Costa Rica Wildlife | Intimate Encounters Around Arenal Volcano

This post was last updated on August 26th, 2014

Costa Rica is renowned for its diverse wildlife.

With over 500,000 species, it’s no wonder why nature lovers flock from around the world in an attempt to view just a handful of them.

We typically prefer adrenaline pumping adventures to relaxed nature strolls, but Costa Rica is teaching us to slow down a bit and enjoy life’s gifts that surround us. And with so much to see in the rainforest, nature walks are turning out to be pretty darn entertaining.

Although a small country (about the size of West Virginia), Costa Rica has a variety of ecosystems—a large reason why the country contains such an assortment of wildlife in the first place. This first set of photos comes entirely from the area around the Arenal Volcano, including the popular Arenal Hanging Bridges, Cerro Chato, and La Fortuna. We might not have seen any Toucans—though we could certainly hear them—but we are still amazed at the number of animals we’ve already come into contact with.

Arenal Volcano La Fortuna

Here are a few of our favorites:

* Please forgive us if we have a few of the names wrong. We’re no experts, but we welcome your revisions in the comments below!



Motmot Costa Rica Wildlife

Look at those long tail feathers!


Strawberry Poison-Dart Frog

Poison Dart Frog Costa Rica Wildlife Blue Jeans

We prefer its other nickname, the Blue Jean Frog. These guys are teeny-tiny, but the males make a lot of noise! If you listen closely, you can often track them down. The indigenous used to rub their arrowheads on the back of the frogs, the poison aiding in their hunting.


Leaf Cutter Ants

Don’t let their size fool you. These little guys pack a punch so strong, aboriginals used to have the ants bite their skin to act as stitches to close wounds.


Green Parakeet

Green Parakeet Costa Rica Wildlife

Take enough pictures of them and they will begin to imitate the clicking of your camera!


Two-toed Sloth

Sloth Costa Rica Wildlife

We’re hoping to see a lot more of these guys when we visit the sloth sanctuary later this month. More information to come on them later!


Yellow Eyelash Viper

Yellow Eyelash Viper Costa Rica Wildlife Snake

Named for the scales above its eyes that resemble eyelashes. Though not aggressive, they will strike back if attacked—and they are extremely venomous!



Lizard Costa Rica Wildlife

It’s easy to find lizards and iguanas if you look for sun-drenched branches.


Rufous-tailed Hummingbird

Characterized for their iridescent feathers and long red beak.


Glass Butterfly

Glass Butterfly Wildlife Costa Rica Wildlife

The wings of these beautiful butterflies resemble stained glass. We’ve also seen Costa Rica’s famed Morpho Butterflies, though we were unable to take a picture at the time.


Boa Constrictor

Boa Constrictor Costa Rica Wildlife Snake

This guy was spotted crossing the road. Another car of local tourists stopped to join us in taking pictures; unfortunately, they were less than scrupulous in their interactions with the serpent. As the Boa started to slither up a hill, a man grabbed it by the body, yanking it down without giving us any warning. Dan was lucky to have a quick reaction—he jumped back right as the Boa landed where he had been standing!



A member of the raccoon family, Coatis are—in my opinion—pretty stinkin’ cute. Plus, they eat tarantulas.

Unfortunately we weren’t able to get pictures of some amazing birds and massive iguanas we saw while white water rafting, as well as various other stunning birds that know how to fly quite quickly. Wildlife photography is hard, my friends—kudos to those who do it well.

We are hoping to get some more intimate encounters with wildlife as we continue on our journey throughout the country (unless of course it’s a spider, in which case it can feel free to be anything but intimate with us). Mother Nature is unpredictable though, and as much as we would like a Quetzal to land on our shoulders, we’re going to have to patiently wait it out. The goal is to share more photos of our wildlife encounters in a similar fashion to our Tour de Vietnam Series. I guess we’ll see what we see! If you didn’t get enough of these cuddly creatures, check out more animals we spotted on our night hike in Monteverde!


What’s the coolest animal you’ve seen in its natural habitat? What would you love to see in the wild? 



