Costa Rica is certainly the most popular destination in Central America for vacations.  Many American tourists flock here yearly to enjoy our hot weather, sandy beaches, and our abundance of wildlife.  Everyone hopes to see our most sought after animals which is our sloths, toucans, and monkeys.  Depending on where you are vacationing in the country and of course the time of year will determine if you’ll have a wildlife encounter.  Come travel off the beaten paths, look closer into the forests and explore nature.  In our post we’ll share with you some of the most common and 4 best places to see monkeys in our country as well as some known facts.

Our species of monkeys

What types of monkeys can be found in Costa Rica?  We actually have 4 species of monkeys the squirrel monkey in Spanish is (saimiri  oerstedii), the white faced or capuchin monkey (cebus capucinus)  the howler monkey (Alouatta pallliata) and the Spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi).

1) Natural habitat

Visiting monkeys in their own habitat can be the most natural experience you will have in Costa Rica.  The white faced or Capuchin monkeys are the second smallest and can be found in more places in the country.  Below you will see a photo of a mother capuchin with her baby.  In fact, most wildlife tours you will see them swinging from trees or chasing each other near the beach at Manuel Antonio National Park.  Shore excursions will take you to a little village outside of Puntarenas town where you can visit them in the wild and take pictures.

bp squirrel monkey

2) Sanctuary

We have many sanctuaries in Costa Rica to protect our animals.  They are here for many reasons including animal abuse, held in captivity by humans as pets, and recovering from an injury.  Sanctuaries usually have a variety of animals to see not just monkeys but many bird species as well.  The best part is they are usually smaller facilities, easier to walk in, and you can see many animals you might not see on your travels.

Places to visit:

Natuwa Macaw Sanctuary

spider monkey

located at the Macaw Sanctuary

3) National parks

The monkeys native to the forests in Costa Rica can be seen in some of our National Parks.  If you’re travelling in the northern parts of Guanacaste or hiking in the Tenorio National Park you might spot them overhead in the trees.   Corcovado National Park in the Osa Peninsula or southern area of the country is where you possibly might see all 4 types of monkeys.  Palo Verde National Park is another great location to spot a few species.  If you’re visiting our smallest National Park Manuel Antonio the capuchins will be hanging out near the beach area.

mom carrying her baby

mom capuchin carry her baby

4) Zoos

There is a zoo in San Jose called Simon Volivar Parque Zoologico you can visit if you are in the area.   The zoo is small in size which you can see everything in about an hour.  The animals are kept in small enclosures.  Costa Rica is filled with many parks and wonderful forest to see nature so we really recommend you take advantage of this to see our animals.

 Monkey facts

Did you know that the Spider & Squirrel monkeys are part of the New World primates which have tails, but if you look closer a spider monkey doesn’t have thumbs only 4 fingers.  The spider monkeys have a low reproductive rate producing 1 baby every 2-4 years.  The Spider monkeys can live in the wild about 25 years and seem to be all arms & legs, and tail of course.

Our smallest Squirrel monkey was added to the endangered list in 1982.  They are very hard to find in the country if you’re lucky you may have a chance in the southern region.   Females average in weight of about 1.5 lbs and males weighing about 2 lbs.

These species of Capuchins can weigh about 6lbs to  8 lbs.  Mother’s take care of their babies for the first few years.  You can often see the female carrying the baby on her back.

Monkeys are very territorial and will mark their territory with their urine.

The howlers are like the king of the jungle here.  Big black and loud!  You may not see them but you certainly can hear them from far away.  A female howler can weight about 12 lbs and males about 16 lbs.  Did you know howlers were once worshiped by Mayans for their beauty.  They live in groups with only a few males and all the rest females.  Howlers have short snouts but a keen sense of smell.  Their tails give them an added limb to help maneuver through the trees.

howler monkey

a howler sitting in the tree

What do monkeys eat?

Bananas of course!  But natural ones from the trees are best.  They really eat a variety of insects, fruits, roots & herbs.  Monkeys are omnivores.  What’s an omnivore?  Well to answer that question it’s an animal that eats food of plant and animal origin.  Sometimes monkeys might eat bird eggs too.   If you see them in the trees picking at the bark they may be looking for bugs to snack on.

Monkeys you may not see

It’s very possible you may not see a squirrel or spider monkey or even perhaps a howler on your vacation.  This is mainly due to deforestation and hunting.  As our population grows we tend to destroy some of their habitats such as forests so we can use the trees for furniture & houses as well as the land for agriculture to grow our crops.

When is the best time to go?

Early morning is the best time to visit our parks.  They usually open at 8am.  When you talk with tourists one of their must do’s besides zip lining is see the monkeys.  To have a truly authentic experience visiting them in their natural habitat is best.  The babies are usually very curious and often you can have your picture taken with one.  Tourists love the opportunity for this unique monkey encounter on vacations.  During heavy rains don’t expect to see them.  They like to hide during this time just like humans.

One of the most memorable times you’ll have on vacation in Costa Rica is seeing the monkeys.  We’ve had many people request  to head back into the forest for another fun encounter.  These tours are authentic your not going to a zoo which gives tourist a real perspective.  Costa Rica has many animals that are protected in sanctuaries throughout the country.


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