Costa Rica Monkey Species (All Four You’ll Find)

Where can you see Costa Rica monkeys? Venturing into the heart of Central America’s wildlife paradise, this guide uncovers where to witness the remarkable Mantled Howler, White-Faced Capuchin, Geoffroy’s Spider Monkey, and Central American Squirrel Monkey in their natural settings. Dive straight into the essence of Costa Rica’s monkey habitats, understand their distinctive behaviors, and get equipped with practical tips for ethical wildlife encounters.

Costa Rica Monkeys – What to Know

  • Costa Rica is home to four monkey species – Mantled Howler, White-Faced Capuchin, Geoffroy’s Spider, and Central American Squirrel Monkeys, each with unique behaviors and characteristics.
  • The best places to spot monkeys in their natural habitat are Costa Rica’s national parks, with different ecosystems offering the chance to observe various monkey species. Always visit responsibly, adhering to conservation rules.
  • Guided tours enhance the monkey spotting experience with expert knowledge, while animal sanctuaries contribute to the conservation and rehabilitation of monkeys, offering educational insights to visitors.

Discovering the Four Monkey Species in Costa Rica

Capuchin Monkeys
Pictured: Capuchin Monkeys.

Costa Rica is a treasure trove of biodiversity, and one of its jewels is the presence of four distinct Costa Rican monkey species. Yes, you read that right! This small Central American country is home to the following monkey species:

  • Mantled Howler Monkey
  • White-Faced Capuchin Monkey
  • Geoffroy’s Spider Monkey
  • Central American Squirrel Monkey

Each of these species has distinct characteristics and behaviors, adding a unique flavor to the country’s wildlife.

From the loud calls of the mantled howler monkeys echoing through the forest to the intelligent white-faced capuchins using tools to crack open shells, the uniqueness of these species never ceases to amaze! Ever heard of a monkey using its tail as the fifth hand? Meet Geoffroy’s Spider Monkey! Or the tiny Central American Squirrel Monkeys, who despite being endangered, manage to charm everyone with their chatty demeanor and petite size!

Mantled Howler Monkeys

mantled howler monkey
I see this species more than any other in Costa Rica!

We start with the Mantled Howler Monkeys, the stars of Costa Rica’s monkey world. Known for their loud, distinctive calls, they use these to communicate within their group. With their black fur and long yellow or brown patches, they stand out in the lush greenery of Costa Rica’s forests.

These monkeys are all about hierarchy and complex social interactions. They are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day, a piece of good news for us monkey spotters! Their diet mainly consists of leaves, fruits, and flowers, making the diverse forests of Costa Rica the perfect home for them.

White-Faced Capuchin Monkeys

White-Faced Capuchin Monkeys
The whit faced capuchin monkey is perhaps the easiest to identify.

Moving on, the White-Faced Capuchin Monkeys are known for their intelligence and adaptability. With their black bodies and creamy white heads, chests, and shoulders, they are easily identifiable. You can often find them in cloud forests, rainforests, and tropical dry forests.

These wild monkeys are not just about looks, though! They exhibit a wide range of behaviors, including:

  • Vocalizing with a variety of sounds
  • Using tools to open shells
  • Feasting on a diverse diet of nuts, fruits, leaves, insects, lizards, birds, and even tree rats

Although they can live up to 55 years in captivity, their lifespan in the wild is usually much less.

Geoffroy’s Spider Monkeys

Geoffroy's Spider Monkeys
These are really fun to watch when they swing around and play!

We continue with Geoffroy’s Spider Monkeys. These monkeys are one of the largest New World monkeys, known for their swift movement on treetop branches. Thanks to their hook-like hands and prehensile tails, they move with incredible agility. You can often spot them in the Corcovado National Park. The Osa Peninsula is another place where they are frequently seen..

These monkeys are not just agile but social too. They split and come together in large groups, fostering a sense of connectivity within the group. Their diet mainly consists of fruits, supplemented by young leaves and flowers. Unfortunately, these fascinating creatures are considered endangered in Costa Rica, making their conservation a top priority.

