What wildlife can I see in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica?

Covering almost half of the Osa Peninsula in the south of Costa Rica, Corcovado encompasses the only original tropical rainforest on the Pacific coast of Central America.

Established in 1975, Corcovado’s varied forest types, coastal waters, rivers and lagoons host around half of the country’s animal species. Famously, it’s been dubbed ‘the most biologically intense place on Earth’. It is wet, rugged and remote, but the intrepid wildlife-lover will be well rewarded.

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Scarlet macaw, Ara macao

Scarlet Macaws in Costa Rica @ Jim Cumming
Scarlet Macaws in Costa Rica. @ Jim Cumming

Corcovado is home to Costa Rica’s largest population of this vibrant parrot. Many roost in coastal mangroves then fly into interior forests at dawn to feed. Listen for harsh screeches and squawks in the canopy, and gaze up to spot its bright red and blue plumage. 

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Baird’s tapir, Tapirus bairdii

Baird's tapir in Corcovado National Park @ Matteo Colombo/Getty
Baird’s tapir in Corcovado National Park. @ Matteo Colombo/Getty

Possibly 200–300 of this endangered tapir snuffle the forests of Corcovado. This, often solitary, herbivore grows up to 250kg and communicates via shrill whistles. Head onto one of the park’s trails at dawn or dusk for the best chance of spotting this tapir.

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Other highlights

Red-backed squirrel monkey @ Kryssia Campos/Getty
Red-backed squirrel monkey @ Kryssia Campos/Getty
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Keep an eye out for groups of red-backed squirrel monkeys, Saimiri oerstedii, scampering through the canopy. There are also around 370 bird species here, including the huge (but rarely spotted) harpy eagle, Harpia harpyja. Green turtles, Chelonia mydas, visit the shore to nest between July and October.

Key facts

  • Land: 425km2
  • Sea: 33.5km2
  • Annual mountain rainfall: 5,500mm

When to go

The dry season (December to April) is the most comfotable time to visit. The forests remain lush into the new year – this is when most scarlet macaws breed.

Go there with

Sunset in Corcovado National Park @ Arctic Images/Getty