You don’t have to trek to Manuel Antonio or Corcovado National Park, both of which are difficult to reach, to see Costa Rica monkeys. There’s an easier way. I spotted three monkey species on a recent trip to this beautiful country, all in one easily accessible location! Read on to find out where.
The EASIEST place to spot Costa Rica Monkeys
Don’t listen to the tour books. Instead of making the trip down to rural southern Costa Rica to spot monkeys, spend the afternoon at Palo Verde National Park in the Nicoya Pennisula. This national park is just a 30 minute drive from Liberia and charges a $10 USD entrance fee.
I saw monkeys playing, climbing, swinging, and sleeping. I had monkeys jump on my car and pose for photographs. Palo Verde was monkey-mania! But that’s not all, because of the park’s ecological diversity, it’s also one of the best birdwatching sights in the country!
4 Species of Costa Rica Monkeys
I spotted three of the four species of Costa Rica monkeys at Palo Verde National Park: Howler, Spider and White-faced Capuchin. That beind said, if you’re hankering to see a squirrel monkey, your best bet is to travel to southern Costa Rica. But there are no guaruntees.
Like their name suggests, howler monkeys can really roar! Their screeches can be heard from miles away and seem to echo through the jungle. This is how they communicate to other monkeys in the area. The first time I heard this monkey’s famous howl, I thought it sounded like a lion!
Howlers are the most common monkey species in Costa Rica. When you spot one, you can bet there are a dozen more nearby. These Costa Rica monkeys travel in troops and spend the majority of their time sleeping in the trees. Search for them in the late afternoon, snoozing high in the canopy.
Lengthy, brown spider monkeys are the largest monkeys you’ll find in Costa Rica. They are famously limber, with a powerful tail functioning as a fifth appendage. Watching them swing through the treetops at Palo Verde was a glorious sight!
Spider monkeys are currently on the endangered species list, so be sure to give them some space. Please don’t be one of those tourists that feeds them. Human interaction is never good for wild creatures. Be respectful when viewing all monkeys in Costa Rica. Click here to learn more about how to be a better traveler in Costa Rica.
The White-faced Capuchin are the smartest (and cutest) monkey species in Costa Rica. They are, no doubt, also the most popular with tourists. Perhaps this is because of their famous movie appearances, such as Indiana Jones, Ace Ventura, and (my favorite) Ross’s pet on the TV show Friends.
Capuchins are playful and perhaps too clever for their own good. Watch out, they’ve been known to stowaway in your car!
When I visited Palo Verde, the capuchins were very intrigued by my presence. They even followed me and put on a show! I assume this is because other tourists have fed them in the past. Sorry, buddy, I’m not going to do that.
These little monkeys chased each other up and down the trees and dared to come closer and closer to me. It’s difficult to resist these curious creatures, but after watching them for a few minutes, I walked away feeling elated and very special.
The small squirrel monkey is only located along the southern pacific coast of Costa Rica, so you won’t be able to see any at Palo Verde National Park. This Costa Rica monkey is the most endangered, with an estimated population of less than 3,000 remaining due to deforestation. If you are eager to see a squirrel monkey, try booking a tour at Manual Antonio National Park, but there are no guarantees. Good luck!
Quick Tips for Monkey Spotting at Palo Verde
- Scan the tree tops. Howler monkeys love to sleep. Look for dark, furry lumps high in the trees. Their deafening howl is also a dead giveaway that monkeys are present, but often the sound can be deceiving. They know how to throw their voices.
- Stay quiet and move slow. Stand still if you can for long periods of time. The animals hiding from you may emerge.
- Watch for movement in tree clearings. Often Costa Rica monkeys will hide from humans in the treetops. Try to be quiet when you enter a new area of the forest. If you see a clearing in the tree canopy, stay still for several minutes and watch for movement. Have your binoculars ready!
- Drive slow through Palo Verde. Monkeys will dart if they see a car approaching. If you catch sight of one, pull over and turn off the engine. They might feel comfortable enough (or curious enough) to re-emerge after a few minutes.
- Go early. The most active time for wildlife in Costa Rica is early in the morning.
- Wait for the rain to stop. During the wet season, many animals will hide during a downpour. If you wait for the rain to break, you might see a lot of wildlife come out to play!
- Have patience. As with any wildlife spotting, there are no guarantees. Keep trying!
I have since seen monkeys many times on my travels. A few places include I’ve seen them include: Thailand, India, Mexico, Indonesia, and Taiwan. But, honestly, the monkeys in Costa Rica are my favorite!