There’s just something about spotting your first capuchin monkey in the wild. It makes you feel giddy with joy and excitement. You find yourself transported back to those magical childhood years when everything was new and amazing. It’s incredible how much a cute little monkey playing high up in the jungle’s canopy can affect you so profoundly.
Costa Rica’s forests, mountains, beaches, and surrounding oceans are filled with thousands of different species of mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, and underwater creatures. As diverse as its landscape, Costa Rica’s wildlife is incredibly dense. You will be guaranteed to spot all sorts of exotic animals while hiking through one of the country’s nature reserves, but even sitting on the beach can be quite exciting. It is not uncommon for monkeys to swing through the trees bordering the sand, playfully throwing fruit at each other. Just watch your head for the fruit that miss their targets.
It is a beautiful thing to see bright streaks of color zipping through forest canopies. Costa Rica is a birder’s paradise, but the beauty of the exotic winged creatures flying through the air or perched on a branch won’t be lost on anybody. A snapshot of a brightly colored parrot is sure to impress friends back home.
Costa Rica’s wildlife is not only a feast for the eyes. Sitting on your hotel patio in the early morning is like listening to a symphony. The rhythmic slap of the waves on shore is the bass for the song birds, while the booming call of howler monkeys sound like the periodic crashing of gigantic cymbals. Even the insects add to the harmony.
Wildlife Sightings on Land
The Nicoya Peninsula may be known for its beaches, but it has quite a few nature reserves where wildlife sightings are common. Organize a tour with an experienced guide or head out on your own for a taste of the exotic. The Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve, located on the peninsula’s southern tip near Santa Teresa, is Costa Rica’s oldest national park and also one of its most beautiful. Other Nicoya Peninsula parks include the Ostional, Palo Verde, Barra Honda, and Curu Wildlife Nature Reserves.
Some of the most exciting mammals found on the Nicoya Peninsula include capuchin monkeys, ocelots, jaguarondis, collared peccary, howler monkeys, coatis, pacas, anteaters, and howler monkeys. Look to the sky for sightings of the long-tailed manakin, ringed kingfisher, motmot, crested caracara, and sulphur-winged parakeet.
Wildlife Below the Water’s Surface
Costa Rica’s underwater world is just as intoxicatingly beautiful as that found on land, and the wildlife found beneath the waves is just as magnificent and even more abundant. The Nicoya Peninsula’s Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve includes 45 acres of protected ocean. A trip to Santa Teresa is not complete without a dive below the water’s surface.
The Nicoya Peninsula is unique from the rest of Costa Rica because it juts far out into the Pacific Ocean, which means that the water depth just a few miles from the beach becomes very deep very quickly. The Pacific’s major marine currents sweep just off shore of the peninsula, bringing a wide variety of fish and other underwater creatures right to the Nicoya’s doorstep. There may not be a lot of reefs and corals off of the Nicoya Peninsula, but the area has one of the most diverse marine ecosystems in the world.
Scuba diving is the best way to experience this incredible underwater world, but snorkelers will also enjoy swimming through schools of colorful fish that are even more varied and abundant than those found in the Caribbean. Common sightings include angelfish, cleaner wrasses, puffer fish, parrot fish, moray eels, dolphins, reef sharks, olive ridley sea turtles, barracudas, manta rays, humpback whales, nurse sharks, and leatherback sea turtles.