  1. Wow! Interesting explanations and outstanding photos! Looking forward to more…

  2. Great photos!!! Costa Rica looks amazing for wildlife. The coolest animal we’ve seen which we didn’t expect to was seeing a coyote in Yellowstone National Park :) Would love to see more wildlife …. Got to get ourselves to Costa Rica one day!
    2wisemonkeys recently posted…7 ancient ruins of turkey (part 2)My Profile

    • Thanks! We loved Yellowstone, but we didn’t see any coyotes there. Sounds awesome! If you want to see wildlife, Costa Rica is certainly the place to go!

  3. Fun! I like the blue jeans frog best, though the yellow eyelash viper may be a close second. Sloths, I just don’t get to be honest. No doubt you’ll have more sloth encounters in Costa Rica in the near future. Convert me…?
    Sam recently posted…October 2013 ReportMy Profile

    • Before we set off for Costa Rica we were going to make it a point to get to the sloth sanctuary. We’ve seen so many now we aren’t sure we will need to make the trip :-p I’ll do my best to get you a photo of one you’ll want to keep! ;-)

    • The sloths are funny looking guys! Apparently they have lots of parasites though so we weren’t allowed to hug him :-(

    • Everyday! Gotta stay strong for all that bird chasing and animal searching :-)

    • Dan tried so hard to see a platypus but they are pretty elusive creatures. Aboriginals let the ants bite their skin. The ant’s grip was so tight that they wouldn’t let go, even after you separate the ant’s head from the body. The ants head is left and the fangs hold the wound closed. Instant stitches! :-)

        • haha yes we certainly wouldn’t want to rely on ants to do our stich-work for us!

  4. Ahh, I love that you were brave enough to snap photos of those snakes, eekk! I would have been running in the other direction! That sloth is certainly a cutie!

    I think the coolest animal I saw during my travels was a “squirrel farm” in Japan…you got to put these enormous gloves on and have the squirrels jump on your arms…quite an unforgettable experience!
    Jess @UsedYorkCity recently posted…From The Lips Of A LocalMy Profile

    • That’s amazing! I love squirrels, so I would absolutely jump at that opportunity! The boa did have us a little bit worried… luckily snakes don’t bother us as much as spiders. eek!

  5. It’s interesting to see such diverse range of animals at close encounter. I loved all the pictures, and in particular the Blue Jean Frog!

    • Thanks Anu! The Blue Jean Frog was definitely one of our favorites, too :)

    • haha I don’t blame you! we don’t really want to stumble upon any on our own- especially if it slithers into our room!

    • It seems like everywhere you turn there is some sort of interesting animal staring back at you. We were just walking along the beach today and almost stepped on a 4 foot long iguana!

  6. These photos are amazing guys! Now I’m even more excited for Costa Rica (and well the rest of Central America).
    I’m from Denmark and we have really boring animals in the wild.
    But the coolest one I’ve seen was in Florida, when we went on an air boat ride in the Everglades. We saw alligators – sooo cool!
    I’d love to see an elephant one day (saw them in Thailand, but they were not in the wild…) and pandas! Omg, I’m such a panda fan. :) Also kangaroos and multi-colored birds are on my list. :)
    Celia recently posted…Three Things I Learned On Our Bike RideMy Profile

    • Thanks Celia!! Dan has been to the Everglades but he wasn’t able to see any alligators- sounds like an awesome experience! I would also love to see pandas- I’ve only ever seen them in the zoo. There are definitely multi-colored birds in Costa Rica, so you will have no trouble crossing those off your list! Do you know when you will be traveling to Costa Rica? It’s a beautiful place!!

      • It was so amazing to see the alligators. :) You should definitely put it on your bucket list. :) Yay – can’t wait to go to Costa Rica! How long are you guys there for?

        Well, we’re going to Florida on December 9th. Then we’ll travel to Mexico and work our way down through Central America. :) So maybe in January or February? It’s going to be great! :D
        Celia recently posted…Monday Memory #1 – Segway Tour in San FranciscoMy Profile

        • I know I already partially responded to this, but we are in Costa Rica until December 10. Then we go home for a bit before we are off to Mexico! You’ll have to let us know your favorite parts :)

  7. Haha, I love the ‘soundtrack’ of the leaf cutter ants video! Awesome picture of that glass butterfly as well. Great post, who doesn’t love animals, right?
    Bram recently posted…Irish Heritage – A Photo EssayMy Profile

    • Thanks Bram! It’s hard not to love animals, especially in a place like Costa Rica where even the ants blow your mind :)



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