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Wildlife Locations

20 recommended locations:

Braulio Carillo National Park

Not far from San Jose, this national park preserves a pristine rainforest full of tropical plants, waterfalls and wildlife. Over 340 bird species have been recorded. The highlight is a ride on the famous rainforest aerial tram, from which you can look down into the forest canopy. There are also several walking trails.

  • Where: Heredia Province
  • Ideal for viewing: howler monkey, tapir, keel-billed toucan, blue-throated trogon, white-faced monkey
  • Excellent for: Birdwatching

Cahuita National Park

This small national park on the southern Caribbean coast consists of tropical lowland forest, black sand beach, and a beautiful reef around the tip of Cahuita Point. The forest shelters various forms of wildlife, whilst the coral reef has an astonishing variety of marine life. A snorkel and mask are essential here!

  • Where: Limón Province
  • Ideal for viewing: capuchin monkey, green iguana, northern tamandua, porcupine, racoon

Carara National Park

This national park protects the last noteworthy tract of primary rainforest in the Central Pacific region. Due to its proximity to the capital, it attracts a lot of visitors – both local and international. However, if you can avoid the crowds it has sufficient wildlife to impress the most avid enthusiast.

  • Where: Central Pacific Region
  • Ideal for viewing: collared peccary, green and black poison arrow frog, scarlet macaw, white-faced capuchin, boat-billed heron
  • Excellent for: Birdwatching

Corcovado National Park

For a fitting finale to any trip in Costa Rica, take the scenic flight to the remote beautiful Osa Peninsula, on the Pacific Coast. It is a natural paradise with a remarkable species count. You can stay at either a rustic lodges or a tented camp on an idyllic beach amidst lush tropical splendour, surrounded by wildlife!

  • Where: Puntarenas Province
  • Ideal for viewing: jaguar, scarlet macaw, tamandua, tapir, ocelot
  • Excellent for: Birdwatching

Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge

This stretch of Caribbean coast is one of the finest in the country. The combination of sandy beach, gentle waves and coral reef close to the surface make it a paradise for nature lovers and underwater enthusiasts. Inland, the wildlife refuge protects many species that are either endangered or at risk.

  • Where: Limón Province
  • Ideal for viewing: black caiman, ocelot, keel-billed toucan, ornate hawk-eagle, tapir

Gulf of Nicoya

This stunning coastal landscape includes cliffs, rocky islands, wetland and mangroves. The offshore islands protect seabird sanctuaries where visitors are not allowed, however with binoculars you can watch them from the shore. Guayabo has the largest of Costa Rica’s four known brown pelican nesting sites.

  • Where: Puntarenas Province
  • Ideal for viewing: humpback whale, brown pelican, brown booby, giant frigatebird, olive ridley turtle
  • Excellent for: Birdwatching

Los Quetzales National Park

The most recent addition to Costa Rica's national parks, Los Quetzales extends across three types of rainforest, and 14 different ecosystems. Mostly cloud forest, it protects a crucial habitat for a number of plant and animal species, notably the resplendent quetzal, after which the park was named.

  • Where: Central Pacific Region
  • Ideal for viewing: resplendent quetzal, collared trogon, fiery-throated hummingbird, sooty robin, black guan
  • Excellent for: Wildlife photography, Wildlife for families, Birdwatching

Manuel Antonio National Park

The country’s most visited national park covers a rocky peninsula and its hinterland, plus a large tract of Pacific Ocean. From trails along the rainforest-fringed beach, you can see copious wildlife, including Costa Rica’s only populations of endangered squirrel monkeys, as well as exploring the mangroves.

  • Where: Puntarenas province
  • Ideal for viewing: brown pelican, brown throated three-toed sloth, Central American squirrel monkey, mantled howler monkey, white-faced capuchin monkey

Maquenque Wildlife Refuge

The wetland of Maquenque Wildlife Refuge is located in the northern lowlands, close to the mouth of the Rio San Carlos. Rich in indigenous plants and animals, it is one of the few remaining nesting sites of the endangered great green macaw, as well as other vulnerable species such as manatee and jaguar.

  • Ideal for viewing: great green macaw, agami heron, roseate spoonbill, green ibis, sunbittern
  • Excellent for: Wildlife photography, Birdwatching

Marino Ballena National Park

Named after the humpback whales that arrive between December and April each year, this park extends along a stretch of beach interspersed with mangroves, and out to sea. The largest reef on Central America’s Pacific Coast forms a crescent necklace, with three small islands known as Las Tres Hermanas.

