Wildlife Sightseeing and Bird Watching in Costa Rica

The most enjoyable part of a trip to Costa Rica comes from viewing the delightful variety of birds and wildlife.

Wildlife abounds in Costa Rica. Every rustle of a tree or ripple in the water provides an opportunity to spot a new and unique bird, reptile, or animal. Here is a sample of some of the exotic wildlife that a tourist is likely to see during a vacation to Costa Rica.

In the Air: Parrots, Toucans and Other Colorful Birds of Costa Rica

Costa Rica has around 850 recorded bird species, including 630 resident bird species. The type of birds seen will depend on the season and location. Beautiful, rare birds such as the quetzal can be seen in protected reserves. The Mayas considered the quetzal sacred and the iridescent green tail feathers were highly prized, though the killing of a quetzal was punishable by death.

Brightly-colored parrots such as the scarlet macaw can be seen in the forest. Spotting another colorful bird, the toucan, known for its jet black body, bright yellow head and rainbow-hued beak, is a favorite with tourists. Near the water, a variety of the nearly 100 species sea birds can be observed. These may include gulls, cormorants, and pelicans. This is just a sampling of the plentiful birds that can be seen in Costa Rica.


In the Trees: Monkeys and Sloths Seen in Costa Rica

It is common to see monkeys and sloth hanging from the trees in Costa Rica, or to hear the howler monkey, who is quite noisy. A boat excursion is a good way to spot monkeys and sloths high in trees along the shoreline. There are four species of monkeys that are likely to be seen in Costa Rica. These are the Squirrel Monkey, the White-headed Capuchin, the Mantled Howler, and Geoffroy’s Spider Monkey. The White-headed Capuchin, Mantled Howler and Geoffroy’s Spider Monkey live in the forests throughout Costa Rica. While all four species can be seen in Costa Rica’s national parks, the smallest of the Costa Rica monkeys, the Squirrel Monkey, does not have the range of the other three. However, all four species can be found in Corcovado National Park.

Two species of sloths, the two-toed and the three-toed sloth can be found in Costa Rica. These cute, hairy, lazy creatures sleep in the tree tops during the day and are more active at night. They sleep up to eighteen hours a day and are often spotted hanging upside down on the tree branches.

Along Costa Rican Waters: Iguanas, Crocodiles, and Giant Sea Turtles

The iguana is a common sight in Costa Rica. There are two species, the green iguana and the spiny-tailed iguana. These large lizards are often found on branches overhanging the water. With their huge, crested head and spiny, leathery body, they look like they belong in prehistoric times. Despite its scary appearance, the iguana is not dangerous.

Tourists are often startled by the sight of a smaller relative of the iguana, the basilisk lizard. This small crested lizard looks like a miniature dinosaur. The males have a beautiful shiny crest on their heads and backs that glows iridescent in the sunlight. The basilisk lizard is never far from water. It is so fast it can even run on top of water, using its splayed rear feet to create air pockets. Crocodiles and their smaller counterparts, caimans, are also a common sight in Costa Rica. These creatures lurk under water and often only their eyes can be seen as they wait below the surface, open-mouthed, for prey to come along.

No visit to Costa Rica is complete without a trip to Tortuguero National Park, a nesting place for sea turtles. Green sea turtles nest from June to November in great numbers. Loggerheads and hawksbills appear year-round, especially in August. The sight of a female turtle swimming back out to sea is an unforgettable experience.