Elusive creatures of Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a treasure trove of biodiversity, home to 5% of the world’s species despite making up just 0.03% of the Earth’s surface. While tourists flock to see the more popular animals like howler monkeys, scarlet macaws, and sloths, some creatures are a bit more elusive, requiring a keen eye, a lot of patience, and sometimes just sheer luck to spot.


Baird’s Tapir


Among the heavyweights of Costa Rican wildlife is Baird’s Tapir. With a look resembling a mix between a rhinoceros and an elephant, it’s a sight to behold. This herbivorous mammal prefers the solitude of the dense forest and nocturnal hours, making encounters rare. 


Resplendent Quetzal


A real jewel of the cloud forests, the Resplendent Quetzal is treasured for its iridescent feathers. Finding one can be a challenge. Not only are they shy, but they also prefer high-altitude habitats, often as high as 3000 meters above sea level. Birdwatchers consider spotting a Resplendent Quetzal a lifetime achievement.




The Jaguar, the third-largest big cat in the world, is the stuff of legends in Costa Rica. Highly elusive, these solitary animals are more often captured by trail cameras than seen in person. Most often found in Corcovado National Park, even there, sightings are extremely rare. A glimpse of this majestic creature is a moment to cherish.




Another secretive feline, the Ocelot, thrives in the Costa Rican lowlands. Slightly larger than a domestic cat, these animals are nocturnal and skittish. If you’re lucky, you might catch sight of one during a night tour in Tortuguero or Santa Rosa National Park. 


Glass Frogs

Named for their translucent skin that shows off their internal organs, Glass Frogs are tiny, fascinating, and not easy to find. They love hanging out on the undersides of leaves and are most active during the rainy season. If you’re looking to spot one, your best bet is going out with a specialized guide during a night hike.

Spotting any of these elusive creatures feels like winning the naturalist’s lottery. So, if you’re in Costa Rica, keep your eyes peeled and your camera ready. You never know what rare marvel you might stumble upon.

Tell us about your encounters with these wonderful creatures.

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