Best Places to See Animals in Costa Rica

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Costa Rica is a pretty small country in Central America however, it has been blessed with 5% of the biodiversity of the entire planet. According to an article published in February 2020 by El Tico Times, 3.1 million tourists visited Costa Rica in 2019, right before the pandemic hit. One of the many reasons why so many tourists continue to visit Costa Rica is to visit some of the best places to see animals in Costa Rica.

About 28% of the land in Costa Rica is protected through national parks, each with its particular charm and an unbelievable number of outstanding animals to see. That is why your best bet to spot unforgettable fauna is at national parks. Find below some of the best places to see animals in Costa Rica!

Palo Verde National Park

It is located on the banks of the Tempisque River in the Nicoya Peninsula. The town is called Bagaces, and it is in the province of Guanacaste.

Area Size: 71.0428 square miles.

Palo Verde National Park is only one of the numerous incredible spots to find Costa Rica’s wildlife and wealth of staggering biological systems and noteworthy scenes.

Entrance fee: $12

Tour guide needed? Hiring a guided boat tour is the most productive and efficient way to explore and fully enjoy this national park. It takes approximately 1.5 hours to go down the Tempisque River in a motor boat. There are many options available, and prices range from $75 to $200 per person.

Taking a guided boat tour in the Palo Verde National Park is a great way to see the flora and fauna.

Monteverde Cloud Forest

It is situated along the Cordillera de Tilarán in the small and cozy town of Santa Elena, within the Puntarenas and Alajuela provinces.

Area Size: 10,500 hectares.

Remember how Costa Rica has 5% of the biodiversity of the world? As crazy as it may sound, Monteverde Cloud Forest holds 2.5% of that, making it one of the most popular and worldwide known destinations in Costa Rica. Containing six ecological zones (mainly of virgin forest), the different species you can see there will blow you away. The numbers registered so far include 425 species of birds, 120 mammals, 60 amphibians, and 101 reptiles.

When you cross the hanging bridges in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, you can see all kinds of plants and animals!

Entrance fee: $25 for adults and $12 for children (6 -12 years old).

Tour guide needed? Yes. The price varies depending on what you choose to do, but in general, it starts at $30 per person.

Manuel Antonio National Park

It is located on the Central Pacific coast, in the town of Quepos, province of Puntarenas.

Area Size: It has 1,983 terrestrial hectares and 55,000 marine hectares.

Appointed as one of the most beautiful national parks in the world by Forbes Magazine, Manuel Antonio is also a highly visited national park in Costa Rica. It combines outstanding beaches and tropical rainforests all in one magical place. In the park, there are 329 species of birds, 109 mammals, and varied marine fauna.

While exploring Manuel Antonio National Park, you can see tons of birds, mammals, and plants.

Entrance fee: $18 for adults, $5.65 for children (2 -11 years old).

Tour guide needed? No, you can go on your own.

Marino Ballena National Park

You can find this park along the South Pacific coast of Costa Rica, in the town of Uvita, in the province of Puntarenas.

Area Size: It has more than 5,000 marine hectares and 110 hectares of land (including mangroves, coral reefs, and virgin beaches).

The park is famous for the wonderful display of marine mammals, but you can also encounter many different types of terrestrial ones. You can enjoy the best of both worlds here.

See tons of marine mammals, like dolphins and humpback whales, at the Marino Ballena National Park.

Entrance fee: $10 for adults, children under 11 years old, and seniors have free entrance.

Tour guide needed? Not needed but highly recommended.

Santa Rosa National Park

It is located 31 miles north of Liberia, in the province of Guanacaste.

Area Size: 149 square miles.

This park combines biodiversity conservation with Costa Rican culture and history, in addition to being the heart of the dry tropical forest.

Santa Rosa is a wonderful place to see Costa Rican wildlife and beautiful landscapes.

Entrance fee: $16.95 for adults, $5.65 for children (6- 12 years old).

Tour guide needed? Not needed but recommended.

Las Baulas National Marine Park

It is situated within the Bay of Tamarindo in the town of Santa Cruz, province of Guanacaste.

Area Size: 378 hectares in land and 22,015 maritime hectares (including a coral reef).

Although protecting the main nesting beaches for the leatherback turtle is the priority of this park, and therefore one of the best places to spot sea turtles, it is also relevant for migratory birds, reptiles, and other wildlife.

Las Baulas National Marine Park is a spectacular place to watch sea turtles hatch during the nesting season.

Entrance fee: $12 for adults

Tour guide needed? Yes, but only if you want to access Playa Grande during the nesting season (from mid-October to early February) between 6 pm and 5 am, as only guided tours are allowed. The cost of tours starts at $30 per person approximately.

Tips for Visiting the Best Places to See Animals in Costa Rica

  • We strongly recommend renting a car in Costa Rica. Even when public transportation is good and affordable, having a car at your disposal provides the freedom and flexibility to visit the places listed here without schedule or limitations.
It’s easier to get around Costa Rica’s national parks if you rent a car.
  • We advise you to buy a prepaid SIM card to insert into your phone. Ensuring you have the internet to use either Google Maps or the Waze app will make your journey to the national parks easier. You can buy them at the Juan Santamaria international airport or at any of the telephone company stores such as Claro, Kolbi, and Movistar spread all over the country,
  • The places listed here can be visited all year long. The only real difference if you visit Costa Rica during the rainy season (May-November) is obviously rain. It doesn’t rain all day long, but showers can be expected, so just be sure to dress accordingly.
If you visit Costa Rica during the rainy season, be sure to come prepared with adequate rain gear, like rain jackets!
  • Keep in mind that national parks are protected areas, and it is the territory of not domesticated animals, so do not feed them, scare them or disturb them. Respect a reasonable distance, follow all the guidelines provided in each park, and take photos without a flash.
  • To learn more about the different animals and their habitats is best to book a guided tour.
  • If you plan to arrive in Costa Rica through the Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia, and stay most of the time in the Guanacaste area, we recommend you to check this site for booking your stay as well as any tours of your interest  Special Places of Costa Rica!

Costa Rica animals will blow your senses away.  We are sure the only thing you will regret is not having enough time to explore all the recommended locations. Visit Costa Rica, try any or several of these beautiful spots and your trip will be one to remember for life!

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