It may sound like an exaggeration to say that Puerto Limon in Costa Rica offers some of the best wildlife excursions in the world. But it’s true.
The Limon province is home to an incredible variety of wildlife, including sloths, monkeys, manatees and turtles. Costa Rica is also a paradise for bird lovers. In fact, this country boasts twice as many bird species than can be found in the United States and Canada combined.
And these aren’t fuddy-duddy birds with dull gray feathers. No. These are some of the most colorful and stunning birds in the world. In the Limon area, you might, for example, catch sight of a violet-crowned woodnymph, cute toucans or magnificent scarlet macaws.
The only problem? If you’re a nature lover, you may have a hard time choosing between the many shore excursions available in the Limon province. This is one of Costa Rica’s most pristine and geographically diverse regions boasting mountains, beaches, wetlands and rainforests.
TORTUGUERO NATIONAL PARK
Do you adore turtles? Then you’ll definitely want to head over to this park, whose name literally translates to “Region of the Turtles”. It’s a nesting ground for leatherback, hawksbill, loggerhead turtles and the endangered green sea turtle.
One of the best times for turtle lovers to visit the park is between July and October, which is the nesting season for the green sea and hawksbill turtles. As for leatherback turtles, their nesting season occurs between February and April.
In addition to turtles, Tortuguero National Park is also teeming with other wildlife, including spider and howler monkeys, tapirs, jaguars, river otters, manatees and more than 300 species of birds. This park, in fact, was named number two on Travel & Leisure‘s list of “Best Places to Spot Wildlife in Costa Rica.” It ranked second only to Corcovado National Park.
This private 3,200-acre reserve is located in the coastal mountains and is home to several interesting attractions, including a butterfly garden, a reptile vivarium, a hummingbird garden and a frog exhibit.
It also boasts a zip-line tour and a sky-tram ride that will take you through the rainforest canopy. If you decide to take this excursion, make sure to keep an eye out for wild sloths and monkeys as well as the many bird species that live in the Veragua Rainforest.
GANDOCA-MANZANILLO WILDLIFE AND MARINE REFUGE
Lush tropical vegetation and secluded white sand beaches make Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge a little slice of heaven. This remote 12,300-acre refuge is also an excellent place to go for a guided hike. Just don’t be surprised if you should run into a few wild creatures along the way.
The Gandoca-Manzanillo Refuge is home to tapirs, sloths, agoutis and capuchin and howler monkeys.
Its waters are also home to coral reefs, so don’t forget to bring a snorkel and mask. Near or in the water, keep an eye out for crocodiles, manatees, sea turtles and spectacled caimans. And, of course, you’ll find a large variety of bird species in this refuge, as well.
CAHUITA NATIONAL PARK
No time to visit the well-known Manuel Antonio National Park? No problem.
Cahuita National Park, which provides excellent beaches and amazing wildlife encounters, offers a similar experience — possibly even a better one since it’s also home to a large coral reef and is far less crowded than Manuel Antonio National Park.
Not surprisingly, snorkeling is a very popular activity in Cahuita National Park. Its reef is home to clouds of colorful tropical fish and other sea creatures, such as stingrays, lobsters and turtles.
Hiking is another popular activity in this park. Make sure to keep an eye out for howler monkeys, white-nosed coatis, raccoons, sloths, paca, tamanduas, snakes and basilisk lizards — which have earned the nickname Jesus Christ lizard for their ability to run on water — as well as birds, such as toucans and green ibis.
Some shore excursions combine trips to a park with a visit to a sanctuary that specializes in rescuing wildlife. These sanctuaries are also an excellent option if you want to see wildlife, but have limited mobility or if you’re traveling with wee ones.
Two of the best known are:
Jaguar Rescue Center Foundation. This center is dedicated to rescuing orphaned and injured wildlife and then — whenever possible — releasing the rehabilitated creatures back into the wild. Typically, there will be between 130 to 200 animals living in the center on either a temporary or permanent basis. Approximately 50 percent of these creatures are mammals, with the rest being either birds or reptiles.
Sloth Sanctuary. It’s easy to fall in love with sloths. They always seem to be smiling and just seem so laid back. If you’re a fan of these creatures, you’ll definitely want to stop by the Sloth Sanctuary, where you can get a close look at these cuties and also learn more about them.