If you’re an animal lover, then you’ve come to the right place. Costa Rica is a haven for wildlife, with 25% of the country’s land set aside as protected parks and reserves. And with diversity ranging from turtles to tarantulas to tapirs, there’s a once-in-a-lifetime wildlife experience for just about anyone.
Not sure where to start? Try any one of these 5 awesome animal encounters:
Jaguar Rescue Center
The Jaguar Rescue Center is the remarkable vision of Encar and Sandro, a biologist and herpetologist (respectively) with over a decade of experience working with animals. After witnessing the mistreatment and killing of wildlife in Costa Rica, the couple decided it was time to make a difference. They began working with reptiles, rescuing and rehabilitating them out of their home. Soon the news spread about the great work they were doing. As more people began to bring hurt and abandoned animals, the project kept growing, and in 2008 the Jaguar Rescue Center was born.
The name is a bit misleading as it is likely you won’t see any jaguars at the center. However, there are plenty of other adorable animals to observe and interact with, including monkeys, parrots, deer, sloths, anteaters, marsupials, frogs, snakes, owls, wildcats and Tooki Tooki—the resident toucan that prefers hopping to flying and has a bit of a tendency to follow guests from point to point. To read more about the Jaguar Center, don’t miss our entire article here.
Sloths have got to be some of the cutest creatures around. The super-slow moving mammals are typically found in the trees of Central and South America and are common sightings throughout the country of Costa Rica.
Unfortunately, cars or humans cutting down trees injure many sloths. The Sloth Sanctuary aims to rescue and rehabilitate these sloths that are injured or orphaned, study their behavior and expand sloth-related education and awareness. Since 1997, the sanctuary has rescued more than 500 sloths. To learn more about the sanctuary, don’t miss this Go! Girl visit.
Coffee n’ Jungle Night Hike
Not only can you enjoy Costa Rica’s diverse and constantly surprising wildlife on this tour, you’ll also get to learn about the coffee making process—and of course sample a few local varieties while you’re at it.
The tour begins by taking visitors on a search for some of the creepy crawlies that come out to play at night. Tarantulas, frogs and other insects are just a few of the more common sightings. If you’re lucky you might also spot sloths or monkeys playing in the trees. After you’ve had your fair share of wildlife encounters, the guides will continue the tour with a hands-on explanation of the coffee making process—with a bit of chocolate tasting thrown in the mix too! The Coffee n’ Jungle Night Hike is perfect if you have limited time to learn about all of Costa Rica’s special attributes.
Corcovado National Park
If you only visit one national park in Costa Rica, make it the Corcovado National Park. Corcovado is dubbed by National Geographic as ‘one of the most biologically intense places in the world’, Corcovado boasts thirteen different ecosystems and some 2% of the entire world’s biodiversity. What’s more, Corcovado National Park is the last remaining Pacific lowland rainforest of sustainable size, boasting the region’s densest population of tapirs, jaguars, and scarlet macaws.
It’s no easy feat to arrive at Corcovado National Park, which is in large part what has kept it so pristine. I opted to base myself at Casa Corcovado, an eco-luxury resort situated as close to the national park as you can get without being inside the park itself. Access to the hotel is only granted after a riveting boat ride through the twisting Sierpe River and expansive Pacific Ocean, where crocodile, dolphin, toucan and monkey sightings are all just part of the journey.
Manuel Antonio National Park and Wildlife Refuge
Manuel Antonio National Park is known for its breathtakingly beautiful white sandy beaches. But though it can be tempting to spend all day lounging in the sun, don’t miss an opportunity to take to the trails and do some wildlife spotting—Manual Antonio is also said to be one of the best places in Costa Rica to view monkeys, sloths, frogs and birds. The trails are well marked and if you have quick eyes, you don’t necessarily need a guide.
Where would you go to encounter some friendly animals in Costa Rica?