Best Time to Visit Costa Rica for Wildlife: A Month-by-Month Guide

When planning your adventure to Costa Rica, it’s crucial to know the best time to visit Costa Rica for wildlife. Broadly, July and August merge the attractiveness of dry weather with the lushness of the green season, offering an optimal wildlife viewing experience. This article is your guide to experiencing Costa Rica’s wildlife calendar, ensuring you catch the country’s natural treasures at their finest, during the best time to visit Costa Rica for wildlife.

Wildlife Trips to Costa Rica – Rainy Season or Dry Season?

  • Costa Rica is a biodiversity hotspot ideal for witnessing a variety of wildlife, with the best general wildlife viewing typically during the months of July and August due to good weather and abundant wildlife presence.
  • Wildlife enthusiasts can enjoy year-round activities, such as sea turtle nesting from mid-June to October and the world’s longest humpback whale watching season from December to April, with opportunities for encounters nearly every month.
  • Choosing the right season is crucial for an optimal wildlife experience in Costa Rica, with the dry season (December to April) being popular for less rain and clear skies, and the green season (May to November) offering lush landscapes and more active wildlife but with fewer tourists and lower rates.

Costa Rica’s Wildlife Wonders

Costa Rica, a small Central American country, is one of the world’s most biodiverse countries. Despite its small size, it’s home to an astonishing variety of wildlife, with over 230 species of mammals alone. What makes it such a hot spot for wildlife spotting? It’s all about location. Costa Rica’s unique geography, which includes both Pacific and Caribbean coastlines, varied climates, and abundant national parks and wildlife refuges, make it a haven for numerous species, making wildlife spotting Costa Rica an unforgettable experience.

Next, we will explore some of the unique wildlife that Costa Rica boasts. We’ll explore:

  • The world of sea turtles
  • Humpback whales
  • Sloths and other mammals
  • The country’s birdwatching paradise

Sea Turtles

Sea Turtles
A turtle nests in Guanacaste.

Costa Rica is a haven for various species of sea turtles, including:

  • loggerhead
  • green
  • leatherback
  • hawksbill
  • olive ridley sea turtles

These creatures return annually to the same beaches in Costa Rica to nest in an event known as the arribada. This phenomenon is a sight to behold and is one of the reasons why wildlife enthusiasts flock to the country’s coasts.

The Atlantic green sea turtle’s nesting season along the northern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica starts mid-June, with peak activity in the Tortuguero National Park from July through October. This period offers the best chance to witness these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.

Humpback Whales

Costa Rica offers the longest humpback whale watching season in the world, with sightings possible nearly year-round. The dry season from December to April is particularly ideal for whale watching on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, with the overlap of beach activities and wildlife encounters.

Moreover, during September and October, the peak months of the green season, visitors can spot Antarctic humpback whales along Costa Rica’s coasts. So, whether you’re visiting in the dry or green season, there’s a good chance you’ll have a memorable humpback whale encounter.

Sloths and Other Mammals

A Sloth in Costa Rica
Sloths are gorgeous creatures!

If you’re keen on spotting sloths, Manuel Antonio National Park is an excellent place to do so, especially near Manuel Antonio beach. Costa Rica is home to both two-toed and three-toed sloths.

While two-toed sloths are nocturnal creatures, three-toed sloths are active during the day, offering plenty of opportunities for wildlife watchers to spot them in their natural habitat.

Birdwatching Paradise

The Red Macaw
To me, this is the prettiest bird you’ll find in Costa Rica.

For bird enthusiasts, Costa Rica is nothing short of a paradise. The dry season is an ideal time for birdwatching, especially for observing the quetzal as it begins nesting in cloud forests.

Scarlet macaws, known for their lifelong pairing, are a vibrant species that can be observed in their natural habitats across Costa Rica. With over 900 bird species recorded in the country, birdwatchers can have a field day spotting and identifying a multitude of avian species.

Seasonal Wildlife Highlights

Costa Rica’s wildlife viewing is largely influenced by its two primary seasons: the dry season from December to April, and the green season from May to November. Each season offers unique experiences for wildlife enthusiasts.

