The wetlands of Costa Rica are some of the best areas to experience a variety of birds and wildlife, especially for those looking for a family or bird watching holiday to Costa Rica. Generally only accessible by boat, they are remote, unspoilt and above all, protected.  They allow for excellent observation of birds, monkeys, reptiles and more. Two of the most popular wetland areas are the national parks of Tortuguero and Caño Negro, however we can also take you to those lesser known such as the private ecological reserve of Rancho Humo in Guanacaste. 


  • Experience some of the best wildlife opportunities in Costa Rica
  • Explore the largest tropical wet forest in Costa Rica
  • Witness Atlantic Green Turtles coming ashore to nest in Tortuguero
  • Opportunity to see a number of migratory birds in Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge   


Whilst much of the time in Tortuguero is spent exploring the canals, rivers and lagoons by boat, John, our Costa Rica expert, recommends a visit to the beach. The coastline of Tortuguero might defy any preconceptions of a Caribbean beach.  It is a rugged and seemingly interminable strip of dark volcanic sand. Pounded by surf, littered with jungle detritus and fringed by thick forest, it is wild and beautiful.


Tortuguero National Park

Tortuguero is one of the most diverse and famous wetlands in Costa Rica. Tortuguero National Park incorporates dense rainforest, lagoons, brackish swamps and a network of meandering channels.  It is also home to over half of the bird and reptile species found in Costa Rica.

Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge

Located in the north-east of the country and only accessible by boat, is Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge. The wildlife here is exceptional.  Monkey, sloth, caiman, black river turtles and the wonderful Jesus Christ lizards can all be seen.  Birdlife is also plentiful with tiger herons, jaribou and ibis making it a favourite destination for Costa Rica bird watching holidays.   

Palo Verde National Park

Palo Verde National Park is an extraordinary region.  Covering over 45,000 acres, paradoxically it is both a spectacular wetland and one of the best examples of a tropical dry forest in the world.  The reason for its juxtaposition is due to the Tempisque River that floods in what is a relatively arid environment.  Although a haven for aquatic and migratory birds, due to the low rainfall, the tropical dry forest provides a different habitat for other wildlife.

Rancho Humo Private Ecological Reserve

Located in Guanacaste the plains of Rancho Humo are naturally flooded each rainy season, only partially drying out during the summer.  While much of the region has been drained to provide cattle grazing for farmers, Rancho Humo has worked tirelessly to restore the balance and provides a fantastic private wetlands experience.  Set over 2640 acres of including parts of Palo Verde National Park, Rancho Humo is at the heart of an important conservation area.  Jaribou, storks, spoonbills, herons and cormorants are just some examples of the varied birdlife that can be observed here.


Tortuguero, in Spanish, means “seller of turtles”. Turtles used to be harvested by local communities for sale to pirates and early mariners as a live, fresh meat supply. It was only in the 1950s that the green turtle was recognised to be heading for extinction and attitudes to the creature slowly began to change. Communities that once contributed to the dramatic drop in numbers now protect the turtle and, to a degree, rely on their survival for income.


This depends to a degree on which park is visited. The Caribbean side has a different weather pattern to the Pacific. The driest months in Tortuguero are February to June.  There is another short dry season in September and October.   The nesting season for green turtles is July to October on the Caribbean coast.   On the Pacific side, the official dry season is between January and April.

Holiday Ideas in Costa Rica

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