One of the most biodiverse countries in the world, Costa Rica is an animal lover’s paradise. It’s home to more than half a million plant and animal species and the wildlife spotting opportunities are abundant year-round. The country is home to a variety of habitats and it's the poster child for eco-tourism. In fact, a quarter of its land is national parks and nature reserves. Costa Rica makes a conscious effort to protect its animal population and in 2013, it announced that it would close all of its zoos. It became the first country in the world to do so.
Costa Rica is a great place for ethical animal viewing experiences. It’s flanked by the Pacific and Caribbean bodies of water and acts as a bridge between North and South America. This makes it a great destination for bird watching. Hundreds of migratory birds species visit every year. Humpback whales also use it as a migratory meet-up. Whales from both hemispheres travel approximately 9,000km every year to Costa Rica’s bays to mate and raise their young. Other animals you can see in Costa Rica include toucans, macaws, spider monkeys, red-eyed tree frogs, anteaters, howler monkeys, jaguars, kinkajous, sloths, green sea turtles, dolphins, spotted eagle rays, and so much more. Read on to discover four of the best responsible wildlife experiences you can have in Costa Rica.
Hanging Bridges Trek
Take a three-kilometre trek through the treetops of a protected rainforest that stands in the shadows of the famous Arenal Volcano. Take your trip to new heights as you follow winding trails through the rainforest and across 16 different hanging bridges. Discover breathtaking views of waterfalls and gorges as you search for monkeys, birds, snakes, frogs, lizards, sloths and more. Visit animals in their treetops homes where they are free to be wild on this fun hanging bridge adventure that you won’t soon forget.
Cloud Forest Wildlife Night Walk
Journey into the Monteverde Cloud Forest after dark for a two-hour tour with an expert naturalist guide. During this slow-paced walk that’s suitable for all ages, learn about the habits of the nocturnal wildlife of the forest. Keep your eyes peeled for a chance to see many species of birds, insects, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. You never know what you might see as you seek to safely encounter wild animals in their natural habitat after dark.
Wild Dolphin Experience
Experience Costa Rica by sea as you cruise along the Pacific Coast of the Manuel Antonio region aboard a catamaran. View the jaw-dropping scenery and lush jungle from a boat as you keep your eyes peeled for the playful highlight of this tour; dolphins. Let this magical experience engulf you as you see the dolphins put on a natural show in the waves not forced by trainers or required to perform for food. After admiring the dolphins, slip into the warm water via one of the boat’s water slides for a swim or snorkel. Travelling by catamaran is the perfect way to relax and discover Pura Vida (pure life), the oh-so-Costa-Rican way of enjoying life.
Toucan Rescue Ranch
Take a tour of the Toucan Rescue Ranch and learn about their mission to rescue, rehabilitate, and release Costa Rican wildlife. Their model is focused on conservation, education, and research in order to inspire change and a brighter future for animals. The Toucan Rescue Ranch works with government agencies to help confiscated, sick, injured, and displaced wildlife by providing sanctuary and care. The ranch specializes in toucans, sloths, and owls, but also helps a wide variety of other animals such as rainforest porcupines, weasels, kinkajous, parrots, cats, and spider monkeys. You can look forward to learning each animal's unique story while taking in the beautiful jungle scenery and helping support rehabilitation and conservation.
In such a biodiverse country with so many animal encounter experiences to choose from, it can be difficult to select which one is right for you, especially since you can explore by land, sea, or sky!
Want to sit back and relax while searching for the smartest animal in the sea? Interested in learning about animals and their rehabilitation? Excited to walk among the treetops while looking for mischievous monkeys? You can have all of these amazing experiences and so many more on your next trip to Costa Rica. The best part is, all of these experiences are responsible and the safety of both the animals and humans is always the number one priority.
Author: Jenna Olsen, 2021