Costa Rica is THE dream destination for nature an ecotourism lovers. Given its biodiversity, Costa Rica has one of the richest fauna and flora in the world. Throughout your stay, you’ll have the opportunity to observe many birds, insects, amphibians, mammals and all kinds of exotic species: there’s no doubt you’ll get to see some cetaceans and turtles, iguanas and crocodiles, spider monkeys and sloths, colorful frogs, butterflies and snakes. You will also discover incredible vegetation in the 190 national parks, natural reserves and protected areas of the country and their dry and damp tropical forests, cloud forests and mangroves.
For those who are keen to explore this incredible nature, some of our tour will take you to the most beautiful sites, accompanied by a naturalist guide.
Here is a “geographical” repartition of the main natural parks and reserves of Costa Rica:
LA SELVA AND LA TIRIMBINA – Biological reserves and stations
The biological station La Selva is a private research center run by the Organization for Tropical Studies. This medium altitude rainforest is an extraordinary refuge for thousands of animal and vegetal species and became at the international scale a renowned center in the areas of research and education. The reserve La Tirimbina also has discovery trails and evening excursions to observe the nocturnal fauna (bats, frogs, insects etc.), an experience not to be missed.
CAÑO NEGRO REFUGE – Wetlands and Waterfowl
The Caño Negro National Wildlife Refuge is one of the largest wetland reserves in Costa Rica. In the dry season, from December to April, it is not unusual to spot crocodiles, caimans and large mammals around the little lagoons. Caño Negro will please the ornithologists with its flocks of migratory birds, spoonbills, ibis and cormorants.
THE CARIBBEAN COAST
TORTUGUERO NATIONAL PARK – Navigation on the canals
The most exuberant region of the Limón Province is without any doubt the Tortuguero National Park, situated north of the Atlantic Coast and stretching over a vast protected area. The park, ideal to observe the fauna and flora, can be discovered on guided boat tours. Its canals will leave you unforgettable memories, partly because this miniature “Amazon Forest” is the favorite breeding place of Green Turtles (from July to October).
CAHUITA NATIONAL PARK – Fauna, Flora and seabed
Just a stone’s throw from the Caribbean village of Cahuita, this national park was created in 1978 with the objective to protect the incredible coral reef that can be discovered on a diving excursion. It is home to mangroves, a tropical rainforest an two white-sanded beaches lined with palm trees. In addition to swimming, snorkeling and nature discovering, trekking is also a nice way to discover the park.
GANDOCA MANZANILLO RESERVE – Trekking and Marine Wildlife
The Gandoca Manzanillo is composed of a mosaic of wildlife habitats that extends in the Caribbean Sea where breed several species of marine turtles. Maybe you’ll have the chance to assist to the egg-laying of the leatherback turtles in the village of Gandoca. The reserve is home to a mangrove swamp and a tropical rainforest. Manatee and tucuxi dolphins also live in the lagoons and estuaries, which are important breeding areas for sharks, fish and lobsters. Several trails will welcome hikers, between jungle and beaches.
CORDILLERAS AND CERRO DE LA MUERTE
SAN GERARDO DE DOTA – Observation of the resplendent Quetzal
Only living in Central America, the Quetzal is considered one of the most beautiful tropical birds in the world. It lives in the cloud forests between 1,500 and 3,000 of altitude. Since its habitat is not easy to access and it’s a very shy bird, it is very difficult to find. Luck and patience are the key! It is in San Gerardo de Dota, at the bottom of the Rio Savegre valley, that you’ll be most likely to spot it.
CORCOVADO NATIONAL PARK – Tropical Jungle off the beaten paths
The National Geographic has qualified the Corcovado National Park “the most biologically intense place on Earth in terms of biodiversity”. The park conserves the largest primary forest on the American Pacific coastline and one of the few remaining sizable areas of tropical rainforests in the world. Its habitats feature more than 500 species of trees, but also a large population of jaguars, coatis, toucans and snakes. Its incredible fauna attracts tropical ecologists as well as tourists that come from all over the world to discover a wide variety of animals, including the Baird’s Tapir, the giant anteater and the largest bird of prey in the world, the harpy eagle.
