If there’s any animal that visitors want to see in Costa Rica, it’s the sloth. The sloth has become the symbol of the country, due to its oh-so-adorable face, snuggly body and very pura vida lifestyle. They’re common, but not so that you’ll see them everywhere all the time. Since they camouflage themselves so well, you could walk past a handful of them and never notice!
There are two species of sloths in Costa Rica: The Brown-throated sloth, a species of 3 toed sloth and the Hoffman’s two-toed sloth. Both of these can be seen in Costa Rica. Leaves are their main food source but provide little energy, so they lower metabolic rates and body temperature to balance it out. Hence the slow movements. They cannot survive outside the tropical rain forests of Central and South America.
Seeing some of the birds of Costa Rica is a must do for every visitor, especially as they’re quite hard to miss! There are an astonishing 812 species flying throughout the country so if you’re a bird lover, Costa Rica is one of the best countries for you to visit.
The scarlet macaw is a member of the parrot family and it is the biggest parrot in the world. They mate for life so you’ll most likely see pairs of macaws flying together. If you see three, the third is most likely the juvenile who stays with the parents for 1-2 years. Scarlet macaws are known for being extremely colorful and are an impressive sight to see when their wings are fully expanded.
Sarchí is Costa Rica's most famous crafts center. The town offers more than 200 stores and small family-operated woodworking factories producing wooden bowls and other tableware, fold-up rocking chairs of wood and leather, and a wide variety of kitschy items. The most popular items on sale are "carretas", elaborately painted oxcarts that traditionally carried coffee from the highlands down to the port on the Pacific coast.
The White-nosed Coati (Pizote) is diurnal and frequently seen in Costa Rica. Adult males are solitary while females and juveniles live in groups of up to 20 members.
These long-nosed members of the raccoon family have a highly developed sense of smell to localize their food which ranges from fruit to mice, tarantulas, lizards and your kitchen contents.
The largest mammal in Costa Rica is the endangered Tapir. The strange looking animal with its long, flexible snout is a relative to horses and rhinoceroses. It feeds on leaves, twigs, fruits and seeds. The animals are excellent swimmers and are usually found near water.
Tapirs are very important seed dispersers. In Costa Rica there are several native plants, whose seeds will only germinate after having passed the tapirs digestive tract.
Blue Morpho Butterfly
You can see beautiful butterflies throughout the country since Costa Rica has around 1,500 species of butterflies. The best places are around Monteverde, the Central Valley and the South since you can see the famous Blue Morphos. Blue Morpho butterflies are colored in metallic, shimmering shades of blues and greens. Morphos are diurnal, as males spend the mornings patrolling along the courses of forest streams and rivers. They are territorial and chase any rivals. Morphos typically live alone, excluding in the mating season.
Costa Rican Monkeys
Four species of monkey are native to the forests of Costa Rica, the Central American squirrel monkey, the white-faced capuchin, the howler and the spider monkey. Each of the four species can be seen in national parks within Costa Rica, where viewing them in natural surroundings is a popular tourist attraction. The only park in which all four species can be seen is Corcovado National Park, on the Osa Peninsula.
The smallest of the Costa Rican monkey species is the squirrel monkey. Adult males average 0.8 kg and adult females average 0.7 kg. The male howler monkey make loud calls, especially at dawn and at dusk that can be heard for several kilometers. Spider monkeys are social creatures, and can often be found living in groups of more than 30 monkeys. Capuchin monkeys are jumpers! They can jump up to 3 meters, to get from one tree to another.
Mayans & Aztecs
About 2,800 years ago, people known as the Maya lived in farming villages on the Yucatan Peninsula and the highlands to the south. From about A.D.250 to A.D. 900, they built city-states in Central America that included great pyramid temples and public plazas featuring huge stone columns that recounted their history.
