Guide: Animals of Costa Rica

July 4th 2023 in Explore
Guide: Animals of Costa Rica

Popular Animals of Costa Rica

There is a world wonders of animals in Latin and Central America, here are some of the most well known animals in Costa Rica and where you can see them. All animals are wild and you should be very careful, no matter how cute or small they are.

Coatimundi (Coati)

In the lovely country of Costa Rica, it is quite common to come across coatimundis, which are very similar in temperament to their raccoon kin but have a longer snout and an adorable long tail. These critters tend to move surprisingly fast, so it is advisable to have your camera ready to capture a shot of them.

Where To See Them?

Coatis, like raccoons, are foragers and can be seen foraging almost anywhere in Costa Rica.

Toucans And Aracaris

In the beautiful country of Costa Rica, wildlife enthusiasts can enjoy a diverse range of colourful toucans and aracaris. These include the charming Emerald Toucanets, the exquisite Collared Aracari, the striking Fiery-billed Aracari, the delightful Yellow-eared Toucanets, and the renowned Keel-billed Toucan and Chestnut Mandibled Toucan. Each of these stunning birds is a distinct species, adding to the uniqueness of Costa Rican fauna.

Where To See Them?

Look for them under fruit trees in La Selva and Monteverde, Carara National Park, the Caribbean coast from Tortuguero to Puerto Viejo, the Pacific coast, and particularly the Osa Peninsula. They adore the thick canopy!


Costa Rica is a tropical paradise that boasts a diverse array of hummingbirds. These beautiful creatures can be observed and appreciated throughout the day as they flit and flutter from flower to flower in search of nectar. While the experience of watching them in action is truly delightful, capturing a clear picture of these speedy birds may require a bit of patience and skill. Nonetheless, the effort is well worth it, as the images will remind us of this stunning country's natural beauty.

Where To See Them?

There are beautifully coloured flowers almost everywhere. Near water, look for red, orange, and purple blooms. There were a lot of hummingbirds near La Fortuna and Monteverde!

White-Faced Capuchin Monkeys

Do you recall Marcel, the delightful white-faced Capuchin monkey that belonged to Ross on the popular television show Friends?

Where To See Them?

Capuchin monkeys are plentiful throughout Costa Rica's Pacific coast, and many can be seen munching on clams from the water, one of their favourite foods, along the nature trails of Manuel Antonio National Park.

Basilisco (Aka The Jesus Christ Lizard)

The Basilisco, a lizard species, has earned the nickname "Jesus Christ lizard" due to its remarkable ability to walk or run underwater. This unique feat is achieved through specialized webbed feet that allow the Basilisco to move swiftly across the water's surface. Observing this incredible display is considered a delightful experience and is often seen as a sign of good fortune. It is truly a marvel of nature that impresses those lucky enough to witness it.

Where To See Them?

Look for them in woodland and jungle areas throughout the country, where they can blend in.

Spider Monkey

Spider monkeys are widely recognized and prevalent in Costa Rica, renowned for their friendly behaviour and impressive intelligence. Their acrobatic abilities while traversing through the trees are an awe-inspiring sight to behold. Moreover, spider monkeys are quite vocal creatures, particularly when warning their peers of impending danger or the presence of other monkey species that may pose a threat. Their warning cries may seem eerie, but they serve as an incredibly effective means of communication, helping to keep the monkey community safe and secure.

Where To See Them?

Look for them near coastal woods, particularly the west coast and the Osa Peninsula.

Scarlet Macaws

It is with regret that I must inform you that the Scarlet Macaws population in Costa Rica is currently at risk of extinction. This is due to the unfortunate practices of illegal hunting for the pet trade, as well as the loss of their natural habitat caused by deforestation. As a result, only approximately 1,500 of these magnificent birds remain on the country's Pacific coast. Despite these challenges, it is still possible to observe these stunningly vibrant birds in their natural habitat, flying in pairs during your visit.

Where To See Them?

If you want to see almond trees up close, choose a beach with them and park yourself for the afternoon. I sat on a Matapalo beach in the Osa peninsula for hours, watching a couple perform the most incredible mating dance.

It's a nice sight to witness on a Costa Rican empty beach.

Halloween Moon Crabs

In the sandy regions of Costa Rica, one can come across the Halloween Moon crabs. These crabs are widely recognized for their striking and vibrant colours, and they are also known for their curious nature. They tend to inspect their surroundings, but they quickly disappear down their deep sand holes when they sense danger.

Capuchin monkeys residing in the same habitat find these crabs to be a delectable treat. However, it is unfortunate that some individuals keep them as pets in aquariums, which is not a suitable environment for them. These crabs require a specific environment with deep caves and moisture to survive. Unfortunately, keeping them as pets usually ends in tragedy for the crabs.

Where To See Them?

Costa Rica has beaches and sandy coastal areas.

Squirrel Monkeys (Mono Titi)

Costa Rica is home to a species of monkey known as the Squirrel Monkey or Mono Titi. These primates are known for their small size and can often be found swinging through the tree canopy while chattering and making high-pitched noises. These social animals are highly active during the day and can be seen moving around in groups while foraging for food. Their small size makes them an easy target for predators, so they always look for danger. Despite their small stature, Squirrel Monkeys are an important part of the Costa Rican ecosystem and are revered by locals and visitors alike.