The dry season provides dry and sunny conditions favorable for wildlife spotting, with temperatures often reaching 28°C and up. On the other hand, the green season, also known as the rainy season, offers a different wildlife viewing experience due to lush vegetation and fewer tourists, despite being the rainy period.

However, the optimal time for wildlife viewing in Costa Rica is typically during the months of July and August, offering a balance of good weather and abundant wildlife presence.

Dry Season (December – April)

From December to April, Costa Rica experiences its dry season, while Costa Rica’s rainy season occurs during the rest of the year. During the dry season, the country experiences:

  • Less rainfall
  • More sunshine
  • Hot and sunny weather
  • Very little rainfall
  • Average temperatures around 80 degrees Fahrenheit

This sunny and dry weather during spring break is especially favorable for wildlife spotting, including humpback whale watching, which is optimal during this time.

The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is best visited during the dry season, from November or December to March or April, due to less rainfall and better trail availability and visibility for birdwatching.

Green Season (May – November)

Running from May to November, the green season in Costa Rica brings:

  • Lush landscapes
  • Increased wildlife activity due to the rise in humidity and rainfall
  • A different perspective to wildlife enthusiasts as the lush vegetation and blooming flowers draw in a wide variety of bird species
  • Animals that are generally more active

Despite a small uptick in tourists during the European summer school holidays, August, and typically the entire green season, sees fewer tourists than during the sunny season, offering less crowded encounters with nature. Plus, visitors can take advantage of discounted hotel rates during the green season months, particularly in May and September, allowing for a more budget-friendly experience while still enjoying abundant wildlife.

National Parks and Reserves for Wildlife Enthusiasts

Costa Rica’s national parks and reserves, such as Tortuguero, Corcovado, and Monteverde, are treasure troves of biodiversity, offering exceptional opportunities for wildlife enthusiasts. Each park provides a unique ecosystem housing a wide array of species, making them must-visit destinations for any wildlife lover.

Regardless of whether you’re a seasoned wildlife enthusiast or a curious novice, these parks and reserves promise an unforgettable experience. We will now examine what each of these parks has to offer.

Tortuguero National Park

Tortuguero National Park is renowned for being a key breeding ground for green sea turtles in the Caribbean. The best period to observe the nesting of green sea turtles at Tortuguero National Park is from July through September. This period offers an optimal opportunity for wildlife enthusiasts to witness these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.

Moreover, the period from September to October offers the best chance to observe turtle hatchings, which follows the primary nesting season. This makes Tortuguero National Park a must-visit destination for turtle enthusiasts.

Corcovado National Park

Corcovado National Park is another gem in Costa Rica’s crown. The optimal period for wildlife exploration in the park is during the dry season from January to April. Despite the dry season, the park may still experience some rainfall, adding to the adventure.

However, Corcovado National Park should be avoided in September and October due to excessive rainfall, which causes trail closures and affects hotel operations. On the other hand, July and August offer a brief drier period allowing for clearer skies and outdoor exploration in the Pacific region, which includes Corcovado.

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

The Monteverde Cloud Forest.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest.

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is a prime spot for sighting unique birds like the resplendent quetzal. Apart from birds, the reserve is home to a vibrant nocturnal life and numerous species of snakes, including venomous ones.

The extensive array of tropical birds makes Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve a renowned destination for birdwatchers. While the best wildlife viewing experiences are not specific to a particular month, the unique diversity of flora and fauna in the reserve offers exciting encounters throughout the year.

Planning Your Wildlife Adventure: Tips and Considerations

There are several factors worth considering before embarking on your wildlife adventure in Costa Rica as they can significantly influence your experience. These considerations include understanding the country’s weather patterns, managing the crowds and peak seasons, and planning your budget accordingly.

In this article, we will explore these considerations in more depth and provide some tips to help you craft your ideal wildlife adventure when you visit Costa Rica.

Weather and Climate

When planning your wildlife adventure, it’s important to understand Costa Rica’s varied climate. The country’s unique weather conditions can significantly impact wildlife spotting opportunities. For instance, in Corcovado National Park, the consistent high humidity and temperatures from the upper 80s to 90s Fahrenheit year-round can impact both wildlife activity and the best times for wildlife spotting.