CENTRAL PACIFIC COAST
HACIENDA BARU NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE – Trekking at the heart of nature
The Hacienda Baru National Wildlife Refuge is located on the Pacific Coast, 3km northeast of Dominical. It is home to a mangrove where you can spot crocodiles and caimans. The diversity of its habitat accounts for the multitude of species that have been identified there: numerous birds like the heron, the chocuacos and the brown pelican. The Lora and the Hawksbill sea turtles come lay their eggs on the beach. A wide range of excursions allows you to explore the whole place.
MANUEL ANTONIO NATIONAL PARK – Sloths, titi monkeys and beaches
Some days, at a certain hour, the Manuel Antonio National Park looks like a lost paradise planted with palm trees. In addition to this idyllic scenery, is an abundant wildlife composed of iguanas, howler monkeys, capuchins, sloths and squirrel monkeys. The park has also four beaches. Some are perfect swimming spots while others are great for snorkeling or for long walks on the white sand. 12 hectares of mangrove complete the biodiversity of the park.
CARARA NATIONAL PARK – Macaws and crocodile watching
With its dry and rain forests, the Carara National Park will surprise you with the variety of its inhabitants. Although pretty small (52 km2), the park presents one of the highest biodiversity of the country. The bird diversity is spectacular, particularly the population of Scarlet Macaws, which migrates twice a day between the forest and the mangrove of the coast. Enormous crocodiles also have settled close to the park, on the banks of the Tarcoles River.
MONTEVERDE AND THE GULF OF NICOYA
MONTEVERDE – Cloud forests and Orchids
The Monteverde region is one of the greenest of Costa Rica. The Monteverde Biological Reserve and the cloud forest reserve of Santa Elena shelter a wide diversity of wildlife and vegetation, most of it unique in the world. On the various trails, you’ll get to observe the surrounding vegetation. Several hundreds of bird, butterfly, amphibians and mammal species have been identified there, in addition to thousands of plants and insects.
PALO VERDE NATIONAL PARK – Ornithological stop
If you have a passion for ornithology, the Palo Verde National Park, where 279 bird species have been identified, is the perfect place for you. The rich bird life is mostly due to the fact that the park is home to a dozen of natural habitats. These include a dry tropical forest of low altitude, covered in wooden hills, saltwater lagoons, mangroves, wetlands and large stretches of grass.
BEACHES IN GUANACASTE AND NICOYA
OSTIONAL NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE – “Arribadas” of the olive ridley sea turtle
The Ostional National Wildlife Refuge is one of the very few olive ridley sea turtle laying sites. For a few days and nights, thousands of females gather on a same beach and lay their eggs together in the sand before making their way back to the sea. Their gathering, from May to October, is a event not to be missed!
LAS BAULAS NATIONAL PARK – Nesting of Leatherback Sea turtles
Although they are found all around the world, the Leatherback Sea turtles (the largest reptile on earth) are endangered. They are mostly victims of industrial fishing, egg poaching and pollution. Their gathering, from December to March, on the beaches of Las Baulas National Park, in the heart of Guanacaste (around Tamarindo) is not to be missed.
SANTA ROSA NATIONAL PARK – Diving and tropical dry forest
First national park to be listed as World Heritage by UNESCO, the Santa Rosa National Park is divided into two areas: Murcielago in the north and Santa Rosa in the south. Place of remembrance for the Ticos, several sites of the south areas staged battles from 1856 to 1955. The park is home to the largest tropical dry forest of the country.
ISLA DEL CAÑO RESERVE AND MARINO BALLENA PARK – Whale Watching
Embark on an experience to meet dolphins and humpback whales off the south Pacific Coast. Isla del Caño (departure from Bahia Drake, in the Osa Peninsula) and the Marino Ballena Park (off Dominical) offer the best conditions to shelter an important marine life, including marine mammals. It is a privileged place where orcas, seven species of whales (including the Blue Whale and the Humpback Whale), several species of dolphins and sea turtles live. The best time of year to observe them is from November to April and from July to October.