Did you know that Costa Rica is home to nearly five percent of the planet’s total biodiversity? For a country the size of West Virginia that equals thousands of species and a paradise for animal lovers. From coast to coast, this tropical nation offers exceptional wildlife watching opportunities, whether your interests lie in the cute and cuddly, the vibrant and vociferous, or creatures that slither around under the cover of darkness. Here’s a small sampling of some of Costa Rica’s most iconic species, and the best places to see them.
Also known as white-faced monkeys, these primates are considered the most intelligent of all new world monkeys. You can often hear their chatters and high-pitched squeaks long before you see these curious creatures moving about the treetops. Capuchins will dine on absolutely anything and are true omnivores of the forest. In Costa Rica, you can see them dining on ripened fruits, flowers, small insects, lizards and even bird eggs. Their populations are numerous throughout the country and they can easily be spotted in Cahuita National Park, Arenal, Carara National Park and Manuel Antonio National Park.
Two and Three-Toed Sloths
These strange yet adorable animals spend most of their lives in the forest canopy, seemingly lazing their days away. Owing to their grayish-green fur, which perfectly camouflages against the treetops, they can be difficult to pick out without the eagle eyes of a naturalist guide. While they are notoriously slow movers, sloths are actually excellent swimmers, and have been seen fording rivers to get to their favorite food: the cecropia tree. Both varieties live in the wet lowland rainforests of Costa Rica and are best seen in traveler hotspots like Puerto Viejo, Manuel Antonio, Tortuguero and in the Osa Peninsula.
This vividly-hued parrot ranges from Mexico down through parts of South America. In Costa Rica, the scarlet macaw prefers the jungles of Corcovado National Park and the dry tropical forest of Carara National Park – where an estimated 400 of the birds live and breed. Known locally as “lapas,” these birds are noted for their striking scarlet-colored feathers with blue and yellow plumage on their wings. They eat a varied diet consisting of nectars, fruit, seeds and wild nuts. Keep in mind that January through April is the macaw mating season, and the best time to view them in Carara. Most visitors to the park are based in a hotel or vacation rental in the Jaco area.
Leatherback Sea Turtles
The largest of all sea turtles, the leatherback tips the scales at more than 1,000 pounds and can grow to be up to six feet in length! These endangered marine reptiles can be seen on the shores of Las Baulas Marine Park, where females come to shore every year to nest. The park is located in Playa Grande, on the outskirts of Tamarindo beach. Their nesting season runs from October through March, when travelers can arrange an evening turtle tour to see Mother Nature in action. The leatherback turtle also nests in Ostional Refuge near Nosara, and along parts of the Caribbean coast.
If you are interested in exploring any of these amazing wildlife hotspots, Escape Villas features an array of comfortable vacation homes for large groups, family vacations, or an intimate romantic escape. Check us out at www.villascostarica.com or call toll free at 1 888 771-2976 for more information.