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  • Writer's pictureIrene Dobles

Wildlife Wonderland: Best Places to Spot Wildlife in Costa Rica.

You might encounter jaguars, ocelots, tapirs, white-faced monkeys, howler monkeys, spider monkeys, sloths, coatis, the resplendent quetzal, scarlet macaws, toucans, iguanas, sea turtles, the red-eyed tree frog, poison dart frogs, humpback whales, dolphins, manta rays, and blue morpho butterflies!


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Costa Rica, renowned for its rich biodiversity, offers unparalleled opportunities to witness an array of wildlife in their natural habitats. Whether you're an avid birdwatcher, a keen photographer, or simply a nature enthusiast, here are some of the best places in Costa Rica to spot wildlife.


1. Corcovado National Park


Aerial view of Corcovado National Park.

Location:  Osa Peninsula


Highlights: Often referred to as the "crown jewel" of Costa Rica’s national park system, Corcovado National Park is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. It’s home to a wide variety of wildlife, including jaguars, tapirs, scarlet macaws, and four species of monkeys. The park’s dense rainforests, swamps, and coastal areas provide habitats for many species that are rare elsewhere in the country.


A scarlet macaw in Costa Rica.

Tips: Guided tours are highly recommended, as knowledgeable guides can help you spot and identify wildlife you might otherwise miss.


Where to stay: When visiting Corcovado National Park, you can stay at one of the luxury hotels listed on Our choice of hotels in the South Pacific.


2. Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve


Hanging bridge in Monteverde Cloud Forest.

Location: Northwestern Costa Rica


Highlights: The Monteverde Cloud Forest is famous for its misty, lush environment and high biodiversity. This reserve is a haven for birdwatchers, with over 400 species of birds, including the resplendent quetzal and the endangered three-wattled bellbird. The cloud forest is also home to a variety of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.


A colorful quetzal bird flying in Costa Rica.

Tips: Take an early morning or night tour to increase your chances of spotting wildlife, as many animals are more active during these times.


Where to stay:  When visiting Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, you can stay at one of the luxury hotels listed on Our choice of hotels in Puntarenas.


3. Tortuguero National Park


Aerial view of Tortuguero National Park.

Location: Northeastern Caribbean coast


Highlights: Tortuguero National Park is a critical nesting site for green sea turtles. From July to October, you can witness turtles laying their eggs on the beaches. The park's network of canals, lagoons, and wetlands also supports a diverse range of wildlife, including manatees, caimans, and a variety of bird species.


A green sea turtle in Tortuguero National Park.

Tips:  Visit during turtle nesting season for a chance to see this incredible natural event. Boat tours through the canals offer great opportunities for wildlife spotting.


Where to stay:  When visiting Tortuguero National Park, you can stay at one of the luxury hotels listed on Our choice of hotels in the Caribbean.


4. Manuel Antonio National Park


Manuel Antonio National Park.

Location: Central Pacific coast


Highlights: Despite being one of Costa Rica’s smallest national parks, Manuel Antonio boasts impressive biodiversity. It’s an excellent place to see sloths, white-faced capuchin monkeys, and a variety of birds and reptiles. The park’s beautiful beaches and easy trails make it a popular destination for wildlife enthusiasts of all ages.


White faced monkey in Costa Rica.

Tips: Arrive early to avoid crowds and increase your chances of seeing wildlife. Hiring a guide can also enhance your experience.


Where to stay:  When visiting Manuel Antonio National Park, you can stay at one of the luxury hotels listed on Our choice of hotels in the Central Pacific.


5. Palo Verde National Park


Palo Verde National Park.

Location: Northwestern Costa Rica


Highlights: Known for its wetlands, Palo Verde National Park is a paradise for birdwatchers. The park attracts a variety of migratory and resident bird species, including the rare jabiru stork. The wetlands also support populations of crocodiles, iguanas, and howler monkeys.


Green iguana in Costa Rica.

Tips:  Visit during the dry season (December to April) when bird concentrations are highest. Boat tours are a great way to explore the park’s waterways.


Where to stay:  When visiting Palo Verde National Park, you can stay at one of the luxury hotels listed on Our choice of hotels in Guanacaste.


6. Cahuita National Park


Cahuita National Park beach.

Location: Southern Caribbean coast


Highlights: Cahuita National Park is known for its coral reefs and marine life, making it a great destination for snorkeling. On land, you can spot monkeys, sloths, and a variety of bird species in the park’s lush rainforest.


Sloth in Costa Rica.

Tips:  Snorkeling tours can help you explore the rich underwater life. Walking the park’s trails early in the morning increases your chances of spotting terrestrial wildlife.


Where to stay:  When visiting Tortuguero National Park, you can stay at one of the luxury hotels listed on Our choice of hotels in the Caribbean.



Costa Rica offers a plethora of opportunities to experience its diverse wildlife in various habitats, from dense rainforests and cloud forests to coastal and wetland environments. To make the most of your wildlife adventures, consider visiting these top destinations and taking guided tours for expert insights and the best chances of spotting elusive animals.


Blue morpho butterfly.

Pura Vida!  Enjoy your wildlife adventures in Costa Rica.

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