The rainforests and tropical waters of Costa Rica are rich in all kinds of wildlife. Species from both North and South America can be found there, along with some that can only be seen in the Caribbean. It’s estimated that there are more than half a million species in the area- plants, insects, birds, reptiles, fish, mammals and amphibians. It would take years to experience all that, so visitors have to pick and choose what to see.
Here are a few Costa Rican wildlife highlights:
The Butterfly Farm, La Guacima de Alajuela There are more than 1200 different butterflies and moths in the rainforests of Costa Rica. Some are only the size of a child’s fingernail and blend in with their surroundings while others are bigger than the palm of a man’s hand and beautifully colored in bright blues, reds, yellows and greens.
Go into the rainforest and you will almost certainly see beautiful butterflies no matter where you are, but the best place to see hundreds of different butterflies close up is the Butterfly Farm. They offer tours of butterfly gardens, where dozens flutter around you in a natural setting, and you can also learn about butterflies and the way they live and breed. Wear bright colors like red and orange when visiting- these encourage butterflies to come up close and even rest on the fabric. Kids will love it!
Monkey watching at Manuel Antonio National Park Monkeys are always popular, both with children and adults. It’s not difficult to find a place to see Costa Rica’s monkey population in the wild. Manuel Antonio National Park is just one option but it is a good one. Three of the country’s monkey species can be found here- clever, crazy-haired capuchins, slender and graceful spider monkeys, and squirrel monkeys. The last kind is both the most beautiful and the most endangered. Sadly, they can only be found at Manuel Antonio and on the Osa Peninsula.
Bird watching at Mirador Cinchona Costa Rica is home to more bird species than the whole of North America. Visitors can see everything from big parrots like macaws to tiny jewelled hummingbirds, tall wading birds to the smallest finches. Birdwatchers come from all over the globe to see them, and any visitor will probably spot beautiful birds on their stay. If you want to see more, one of the best places to go is Mirador Cinchona.
It’s a natural environment but local people have put out feeding stations to encourage the birds. Mirador Cinchona is a good spot to see hummingbirds and other rainforest specialists and you can also enjoy spectacular views in this area, where there are steep hills and dramatic waterfalls.
Humpback whales around Whale Island Although Whale Island is a bird sanctuary first and foremost, it’s also a great place to see green iguanas and other interesting wildlife. Humpback whales migrate through this area and specialist boat tours are available. The season runs from July to October, and then from December to March, although dolphins and other marine mammals can be spotted all year round.
A fully-grown humpback can be 16m or 52 feet long, and these gentle giants are much rarer than they once were. Sightings aren’t guaranteed but Costa Rica is one of the best places in the world to go looking.
There are so many wonderful wildlife experiences in and around Costa Rica. The four mentioned above are just a tiny fraction of the possibilities- from the coasts to the volcanic highlands, the country teems with wildlife of all kinds. No matter where you go, there will be beautiful animals nearby.
Author: Jess Spate.