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Animals of Costa Rica and where to see them

Costa Rica is a very small country of only 51,000 km2 but it hosts more than 6% of the world's biodiversity! That's how many animals you will see there!

Indeed, the country has an exemplary policy in terms of environmental protection and you will see animals everywhere! Even outside the nature reserves, on the side of the road. So, be on the lookout at all times: while walking in the street, on the paths or from the window of your rental car. Most importantly, don't make noise while walking in the parks, you'll have a better chance of seeing beautiful or funny animals.

Here are the easiest species to see in Costa Rica: 

1. Monkeys

Probably the most popular animals! Costa Rica has 4 different species of monkeys: the howler, the white-faced monkey, the squirrel monkey and the titi.

White-faced or capuchin monkey

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These monkeys are very mischievous and they are everywhere. You can easily see them in the Manuel Antonio National Park. Be careful, they are not at all shy and do not mind stealing your snack. Close your bags when you are on the beaches of Costa Rica, they take advantage of the fact that you turn your back to help themselves.

Howler monkey

As its name suggests, it screams. And what a howl! You can hear it from miles away. It can make you believe (falsely) that it is a huge, nasty beast, when in reality it is not.

You will find them everywhere in Costa Rica, even on the side of the road, but especially in the province of Guanacaste. 

Spider monkey

It is a large monkey with very long legs, hence its name. You can see it in Corcovado, Tortuguero and in the Monteverde Natural Reserve

Squirrel monkey or titi

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The SInge squirrel is very small and rather difficult to find. They are endangered but you can see them in Manuel Antonio and Corcovado. Note that you will always have a better chance of seeing them if you visit the national parks with guides who have a sharp eye.

2. Iguanas and garrobos

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You will literally see them everywhere! Be careful not to confuse iguanas with "garrobos" (black iguanas). The green iguana is the largest of all iguanas and can reach a size of more than 1.5 meters. They can be seen in Guanacaste, in the Central Pacific and all over the country. They are generally in the trees and on the roofs. Rather harmless and fearful, the older ones are recognizable thanks to their pretty crest on the head. The younger ones are identifiable by their fluorescent green color. You can also see the black iguana, also called "Garrobo". As its name indicates it is black (or sometimes gray) and is much smaller than the green iguana.

3. Sloths

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The sloth is one of the most endearing animals in Costa Rica, it is adorable! Its fur, its endearing look and its slow movements are unique. You will be able to see sloths with two and three fingers.

Be careful though, despite their plush appearance, they have huge claws that can easily slice your hand off! 
You can see them in Manuel Antonio, Puerto Viejo, and even in the central park of the city of Limon, in the middle of the population and civilization. Even more amazing, you will see them perched on the trunks of the "Guarumos" trees that are located in... the University of Costa Rica in San José! Incredible but true.

With the help of a local guide, you will definitely see them. Indeed, they know the best places to find them. Indeed, they are easily mistaken for termite mounds high up in the trees. If you are visiting with your children, give them every chance to observe them.

4. Marine turtles

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Watching the turtles arrive to lay their eggs on the beach is a fabulous sight not to be missed. It is probably our favorite activity in Costa Rica

You will be able to observe green turtles, leatherback turtles (giant) and carey turtles (harder to find). The leatherback turtle is the largest sea turtle in the world, measuring nearly 2.5 meters!

It is important to be careful when visiting these places and always do it with a guide so as not to affect the nesting process. Visit Ostional in July, or Tortuguero and Playa Grande. The best time to see them is from August to October, when the nesting takes place.

5. Coatis

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If you like cute animals, you will love the coatis. Beware, they are among the most mischievous in Costa Rica, they love to steal food from tourists. 

You will see them in Manuel Antonio or in Arenal, and even in the middle of the city in Escazú, San José! They will surprise you in groups of twenty individuals, from the oldest to the youngest. They are easy to spot because you can see the long tails sticking out of the tall grass.

Please note that although they appear to be harmless, they are not entirely harmless and can scratch and bite.

They are wild animals, do not approach or disturb them under any circumstances!

6. Crocodiles

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In Costa Rica we love beaches, volcanoes, mythical landscapes and animals. And when we talk about animals in Costa Rica, crocodiles are part of it. And yes, less friendly than the coatis, these giant American crocodiles will leave you speechless.

There are many of them scattered all over the country, but it is very common to see them in river mouths, estuaries, swamps, lagoons and mangroves. Therefore, it is better not to swim in the rivers. Even more surprising: sometimes crocodiles bathe in the salt water of the sea, near the mouths of rivers. Therefore, it is better not to swim in the rivers.

You can easily see them from the bridge over the Tárcoles River, on the road to Jacó. There, there is no danger: you will see them from above and from far away, in the front row and safe and sound. You can also see them in the Carara National Park not far from San José.

7. The red-eyed tree frog

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This frog is one of the most popular animals with tourists, especially children. They can be found in the Monteverde Cloud Forest, Manuel Antonio National Park and Tortuguero National Park.

They usually live in trees and you need a guide to see them, because they are so much like leaves. Its most important characteristic? Its red eyes that it uses to scare their predators. They are bright green and have suction cups on their fingers to cling to the trees. A pure wonder of nature.

8. Hummingbirds

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These tiny, colorful birds are the smallest birds in the world. Hummingbirds can fly in any direction, even backwards! They are fascinating. 

In Costa Rica live several species of hummingbirds and some of them are endemic. You will see them wherever there are flowers and sugar. Often restaurants attract them by putting out containers full of syrup. Photographers, get your cameras! Try to have the wings in focus on your picture: impossible. The wing beats are the fastest in the world.

In short, it is one of the smallest, fastest and the only one that can fly in all directions. You have in front of you, a real world champion.

9. Macaws

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There are 2 species of macaws living in Costa Rica: the green macaw and the scarlet macaw, but you will more easily see the scarlet macaw. It is probably one of the most typical birds of Costa Rica.

Both species are in danger of extinction due to the destruction of their habitat and their trade as pets. They are usually in pairs and fly over the houses and forests on the side of the Carara Reserve in the Central Pacific, near Jacó. You can easily hear them; they make an incredible noise. 

 

This list is certainly not exhaustive. It is difficult to list all the animal species that this small country hosts. There are animals that are more difficult to see, but who knows, with a little luck you will be one of those who have seen the never seen. Some of the hardest wildlife to see are jaguars, tapirs, ocelots, toucans, quetzals (the most beautiful bird in the world), deer, coyotes and whales. So, good luck, open your eyes wide during your hikes, you will be rewarded.