Cruising for Wildlife in Costa Rica

A lot of people associate Costa Rica with wildlife. They would be correct. Costa Rica has some of the best and most accessible wildlife of any country in the Americas. You can go on a variety of wildlife viewing tours or even a canopy tour but for my money, the best way to see wildlife in Costa Rica is on a boat.

I went to the El Viejo Wetlands and Wildlife Refuge located just outside Palo Verde National Park in Guanacaste. This refuge is owned by a family that has devoted it to exploring Costa Rica’s fabulous flora and fauna. They own some 5000 acres and they offer a variety of cool tours. I did the cruise down Tempisque River.

After leaving the gorgeous hacienda style main house, we hopped on the boat and started heading upriver. The guide was a really nice lady and the driver was an expert at pointing out animals that were camouflaged by the natural surroundings.

It was kind of like being on safari except you’re on a boat instead of a Land Cruiser. You are staring into nature and hoping to see some cool animals and you get really excited when you spot something.

Along the Tempisque River we spotted several different types of birds including egrets, herons and a bunch of other types that I can’t recall the names. They come down to the river to drink or sunbathe as they try to find food and hopefully avoid getting eaten by a crocodile!

Crocodiles are all over the places on the Tempisque River so taking a dip is out of the question. We saw a bunch of them but the best was this guy we saw on the side of the river sunbathing with his mouth open.

There are also a ton of iguanas that we saw. I love iguanas and the iguanas in Costa Rica are very colorful and very cool to look at. They just hang out in trees and seemingly pose for pictures. The males are wild looking. They are big and green with an orange crest going all down it’s back. The females are smaller and green. They are much different than iguanas you’d see in the Galapagos Islands.

As cool as the animals are to see, just taking in the serene river scenery is great too. A river cruise is so relaxing and once you’ve seen a few crocodiles and iguanas and maybe even a monkey or two, you can just relax and take it in. That’s the best part in my opinion.

Just remember to go to the bathroom before you get on the boat and bring water because there’s nowhere to go and it’s really hot out there! Luckily the boat has a roof on it but it’s still hot as you might expect.

Nature and wildlife is the main part of Costa Rica’s eco-tourism. It is unspoiled and gorgeous. Try a few different types of tours. I am not the horseback riding type but those are really popular. I much prefer boats and canopy tours! Any way you slice it, you’re in Costa Rica and living ‘Pura Vida’!

Disclaimer: The Costa Rican Tourism Board sponsored my trip to Costa Rica. The opinions is this article are mine and have not been influenced in any way.

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  1. Sounds/looks like fun!

  2. I love iguanas too, I like the picture with the male and female.

  3. Costa Rica is a wonderful place to spot wildlife. Too bad you didn’t see toucans, sloths or monkeys. Perhaps you did and didn’t get photos of them for the article.

  4. Why are the bats lined up like that on the tree?

  5. Michele Ortiz says

    Hola Lee! Thank you for writing a good article on my country, I like your website.

  6. Hi lee, good story as always. Can the crocodiles potentially knock over your boat or anything? Were there any scary moments?

  7. Thinking of doing Costa Rica for my honeymoon, any thoughts?

  8. I loved Costa Rica, did you get to Manuel Antonio? That was my favorite spot that we went! So beautiful and so much fun!

  9. Lee good story but have you been to Panama? It is the best in Central America.

    • I’ve been to Panama a few times yes. I don’t agree it’s the best in Central America although it is a nice country. I will give you that Panama City is the best city in Central America though. I don’t even think that’s debatable.

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