There are few animals more iconic or well-loved than monkeys. From their playful personalities to cute faces, it’s easy to see why monkey-watching often tops travelers’ list, and, luckily, Costa Rica provides a great opportunity to do just that. Here’s a little information on the various monkeys that call Costa Rica home, as well as the best places to see them:
A common fixture around Costa Rica’s national parks, the White-Headed Capuchin is one of the most iconic monkeys around. The second smallest of the Costa Rican monkeys, it is found in almost all areas of the country, and is known for its high level of intelligence (second only to the Spider Monkey in the New World). Keep an eye out for the White-Headed Capuchin around Manuel Antonio National Park, as troops often hang out near the beach. Beware of your things, however, as they have been known to raid the bags of unsuspecting visitors!
Be prepared to hear this monkey before you see it! Famous for its loud call, which can be heard for miles, the Mantled Howler is the second largest monkey in Costa Rica, and one of the most commonly seen. Making its home in forests of all kinds around the country, it can often be spotted in the trees consuming leaves. Look for it around Manuel Antonio, and don’t be surprised if you hear a loud call coming through the trees at dawn and dusk- it’s just the Mantled Howler saying hello!
Central American Squirrel Monkey:
Arguably Manuel Antonio’s most famous resident, the Central American Squirrel Monkey is an awesome animal to see! The smallest of the Costa Rican monkeys, it is only found in Manuel Antonio and Corovado National Park, and is broken up into two subspecies (the subspecies in the Manuel Antonio area has a lighter-colored cap on its head than the Southern Pacific Costa Rica/Northern Panama subspecies). Due to its endangered status, conservation efforts have been underway to preserve the species, and provide a safe habitat for troops in the area. While it is not always as easy to see in Manuel Antonio National Park as the White-Headed Capuchin or Mantled Howler, it is the most commonly seen species of monkey here at MidWorld, often making appearances on our early morning tours!
Geoffroy’s Spider Monkey:
The endangered Geoffroy’s Spider Monkey is one of the largest, and the most intelligent, of the New World species of monkeys. Known for its treetop acrobatics, the Spider Monkey does not have a thumb; instead, it relies on its hooked-shaped hands and prehensile tail to propel it through the treetops. It is found in various, localized areas of the country, such as Ricón de la Vieja, Monteverde, and Tortuguero. The most common area to see the Spider Monkey is Corcovado National Park, which is the only area in Costa Rica that offers the ability to spot all 4 Costa Rican species of monkey.
Links to local organizations dedicated to the conservation of Costa Rican monkey species: