Costa Rica is considered the most biodiverse country in the world. While encompassing just 0.03% of Earth’s landmass, Costa Rica contains around 5% of species estimated to exist on the planet. Hundreds of these species are endemic to Costa Rica, meaning they exist nowhere else on earth. This makes the country one of the best places to visit for nature lovers to observe Costa Rica wildlife. In this blog post we share all the must visit places to enjoy the unique wildlife of Costa Rica.
5 Best places to see Costa Rica Wildlife
Manuel Antonio Nationalpark – the most accessible place to see Costa Rica Wildlife
Manuel Antonio is one of the easiest-to-reach National parks in Costa Rica and has an impressive biodiversity for its relatively small size. This makes it one of the most popular places for Costa Rica Wildlife. When visiting Manuel Antonio National Park, chances are high you will spot Sloths, three of four monkey species of Costa Rica (Howler, White Face, and Squirrel Monkeys), Iguanas, Coatis, and many snake and bat species. Not to mention around 184 species of birds.
Information for visiting Manuel Antonio Nationalpark
The National Park can be visited year round and it opens at 7 am. We recommend visiting in the morning because it can get quite busy and hot in the afternoon. The entrance fee is 16 USD per person. The National Park offers easy walking trails. You can hire a guide at the entrance, which definitely helps to spot more Costa Rica Wildlife. Inside the park you will come to one of the most beautiful beaches in the area so don’t forget to bring your swimwear.
Marino Ballena, Uvita – The best place to see Humpback whales in Costa Rica
Costa Rica Wildlife doesn’t stop on land; its waters are home to dozens of marine species. Spotted or bottlenose dolphins commonly escort small boats on offshore excursions on the Pacific coast. Costa Rica is also a prime whale-watching destination. This is all thanks to the spectacular annual migration of two different groups of humpback whales.
Best time to see Humpback Whales in Costa Rica
One group comes from the north, like Alaska and California, and the other one from the Antarctic zone to the south. These migrations happen at different times of the year. Northern humpbacks typically can be seen in Costa Rica from December until April. Southern humpbacks don’t show up until August and stay until the beginning of November. The Antarctic migration has the most whales, and peak season is between August and October, which makes these months the best time to see Humpback Whales in Costa Rica.
Best place to see Humpback Whales in Costa Rica
Although it is possible to see humpback whales along many parts of Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast, they tend to congregate in the Southern Pacific.
The Osa Peninsula and Gulf of Dulce have high numbers of whales, and the beach town of Uvita is the best-known place for whale watching in Costa Rica. The boat tours start from the beaches of Marino Ballena National Park. This is a protected area of land and ocean known for attracting whales close to shore.
Corcovado National Park – Best place for Costa Rica Wildlife
Corcovado Nationalpark is our favorite place for Costa Rica Wildlife. It is located in the Osa Peninsula on the country’s southern Pacific coast, quite off the beaten path. It is currently the largest protected area in Costa Rica. Corcovado is home to the endangered Baird’s Tapir and many other animals like the Jaguar, Ocelots, and all four species of Monkeys in Costa Rica, including the rarest Spider Monkey. The list goes on with crocodiles, different types of snakes and frogs, countless birds, coatis, peccaries, sloths, and anteaters. It’s a nature lovers paradise.
Information for visiting Corcovado National Park
Corcovado National Park can only be visited with a guided tour. It is possible to book a private tour, which we found not much more expensive. We booked our tour via Osa Wild Travel, which arranged all the details with the tour operator Picolina Tours. To get to the National Park, you must take a boat, which is included in the tour. You can either book day trips or multi-day tours where you will stay at a ranger station in the National Park.
The best time to visit Corcovado National Park
The dry season in Costa Rica is from December to April, which is the best time to visit Corcovado National Park. The overall rainiest months are generally September and October.
Playa Ostional – The best place to see Turtles nesting in Costa Rica
To see turtles nesting and hatching is one of the best Costa Rica Wildlife experiences. The best place to do so is Playa Ostional in Guanacaste. The Ostional Wildlife Refuge was created in 1984 to protect one of the world’s most important nesting sites of the olive ridley sea turtle. The beach of Ostional is the scenery for a rarely-seen biological wonder. If you are lucky, you can see the “Arribada” when hundreds – and sometimes thousands of sea turtles come to the beach at Ostional to dig their eggs into the black, volcanic sand.
Information for visiting Playa Ostional
To visit the beach, you have to go with a local guide. The local people take care of the turtles and protect them from predators. You will meet your guide around 5 am to be at the beach at sunrise. The sunrise at Ostional Beach itself was magical, but to see the turtles hatching and making their way to the ocean is a heartwarming experience
Best time to see the Turtles nesting in Ostional
The Turtles nest at Ostional year round, but peak time is during the green season in Costa Rica, from August until December Arribadas occur regularly once, sometimes even twice a month. It’s always best to ask the local guides which day is the best to visit.
Tortuguero Nationalpark – the Amazon of Central America
Tortuguero Costa Rica is often referred to as the Amazon of Central America. It is a protected and very important national park for Costa Rica Wildlife. Tortuguero is home to an incredible biodiversity of plants and animals. For more than 60 species of mammals, including the Jaguar, Sloths, Howler, and Spider Monkeys, 111 species of reptiles, including crocodiles, Caimans, and Iguanas, and more than 300 species of birds, Tortuguero is their home. Besides, the beaches of Tortuguero are a key nesting site for four different species of turtles, including the largest of all living turtles, the Leatherback Turtles.
Best time to visit Tortuguero Nationalpark
Tortuguero National Park is located on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, which has a wetter climate than other parts of the country. Temperatures are high, and the climate is humid all year round. Also, the Caribbean coast has not the same dry season as the rest of Costa Rica; there can always be rain. You should plan your visit from July to October to see the impressive Leatherback turtle nesting.
Costa Rica Wildlife is one of the reasons why this country stole our hearts. Never have we visited a place with such a variety of animals before. In the beginning, we saw a new species every single day of our time in Costa Rica. Nature and wildlife are awe-inspiring, so we think Costa Rica is a must-visit for nature lovers. These five places are our top favorite places for wildlife watching, but you can see animals everywhere in the country.