We decided to dedicate a whole article and create a Costa Rica Wildlife Calendar to help you choose what time of the year to visit if you are looking to spot a specific animal.
Costa Rica hosts 5% of the world’s biodiversity with nearly 30% of the country dedicated to national parks and wildlife reserves.
Some popular species you can spot in Costa Rica are the howler monkeys, scarlet macaws, blue morpho butterflies, three-toed sloths, and humpback whales. No need for binoculars here – Costa Rica’s wildlife is everywhere!
Costa Rica is full of diversity, you can spot animals almost everywhere and all year round, but there are some species you’ll need a little help to spot, continue reading our wildlife calendar so you can find out about the most popular wildlife encounters between visitors.
Humpback whales are the most common whales in Costa Rica because it has the longest humpback whale viewing season in the world. Both the Antarctica and Alaska humpback whales overlap for a period of time in Costa Rica during their migration.
Antarctica humpback whales: July to November
California humpback whales: December to April
North Atlantic humpback whales: December to March
In the months of Oct to Nov, the early birds and late risers overlap. August and September are the best months to see humpback whales in Costa Rica as they are very common all up and down the Pacific coast.
Drake Bay is one of the most isolated places in Costa Rica and has excellent whale watching opportunities.
There’s a reason why it’s called the Whale National Park, Marino Ballena in Uvita is one of the best places to go on a whale watching tour and it’s a very popular spot for tourists and national during the whale season.
Humpback whales come to the Golfo Dulce bay from July to October to give birth and breed their calves, so Golfito and Puerto Jimenez are the perfect departing points to spot humpback whales in Costa Rica.
If you want to spot these majestic mammals in the wild the best thing to do is to book a whale watching tour or excursion.
Almost any of these tours offer combo packages where you can enjoy other activities such as snorkeling or dolphin watching.
You can even book one-day whale-watching tours departing from San José or other areas.
There are several different species of dolphin that you can encounter in Costa Rica, but the most common dolphins – and the most well known – are bottlenose dolphins.
The best place to see dolphins & whales in Costa Rica is the Golfo Dulce, but you can spot them almost everywhere on the country’s pacific coast.
Possibilities to spot dolphins on a dolphin tour in Costa Rica are incredibly high!
Usually ranging from six to twelve feet long and living for as much as fifty years, dolphins are considered to be very intelligent.
Inshore dolphins tend to live in groups of about 10.
a very cool fact about Costa Rica is that swimming with whales or dolphins is illegal, so you’ll find a lot of tours where you will be able to spot them in the wild and not in captivity.
You can see sea turtles on both the Caribbean and Pacific, some turtles are present all year long.
The best time of year to see turtles in Costa Rica is the rainy season or July – December. This is when the mass gatherings are the most intense.
The best time to come see the turtles on shore is during Arribadas (synchronized mass gathering of turtles). It is appropriately named because during this period of time you can see up to ten thousands turtles coming to the beach to nest at once. They come 24/7, even during the day!
This happens in only a few places in the world, with 2 of them in Costa Rica: Ostional and Playa Naranjo for the Olive Ridley Sea Turtles.
Sloths are plentiful throughout Costa Rica but may be difficult to spot to the untrained eye. A professional naturalist guide can help point them out. As a general rule, the further south you go along the Pacific coast, the more likely you are to see wildlife as the concentrations are higher. The South Pacific and Osa Peninsula are prime wildlife watching destinations.
There are six sloth species in the world, and two types of sloths: two-toed sloths and three-toed sloths.
Two of the six sloth species live in Costa Rica:
All year long.
The best places in Costa Rica to see sloths are Manuel Antonio, Puerto Viejo, Tortuguero, Dominical, Uvita, La Fortuna and the Osa Peninsula. They are abundant in more humid areas since the forests are green all year long so they always have food.
However, they are not common in Guanacaste where it is very dry. If you are in Guanacaste/Puntarenas (Tamarindo/Coco/Samara/Montezuma/Santa Teresa) and want to see a sloth, you will need to travel to the rainforest or visit an animal sanctuary.
Four different species of monkeys are in Costa Rica: White-face Capuchin monkeys, Howler monkeys, Squirrel monkeys and Spider monkeys.
The Osa Peninsula and Corcovado National Park is the only place where you can find all four species of monkeys.
Squirrel monkeys are only found in the southern part of Costa Rica such as Corcovado and Manuel Antonio National Park.
Howlers and white face monkeys can be seen all throughout Costa Rica. In particular, howlers are especially common in Guanacaste.
Spider monkeys are more common in the Osa Peninsula but can also be seen in Rincon de la Vieja National Park in Guanacaste.
Best time to see monkeys in Costa Rica is all year long.
If you want to spot monkeys in their natural habitat you should book a tour with a tourist guide that knows the area and will help you spot them on the trees.
6 different species of toucans are found in the rain forests of Costa Rica. The Black-mandibled toucan is the largest of the six and all can be seen in the tropical and subtropical forests.
All year long but best during rainy season when the fruits they like are in season. Sometimes you can see up to 10 or more toucans in one tree!
You can’t see all 6 toucans in one place in Costa Rica, but you can see up to 3 in one.
In Monteverde, you can see the Emerald Toucanet, Keel billed and Black Mandibled Toucan.
In Manuel Antonio and Osa Peninsula you can see the Black Mandible and Fiery Aracari .
In La Fortuna you can see the Black Mandibled, Keel-billed and the Collared Aracari.
It is very hard to see the Yellow-eared toucanet though.
Some other excellent places to see toucans in Costa Rica are Puerto Viejo, Tortuguero, Poas, Uvita, Boca Tapada, Osa Peninsula and Bijagua.