whole continent of Africa. At 615 species of flora and fauna per 10,000 sq kilometers, Costa Rica makes the USA with 104 seem paltry!
If you’re looking for turtles, Costa Rica is the place. Several species of turtles return every year to the exact same beaches along both coasts to nest in a grand procession termed arribada. The leatherback sea turtle and hawksbill sea turtle can be found on both the Caribbean and the Pacific Coast. Playa Ostional, Tortuguero, and Playa Grande are all well-known beaches for turtle nesting. Make sure you book your trip during the nesting season, but keep in mind that it an arribada is never guaranteed.
Animals After Dark
Out and about after dark? Don’t forget to keep an eye on the skies! Costa Rica is one of the only countries in the world where the number of bats outnumbers rodents. Costa Rican bats feed on everything: nectar, fish, and insects. You’ll have to have sharp eyes to spot the tiny Honduran white bat – these little flyers look like balls of fluff.
Browse our Nature Vacations page for trips that include the best places to spot wildlife.