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Wildlife and nature in Costa Rica

Directly translated from Spanish as 'rich coast', Costa Rica is one of the most naturally diverse countries in Central America. It serves up a multitude of ecosystems, ranging from mangrove swamps and tropical rainforests to mountainous volcano ranges and coastal retreats.

Living in harmony alongside these abundant habitats, Costa Rican's embrace their natural environment and more than one quarter of the country is classed as protected land.

Rainforests and jungles

The rainforests of Costa Rica are among some of the most productive and unique ecosystems of the world.

In the southwest and lowland Atlantic regions you'll find tropical rainforests, while on the high slopes of volcanoes and mountains you'll be met with cloud forests blanketed in a mysterious mist. In the lower elevations on the North Pacific coast, less dense, tropical dry forests abound and you can explore mangroves filled with natural life.

Over 10,000 plant species have been documented across Costa Rica's rainforests. Visitors here can expect to spot giant orchids, towering trees thickly coated in moss blocking out the sun, long looping vines and layers and layers of rich vegetation. The country's national tree, the Guanacaste – also the name of a region – produces wide umbrella-like canopies that make the perfect hiding place for the slow moving sloth.

Hiking and horseback riding are popular on the ground, with ziplining above the canopy another firm favourite. At Isla Damas you're able to experience kayaking and safari float trips, while around the volcanic ranges visitors can rappel down waterfalls and explore the thick cloud forests adorned with bubbling hot springs.

Must-see animals

Costa Rica occupies a unique location, where the Southern and Northern American continents connect. As a result, animal species from both continents mix in a way seen nowhere else in the world, with the rainforests and jungles home to over 230 species.

While most visitors will almost certainly come into contact with one of Costa Rica's four monkey or two sloth species, be sure to take a guided tour through the extensive network of national parks to observe brightly coloured tree frogs, coyotes, anteaters, pacas and elusive tapirs peering out from the deep forest. American alligators, jaguars and Neotropical River otters are also on the to-see list.

Out at sea

The Costa Rican waters are as bountiful as its forests, with over 25 dolphin and whale species migrating, feeding and birthing in the area each year. Time your visit right and you can expect to see humpacks, orcas and bryde's whales.

The leatherback sea turtle and Hawksbill sea turtle can be found on both the Caribbean and the Pacific Coasts of Costa Rica. And the beaches of Playa Ostional, Tortuguero and Playa Grande are popular spots for turtle nesting.

Bird watcher's paradise

From tiny Violet Sabrewings to the magnificent King Vultures, bird watchers will be in their element in Costa Rica with over 850 brightly coloured species recorded across the country. With their restricted ranges you're guaranteed to find new species at every port of call, but no trip would be complete without hearing the iconic Montezuma Oropendula's unforgettable song.

Over in the Peninsula de Osa, you'll find Scarlet Macaw populations thriving, whereas on the Caribbean coast and most of Central America, this wonderful bird has become extinct. Corcovado National Park is a great place to spot them, alongside toucans and blue-crowned mot mots.

Costa Rica is also one of the only countries in the world where the number of bats outnumbers rodents. Come nightfall, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the tiny Honduran white bat - easily mistaken for flying balls of fluff.

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