Be In the Know

Be In the Know. Sign up to have DesignDestinations delivered right to your inbox, weekly.

Costa Rica: Wonderful Wildlife

Costa Rica

 Bird Walk in Costa Rica





Costa Rica is known for it’s wildlife.  Any guide book will tell you it is the land of more than 850 species of birds and 250 species of mammals making it a delightful spot for those who appreciate the natural world.

We saw and heard the howler monkeys outside our windows at the resort in Guancaste.  We heard their haunting hoots in conversation with each other and with our guide on the Canal Negro.


Howler Monkeys

The tours and activities are specular.  I think Costa Rica  is  perfect for families with young children, retirees and everyone in between.  Along with zip lines, expect to experience great hikes,  hanging bridges and bird walks . We loved our fascinating boat ride where we saw a sleeping Cayman, Jesus Christ lizard, howler monkeys,  birds, birds, birds and bats attached to algae covered trees, sleeping away the day.

If you are curious about the Jesus Christ lizard, click here for a short video about this fascinating critter. 


 On our bird walk, our low key guide gushed with what he called, “A True National Geographic Moment”  when we watched a troop of maybe a dozen spider monkeys swing gracefully from tree to tree way up over our heads.  Unfortunately they were too high up and moved too fast and unpredictably for me to capture on camera.  I could only stand with head held back mezmerized.

The Butterflies were gorgeous, forcing me slow down to enjoy.  At one resort we enjoyed a hummingbird garden.  How fun to have these buzzy little guys swirling around.








Costa Rica can be a very active vacation with hikes, kayaking and climbing.  It can also be more spiritual and healing.  If you read anything about mental health, you know that  a great way to deal with stress and chaos in life is to get out in nature.

I found both the active times and the quiet times in this this beautiful country restorative. I’d like to go back.



We’ve had some fascinating animal surprises.  One was encountering a very poisonous snake on the walkway by our hotel room. Fortunately two staff members were in process of capturing him and moving him to a less treacherous spot.   We learned to never walk around the resort in the dark without a flashlight and to pay attention to what’s nearby or underfoot.

Later in the day , our guide pointed out a bright yellow Viper curled up on a tree. He was a tiny little guy so we got binoculars out to check him out.  My guide took this photo with my iPhone.  He said they coil up like this to look like a flower so that when hummingbirds who feed on flowers  (52 varieties here in Costa Rica) come to investigate, the snake will strike and snag the poor bird.  The snake is strong enough to do that and has a powerful tail that remains attached to the tree giving him the stability he needs to hang on and grab the poor victim.



 Another completely captivating animal we saw that was a sloth hanging from a power line, slowly making his way to the pole.    We were driving at the time, but pulled over to watch.  Sloths move vey slowly.  Interesting creatures. They have a skeleton system like birds,  digestion system like cows, only move upside down and very slowly.  Their fur gets filled with algae.



 I love the Living Fences as the Costa Ricans call them.  The trees grow so fast in this country that  fences are made  simply by planting trees and then  winding the wire around them.  The challenge is keeping the trees trimmed, says our guide.  If the bushy part gets too full, it is easy for wind to blow them over.



Second half of the trip: the Guancaste area……where they  have’t had rain for two months.  Amazing that the rain forest region and the beach are very close together. It’s not a big country.  The climate change is dramatic.  These regions are very close together.  It took us about four hours to get from Arenal to our beach location with a stop for lunch.  To read about the Arenal area, click here.


I didn’t do much of anything at the resort in Guancaste except enjoy the monkeys out side our room  peeking at us through the trees.     For a Michigander, already tired of the cold and gray and only half way finished winter,  time at the beach was a lovely break.

photo 2


Post Author
Susan J. Smith
Susan's career includes writing for newspapers, lots of community work and a wonderful family life. Now she is enjoying traveling, photography and writing for DesignDestinations and Grand Rapids Magazine. She welcomes you on her journey and appreciates your comments.


  1. posted by
    ann cabezas creed
    Feb 3, 2015 Reply

    feb 3 Hi Susan–Great photos!

    May i share your article with my readers on ?

    I will give you credit as the author and photographer.

    Regards, Ann Cabezas Creed

    • posted by
      Susan J. Smith
      Feb 3, 2015 Reply

      Of course, please do. I love to share my travel experiences. I thoroughly enjoyed our Costa Rica experience.

      • posted by
        ann cabezas creed
        Feb 3, 2015 Reply

        Thanks again Susan, and I really enjoy your blog posts and the great photos.
        Ann Cabezas Creed

  2. posted by
    Donna Duff
    Feb 3, 2015 Reply


    I LOVED your pictures of Costa Rica!

    I don’t know how you could have gotten such great shots of the animals close up like you did.

    This is one of my favorite articles and group of pictures so far.

    Donna Duff

  3. posted by
    peggy depersia
    Feb 3, 2015 Reply

    You highlight the reality and beauty of nature at its most magnificent; when is soothe the soul.
    Thanks for the reminder.

  4. posted by
    Feb 3, 2015 Reply

    Susan, I love your nature photographs, one more beautiful and colorful than the other. Thanks for sharing.

  5. posted by
    Feb 3, 2015 Reply

    You have done an awesome job of capturing the nature of Costa Rica. My favorite shot is the one of the yellow snake curled up like a flower waiting for his prey!!

  6. posted by
    Kim Cornetet
    Apr 9, 2015 Reply

    I have had similar experiences in Costa Rica… that country!

  7. posted by
    Costa Rica Learn
    Mar 22, 2017 Reply

    […] Costa Rica: Wonderful Wildlife […]

Leave a Reply