Costa Rica - Wildlife and Natural Beauty
Costa Rica is filled with natural beauty and wildlife. The entire country can sometimes seem like a giant National Park, and perhaps this is not surprising when one considers that a quarter of the total land area of the country is protected. Plant and animal life abounds in the forests – whether lowland rainforest, high altitude cloud forest, or dry tropical forest.
Costa Rica is home to four species of monkey, including the famous ‘howler’ along with sloths, tapirs and wild cats (the largest of which is the Jaguar). Avid bird watchers will marvel at the variety of species while everyone will appreciate the variety and colour of birds like the green or scarlet macaws and toucans. Eye-catching amphibians include the poison dart frog and red-eyed tree frog; on the reptile front, basilisk lizards (which can run on water) and bizarre prehistoric-looking iguanas are quite easily seen.
One of the most impressive nature reserves is the 43,000-hectare Corcovado National Park, on the Osa Peninsular. Osa is a real biodiversity hotspot, being home to some 750 species of tress (more than in all of the northern temperate regions of the world combined) and almost half of Costa Rica’s bird, mammal, reptile and amphibian species.
This extremely rich habitat comprises pristine rainforest, swampland, rivers, lagoons, marshes and beaches and supports a very complex ecosystem and is teeming with wildlife. We recommend staying at either Lapa Rios or Casa Corcovado, both of which provide relatively easy access to the park and expert naturalist guides.
Arenal is a completely different sort of National Park, surrounding the colossal cone of the Arenal Volcano, which is now much quieter following an impressive series of eruptions that started unexpectedly in 1968 and continued until 1998. Arenal is a highlight of any trip to Costa Rica and offers impressive waterfalls, and a range of outdoor activities.
Take to the trees and discover the famous hanging bridges and zip wires; hike or mountain bike through the forest to the base of the volcano; or go horse riding through the gorgeous countryside. And the bountiful hot springs in the area are the perfect way to end a day of exploration and soothe tired muscles.
Tortuguero National Park, covering 31,200 hectares on the Caribbean coast, is the rainiest part of the country but is home to one of the largest single tracts of lowland rainforest left in Central America. There are no roads in Tortuguero, so access to almost everywhere is by boat through the canals and waterways that criss-cross the park. Look out for river otters and caimans in the water as your boat glides through the forest.
The park’s beaches – which stretch for some 35 kilometres along the coast – are a nesting ground for turtles. Hawksbill, Leatherback, Loggerhead and Green Turtles are the main species to be found. The main nesting and egg-laying seasons are typically the wettest months, being June to October, with hatching a few weeks later.