Where the Wild Things Are: The Creatures of Costa Rica

Looking for a great destination? Read on! 

Travel Tips By Natasha Ganes


If you’re a fan of watching wildlife play around in all of their cage-free, natural glory, you will fall in love with Costa Rica. After my visit, I’m convinced the country contains at least one of every bird and lizard on the planet. Had I known I would see so many creatures I would have invested in a better camera and taken it with me on every adventure. I’m still bugged I missed getting a shot of the red poisonous tree frog who tagged along with us on our zip lining tour. Or a decent image of the colorful crane that walked right up to me, bobbed his head into my face, and then sidestepped his way through my open hotel room door. Ah well – it’s just another good excuse to go back again. In the meantime, here are a few shots of some of the wildlife I encountered on my trip. Pura Vida!



According to the local tico who pointed it out to us, spotting a wild Scarlet Macaw is a rare event, in part because we were nowhere near where they normally hang out and also as they’re now an endangered species. I’ll tell you this much: seeing one of these beauties in flight is a spectacular, rainbow-colored event that I will be forever grateful I was lucky enough to witness.


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Turns out a resting crocodile looks fake—still as a garden statue made of rock that’s been placed on the ground between the flowering petunias and rose bushes. Until your boat driver decides to tease the tourists and make the sleeping prehistoric beast move by ramming the riverboat into shore a few times. Then you change your observation real quick because nothing looks more alive than a ticked off croc diving into the water and chasing down your boat.


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The iguanas seemed to be constantly asking the question, “Where’s Waldo?” And the answer was “everywhere.” Seriously, there were hiding everywhere: in the middle of the road, hanging from tree limbs, napping along the coastline, creeping around your hotel room, chilling on the sidewalk, everywhere. Some of them were almost larger than me. It’s a good thing I really like lizards.


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Ever heard two hogs mating? Me neither, but if you crossed that imagined creepy noise with whatever sound the monster who lives under your bed makes right before he eats your face in the middle of the night, you would come pretty close to the terrifying, echoing commotion of howler monkeys.


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Related to the raccoon, coatis are friendly, curious, and look like if you spoke their language they would have something intelligent to tell you. Or maybe they would just say, “give me your mango, macha.” Either way, one thing I know for sure is that they travel in packs and cause traffic jams. Ah, to live in a place where the morning commute is stalled not by other drivers, but wild animals standing in the middle of the road looking for food handouts and posing for pictures.


It turns out sleeping long-nosed bats will let you climb right up to them and snap a bunch of pictures. Probably because they’re really vampires and if they left the shade of the tree the sunlight would kill them. In any case, unlike crocodiles, these furry little guys don’t wake up regardless of how much noise you make, which is probably a good thing considering there were a few dozen of them per tree. I love bats, I just don’t want them in my hair.



If you’re with a tour company owner who tells you he’s going to sneak bananas onto your boat and bribe the driver to let you try and feed wild monkeys with them, just go with it and say “okay.” Believe me on this one: there is almost nothing more amazing than having a wild animal trust you enough to climb in your lap, dance on your shoulder, scamper down your back, and eat out of your palm. Don’t blame me if you end up with head lice or fleas though.


Sharing secrets with my new buddy.
Sharing secrets with my new buddy.
Free back massage with every banana.
Free back massage with every banana.