Therefore, having a clear understanding of the country’s weather patterns can help you plan your visit during the best times for wildlife spotting, ensuring an unforgettable wildlife experience.

Crowds and Peak Seasons

The timing of your visit can significantly impact your wildlife viewing experience. Costa Rica’s peak tourist season coincides with the dry season from mid-December to April, attracting visitors with abundant sunshine and optimal conditions for wildlife exploration and beach activities. However, due to the high demand in the peak season, travelers are advised to book accommodations and tour reservations three months in advance. Thus, the best time to visit is during the dry season, making it the ideal time to visit Costa Rica for an unforgettable experience.

On the other hand, traveling during the ‘green season’ from May to November can be more cost-effective, as it sees fewer tourists and lower accommodation costs despite frequent rain showers. July and August are an exception in the green season, experiencing a surge in tourism as visitors arrive to observe Costa Rica’s wildlife without the heavy rainfall.

Budget Considerations

When planning your wildlife adventure in Costa Rica, budget considerations should not be overlooked. Prices for accommodations can vary significantly between the dry and green seasons, with the green season often offering more competitive rates. Booking accommodations well in advance or last minute can sometimes yield discounts, especially during the less busy green season.

Wildlife tours may be more expensive during peak visitor seasons, while the green season might have reduced rates due to fewer tourists. Similarly, domestic transportation costs, including rental cars and local flights, often rise in the high season due to increased demand. However, travelers can save on transportation by using public buses or booking shuttle services and flights well in advance.

Wildlife-Focused Activities and Tours

After considering the weather, crowds, and budget, you can begin exploring the wildlife-focused activities and tours available when visiting Costa Rica. Guided tours in Costa Rica are enhanced by guides who are both passionate about and knowledgeable of the local wildlife, contributing to an immersive experience. Visitors highly value tours that offer close encounters with a variety of animals, such as monkeys, quetzals, and other unique wildlife.

Specialized wildlife activities like snorkeling trips provide remarkable encounters with diverse marine life, including sea turtles, manta rays, and reef sharks, with a commitment to safety and quality of equipment. These unique experiences will undoubtedly make your wildlife adventure in Costa Rica unforgettable.


In summary, Costa Rica is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. Its diverse ecosystems and national parks, the unique wildlife viewing opportunities across different seasons, and the array of wildlife-focused activities and tours make it a must-visit destination for any wildlife lover. Whether you’re keen on spotting a sloth, witnessing a turtle’s nesting ritual, or catching a glimpse of the elusive resplendent quetzal, Costa Rica offers it all. So, why wait? Start planning your Costa Rican wildlife adventure today, and get ready to be mesmerized by the wonders of nature.

Frequently Asked Questions

Costa rica may?

In May, the weather in Costa Rica starts transitioning from the dry season to the greener, wetter season, with average temperatures ranging from 78°F to 82°F.

What time of year is best for birding in Costa Rica?

The best time for birding in Costa Rica is during the dry season from December to April when you are likely to see a higher number of resident and migratory bird species. So, plan your trip accordingly.

What part of Costa Rica has the most wildlife?

The Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica has the most wildlife, along with other notable spots such as Tortuguero, Manuel Antonio, and Monteverde. It’s a must-visit for nature enthusiasts!

Where can I spot sea turtles in Costa Rica?

You can spot sea turtles in Costa Rica at the Tortuguero National Park, which is a renowned breeding ground for green sea turtles in the Caribbean.

Which season is better for birdwatching in Costa Rica?

The dry season is the best time for birdwatching in Costa Rica because the weather is clear and the birds are more active.

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Tim Schmidt is a 20+ year Entrepreneur and Digital Marketer. A Fort Lauderdale-based "Digital Nomad," he enjoys traveling as much as possible with family and friends. AllWorld is his escape to document all of his adventures, including being a hardcore "foodie." He has property in Costa Rica and visits several times each year and is happy to offer his expert advice for planning your trip.

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