USA Today has recently nominated Costa Rica as one of the 10 best places in the world to observe animals in their natural habitat. Between the misty mountains, the secluded beaches, the lush jungle of the rainforest, and everywhere in between, the animals in Costa Rica are still easy to come by (for now at least).

But don’t underestimate these smart little buggers! They have adapted to their environment and camouflaged themselves so well, that seeing them in the wild is not an easy task. Luckily, we spent quite a bit of our time in Costa Rica away from the tourist trails and closer to the animals’ natural habitat, probably increasing our chances of spotting these awesome unique and exotic Costa Rica animals. So here are some of my favourites! 

Mantled Howler Monkey

Howler Monkeys are native to the forests of Central and South America and are the easiest animal to spot in Costa Rica. They are famous for their loud howl (hence the name howler) noise that can be heard for miles. They typically live in a group of 6-15, so if you spot one, it is very likely that more are around.

They spend majority of their days resting and sleeping and seem to be most active in early evenings. Don’t worry about keeping an eye out for these guys, you’ll hear them before you see them. They are most prevalent in rural areas with lots of trees and vegetation.

Costa Rican Animals: Mantled Howler Monkey

Mantled Howler Monkey, Costa Rica

White Headed Capuchin Monkey

He may look familiar, (umm hello it’s Marcel from Friends!), but you won’t find this white-headed monkey in its natural habitat anywhere but in Central America. It’s highly intelligent and and is rather versatile, living in different kinds of forests and eating different kinds of food. These monkeys often hang out in groups of 20-40 and tend to live a long life of over 54 years old.

These are more rare than the howler monkeys, but still easily spotted in areas like Manuel Antonio, Monteverde and other reserves and national parks.

Costa Rica Animals: White Headed Capuchin Monkey,

White Headed Capuchin Monkey descended from the trees to grab a little treat

Two-Toed Sloth

These tree living fur-balls mammals, are native to South and Central America. The ones in Costa Rica come in 2 varieties: the two-toed sloths and three-toes sloths. They spend majority of their days hanging upside down, asleep for 16 to 18 hours each day. They can’t walk, so if you are hoping to spot one while in Costa Rica make sure to look up high in the jungle canopy. 

Costa Rica Animals: Two-toed sloth

Two-toed sloth hanging in a tree near Santa Elena town in Monteverde Cloud Forest Region, Costa Rica


The pizote is a member of the raccoon family and despite the fact that it doesn’t look like your typical North American raccoon, it certainly possesses a lot of the same behavioural qualities. Pizotes range between 30 and 70cm in length, but weigh only about 2-8kgs. Despite their small frame, they have strong jaws and sharp teeth and, just like their North American cousin, can be often found digging for food in garbage bins.

Costa Rica Animals: Pizote

Pizote, a member of the raccoon family, digging through the garbage at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

He’s cute isn’t he?

Keel-Billed Toucan

While toucans inhabit majority of the South and Central American continent, this specific type is particularly popular on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. They are not easy to spot in the wild, but I loved that we got a chance to see one of these when we made a stop at the Las Pumas Rescue Center near Liberia.

This toucan was beautiful, just as bright and colourful in real life as in photos!

Costa Rica Animals: Toucan

Toucan at the Las Pumas Rescue Center near Liberia, Costa Rica. Photo Credit: Max St John


Ocelot, also known as a dwarf leopard, is an incredibly adorable looking wild kitty that is prevalent in most areas of South and Central America.  Despite being extremely common and not at all endangered, these wild cats don’t just roam the jungles of Costa Rica. Ocelots may spend their days resting in trees or other dense foliage, but seeing them in the wild, even in National Parks or Reserves, is rare.

This little guy was once kept as a pet in a Costa Rican home. When he grew up and started showing his wild side his owners gave him up to the Las Pumas Rescue Center where he is based to this day.

Costa Rica Animals: Ocelot

Ocelot at the Las Pumas Rescue Center near Liberia, Costa Rica. Photo Credit: Max St John

Nothing beats seeing some of these awesome animals in the wild, but if luck isn’t on your side during your travels throughout Costa Rica, be sure to stop by the Las Pumas Rescue Center located on the Interamerican Highways on the way to Liberia for a chance to see the Toucan, the Ocelot and a few other unique Costa Rican animals.

The Rescue Center has done a great job at replicating the natural habitat of these animals helping them live a better life no mater what their original life story was.

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Spotting Costa Rica animals in the wild is a tricky task, but here are a few you might spot during your time in Costa Rica.

What are some of the cool animals you have come across in your travels?