The Secret To Seeing All Four Monkey Species In Costa Rica
Let’s face it: we all love monkeys. We’re fascinated by them. We freak out when we see them in the wild. We love to watch them in movies. If you disagree, just check out these 31 Reasons Why Monkeys Are The Best Animals On Earth. See? Monkeys are the best.
Southern Costa Rica’s wildlife draws the best granola-loving, eco-friendly, animal enthusiasts from all corners of the world. Tucked within the Southern Zone you’ll find the Osa Peninsula, which is home to half of all the species in Costa Rica–making this area not only one of the most diverse parts of the country, but also the only part where you can see all four of Costa Rica’s native monkey species!
Costa Rica’s Four Native Monkey Species
The Squirrel Monkey
Photo via Tambako The Jaguar
Locally known as the “Mono Titi,” the Squirrel Monkey is the smallest of the Costa Rican primates–growing only to about 10 inches, with a whopping 10-inch long tail used for balance.
This species is Central America’s most endangered monkey. Within the past 50 years alone, the squirrel monkey population has declined from 200,000 to less than 5,000. This is believed to be the result of deforestation, hunting, and the pet trade.
Squirrel monkeys stick together in groups as big as 500. They certainly aren’t bashful. You might find these little creatures playful swinging from branch to branch on the beaches of Southern Costa Rica.
The White-Headed Capuchin Monkey
Photo via Amanda
These monkeys are named for the way their white faces contrast with their brown bodies. They are small, weighing at most 9 pounds. Yet don’t underestimate these creatures by their size. They are considered the most intelligent of the New World monkeys.
The White-Headed Capuchin live in groups exceeding 20. They have been recorded showing off their wits by using tools and weapons, and rubbing medicinal plants over their body as self-treatment. In the past, these remarkable monkeys have even been trained to support paraplegic persons. They live long, happy lives–with the oldest recorded Capuchin living until the ripe old age of 54.
The Howler Monkey
Photo via Anita Gould
I don’t think it’s too hard to know what these guys are named for. The Howler Monkey takes the prize as one of the world’s loudest animals. Their throaty howls can be heard up to three miles away.
Dusk and dawn are the prime times to hear their not-so-beautiful song echoing through the forest. One of the reasons they are so vocal has to do with their eating habits. Believe it or not, these giant primates munch primarily on leaves. Older leaves aren’t as nutritious as newer ones, and when you’re as a big as a Howler, every calorie counts. When they find a bunch of new leaves, they let their best holler out to let the other monkeys know that this belongs to them.
There are nine different species of howler monkeys. Costa Rica is home to the Common Mantled Howler.
Howler monkeys are among the largest of the primates, growing to be up to 39 inches tall! They are a bit lazy, spending nearly 80% of their time just lounging around.
The Spider Monkey
Photo via B Mlry
Perhaps the most elusive of the Costa Rican bunch, the endangered Spider Monkey is the most difficult one to see in the wild. Scientists debate on whether there are four or five distinct types of spider monkeys, but the most common in Costa Rica is the black-handed Spider Monkey.
Their name gives way to their appearance, which is resemblant of a spider in the way their long tail looks next to their lanky limbs. In the wild, they live up to 22 years and grow between 14 and 24 inches. They weigh in around 13 pounds, with a firm gripping tail. Spider Monkeys don’t actually have thumbs, but they use their strong tails to grip tightly to the branches and move through the jungle with ease.
Where To See Them
While we can’t promise you’ll see these monkeys on your trip to Costa Rica (Mother Nature likes to be unpredictable), we can give you suggestions as to where you will be most likely to spot all four of Costa Rica’s monkeys:
The Southern Zone
Costa Rica’s Southern Zone is the only area in the country where all four monkeys can be found. Choosing to visit this area of Costa Rica means you are far more likely to get a glimpse of these creatures in the wild. Whether it be on a guided tour through a National Park, or simply hearing the scream of a howler monkey during a hike, each of the following locations are located in Southern Costa Rica to give you the best chance of experiencing Costa Rica’s monkeys:
The Osa Peninsula
The Osa Peninsula is home to some of Costa Rica’s most untouched jungle and is dense with biodiversity. While guided tours and National Parks will certainly lend to irreplaceable wildlife encounters, the Osa is so rich in wildlife it is possible to see animals during everyday activities. I can recall a few times that squirrel monkeys were frolicking right outside my cabina window.
The Corcovado National Park
The Corcovado National Park is located on the Osa Peninsula and is one of the only national parks where you can see all four monkey species.
Animal Sanctuaries are a great way to witness animals up close in a way that benefits them. By visiting Animal Sanctuaries, you can empower their work as they invest into the rehabilitation of these animals.
The Osa Wildlife Sanctuary: located in the Osa Peninsula
Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary: located in Dominical
Witnessing these incredible creatures in the wild is a special experience that all should have at least once. Visiting Southern Costa Rica will give you the best chance of seeing these creatures for yourself!