(A.D 1200-1250) was the rise of a group of people called the Mexicas, better known as the Aztecs. They "were known among themselves and to their neighbors as Tenochca, Mexica, and Colhua Mexica, rather than Azteca," which strictly speaking, only applies to their ancestors of México at Tenochtitlan. The capital of the Aztec empire was Tenochtitlan. The center of the Aztec civilization was in the Valley of Mexico, a huge high-elevation basin in the Sierra Madre Mountains. This valley had a mild climate that was good for agriculture.
The Aztecs were people who were had strong religious beliefs. They were cultured people who also had strong beliefs about their heritage. They carried their strength in the knowledge and worship of their pluralistic gods.
Without cacao, there would be no chocolate, and without committed and passionate farmers, we would have no cacao. We are proud to feature a handful of the incredible smallholder farmers that we work closely with, and who play an important role in creating superior chocolate.
Costa Ricans (Ticos) are generally gentle, spirited, friendly, educated, polite, and kind people. Most seem to like visitors from other countries and treat them well.
Ticos are a mixing of races. Though most of the country’s 4 million inhabitants descend from Spanish immigrants, many families originated in other parts of Europe, Asia, Africa and Central America. A large number are fair-skinned, especially in the Central Valley. In the outlying areas, more people are mestizos, a mixture of European and Indigenous blood. On the Caribbean coast you find strong links to African lineage, and in Talamanca Mountain, you will find it inhabited by the pure-blooded Indians of various tribes.
Ticos are extremely family oriented and love music and dance.They also occasional enjoy alcohol. In fact, Costa Ricans, as almost all Latinos, party loud and long and really enjoy each other's company. You will definitely know if there is a party in your neighborhood!
There are 4,000 known species of insects in Costa Rica so it’s impossible to vacation here without running into one of them at one point or another. Costa Rica does have a good handful of creatures that definitely make the list of weird animals in the world.
There are only two seasons in Costa Rica: dry and rainy.
- Dry season is generally from December to April, when temperatures rise up to 95F on the coasts. Lower in the Central Valley, also, nights cool off as low as 80F degrees and high winds in some areas.
- Rainy season is generally from May to November; is very common to have thunder and lightning storms, Temperatures up to 85F on the coast, lowest can get down to 50F in the mountains and when it rains, it rains hard.
Is good to know that, there are several micro-climates within the country that may surprise you. It doesn’t snow but it does get fairly cold in some areas up in the mountains.
The Resplendent Quetzal are prized birds as they are a hard to see so if you spot one in the wild, feel exceptionally blessed. Due to their connection to Mesoamerican myths, this bird is of great importance in Central America.
Quetzals have iridescent green or golden-green wing coverts, back, chest and head, with a red belly.
Costa Rica has over 40 national parks, wildlife reserves, refuges and sanctuaries spread out throughout the country. Actually more than 25% of Costa Rica’s land is protected and one of their national parks.
The Raccoons (Mapache) in Costa Rica belong to the same species as those in North America. They are found near beaches and rivers, or sometimes at night in your kitchen looting your food supplies. The clever animals with their Bandido masks quickly learn how to open cupboards and fridges.
Native Costa Ricans
The first European explorer to encounter Costa Rica was the Great Navigator himself, Christopher Columbus. The day was September 18, 1502, and Columbus was making his fourth and final voyage to the New World. As he was setting anchor off shore, a crowd of local Carib Indians paddled out in canoes and greeted his crew warmly. Later, the golden bands that the region's inhabitants wore in their noses and ears would inspire the Spaniard Gil Gonzalez Davila to name the country Costa Rica, or Rich Coast.
Costa Rican Indian culture did not leave many artifacts behind – most are simple products like pottery and ornaments. Most prominent are the stone spheres that were found in the country´s South (area of the Térraba river around Palmar Sur/Palmar Norte). Some of these spheres weigh up to 15 tons and it is unclear how they were manufactured and transported as well as what they were intended for.
Cocoa, the word "cocoa" derives from the Spanish word cacao, derived from the Nahuatl word cacahuatl.The cacao tree is native to the Americas. It originated in Central America as well as parts of Mexico. Originally over 5000 years ago, consumed by pre-Colombian cultures along the Yucatan including the Mayans, and as far back as Olmeca civilization in spiritual ceremonies.