Central American Squirrel Monkeys

Central American Squirrel Monkeys
Aptly named “Squirrel monkeys,” they really do resemble squirrels!

Finally, the Central American Squirrel Monkeys are the smallest among the four, but no less fascinating. Their small size, however, doesn’t make them any less interesting! With their black crowns, reddish backs, and a white and black face with an orange back, they are a sight to behold. Moreover, their social structure is quite relaxed, with no clear hierarchy within the groups.

These monkeys in Costa Rica are found along the South Pacific coast of Costa Rica and Panama. Sadly, they are considered endangered, with only around 36 individuals per square kilometer. This makes it all the more important to respect their habitat and ensure their survival.

Top National Parks for Monkey Sightings in Costa Rica

Having learned about the four monkey species, let’s explore where we can spot them. Costa Rica’s national parks are the best places to observe these fascinating creatures. Each park offers unique ecosystems and opportunities to spot different monkey species.

From the biodiverse Corcovado National Park to the bustling Manuel Antonio National Park, the serene Monteverde Cloud Forest, the remote Tortuguero National Park, the majestic Arenal Volcano National Park, and the captivating Palo Verde National Park – each offers unforgettable monkey spotting experiences. Buckle up as we take a tour of these national parks!

Corcovado National Park

We begin with the Corcovado National Park, renowned as the most biodiverse place on earth. Here, you can spot all four monkey species. The park hosts an array of other wildlife too, making it a top destination for nature enthusiasts.

The dry season, from December to April, is the best time to visit this park. The park’s efforts in keeping the monkeys’ forest homes intact play a significant role in their conservation. You can enhance your monkey spotting experience by opting for guided tours like the San Pedrillo Waterfall tour, the Jungle del Jaguar tour, or the Sirena station day tour.

Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park animals

Then, there’s the Manuel Antonio National Park to consider. With its lush rainforest, stunning beaches, and diverse habitats, it’s a popular destination among tourists. Here, you can spot howler monkeys, white-faced monkeys, and Central American squirrel monkeys.

Tickets to enter the park are priced at $16 USD + tax for adult foreigners and can be purchased online. To maximize your chances of spotting monkeys, visit when the lush rainforest surrounds the beaches, providing optimal opportunities for wildlife sightings.

Monteverde Cloud Forest

The Monteverde Cloud Forest.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest.

Additionally, the Monteverde Cloud Forest offers fantastic opportunities for monkey sightings. Howler and white-faced capuchin monkeys make their home in the forest. They can be found living there. The best time for monkey sightings here is in the morning when the howler monkeys are most active.

Guided tours are available for those who want to have a detailed understanding of the forest and its inhabitants. The cloud forest, being a well-protected area, provides the monkeys with the perfect habitat and food, ensuring their survival.

Tortuguero National Park

Also, the remote and unique ecosystem of Tortuguero National Park makes it an excellent spot for monkey sightings. Here, you can spot spider monkeys, best seen by boat or canoe, in addition to howler and capuchin monkeys.

The park is home to an estimated 1200-1500 monkeys. The lush rainforest provides them with ample fruits, leaves, and flowers, making it their favorite hangout spot.

Responsible Wildlife Viewing in Costa Rica

Monkey spotting is not just about the thrill of seeing these creatures in their natural habitat. It’s also about respecting and protecting them. Costa Rica has stringent laws and regulations, like the Law of Conservation of Wildlife No. 7317, 1998, to ensure the well-being of their wildlife.

These rules include:

  • Sticking to marked trails
  • Maintaining a safe distance from the animals
  • Not disturbing them
  • Feeding monkeys is strictly prohibited as it can disrupt their natural diet and harm their health

So, next time you go monkey spotting, remember to do so responsibly!

