There are so many reasons who we think you need to visit Costa Rica, but one of the top reasons is definitely to see wildlife. You can see wildlife in Costa Rica in basically every part of the country, but there are definitely a few places which are a cut above the rest.
Here are the best places (in our opinion) to see wildlife in Costa Rica.
See Wildlife in Costa Rica – Monteverde
Monteverde is a cloud forest town filled with amazing adventure opportunities and beautiful nature. To guarantee that you see cool wildlife while in Monteverde we suggest taking a night tour.
On a night tour your guide will walk you through the forest and see if you can come across unique animals. The best way to get a good deal is to ask at your hotel. Usually, they will partner with a nearby company and can give you a good rate. These tours also usually include transportation to and from your hotel.
The night tour we went on was $20 per person for a two-hour tour. Our guide was really good and we saw sloths, huge spiders, snakes, monkeys, and cool frogs like this one.
Another option for searching for wildlife is to take a hike through the cloud forest. There are multiple wildlife reserves to choose from within Monteverde. We did not see any wildlife on our cloud forest hike, but the cloud forest on its own is amazing to experience.
You can read our complete guide to Monteverde here.
See Wildlife in Costa Rica – Tortuguero
If you visit Tortuguero on the Caribbean coast (which we highly recommend because it’s amazing) you’ve got to do an early morning canoe ride with a guide.
Tortuguero is extremely relaxed and everything is planned fairly last minute, so you can just ask at your hotel the day before and they will arrange it for you.
The canoe ride starts at 6:00 am and lasts for two hours through the Tortuguero National Park. The guides are usually really great in spotting animals and giving you a lot of info about the Tortuguero wildlife.
During the canoe ride, we have seen caymans, sloths, monkeys, turtles, and cool birds.
You can also take a nice flat hike through the Tortuguero National Park. We suggest doing this on the same day as the canoe ride because you have to pay park admission to do the canoe ride and then can use your ticket for the entire day.
You can find out more info about Tortuguero here.
See Wildlife in Costa Rica – Cahuita
Can you believe we saw this guy hanging out on the side of the road in Cahuita? I was legit like “STOP THE CAR!!!” I needed this picture, and look, he’s even posing!
Anyway, back on topic. Cahuita is a great place to see wildlife, specifically at the Cahuita National Park. We have a full guide to the national park here, but to give you a general idea, we’ve seen sloths, monkeys, vipers, blue crabs, and many many other cool animals at the national park.
If you really want to see tons of wildlife you can hire a guide at the entrance to the national park. We’ve never hired a guide because Thomas is a champion wildlife spotter (aka he walks realllyy slow 😉 ). A guide will guarantee you see tons of wildlife and they always carry a telescope so you can see everything up close and personal. They are a bit pricey though and I can guarantee you will see at least some wildlife on your own.
You can learn more about Cahuita here.
See Wildlife in Costa Rica – San Gerardo de Dota
San Gerardo de Dota is an easy 1.5 hour drive from San Jose. It is a beautiful cloud forest in the middle of nowhere, and I’m obsessed with the vibe here. It is one of those hidden gems which most tourists never visit. If you are interested in birding, it is a must visit spot to see wildlife in Costa Rica.
To see a lot of wildlife your best bet is to go hiking. There are great hiking trails at Hotel Savegre. The will ask that you pay $10 to enter their trails, but if you are staying there or eat a meal at their restaurant they will let you enter for free. Another great free option is to hike to the Rio Savegre Waterfall. It is so peaceful and beautiful.
Most people visit San Gerardo de Dota hoping to spot the quetzal. Thomas and I are not interested in birding, but most of the tourists who venture to San Gerardo de Dota are hardcore. As in, we walked into Happy Hour at Hotel Savegre and were greeted by a bunch of people painting quetzal figurines. That’s dedication!
To find out more about San Gerardo de Dota click here.
See Wildlife in Costa Rica – Manuel Antonio
The town of Manuel Antonio itself is not filled with wildlife, but head to the Manuel Antonio National Park if you want to see crazy amounts of wildlife. We have seen monkeys, sloths, tarantulas, snakes, and more!
You have the option of hiring a guide at the national park. We opted to do this on our first visit and although it was nice for the experience, it absolutely was not necessary. The park gets so filled with people that you can just go to where everyone else is standing and easily see the wildlife there.
If you’d like more info on Manuel Antonio, we have a complete guide here.
See Wildlife in Costa Rica – Corcovado
We have not actually visit Corcovado yet. It has been on the list for a long time because we are attracted to how remote it is. Also, it has a reputation for being an absolute wildlife haven.
Let me know if any of you have been and can report back to us on the wildlife you saw.
One last tip for you all. One of the best purchases we’ve made since living in Costa Rica is pocket binoculars. They are easy to fit anywhere and allow us to see wildlife in Costa Rica a lot better. Often monkeys and sloths are way up in the trees and without binoculars, they just look like some tree lump.
If you have any questions or suggestions of other great places to see wildlife, please leave them in the comment section below. We’d love to hear from you!
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