Wildlife - Costa Rica is world famous for having an incredibly high level of biodiversity throughout its tropical forests this covers what you may hear referred to as rain forests, cloud forests, and dry forests. There are tropical mammals such as monkeys, sloths, tapirs, and wild cats as well as an amazing assortment of insects and other animals. There are many many birds both migratory and resident - more on that below. With 25% of the country being national parks and protected areas, there are still many places you can go to see the abundant wildlife and lush vegetation of the country. Just like anywhere, the farther you get off the beaten path, the more likely you are to see a wide variety of flora and fauna.
There is such biodiversity in Costa Rica not only because it's a land bridge between North and South America, but also because the terrain is so varied and there are weather patterns moving in from both the Pacific and Atlantic/Caribbean. There are impressive volcanoes, mountain areas, rivers, lakes, and beaches all throughout the country. There are many beautiful beaches - most of the popular ones are on the Pacific side but the Caribbean has many excellent beaches as well.
Bird Watching - One of the most wonderful activities for people who love nature is bird watching. You can enjoy bird watching in many areas of Costa Rica. Due to the great diversity of climates, temperatures and forest types in Costa Rica, there is a wonderful variety of birds, with over 800 species. Some helpful books available on bird watching are Birds of Costa Rica by F. Gary Stiles and Alexander Skutch Cornell University Press or An Illustrated Field Guide to Birds of Costa Rica, illustrated by Victor Esquivel Soto. These books can be found at certain bookstores in San José or before coming to Costa Rica. They are both heavy books; many people tear out the plates of the Stiles & Skutch book to carry into the field and leave the rest of the book in their car or room. Plastic cards with the most common birds are available for many areas and are sold at gift shops.
Costa Rica's list of birds includes:
16 species of parrots including the fabulous scarlet macaw.
50 species of hummingbirds.
10 species of trogons with the resplendent quetzal as the jewel.
6 species of toucans, including the keel-billed and chestnut-mandibled.
Half the bird species in Costa Rica are passerines including warblers, sparrows and finches.
16 species of ducks, including the fulvous whistling, white-faced ruddy and American wigeon.
13 species of falcons, including the peregrine falcon, merlin and American kestrel.
36 species of prey, including the gray hawk, swallow-tailed kite, solitary eagle and northern harrier.
6 species of cracidae which look like turkeys.
8 species of new world quails.
15 species of rallideas including the rufous-necked wood-rail, American coot and ruddy crake.
19 species of owls including the black-and-white, Costa Rican pygmy, central American pygmy and striped.
3 species of potoos including the great, northern and common.
16 species of woodpeckers, including cinnamon, chestnut-colored and pale-billed.
The coastal list of birds includes:
19 species of herons & wading birds such as the great blue heron, great egret, boat-billed heron, reddish egret and yellow-crowned night-heron.
2 species of recurvirostraide which are waders and include the black-necked stilt and American avocet.
2 species of jacans including the northern and wattled.
34 species of scolopacidae including the short-billed dowitcher, spotted sandpiper, wandering tattler, surfbird, and red phalarope.
9 species of gulls including the gray, Heermann's and ring-billed.
14 species of sternidae terns including the gull-billed tern, Forster's tern, least tern and white tern.
4 species of vultures including the king vulture.
24 species of doves and pigeons.
11 species of swifts including the black, spot-fronted and Costa Rican.
6 species of kingfishers including the green, Amazon and American pygmy.
5 species of threskiornithidaes including the roseate spoonbill and white-faced ibis.
2 species of ciconiidae including the wood stork and jabiru.
Good Bird watching spots include:
Monteverde Cloud Forest has more than 400 species of birds, including resplendent quetzals.
Tortuguero National Park has 300 species of birds.
Santa Rosa National Park has more than 250 species of birds.
Cahuita National Park has toucans, parrots, rufous kingfishers; the park is on the beach.
La Selva Biological Station in the northern lowlands has 420 species of birds.
Helconia Island has 228 species of birds.
Corcovado National Park has 400 species of birds and 1,200 scarlet macaws.
Huedal Nacional Terraba-Sierpe has a myriad of birds along the coast and swamps.
Carara National Park has 400 species of birds.
Tárcoles has 400 species of birds and great river tours highlighting crocodiles.
Whale Marine National Park has frigate birds, boobies, ibises and pelicans.
La Amistad National Park has 500 species of birds including resplendent quetzals.
Manuel Antonio National Park has 350 species of birds and three lovely beaches.
Most hotels, as well as tourist information centers, will provide bird watching guides, maps and other essentials for bird watching. Unless you are an experienced neo-tropical birder, it can be a lot more productive to go out with an experienced birding guide. Do not forget to bring a hat, rain gear, boots, binoculars and camera. In hot areas, an umbrella can be more useful than a poncho or jacket. Southern Costa Rica is generally considered the better option for bird watching.
Volcanoes -Costa Rica is one of the most seismologicly active countries in the western hemisphere, and as a result several volcanoes have sprouted over the years- most notably volcanoes Poas, Irazu, and Arenal.