  • Where: Puntarenas province
  • Ideal for viewing: humpback whale, hawksbill turtle, olive ridley turtle, spinner dolphin, Bryde’s whale
  • Excellent for: Whale watching

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

This reserve is thought to be one of Central America’s finest protected areas. Weather from the Caribbean and Pacific creates a cloud forest ecosystem that is home to over 100 species of mammal, 400 birds, tens of thousands of insects (including 5,000 different moths) and 2,500 plants (including 420 varieties of orchid).

  • Where: Puntarenas province
  • Ideal for viewing: bare-necked umbrellabird, swallow-tailed kite, keel-billed toucan, ocelot, resplendent quetzal
  • Excellent for: Birdwatching

Osa Peninsula

On the Pacific coast, just north of Panama, the wild and remote Osa Peninsula juts into the ocean, combining with Corcovado and Peñas Blancas National Parks to create the country’s foremost natural highlight. It is home to an astonishing range of wildlife, including giant anteater, tapir, squirrel monkey and jaguar.

  • Where: Southern Pacific coast
  • Ideal for viewing: harpy eagle, scarlet macaw, giant anteater, Baird’s tapir, white-faced capuchin monkey

Piedras Blancas National Park

Located on the southern Pacific coast outside Golfito town, this national park protects some 14,000 hectares of primary rainforest containing many indigenous plants and lots of wildlife. Its creation in 1993 marked a huge victory for conservationists, as the area had been damaged by deforestation and hunting.

  • Where: Puntarenas Province
  • Ideal for viewing: jaguar, ocelot, scarlet macaw, two-toed sloth, agouti

Rincon de la Vieja National Park

Named after the active volcano at its centre, this park protects the dry forest of the northwest, home to over 200 bird species. A short drive from Liberia, it nevertheless receives relatively few visitors, so you can walk its trails, ride horses, or enjoy its hot springs and pools of boiling mud in relative solitude.

  • Where: Guanacaste Province
  • Ideal for viewing: coati, howler monkey, red trogan, puma, tapir
  • Excellent for: Birdwatching


This fascinating lowland area is a good base for exploring Poas Volcano. However the main highlight is La Selva Biological Station, a major research centre for tropical ecosystems. The species diversity here is astounding, with more than 1,850 plants, 448 birds, 70 species of bat and five of Costa Rica’s six felines.

  • Where: Heredia Province
  • Ideal for viewing: ocelated antbird, short-tailed nighthawk, sungrebe, great potoo, great green macaw
  • Excellent for: Birdwatching


The bustling surf capital of Costa Rica’s Pacific coast is blessed with stunning beaches, but is also a good base to explore the surrounding rainforest for wildlife. Its extensive mangroves are protected reserves, and in Marino Las Baulas National Park giant leatherback turtles come ashore at night to lay eggs.

  • Where: Guanacaste Province
  • Ideal for viewing: capuchin monkey, howler monkey, leatherback turtle, green turtle, olive ridley turtle

Tortuguero National Park

Tortuguero is a vast area of pristine rainforest on a remote stretch of Caribbean coast, where beaches, canals and wetlands create an astonishing biodiversity. Activities centre on boat trips through the freshwater creeks and lagoons. Green, hawksbill and leatherback turtles come ashore here to lay their eggs.

  • Where: Limon Province
  • Ideal for viewing: Baird’s tapir, green turtle, spectacled caiman, spider monkey, three-toed sloth
  • Excellent for: River safaris

Volcan Arenal National Park

Until 2010 Arenal was Costa Rica’s most active volcano. In recent times it has entered a period of quiescence, although you can still hear subterranean rumbles and see the odd ash column. The surrounding national park contains a bizarre landscape of solidified lava flows, lush forest and tropical flora and fauna.

  • Where: Alajuela Province
  • Ideal for viewing: boa constrictor, mantled howler monkey, violet sabrewing, agouti, armadillo

Volcan Tenorio National Park

Around the two volcanoes of Tenorio and Montezuma is an area of primary rainforest and cloud forest. One of Costa Rica’s most beautiful waterfalls is found here, where the water tumbles 32 metres into a pool of amazing blue. The subterranean activity endows the area with several hot springs.

  • Where: Guanacaste Province
  • Ideal for viewing: capuchin monkey, jaguar, puma, tapir, agouti
  • Excellent for: River safaris

San José

Costa Rica’s vibrant capital stands in the centre of the country at an elevation of around 1,200 metres. Home to the main international airport, it has the country’s pristine natural attractions on its doorstep. The downtown area is fairly small and has several interesting museums and parks.

