6 Animals Your Family Wants to See in Costa Rica

animals, animals, everywhere

Costa Rica is a biodiversity hotspot, home to more than 500,000 species of birds, amphibians, insects, reptiles, mammals and marine animals. Here are 6 animals your family can watch for.

1. Toucans

Ask anyone to picture a toucan, and he or she will likely think of a large black-and-yellow bird with an oversized rainbow bill. This is the keel-billed toucan, one of six species that can be found in forested places around Costa Rica. Other species range in size and color, from the larger black-mandibled toucan, to the fiery-billed aracari and the diminutive emerald toucanet. Try spotting them with a friend: after all, toucan play at this game.  [Editor's note: apologies for the dad humor.]

2. Sloths

Thanks in part to adorable Internet videos (like this one and this one and this one), slow and gentle three-toed arboreal animals are enjoying a moment of popularity among visitors to Costa Rica.

Three-toed sloths can be spotted almost anywhere there’s rainforest in Costa Rica, although it can sometimes take a trained eye to spot them sleeping in the treetops. Their Hoffmann’s two-toed sloth cousins are also common, but mostly active at night.

3. Red-eyed tree frogs

The name tells you much of what you need to know. First, look to the trees: While its green back can disappear among the leaves, the feet that look like they’re wearing hot-orange rubber gloves, and their bulging red eyes, help you spot them, especially when they’re on the move. Red-eyed tree frogs can be found all over Costa Rica, but keep your eyes especially peeled for them in lowland rainforest.

4. Resplendent quetzals

Revered as a god by the Mayans and Aztecs, the resplendent quetzal is similarly glorified by bird enthusiasts, who clamor to check one of these off their life list. Resplendent is the right word: they’re richly decked out in glittering emerald, turquoise and ruby-red feathers. Found in the high cloud forests of Costa Rica, quetzals are most easily spotted during their breeding season (February to July) and looking for their favorite food (wild avocados).

5. White-headed capuchin monkeys

Like sloths, you’re highly likely to see wild monkeys if you simply keep your eyes on the trees. In the case of white-headed capuchins, they come out early in the morning and late in the day.

There are three other species of monkey in Costa Rica: howler monkeys, which your ears might find first from the calls of the male at dawn and dusk; the small Central American squirrel monkey; and the endangered Geoffroy’s spider monkey.

6. Jaguars

The jaguar is at the top of many wildlife spotters’ wish lists, but this feline is very rare, camouflaged and generally not interested in coming out to say hello. Visitors do see them on occasion, particularly in wild areas of national parks such as Corcovado. Even if you miss the cat itself, spotting some scat or a paw print can be an exciting find.

- By Andy Murdock

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