Flora and fauna of Costa Rica

Different vegetation zones and numerous nature reserves ensure breathtaking biodiversity in Costa Rica. Despite being a relatively small country, Costa Rica is home to approximately 6% of the world’s species, meaning that more than 500,000 recorded species are represented in Costa Rica.

With over 860 native and six endemic bird species, Costa Rica is a true paradise for all bird watchers and ornithologists. Sloths, spider monkeys, howler monkeys and many other mammals also frolic in the trees. A variety of amphibians and reptiles hide one floor below. Small, colorful and fast, the exotic frog species in particular fascinate visitors. Animals threatened with extinction such as the leatherback turtle can be discovered in Costa Rica.

The flora of Costa Rica is at least as diverse as the animal world. Costa Rica is home to numerous types of wood, grasses and ferns. Giant trees, creepers and several types of palm trees characterize the landscape. In addition, hundreds of orchids, dense mosses and brightly colored bromeliads offer unusual photo motifs. Other curiosities of Costa Rica include the strangler fig and giant tree ferns.

  • 1/4 of the land area is under protection
  • Numerous areas are UNESCO World Heritage Sites
  • There are different vegetation zones in the country
  • Unique variety of animals and plants
  • Costa Rica has a Pacific and a Caribbean coast
  • If you want, you can spend the night in nature’s living room

What animals can I see in Costa Rica?

The wildlife of Costa Rica is incredibly diverse. According to the National Biodiversity Institute of Costa Rica, it is home to over 500,000 species, making it one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. Bird lovers in particular will get their money’s worth here because the bird life in Costa Rica is more colorful and diverse than in almost any other country. Delicate butterflies, brightly colored frogs and witty monkeys are also numerous and offer an extraordinary sight. With a little patience and a watchful eye, you are sure to discover a few tropical exotics and take some very special memories home with you.

Selected exotics at a glance

Listing all of Costa Rica’s animals is impossible but we want to give you an overview so you can get an idea of what animals you’re likely to encounter in Costa Rica. Over 220 species of mammals are found in Costa Rica and are waiting to be discovered. Cheerful monkeys cavort in large numbers in the trees and are easy to spot. Howler monkeys with their shaggy fur are more leisurely on the move. Since they feed only on fruit, they have to economize on their energy and prefer to defend their territory with loud roars instead of fighting. The little capuchin and squirrel monkeys are nimble and impress with breakneck climbing maneuvers. The capuchin monkeys in particular are very rebellious and cheeky and often dare to be near people.

Various species of big cats also roam the Costa Rican jungle. These include  cougars, jaguars and the small ocelot cats. As a rule, you have nothing to fear from these predators because unfortunately they have become very rare and also live secluded and are mainly nocturnal. Another family of predators are the small “bears” of which all 16 species are represented in Costa Rica. Cheeky  raccoons, amusing coatis, and pointy-nosed kinkajous belong to this family. The probability of meeting the small bears in their natural environment is relatively high, as they usually travel in large groups and are very curious.

From tapirs, frogs and turtles...

You are also very likely to encounter bats during your stay in Costa Rica. Over 100 species live here, the largest of which has a wingspan of over a meter. They can occasionally be seen hanging out in the trees with sloths and  monkeys. The very easy-going sloths always have a friendly facial expression and live up to their name because they move very slowly. The funny tapirs are another jungle dweller. They look like a mixture of horse and rhinoceros and are peaceful fellows who can be agile despite their clumsy physique. The small armadillos, which feel at home in the dry forest of Costa Rica, are also an amusing sight. In case of danger, the animals roll up into a ball and thus form a continuous shell.

Reptiles, amphibians and insects are also very numerous in Costa Rica. Colorful, small and nimble, the frogs of Costa Rica are funny little guys and offer a colorful photo motif. Some are poisonous so it is better to avoid touching them. A special eye-catcher is the tiny glass frog. As the name suggests, it is transparent so you can see the heart beating through the skin. If you keep a watchful eye, you might even catch a glimpse of a snake but they are shy, well camouflaged and quickly flee. The iguanas are also well camouflaged, but still easier to spot. They feel particularly at home in Costa and can grow up to two meters long with their tails. The colorful butterflies of Costa Rica are a little more delicate, but just as impressive. They float through the jungle in bright colors and offer a graceful dance. In water rich areas you can expect crocodiles and turtles. The leatherback turtle has found a home in Costa Rica and lives here in a protected area because it is threatened with extinction. The insect world makes up a large part of Costa Rica’s biodiversity and offers extraordinary colorful creatures that you have probably never seen before.

Look high up in the treetops, the colorful flight artists of Costa Rica

Bird lovers in particular will be amazed by Costa Rica because here you will find not only well-known birds such as eagles, buzzards and falcons, but also many tropical exotic species. Colorful hummingbirds dance through the air and generate a soft hum with the rapid flapping of their wings. Colorful  parrots and screeching macaws also roam the jungle. The huge beaks of the toucans usually shine yellow, sometimes even in all rainbow colors from the trees, while dainty kingfishers with their pointed beaks in blue-orange robes sit glittering in the sun. The long tail feathers of the motmots give the birds a graceful appearance, however, the quetzal‘s feathers are hard to beat. Historically the quetzal was hunted for its long tail feathers and is now rarely seen. It lives exclusively in the cloud forests of Costa Rica. It rises majestically into the air, dragging its tail feathers, which can be up to a meter long, behind it.

If you have a little patience, you will certainly see many of these colorful exotic animals and with a little luck you will even discover the Quetzal, the bird of the gods. Costa Rica has at least as much to offer under water as it does on land. You can explore the colorful sea creatures of Costa Rica while snorkeling or diving. Bright starfish, colorful coral reefs and cute seahorses can be seen. Schools of colorful fish pass by accompanied by cheerful turtles. Sharks, rays and the friendly dolphins also feel at home on Costa Rica’s coasts and you will encounter them during a dive. With a bit of luck you can even watch the big humpback whales and listen to their songs underwater. Diving into the rich waters of Costa Rica is guaranteed to be exciting. In a country as biodiverse as Costa Rica, there are also a few poisonous inhabitants. They include some snakes, spiders, frogs and scorpions. However, these are usually shy or rare so the probability of being injured is very low. If you stroll through Costa Rica attentively, with sturdy shoes and a little caution you should be safe.

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