Costa Rica’s Unique Wildlife

Costa Rica wildlife

Wildlife in Costa Rica, in many ways, contributes to the country’s “happiest place on earth” moniker. The abundance of unrivaled natural beauty is something to behold!

From the indigenous flora and fauna, to the farms and gardens, to the animals, there is no shortage of magnificent wildlife in Costa Rica to see on your trip.

Take a look at the most visually stunning destination sights you’ll see, right after the jump.


Welcome to Costa Rica, where the natural beauty found in the topography is both bountiful and beautiful. So, where will you look first?

Since it’s flanked by the Caribbean Sea to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, this Central American country boasts breathtaking views from each coast.

On the Pacific side, you might spot whales, dolphins, or seals just off the coast of the White Tail of Marino Ballena National Park.

wildlife in Costa Rica

Especially relevant, if diving in is more your speed than watching, go snorkeling through an array of exotic fish!

wildlife in Costa Rica

On the Caribbean side, (from January to July), a Sea Turtle Initiative trip lands you on some of the Caribbean’s most picturesque beaches.

wildlife in Costa Rica

However, wildlife in Costa Rica doesn’t end with the oceans and beaches.

Once you move inland, the rivers, mountains, volcanoes, and lush rainforest and countryside gladly greet you. Costa Rica is actually home to over 10,000 species of plants and trees!

While rainforests are the most common Costa Rica forestation classification, the cloud forests also provide picturesque sights you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else.

From dry forests along the inland Pacific coast, to the central highlands and cloud forests, experiencing a vast array of ecosystems is an experience you won’t soon forget.

Fun fact: Over half of all land in Costa Rica is forested. These areas are home to many activities, abundant wildlife, and plenty of fun (zip-lining or white water rafting down the Rio Pacuare, anyone?).

wildlife in Costa Rica

wildlife in Costa Rica

wildlife in Costa Rica

wildlife in Costa Rica

wildlife in Costa Rica

wildlife in Costa Rica


In addition to astounding displays of natural beauty, wildlife in Costa Rica includes animals! Maybe you’re familiar with the sea turtles, sloths and monkeys.

Did you know there are also ocelots (commonly known as dwarf leopards)? More on that later. How about crocodiles? Toucans? They’re all here, alongside additional exotic birds, exotic fish, and many more gaze-worthy species.

Marine Life

Sea turtles are synonymous with Costa Rica wildlife. You’ll find these magnificent creatures on the Pacific coast August – December, as well as on the Caribbean coast March – July (during the female nesting season).

wildlife in Costa Rica

Also off the Pacific coast, you’ll discover a variety of exotic fish, soft corals, and invertebrates. Diving in to see them up close is best in the Cano Island and Cocos Island areas – you may also come across sharks, manta rays, parrot fish, snapper, moray eels, and octopuses!

Note: Diving during the rainy season (April through October, generally) may result in lower visibility (due to river runoff). Good news, though: Visibility does increase if you stay away from the mouth of the river while diving.

Exotic Mammals

Hop out of the ocean; there’s plenty of land to explore! And on this land: exotic mammals you’ve maybe only seen on postcards and TV… until now.

Toucans are common in Costa Rica, with the Chestnut-Mandibled Toucan being the largest. To spot one of these birds, your best bet will be heading to the Pacific side to the wet forest lowlands along the Cordillera de Talamanca and on up to Carara.

wildlife in Costa Rica

Often a surprise and always a favorite, Ocelots (known as dwarf leopards) can be spotted in much of Central and South America. Your best bet for finding them in Costa Rica will be around Corcovado National Park, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, and Santa Rosa National park. Don’t get too close, though – these cats are hunters!

wildlife in Costa Rica

You cannot go to Costa Rica without trying to spot a sloth. These peaceful, slow-moving creatures live high in the jungle canopies and only come down once a week less, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled!

wildlife in Costa Rica

Throughout the Costa Rican forests, there are ample opportunities to also spot a variety of tree frogs and monkeys, so be sure to keep your eyes skyward to spot these species!


Discover Corps trips allow you to see these beautiful creatures and, in many cases, interact with them. From marine/whale preserves, to conservation groups and animal rescues and sanctuaries, you have the chance to work with them firsthand.

wildlife in Costa Rica


Surely you’ve heard fondly wistful memories from fellow travelers who have basked in the glory of a cup of Costa Rican coffee. Before the coffee comes the bean – and the beans happen to be grown right in the country!

wildlife in Costa Rica

Costa Rican coffee & coffee beans may be a given to a lot of folks. Lesser known is chocolate. Yes, agriculture and wildlife in Costa Rica includes organic chocolate farms. (If you’d like to visit one – and try the chocolate they make – we recommend the Costa Rica Family Vacation).

Fresh, tropical fruit is definitely on the menu! Bananas, guavas, papayas, mangoes, pineapple, and coconuts all grow here. But you’ve had these fruits at home, right? So, try some of the more exotic varieties found throughout the country. Guanaba (also known as soursop), carambola (star fruit), tamarindo, granadilla, and manzana de ague (water apple) are just a handful of new tastes to dance across your tongue.

wildlife in Costa Rica


Wildlife in Costa Rica is best enjoyed as a part of what will surely be a trip of a lifetime. Take a look at the options available to you.

  • Family Volunteer Vacation: Visit rainforests, beaches, volcanoes, cloud forest, and wildlife rescue centers. A family vacation to Costa Rica that will inspire and make a difference.
  • The Sea Turtle Initiative: A volunteer vacation in Costa Rica that allows you to help endangered sea turtles & experience Costa Rica’s renowned wildlife. Explore the rainforest by zipline and river raft.
  • Protecting the Pacific:  Become part of a community nestled between a breathtaking ocean reserve and mountains while experiencing one of the happiest countries on earth.

Which part of wildlife in Costa Rica would you spend the most time with on a vacation? Tell us in the comments below!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.