Flora and Fauna in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a country with a wide diversity of flora and fauna. Its land, marine and fresh water ecosystems make it unique compared to other geologically similar places.

Costa Rica contains 5% of the world’s known 95,000 species. However, the scientific community estimates there are approximately half a million species of flora and fauna within the Costa Rican territory. Its ocean waters contain approximately 6,700 marine species or 3.5% of the world’s recorded marine species.

More than 69,000 species of insects and 3,850 species of mushrooms have been identified in Costa Rica, in addition to 11,535 plant species, 905 species of birds, 239 species of reptiles, 238 species of mammals and 201 species of amphibians identified in Costa Rican ecological habitats.

The country has 166 forest areas protected according to different management levels. This corresponds to 26.5% of Costa Rica’s territory, a percentage highly admired at the international level.

In addition to its diversity, Costa Rica leads the world in the density of organisms contained in the area.

Tourists can delight in the country’s variety of opportunities for spotting flora and fauna, such as dolphins and whales, birds, turtles, monkeys and bats, which can be observed during specific times of the year.


Blue and humpback whales (Megaptera novaengliae) swim near Costa Rica’s Pacific coast primarily during two periods in the year: from January to April, when they come from the Northern hemisphere, and from July to October, when they immigrate from the Southern hemisphere.

Whales can be spotted in the National Marine Whale Park near Drake Bay or in the Golfo Duce in the Osa Peninsula. It is also possible to observe them in Cuajiniquil Bay in La Cruz and the Papagayo Gulf among the Murciélago islands, Culebra Bay and Isla Catalina.


Like whales, dolphins head to our coasts in search of calm waters and can be seen throughout the entire year.

Bottlenose dolphins and spotted dolphins are the most common dolphins seen from the Pacific coast. Sightings from the Caribbean coast in the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge Groups are primarily of dolphins from Guyana along with bottlenose dolphins.

Sea turtles

During specific times of the year, various species of turtles can be seen coming to nest on the coasts of Costa Rica. However, Olive Ridley turtles can be spotted the entire year, nesting by themselves on the Pacific coast. The spectacular experience of the arribada [mass-nesting] phenomenon can especially be had during the rainy season, from June to November, on the Nancite and Ostional beaches.

Leatherback turtles nest on the Caribbean coast from February to August in Barra del Colorado, Tortuguero, Parismina, Pacuare, Matina, 12 Millas, Negra and Cahuita. They also nest on the Pacific coast from September to March on the Grande, Ventanas, Langosta, Ostional, Nancite, Junquillal, Matapalo and Naranjo beaches.

Green sea turtles nest on the Caribbean coast from June to October in Barra del Colorado, Tortuguero, Parismina, Pacuare, Matina, Moín, Negra, Cahuita and Gandoca. On the Pacific coast, they nest from September to March in Cabuyal, Ostional, Caletas, Camaronal, Matapalo, Nancite and Naranjo.

The nesting period of the hawksbill sea turtle on the Caribbean coast is from May to November in Barra del Colorado, Tortuguero, Parismina, Pacuare, Matina, Moín, Negra, Cahuita, Gandoca and Uvita. They nest on the Pacific coast from May to January on the Punta Madero, Manuel Antonio, Nancite, Jacó and Barú beaches.

The loggerhead sea turtle nests on the Caribbean coast from May to August in Tortuguero and Cahuita.

There are five species and one subspecies of sea turtles in Costa Rica

Table 1: Geographic location of the various species in Costa Rica

Species Pacific Coast Caribbean Coast
Hawksbill (Eretmochdys imbucata) X X
Loggerhead (Caretta caretta) X
Olive Ridley (Lepidochdys olivacea) X
Green or white (Chelonia mydas) X
Pacific Green or black (Chelonia mydas agassizii) X
Leatherback (Deimochelys coriacea) X

Some important nesting sites for the conservation of sea turtles in Costa Rica.

Chacón, Calvo & Asch (2007) Manual of sea turtles.


There are 911 species of birds in Costa Rica over the entire national territory. Although there are specific areas for sighting certain species, bird watching is possible all over Costa Rica. The Braulio Carrillo National Park is the largest rain forest for bird watching, and the National Palo Verde Park in Guanacaste has the largest concentration of birds in the Central American Region.


There are four species of monkeys in Costa Rica: the white-faced monkey, the howler (or Congo) monkey, the spider monkey and the titi monkey. White-faced monkeys can be seen anywhere in the Central region’s cloud forests in the Osa Peninsula’s lowlands. Howler monkeys are easy to see in the topical dry forest of Guanacaste and the Nicoya Peninsula, while spider monkeys are the hardest to spot because they live in the upper crowns of the forest and are found along the borders of Tortuguero. Titi monkeys, or squirrel monkeys, are plentiful in the forests of the Osa Peninsula and Manuel Antonio National Park.


There are at least 245 species of mammals in Costa Rica, of which bats represent a total of 109 species. This includes three types of vampire bats that feed on blood, but 106 that primarily feed on fruit, nectar and insects and are inoffensive or even beneficial to humans. These mammals are found throughout the country, and there are special visitation programs in the network of private reserves of Costa Rica.

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