Where To See Them?

Many are in and around Manuel Antonio, a hamlet on the country's Pacific coast with the tagline "Still More Monkeys Than People."

The short, thin wooden "walkways" above major roadways encourage Mono Titis to cross there rather than on electricity wires to avoid getting electrocuted.

Two-Toed Sloth

The Two-Toed Sloth, a common species found in Costa Rica, is an endearing creature that captures the hearts of many. Despite their reputation for being sluggish and dozing off frequently, these animals are much-loved inhabitants of their natural habitat. Their unique characteristics and behaviours make them a fascinating sight for locals and tourists alike.

Where To See Them?

You'll often notice "Sloth Crossing" signs on major roads, so keep looking for them stretched out on their bellies and slowly crossing the street.

If you come across one in the middle of the road, get out and accompany them as they make their way to the other side.

If traffic is high, you can carefully pick them up (using your jacket or other material to avoid disturbing the natural protective algae on their waxy coat) and place them on a nearby tree or safe ground.

Howler Monkeys

If you have kept up with us, you may have noticed our particular admiration for howler monkeys. Our emblem depicts a howler monkey clutching a camera, which is a nod to the abundance of these creatures in Costa Rica's natural habitats. Observing these primates in their natural habitat is a true pleasure, particularly regarding their offspring. Their young are a delight to watch and listen to, though their boisterous calls may wake you up early in the morning. In addition, interacting with and caring for these animals in a sanctuary setting can be a source of great joy.

Where To See Them

Throughout the jungles of Costa Rica's lofty canopy. If you visit the Caribbean coast, stop at the Jaguar Rescue Centre in Puerto Viejo, where you may interact with baby howler monkeys in the Monkey House.

They'll climb up one side of you and down the other, grabbing anything in their path, including earrings, jewelry, bandanas, and headwear.

When they're through, they'll fall asleep in your arms, all musky and warm, their delicate fingers and foot pads hugging you tight and snuggled up against you. Heaven!


It is a common practice in Costa Rica for individuals to consume green iguanas, often referred to as "bush- or tree-chickens". These creatures are known for their herbivorous diet of tree leaves and their ability to camouflage themselves in their surroundings, much like chameleons. As they move about searching for sustenance, it can be quite challenging to detect their presence.

Where To See Them?

Along the coast, there are bushy scrub patches and lowland woodland. They have cool blood and enjoy the sun.

Three-Toed Sloths

The Three-Toed Sloth, also known as Perezoso, is a beloved creature due to its endearing appearance. Their dark eye makeup and permanent smile give the impression that they are always happy to see you. However, handling them frequently can damage the essential protective algae in their waxy coat.

If you spot a Three-Toed Sloth crossing a busy street, keeping a safe distance and watching from afar is best. However, if you feel compelled to help, extend your hand and allow the sloth to grab on so you can safely carry it to the other side. Just be aware that even though they may seem cheerful, sloths can become nervous, so it's best to approach them cautiously.

Where To See Them?

Three-toed sloths can be found in both wet and dry woods in Costa Rica. They move slowly on land but are outstanding swimmers. Look for them sleeping in trees that resemble a nest or a bundle of twine.


Caimans, a type of crocodile, are often identified as the Spectacled Caiman or Pululo, a term derived from the Spanish language which translates to "short and fat". These reptiles are smaller than other crocodiles and possess distinct physical features that set them apart from their larger counterparts. Caimans, a type of crocodile, are often identified as the Spectacled Caiman or Pululo, a term derived from the Spanish language which translates to "short and fat". These reptiles are smaller than other crocodiles and possess distinct physical features that set them apart from their larger counterparts.

Where To See Them

Although caimen are unlikely to be seen in most places, please look for them in more moist, swampy lowland locations such as Tortuguero, Cajuita, and other rustic wetlands.

Frogs, Snakes, And Lizards

Costa Rica is a country that boasts a diverse array of wildlife, including some rather unsettling creatures like snakes, lizards, insects, and reptiles. Of particular note are the various species of Dart Frogs that inhabit the region. While these tiny amphibians are fascinating to observe, they can potentially harm humans if their toxins are ingested. It's important to note that the likelihood of being poisoned by a Dart Frog is relatively low, but it's still recommended that one refrains from handling them and touching their mouth or eyes. By taking appropriate precautions, Costa Rica visitors can safely enjoy this beautiful country's natural wonders.

Where To See Them?

You'll have to go hunting for the smaller critters, turning over pebbles and leaves to find them because they normally don't want to be bothered by you. You may come across one.

If you use an Epi-Pen for the rare bug sting, bring one with you.

Otherwise, your sole contact will be from a distance.


Margays are a fascinating species of small wild cats found throughout Central and South America. These nocturnal creatures are known for their unique and attractive speckled fur, which has unfortunately made them the target of hunters in the past. However, it's important to note that hunting Margays is now illegal, although poaching still occurs. While they may be smaller than the Central American Jaguars, Margays are not domesticated pets and should not be approached in their natural habitat. They are highly skilled hunters, which makes them a danger to humans who may inadvertently disturb their hunting patterns. Therefore, if you encounter a Margay in the wild, observing them from a distance is best and letting them go about their business uninterrupted.

Where To See Them?

Margays are found primarily in primary evergreen and deciduous forests in Central and South America.