We value the high quality of our cacao. Our award-winning, single origin Trinitario cacao beans are sourced from the fertile soils of Costa Rica and reach their full-bodied potential through a meticulous post-harvest process.
The exceptional flavor profile is attributed to unique genetic varieties, as well as the result of sustainable farming practices of selected smallholder farmers from whom we procure fresh, carefully grown cacao.
Many visitors hope to get a glimpse of these ancient creatures and they can certainly get a good look in the rivers of Palo Verde National Park, Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge, Corcovado National Park and Tortuguero National Park. Caimans which are smaller relatives of American crocodiles also live in these rivers.
All crocodiles are semiaquatic and tend to congregate in freshwater habitats such as rivers, lakes, wetlands and sometimes in brackish water and saltwater. They are carnivorous animals, feeding mostly on vertebrates such as fish, reptiles, birds and mammals, and sometimes on invertebrates such as mollusks and crustaceans, depending on species and age.
Costa Rica is home to 6 species of wildcats. Due to poaching and habitat loss all wild cats are severely endangered and mainly live in nature reserves or in remote and mountainous areas.
Jaguar is the large specie of cats and is found in Costa Rica. It has a yellowish brown coat with black spots and has a white stomach. It has a larger size than other cats but the tail is relatively small. It is the largest of all the carnivores of Costa Rica.
Jaguars need a lot of space to live. They can’t live on small areas. When they are protected a lot of other species are automatically protected due to their requirement of big areas. Their area automatically covers the areas of many other species.
Part of the Pacific Ring Fire Circle, Costa Rica has over 200 identifiable volcanic formations dating back over 65 million years. Today, however, only 100 or so show any signs of volcanic activity, while just five are classified as active volcanoes. Most of the volcanoes in Costa Rica lie in the northern part of the country and in the Central Highlands.
There are six species of marine and river turtles in Costa Rica. They are a popular animal to see as Costa Rica is one of the most important breeding grounds for several marine turtles in the world.
Costa Rica has coral reefs on both coasts. The most developed reefs are in the south Atlantic coast, from Moín to Punta Mona, and cover about 10 sq km. The Cahuita National Park protects the greatest coral reef in of the Caribbean coast, and it has been one of the most studied. On the Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast the coral reefs can be found in the coastal zone, in the Golfo Dulce (South of the country) and in the islands. Bahía Culebra, Sámara, Dominical and the corals of Corcovado National Park are highly diverse. The most outstanding islands with coral reefs are the Isla del Caño and Isla del Coco.
The coral reefs are built by living organisms: the corals. These animals have a skeleton made of calcium carbonate, and are associated to algae which produce the food (by photosynthesis). The coral reefs are among the most productive environments of the world, and they are important not only as carbon sinks but also for marine life reproduction.
Costa Rica offers birders unrivalled birdwatching. As of 2016 the list of birds in Costa Rica contains 915 resident and neotropical migrant bird species. This is all the more amazing if you consider that Costa Rica isn't much bigger than the US state of New Hampshire. Around a quarter of the bird species that occur in Costa Rica are seasonal migratory, so they are travelers who escape the cold of the northern hemisphere to hibernate in Costa Rica or further south.
To see a large sampling of Costa Rica's bird life, you should travel to different parts of the country. Sometimes however you just need to walk over from a pasture to the neighboring forest to watch a different bird’s habitat. The best time for spotting birds is during nesting season which reaches its peak from April to June and continues until August. As April is also the peak of the dry season and the foliage of trees and shrub has thinned out it is also easier to see birds.
The Artist: Carlos Kidd
Carlos is a graphic designer, illustrator, plastic artist and art teacher with significant experience on visual communication for advertising, mutimedia and cultural projects. Carlos has participated in numerous group and invidual projects of caricature, painting, drawing and design.
Watch Carlos' Flicker page.
Creative Direction: Carlos Kidd / Illustrators: Carlos Kidd & José E. Corrales