  • Where: San Jose Province
  • Excellent for: City stopover

View trips to these locations

Wildlife trips

Costa Rica’s world-class protected areas offer exceptional biodiversity and enshrine a proud conservation heritage. The varied topography guarantees a wide range of wildlife and scenery. Highlights include egg-laying turtles, the call of howler monkeys resounding through the jungle, brightly-coloured toucans and parrots, plus exquisite tree frogs.

7 recommended trips. Our trip ideas are offered to inspire you and can be tailored to suit your requirements.

Natural Highlights

An exceptional trip to discover Costa Rica’s abundant birds and wildlife amid its forests, lagoons and beaches. Highlights include the canals of Tortuguero, Arenal’s volcanic landscapes and howler monkeys, spectacular birdwatching in Monteverde’s cloud forests, canopy walkways and idyllic beaches.

  • When to go: Jan-Dec
  • Duration inc. flights: 14 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £2,995 pp
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea

Costa Rica’s Wildlife Wonders

The verdant country of Costa Rica is a must-visit destination for any wildlife enthusiast - this small nation is bursting with fascinating flora and fauna. Our extensive 12-day group trip visits some of the finest wildlife locations within Costa Rica to encounter some of its more exotic species.

  • When to go: Nov-Mar
  • Duration inc. flights: 12 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £3,695 pp
  • Trip type: Group tour

Pacific Coast Journey

Discover the natural wonders of Costa Rica’s Cordillera region and Pacific coastline. From the small yet spectacular Manuel Antonio National Park to the hummingbirds of Monteverde, the trip culminates with a few days at the remote Osa Peninsula, a beautiful natural paradise on the Pacific Coast.

  • When to go: Jan-Dec
  • Duration inc. flights: 13 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £3,695 pp
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea

Costa Rica Family Adventure

This family trip has plenty of interesting activities to introduce you to tropical wildlife, yet there is also ample time to relax (all hotels have a pool) if you wish. The distances are not great, so you won’t waste time travelling, but have maximum opportunity to enjoy Costa Rica to the full.

  • When to go: Jan-Dec
  • Duration inc. flights: 16 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £3,495 pp
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea

Cloud Forests & Mountains

Enjoy the beauty and spectacle of Costa Rica's flora and fauna on this fantastic tailor made trip, encompassing the best of the country. Exploring rainforests and coastlines, the itinerary is designed to introduce you to the incredible variety of birds, wildlife and plant species to be found in Costa Rica.

  • When to go: Jan-Dec
  • Duration inc. flights: 14 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £3,695 pp
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea

Coast to Coast

Costa Rica’s Caribbean and Pacific coastlines offer a great contrast to the interior’s steamy rainforests, and this trip allows you to understand the country’s complex mosaic of ecosystems. This suggested itinerary visits some of the lesser-known parks and includes some relaxation time on the Pacific coast.

  • When to go: Jan-Dec
  • Duration inc. flights: 15 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £3,395 pp
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea

Wildlife Photography in Costa Rica’s Rainforests

Costa Rica has long been an established wildlife destination, renowned for its remarkable biodiversity. Join acclaimed photographer Nick Garbutt on this unique itinerary that offers extended stays in prime locations to discover some of the country’s best preserved ecosystems.

  • When to go: Apr-May
  • Duration inc. flights: 19 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £6,995 pp
  • Trip type: Group tour

When to go

Best visited during the Pacific coast dry season, from December to April. The Caribbean coast has less rain between March and September but, being tropical, expect rain any time.


  • Green season

    May to Nov: Most of the country is wetter, although the Caribbean coast received less rainfall
  • Dry Season

    Dec to Apr: Costa Rica’s dry season is generally the best time to visit

Wildlife events

  • May to Jun: Best time to see three-wattled bellbird at Monteverde
  • May to Jul: Best time to see quetzal at Monteverde
  • Jul to Sep: Night walks to see green & hawksbill turtles at Tortuguero
  • Jul to Dec: Olive ridley turtles come ashore (Pacific coast)
  • Aug to Aug: Peak season for green and hawksbill turtles to lay eggs
  • Aug to Sep: Loggerhead turtles land on Caribbean coast
  • Nov to Mar: Leatherback turtles in Tamarindo (Pacific coast)
  • Nov to Mar: The best time to see scissor-tailed flycatcher
  • Dec to Jan: Humpback and sperm whales off Corcovado NP (Pacific coast)
  • Jan to Apr: Best time to see quetzal at Monteverde
  • Feb to Apr: Leatherback turtles come ashore to lay eggs at Tortuguero
  • Mar to Apr: Best time to see three-wattled bellbird at Monteverde

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