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Three-toed sloth sleeping in Costa Rica rainforest

The Incredible Animals of Costa Rica's Rainforest

Traveller sat at Park Guell, Barcelona

By Sarah Hemsley

Last updated: 13th June 2024

Let’s take a quick history lesson… 3 million years ago Costa Rica rose to the world, forming part of the land we know as Central America. You can thank its impressive volcanoes for that! Today, its lush rainforests, cloud forests, and preserved national parks are bursting with unbeatable wildlife. Think snoozing sloths, howling monkeys, chirping macaws, and adorable frogs. It’s become one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, despite only making up 0.03% of the Earth's surface area!

So, grab your binoculars and take a look at these incredible animals that have made Costa Rica’s jungle their happy home 👇

1. Three-toed Sloths 🦥

Three-toed sloth hanging from branch in Costa Rica

Of course, we have to mention the huge population of sloths in Costa Rica. You’ll surely spot common three-toed sloths catching zzz’s in the jungle canopy. They sleep up to 20 hours a day - no wonder they’re known as the laziest animals in the world! So lazy, a greenish-coloured algae has time to grow on their fur, helping them camouflage as they snooze away the day. If you’re lucky, you might spot the rarer two-toed sloth on a night walk through Monteverde Cloud Forest on our 14-day Costa Rica Adventure.

2. Red-eyed Tree Frog 🐸

Red-eyed tree frog on leaf in Costa Rica

The cutest animal in Costa Rica. Who knew frogs could be this adorable?! This tiny amphibian can be found chilling on the lush green leaves of Costa Rica’s iconic rainforests, just waiting to be spotted on your adventure. They’re easily identified by their vibrant lime green body, white underbelly and googly red eyes. Keep your eyes peeled for their adorable slow-motion blinks.

3. Hummingbirds 🐦

Hummingbird on branch in Costa Rica

There are 338 known species of Hummingbirds worldwide and Costa Rica has 50 of them, 4 of which are native animals to Costa Rica. When you hear their distinctive hum from the beating of their wings, you’ll know to look out for their brightly coloured, glittery feathers and long, slender beaks amongst the trees. Watch out, as they’re the only species of bird that can fly backwards, and even upside down! 

4. White-faced Capuchin Monkeys 🐒

Capuchin monkeys in trees

These cheeky white-faced Capuchin monkeys have made Costa Rica’s rainforests their playground. On a Costa Rica group tour, you can find them in social groups of 16 to 20 roaming around Monteverde Cloud Forest and Manuel Antonio National Park. You’ll likely spot them leaping from tree to tree.

5. Green Iguana 🦎

Green iguana in Costa Rica

If any animal knows how to camouflage, it's Green Iguanas. These large lizards are the masters of blending in. Even their striped whip-like tail helps them disguise themselves in the jungle. These cool guys prefer to settle high up in the canopy and only descend to the ground to mate, lay eggs and change trees. 

6. Toucans 🤩

Toucan on branch in Costa Rica

You can spot toucans all across Central America. Watch in awe as they soar through lush green rainforests and play in packs of 3 to 15. It’s an awe-inspiring show you won’t want to miss. In Costa Rica, discover 6 species of this incredible bird and look out for emerald toucanets in Monteverde Cloud Forest. You might spot them as you fly through the cloud forest on a zipline on our 32-day Central American Journey.

7. White-nosed Coati 🦝

White-nosed Coati in Costa Rica rainforest

This cute long-tailed animal in Costa Rica can be found all across the country. From the lush jungle to the mountainous areas, it can adapt to all of Costa Rica’s climates. They tend to travel in packs of 20 and are mostly spotted during the day. They’re very intelligent mammals and will eat anything! So be sure to hold tight to your snacks! 

8. Scarlet Macaws 🦜

Scarlet macaws on branch in Costa Rica rainforest

The Scarlet Macaws are native to Central America’s evergreen forests and are a sight to behold. Some thought they were destined to be extinct, but these sassy macaws thankfully made a comeback! Now, backpackers from all over the world come to spot them proudly showing off their vibrant red, blue, green and yellow feathers. 

9. Baird’s Tapir 🐾

Baird taipur in Costa Rica

These ‘living fossils’ have been around for 20 million years! Costa Rica wouldn’t be the same without them. As the largest land mammal in Central America, they have a duty to disperse all kinds of seeds and grain to keep their natural habitat thriving. They’re most active throughout the night so your best chance to spot them is on a night tour through Corcovado National Park or Tortuguero National Park.

10. Butterflies 🦋

Blue morpho butterfly on leaf in Costa Rica

Butterfly lovers, you have to visit Costa Rica! It's home to 90% of the Central American butterfly population. Look out for one of the largest butterflies in the world - the iconic Blue Morpho butterfly. Their beautiful bright blue wings can span up to 20cm. Opt to visit the Monteverde Butterfly Garden whilst on our 14-day Costa Rica Adventure and expect to see dozens dancing in the gardens around you. 

11. Resplendent Quetzals 🐦

Resplendent quetzal in Costa Rica

Resplendent Quetzals (fancy name, right?) are rated one of the most beautiful birds in the world! It’s easy to see why, with its shimmery turquoise-green feathers, bright red belly and innocent-looking face. Look out for ones with tail feathers up to 3 feet long! There’s a large population of them thriving within Costa Rica’s rainforests, so you’ll likely spot these elegant animals snacking on insects on your travels. 

12. Howler Monkey 🐵

Howler monkey on tree brunch in Costa Rica

Aptly named after its recognisable howl, you'll hear this adorable mammal before seeing it. They’re the loudest land mammals in the world with howls travelling 5km through the rainforest. They call to let others know not to enter their territory. Usually, when one group calls, another calls back. Listen out for their conversations on your adventure amid the trees.

How many animal species are in Costa Rica? 👀

Those are just 12 of the most incredible animals of Costa Rica’s rainforest, but, in total, Costa Rica has… *drum roll* over 500,000 species, of which 300,000 are insects! Overall, Costa Rica contains up to 6% of the world’s biodiversity. With its vast range of wildlife, you’ll be pinching yourself as you discover species you’ve never heard of. Stop by Monteverde Cloud Forest to experience nearly 50% of Costa Rica’s biodiversity. Manuel Antonio National Park, Tortuguero National Park and its many wildlife refuges, butterfly gardens and national parks across the country are also great destinations to spot wildlife in Costa Rica.


Want to see Costa Rica’s wildlife for yourself? Get packing for one of our Costa Rica group tours. You could zipline past exotic toucans in Monteverde Cloud Forest, horseback ride past sleeping sloths in La Fortuna’s rainforest, and embrace the pure vida life beside the sea turtles on paradise beaches.

Discover more incredible adventures across Central & South America.

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