COSTA RICA: Highlights | Slideshow | Topics | Wildlife

Costa Rica Travel Pictures

All images are the property of Rhett Butler, copyright 1996-2001. Contact me regarding use and reproduction.

With its rain forest, wildlife. and beaches, Costa Rica is one of the world's leading ecotourism destinations. Today the Central American country draws more than 1 million foreign tourists per year who spend an estimated $1.3 billion. This makes tourism one of Costa Rica's most important industries.

Costa Rica's rainforests: a status report written in the late 1990s
Travel guides on Costa Rica
2008 trip | 2009 trip


Amphibians, Animals, Arachnids, Arenal, Arthropods, Beaches, Birds, Butterflies and moths, Crocodiles, Flora, Flowers, Frogs and toads, Hacienda Baru, Herps, Insects, Invertebrates, Las Cruces, Lizards, Mammals, Manuel Antonio, Monkeys, Osa Peninsula, Rainforest, Rainforests, Reptiles, Scenery, Sea turtles, Wildlife, and More topics.


Lizard seen from the underside of a leaf

Green insect with polka dots

Moth on the underside of a leaf caught by the sun
Moth on the underside of a leaf caught by the sun

Banana flowers and red banana fruit

Red frog

Mottled forest frog

The Green Basilisk (Basiliscus plumifrons) is found on the Atlantic slope of Costa Rica
The Green Basilisk (Basiliscus plumifrons) is found on the Atlantic slope of Costa Rica

Red ginger


Yellow and black swallowtail butterfly

Baby caiman
Baby caiman

Orange and yellow heliconia

Pale-throated Three-toed Sloth (Bradypus tridactylus)
Pale-throated Three-toed Sloth (Bradypus tridactylus)

Green Poison Arrow Frog (Dendrobates auratus) with a tadpole on its back
Green Poison Arrow Frog (Dendrobates auratus) with a tadpole on its back

Blue morpho with its wings closed

Isabella's Heliconian (Eueides isabella)

Isabella's Tiger (Eueides isabella) in the Costa Rican forest


Baby kinkajou
Baby kinkajou

Giant brown beetle with off-white markings

Common chunk headed snake - Imantodes cenchoa

Baby sea turtle on a Costa Rican beach

Red-Eyed Tree Frog

American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) with its mouth open

Sunset in Dominical

Bee approaching a bird-of-paradise flower

Red-tailed squirrel (Sciurus granatensis) feeding on a flower in Costa Rica

Ginger plant
Ginger plant

Group of White-nosed Coati
Group of White-nosed Coati

Red passion vine flower
Red passion vine flower

Rainforest leaves
Rainforest leaves

Glass Frog, Costa Rica

Male Anole, Costa Rica

Scale-crested Pygmy-tyrant (Lophotriccus pileatus)

Tiger Longwing (Heliconius hecale)

Short-tailed Nighthawk (Lurocalis semitorquatus)

Transparent moth

White-faced capuchin

Lizard, Costa Rica

Fiery Billed Aracari, Costa Rica

Male Iguana, Costa Rica

Squirrel Monkey, Costa Rica

Green insect with polka dots

Leaf in the rainforest of Costa Rica

Strangler fig

Costa Rican rainforest in the late afternoon

Black honeybee

Sunset in the Costa Rican rainforest of the Osa Peninsula
Sunset in the Costa Rican rainforest of the Osa Peninsula

Long-legged spider
Long-legged spider

Red orange flowers

Green Honeycreeper Chlorophanes spiza, being assessed by researchers

Red and yellow heliconia

Salmon-bellied Snake (Mastigodryas melanolomus)
Salmon-bellied Snake (Mastigodryas melanolomus)


Orange, yellow, and white flower

White-faced Capuchin (Cebus capucinus)

White-faced Capuchin

Red and green arrow poison frog (Dendrobates granuliferus)

Leaf-cutter ants
Leaf-cutter ants

Pair of Rufous Motmot (Baryphthengus martii) following a column of army ants
Pair of Rufous Motmot (Baryphthengus martii) following a column of army ants

Red hibiscus
Red hibiscus

Sunset over the Pacific as seen through the Osa peninsula rainforest
Sunset over the Pacific as seen through the Osa peninsula rainforest

Black-headed trogon (Trogon melanocephalus)
Black-headed trogon (Trogon melanocephalus)

Stick insect
Stick insect


Skipper Butterfly of the Astraptes fulgerator complex in Costa Rica

Green Poison Dart Frog, Costa Rica

Gladiator tree frog (Hyla rosenbergi)
Gladiator tree frog (Hyla rosenbergi)