Visiting Animal Sanctuaries and Rescue Centers

Animal sanctuaries and rescue centers play a vital role in monkey conservation in Costa Rica. They provide a safe and nurturing environment for injured, orphaned, or confiscated monkeys. Rehabilitation and recovery of these monkeys are their top priority. Moreover, they also educate visitors about the importance of protecting these monkeys and their habitats.

Before visiting, research the center’s practices and ethics to ensure they align with conservation efforts. Some of the renowned centers include:

  • The Sloth Institute
  • Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center
  • Tree of Life Wildlife Rescue Center
  • Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary

Each offers unique encounters with monkeys and a chance to support their rehabilitation and conservation efforts.

Coastal Monkey Sightings: Beaches and Islands

Shifting our focus to the coastal areas of Costa Rica, we find another unique place to spot monkeys. Yes, monkeys do enjoy a beach day too! You can spot the following monkeys on the beaches and islands of Costa Rica:

  • Squirrel monkeys
  • Howler monkeys
  • White Face or Capuchin monkeys
  • Spider monkeys

Monkeys are around all day, but they are most active at sunrise and sunset. It’s quite an experience to spot these creatures near the shoreline or in nearby trees. So, don’t forget to pack your binoculars when you hit the beach next time!

Guided Tours and Wildlife Excursions

Guided tours and wildlife excursions can significantly enhance your monkey spotting experience in Costa Rica. These tours provide expert knowledge and guidance, increasing your chances of spotting monkeys. They also educate you about the different monkey species, their behaviors, and the best times to spot them.

Typical guided tours might include activities like zip-lining, checking out lush rainforests, spotting exotic wildlife, and visiting hidden waterfalls. Some of the popular tour companies for wildlife excursions in Costa Rica are TripAdvisor, Wild Planet Adventures, TourRadar, Enter Costa Rica, Viator, and Adventure Life.

Most of these excursions usually last around 10 days, providing ample time for monkey spotting.

Essential Tips for Monkey Spotting in Costa Rica

To conclude, here are some essential tips for successful monkey spotting in Costa Rica. First and foremost, be patient and observant. Monkeys are active creatures and can appear when you least expect them. Early mornings are usually the best time for sightings.

Bring along binoculars and a camera to capture these memorable moments. Remember to move slowly and quietly to not stress the monkeys. Lastly, never feed the monkeys. It disrupts their natural diet and is harmful to their health. With these tips at hand, you are all set for your monkey spotting adventure!


To wrap up, Costa Rica’s rich biodiversity offers an unforgettable monkey spotting experience, whether in its lush national parks, serene cloud forests, or beautiful beaches. Remember to respect and protect these fascinating creatures. Follow the guidelines for responsible wildlife viewing, support the local animal sanctuaries, and consider guided tours for an enriched experience. Happy Monkey Spotting!

Frequently Asked Questions

Are the monkeys in Costa Rica friendly?

Yes, the monkeys in Costa Rica are generally friendly and peaceful, but it’s best to avoid standing beneath a howler monkey family as they may use a unique strategy to discourage humans. No specific date.

Where in Costa Rica can you see monkeys?

You can see monkeys in Costa Rica in places like Manuel Antonio, Osa Peninsula, Monteverde, Arenal, Nicoya, Tortuguero, and Palo Verde. Particularly, the white face monkeys are known to roam in Manuel Antonio National Park, but remember not to feed them.

What are the 4 types of monkeys in Costa Rica?

The four monkey species in Costa Rica are the white-faced capuchin, spider monkey, squirrel monkey, and howler monkey. The white-faced capuchin, spider monkey, squirrel monkey, and howler monkey are native to Costa Rica.

Do monkeys in Costa Rica sleep at night?

Yes, monkeys in Costa Rica sleep at night, spending most of their time in the canopy trees and resting during nighttime.

What kind of monkeys live in Costa Rica?

In Costa Rica, you can find white-faced capuchin, spider monkey, squirrel monkey, and howler monkey. These are the four monkey species native to the country.

Rate this post


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.

Leave a Comment