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7 animals you can see on a Costa Rica tour

Discover the wildlife of Costa Rica from animals like sloth to birds like hummingbird and quetzal. Here are our favourite 7 species you could spot on one of our tours.
We’ve listed seven of our favourite species found in Costa Rica. Some are abundant whilst others are rarer and harder to spot, making it all the more exciting if you see one. Your Explore leader will be a local expert from the area with in-depth knowledge of the animals and impressive spotting skills, so they will be able to show you animals you may otherwise have missed without a guide. They’ll also usually carry binoculars or a scope which you can use to see the wildlife in detail without getting too close and disturbing them.

1. Sloth

These oddly cute creatures are a crowd favourite, and you’ll have good chances of spotting a sloth in Costa Rica. There are two species of sloth here – Hoffman’s two-toed sloth and brown-throated sloth (which have three toes). You’re most likely to see the three-toed species as they are active in the day (well, as active as a sloth can be!).

2. Hummingbird

Bird life is teeming in Costa Rica’s cloud forests, so bird-watchers will be kept busy here. The miniature and shimmering hummingbird can commonly be spotted sucking up the nectar the forest plants. There are lots of different species of this beautiful bird, each with its own distinct colours. Other colourful birds that can be spotted include kingfisher, toucan and macaw.

3. Turtle

Head to the coast of Costa Rica to find turtles. If turtles are a favourite of yours, the best time to visit Costa Rica is between June and October, when huge numbers of Atlantic Green turtle come ashore to nest on the beaches of Tortuguero National Park – the largest Atlantic Green turtle nesting site in the Western Hemisphere. 
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4. Red-eyed tree frog

Another colourful critter to keep your eyes peeled for, the red-eyed tree frog can be found in Costa Rica’s rainforests. They generally hang out in the upper parts of trees, clinging onto the leaves with their suction-cupped webbed feet. They’ll usually sit motionless with their eyes closed, but if they detect a threat they’ll open their eyes wide and spread their toes to show the startling bright colours of their red pupils and the blue and yellow stripes on their body. Look out for these vibrant amphibians in Monteverde Cloud Forest, Tortuguero National Park and Manuel Antonio National Park.

5. Quetzal

Not so well-known to many, but very popular among bird-watchers, the resplendent quetzal is a colourful bird with vibrant plumage and red breast. Though it looks green, its plumage is actually brown - it contains melanin pigment that traps most colours and reflects green (similar to how the common kingfisher’s feathers look blue). The male quetzal has long and slim tail feathers and crested head feathers while the female has much shorter and wider tail feathers, with no crested feathers on the head. Despite their loud colours, quetzals blend in surprisingly well into the rainforest so are difficult to spot, but our expert leaders are on hand to help and have a pretty good track record of helping customers spot them. The best places to spot the elusive quetzal are the Monteverde or Savegre Cloud Forests.

6. Monkey

Don’t bother setting an alarm in Costa Rica, howler monkeys are nature’s alarm clock! We stay in rainforest lodges on many of our tours, where the call of the howler monkeys echo in the trees around you in the morning. Other animals you’ll likely see leaping around in the canopy are capuchin monkeys. These cute little monkeys have black bodies and white faces and they live in groups. Look out for them in Monteverde and Manuel Antonio National Park.

7. Ocelot

Of the six wild cat species that live in Costa Rica, ocelots are one of the cats you'll have the best chances of spotting. This animal is around twice the size of a house cat and can sometimes be spotted in Monteverde. Similar to the ocelot is the margay, another species of small wild cat. It has similar markings but is smaller and has a longer tail and larger eyes.


Explore our Costa Rica tours

Discover the wildlife of Costa Rica on one of our thrilling small-group tours.
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