Brown katydid

Sleeping blue morpho butterfly

Hatchling Olive ridley sea turtle headed out to sea

Corteza Amarilla (Tabebuia ochracea)
Corteza Amarilla (Tabebuia ochracea)

Giant bamboo
Giant bamboo

Magenta ginger flowers
Magenta ginger flowers

Hanging birdges canopy walkway
Hanging birdges canopy walkway

Hatchling Olive ridley sea turtle headed out to sea

Red-Eyed Tree Frog

Multicolored leafhopper insect
Multicolored leafhopper insect

Spiny black, white, and orange caterpillar

Manuel Antonio National Park

Osa peninsula forest
Osa peninsula forest

Blue, yellow, and orange insect
Blue, yellow, and orange insect

Croaking frog
Croaking frog

Alien insects next to their red eggs
Alien insects next to their red eggs

Strange insect with red and yellow wings
Strange insect with red and yellow wings

Colorful grasshopper

Agouti (Dasyprocta punctata)

Anole on a red plant stem

Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) in flight over crashing surf
Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) in flight over crashing surf


Ochre-headed Flycatcher, Myiagra cervinicauda

Little Hermit (Phaethornis longuemareus)

Black wing-tipped dragonfly

Postman Butterfly, Heliconius erato

Praying mantis

Spiny caterpillar

Looking up the trunk of a giant Ceiba tree

Sea turtle hatchlings

Sea turtle hatchlings

Beach at Manuel Antonio National Park

Recommended travel guides on Costa Rica:

Recent news on Costa Rica:

Can shade-grown cocoa help conserve sloths?

(04/22/2015) Tropical forests support the greatest diversity of species in the world, yet we are rapidly destroying them. Most deforestation in the tropics is due to agricultural development and livestock production, the two greatest causes of declines in terrestrial biodiversity. However, one strategy that has been gaining attention for its potential to preserve biodiversity is shade-grown agriculture.

Rainforest loss increased in the 2000s, concludes new analysis

(02/25/2015) Loss of tropical forests accelerated roughly 60 percent during the 2000s, argues a paper published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The findings contradict previous research suggesting that deforestation slowed since the 1990s. The study is based on a map of 1990 forest cover developed last year by Do-Hyung Kim and colleagues from the University of Maryland. The map, which includes 34 countries that contain 80 percent of the world's tropical forests, enabled the researchers to establish a consistent baseline for tracking forest cover change across regions and countries over time.

Suspects acquitted in shocking murder of sea turtle conservationist

(01/27/2015) Yesterday, the seven men accused of brutally murdering Jairo Mora Sandoval on a beach in Costa Rica two years ago were acquitted of the crime. Sandoval's murder shocked the Central American country—long known for the progressive protection of its lush rainforests and sweeping beaches—but the judge who acquitted the accused cited reasonable doubt and a investigation marred by mistakes.

Scientists rediscover Critically Endangered streamside frog in Costa Rica

(12/26/2014) In the past 20 years, amphibian species around the world have experienced rapid decline due to climate change, disease, invasive species, habitat loss and degradation. Populations have decreased by approximately 40 percent with nearly 200 species thought to have gone extinct since 1980. However, despite these discouraging statistics, new research efforts are turning up lost populations of some vanished frogs.

Initiative to restore 50M acres of degraded Latin American ecosystems by 2020

(12/07/2014) A coalition of governments and organizations today pledged to restore 20 million hectares (50 million acres) of degraded forests and ecosystems across Latin America by 2020 under an initiative that aims to curb boost rural incomes, fight climate change, and increase agricultural production. The effort is backed by $365 million from five impact investors.

The 90 Percent Diet: reducing our environmental impact by eating less meat

(08/07/2014) In Brian Machovina’s life, a serendipitous influence of people and places have all contributed to his current passion for inspiring people to eat less meat. With fewer grazing animals, Machovina’s studies show that we could make better conservation and production choices with land that would otherwise be used to raise or feed livestock.

Olinguito, tinkerbell, and a dragon: meet the top 10 new species of 2013

(05/22/2014) Out of around 18,000 new species described and named last year, scientists have highlighted ten in an effort to raise awareness about the imperiled biodiversity around us. Each species—from a teddy-bear-like carnivore in the Andes to a microbe that survives clean rooms where spaceships are built—stands out from the crowd for one reason or another.

The matrix matters: scientists find surprising biodiversity between forests

(05/20/2014) In human-dominated countryside areas, forests are often fragmented and scattered among a matrix of developments such as plantations and pastures. Scientists have long overlooked the habitat value of these matrices. However, according to a recent study published in Nature, the biodiversity of altered countryside areas that exist between islands of fragmented forests can be significant and deserving of conservation attention.

City lights threaten rainforests by deterring bats

(04/09/2014) Fruit-eating bats play an important role in forest regeneration, collecting and spreading seeds far and wide. However, human development may be stymying bat-mediated dispersal. In a new study, researchers found that fruit bats avoid feeding in light-polluted areas, which may significantly affect forest growth.

Sloths, moths and algae: a surprising partnership sheds light on a mystery

(03/22/2014) While it spends the majority of its time in the safety of tree canopies, the three-toed sloth regularly places itself in mortal danger by descending to the forest floor to defecate. For years, scientists have been trying to figure out what is driving this peculiar and risky behavior. Now, Jonathan Pauli from the University of Wisconsin-Madison believes his team of researchers has found an important clue to this mystery involving an unusual and beneficial relationship among sloths, moths and algae.

Leftover trees enhance the biodiversity of new forests

(03/18/2014) Trees left standing after deforestation have a discernible impact on the composition of local biodiversity in secondary growth forests, according to a new study published in PLOS ONE. Researchers working on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica discovered that remnant trees could affect species composition of regenerated forests up to 20 years after being logged.

Ecotourism pays: study finds lower poverty where nature-based tourism is prevalent

(02/25/2014) A new study has quantified a point long advocated by advocates of setting aside protected areas: ecotourism pays. The research, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), finds that communities neighboring conservation areas in Costa Rica had lower rates of poverty relative to other areas.

Bromeliads may actually protect fruit trees from pest damage

(01/22/2014) Imagine a plant. Now remove the soil, for it’s not essential. In fact, an estimated one-tenth of all plant species have liberated themselves from soil and evolved into epiphytes — plants that grow on other plants.

Tree islands more effective way to replant the world's forests

(01/09/2014) Worldwide, large swaths of land lay barren in the wake of agricultural expansion, and as global forest cover continues to decline, carbon and water cycles, biodiversity, and human health are impacted. But efforts to restore abandoned pastures and agricultural plots back into functioning forest ecosystems are often hindered by high costs and time requirements. Fortunately, scientists have developed a new method for a more cost effective solution to forest restoration, the establishment of 'tree islands.'

Top 10 HAPPY environmental stories of 2013

(12/19/2013) China begins to tackle pollution, carbon emissions: As China's environmental crisis worsens, the government has begun to unveil a series of new initiatives to curb record pollution and cut greenhouse emissions. The world's largest consumer of coal, China's growth in emissions is finally slowing and some experts believe the nation's emissions could peak within the decade. If China's emissions begin to fall, so too could the world's.

Camera traps find less mammals than expected in Costa Rican corridor

(12/16/2013) A new study using camera traps in's open-access journal Tropical Conservation Science has surveyed the diversity of medium and large-sized predators in the San Juan-La Selva biological corridor in Costa Rica, whilst also demonstrating how alteration of habitat is affecting the use of this corridor.

Big data shows tropical mammals on the decline

(12/12/2013) The world's largest remote camera trap initiative—monitoring 275 species in 17 protected areas—is getting some big data assistance from Hewlett-Packard (HP). To date, the monitoring program known as the Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring (TEAM) Network has taken over 1.5 million photos of animals in 14 tropical countries, but conservationists have struggled with how to quickly evaluate the flood of data.

Top 10 Environmental Stories of 2013

(12/10/2013) 1. Carbon concentrations hit 400ppm while the IPCC sets global carbon budget: For the first time since our appearance on Earth, carbon concentrations in the atmosphere hit 400 parts per million. The last time concentrations were this high for a sustained period was 4-5 million years ago when temperatures were 10 degrees Celsius higher. Meanwhile, in the slow-moving effort to curb carbon emissions, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) crafted a global carbon budget showing that most of the world's fossil fuel reserves must be left untouched if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Satellites reveal browning mountain forests

(11/22/2013) In a dramatic response to global warming, tropical forests in the high elevation areas of five continents have been "browning" since the 1990s. They have been steadily losing foliage, and showing less photosynthetic activity. Scientists analyzed the forest cover by using satellites to measure sunlight bouncing off the surface of the earth, then determining the different surface types via reflection patterns.

Longline fisheries in Costa Rica hook tens of thousands of sea turtles every year

(11/14/2013) Hundreds of kilometers of commercial fishing lines slither along coastal waters in Costa Rica, hooking thousands of mahi-mahi and many other marketable fish. But when scientists scrutinized fishermen’s catch, they were shocked by the staggering number of sea turtles accidentally snagged on the lines.

Fishermen get crafty to circumvent shark fin ban

(11/10/2013) Authorities in Costa Rica have identified a new method used by fishermen to circumvent a ban on killing sharks for their fins. According to an INTERPOL alert, fishermen are now leaving a band of skin to keep the fin attached to the spine when they kill sharks. This approach takes advantage of an apparent loophole in regulations governing the shark fin trade.

Thought-to-be-extinct 'halloween' frog rediscovered in Costa Rica

(11/04/2013) A breeding population of a critically endangered harlequin toad thought to be extinct in Costa Rica has been discovered in a tract of highland forest in the Central American country, reports a paper published in Amphibia-Reptilia. Atelopus varius, an orange-and-black harlequin toad, was once relatively common from central Costa Rica to western Panama. But beginning in the 1980's the species experienced a rapid population collapse across most of its range.

Nature tours in Costa Rica: an economic alternative to palm oil?

(10/16/2013) Oil palm plantations have been rapidly expanding across the tropics for the better part of the past twenty years due to high returns from palm oil production. But palm oil isn't necessarily the most profitable form of land use in wildlife-rich areas, as one conservation entrepreneur is demonstrating in Costa Rica.David Lando Ramirez, a landowner in Sarapiqui, northeastern Costa Rica, has converted a small patch of oil palm into a thriving ecotourism business centered around people's love of the Central American nation's stunning diversity of birds.

Climate change pushing tropical trees upslope 'exactly as predicted'

(09/27/2013) Tropical tree communities are moving up mountainsides to cooler habitats as temperatures rise, a new study in Global Change Biology has found. By examining the tree species present in ten one-hectare plots at various intervals over a decade, researchers found that the proportion of lowland species increased in the plots at higher elevations. The study, which was undertaken in Volcan Barva, Costa Rica, adds to a growing body of evidence that climate change is having an impact on species range distributions.

Preserving forest, birds boosts coffee profit up to $300/ha by controlling pests

(09/11/2013) Birds are providing a valuable ecosystem service on coffee plantations in Costa Rica, finds a new study that quantifies the pest control benefits of preserving tree cover in agricultural areas. The study, published in the journal Ecology Letters, looked at the impact of the coffee berry borer beetle (Hypothenemus hampeii) on coffee yields. The beetle is the only insect that directly consumes coffee berries, making it a major scourge for coffee farmers around the world, costing producers some $500 million a year.

New tiny insect named after Peter Pan fairy discovered in Central America

(08/16/2013) A new genus of fairyfly has been discovered in Costa Rica. The new species aptly named Tinkerbella nana after the fairy in J.M. Barrie’s play ‘Peter Pan’ is one of the smallest winged insects in the neotropics. Found in both temperate and tropical climates, the fairyfly is not actually a fly as its name suggests, but instead is more closely related to wasps – being classed within the superfamily Chalcidoidea, or the “chalcid wasps”.

Deforestation ban working in Costa Rica

(08/05/2013) Costa Rica's ban on clearing of "mature" forests appears to be effective in encouraging agricultural expansion on non-forest lands, finds a study published today in the journal Environmental Research Letters. The study, which was led by Matthew Fagan of Columbia University, found that since Costa Rica implemented its ban on conversion of mature forests in 1996, the annual rate of old-growth forest loss dropped 40 percent despite an agricultural boom in the region. The results suggest that Costa Rica is intensifying agricultural production while simultaneously sparing forests.

Suspects arrested in Costa Rican sea turtle conservationist's murder

(08/03/2013) Eight suspects were arrested during early-morning raids Wednesday in the murder of Costa Rican sea turtle conservationist Jairo Mora.

Scientists build app to automatically identify species based on their calls

(07/16/2013) New technology makes it possible to automatically identify species by their vocalizations. The platform, detailed in the current issue of the journal PeerJ, has been used at sites in Puerto Rico and Costa Rica to identify frogs, insects, birds, and monkeys. Many of the animals identified by the system are typically difficult to spot in their natural environment, but audio recordings of their calls reveal not only their presence but also their activity patterns.

Conservationists urge Costa Rica to maintain environmental leadership

(06/30/2013) A body representing hundreds of biologists and conservation scientists has urged the government of Costa Rica not to jeopardize its reputation as an environmental leader by allowing carve-outs from protected areas for industrial development. In a declaration issued Thursday at the conclusion its 50th annual meeting, the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC), applauded Costa Rica's pathbreaking efforts to integrate environmental protection into its national development strategy. But the group warned that proposed projects that would require de-gazetting of national parks for energy projects could undermine Costa Rica's green credentials.


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    Copyright Rhett Butler 1994-2012

    Pictures were taken by Rhett A. Butler, copyright 1996-2009. While these photos are the property of, it may be permissible to use them for non-commercial purposes (like powerpoint presentations and school projects), provided that the images are not altered in any form. Please read this for more details. If you are interested in using an image in a publication please contact me. is a free resource.