Discover the Splendor of Tamarindo Wildlife: A Journey Into Nature’s Paradise

Welcome to the vibrant and lush landscapes of Tamarindo, a tropical paradise known for its glorious beaches, great surfing and laid back Pura Vida vibe. When staying in Tamarindo, you’ll come across some exotic wildlife; from the playful calls of howler monkeys to the majestic flight of scarlet macaws. As you settle into the comfort of your Tamarindo vacation rental, prepare to journey through Costa Rica’s wildlife scene up close and personal. 

Whether it’s encountering a local iguana on the street, or embarking on a day trip to one of Costa Rica’s gorgeous parks teeming with exotic wildlife, you’re promised a wildlife encounter like no other. So, let’s dive right in and see what Tamarindo’s wildlife has in store for you. 

Wildlife in Tamarindo

When exploring Tamarindo, expect to stumble across an array of wildlife. From hearing howler monkeys while swinging from the trees above, to seeing iguanas crossing the road or turtles on the beach, wildlife is a part of everyday life here in this coastal haven.

1. Howler Monkeys

Get to Know Them: Howler Monkeys are perhaps the most famous of the Tamarindo wildlife. Just like their name suggests, their distinctive calls (or howl) can be heard throughout the forests in Tamarindo. Their impressive deep and loud howl can be heard up to three miles away and are a common sight in the treetops of Tamarindo’s forests. Visitors often spot the howler monkeys lounging or moving leisurely through the canopy. 

They are primarily leaf-eaters, feasting on a variety of foliage, along with fruits and flowers, making them important agents in seed dispersal and the health of the tropical ecosystem. Characterized by their relaxed and laid-back demeanor, howler monkeys are usually not shy around humans, making them a favorite among wildlife enthusiasts. 

Where to Spot Them: They spend most of their time in the trees, so the ideal spot to catch a glimpse of these intriguing animals are in the forested areas around Tamarindo, especially near the national parks and protected reserves. Early morning or late afternoon, when they are most active, offers the best chances to witness them lounging or moving leisurely through the canopy.

Whether you’re taking a leisurely walk through the forests or staying in one of the serene Tamarindo vacation rentals nestled in the natural landscape, the sight and sound of howler monkeys contribute to a classic Tamarindo experience.

2. Crocodiles

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Get to Know Them: Crocodiles are another fascinating aspect of the rich Tamarindo wildlife, offering a glimpse into the prehistoric past of our planet. Known for their powerful bodies and formidable jaws, crocodiles in this region are often seen basking on riverbanks or silently gliding through the water. Their diet mainly consists of fish, birds, and occasionally larger mammals, showcasing their role as apex predators in their natural habitat. 

Where to Spot Them: While spotting a crocodile is not a daily event, it is possible to see an American crocodile sunbathing at the edge of the Tamarindo estuary from time to time.

Despite their fearsome reputation, crocodiles in Tamarindo are generally reclusive and prefer to avoid human interaction, making guided tours a safe way to observe these majestic creatures.

These American crocodiles prefer fresh water, or water that is less salty, so you will rarely find them outside of Tamarindo’s estuary. Boat tours along these estuaries provide a safe and respectful way to observe crocodiles in their natural environment, often allowing visitors to get quite close without disturbing them.

3. Brown Pelicans

Brown Pelicans bird

Get to Know Them: There are few things as mesmerizing as watching pelicans expertly dive into the ocean to catch their meal, with a gorgeous Costa Rican sun set in the background. These large seabirds, easily recognizable by their long beaks and large throat pouches, are often seen gliding low over the water or perched along the shoreline. 

Known for their spectacular diving technique, they plunge into the water to catch fish, their primary diet. Brown pelicans are also social birds, typically found in groups, and their presence adds a lively and dynamic aspect to the beaches and coastal waters of Tamarindo.Where to Spot Them: Brown pelicans are a common sight along the coastline of Tamarindo. Visitors to Tamarindo are most likely to encounter many brown pelicans along the beaches, estuaries, and fishing areas, where these birds congregate in search of food. Early morning or late afternoon, when the fish are abundant and the light is perfect for photography, is the ideal time to see them in action.

4. Iguanas/Ctenosuras

Iguanas in Tamarindo wild park

Get to Know Them: Iguanas/Ctenosaurs (commonly referred to as Spiny-tailed Iguanas) are a common and intriguing sight in Tamarindo, adding to the exotic charm of the area. Iguanas in Tamarindo are primarily herbivorous, feeding on leaves, flowers, and fruits, which makes them important for the dispersal of seeds and maintaining the balance of the local flora. Ctenosaurs, while also herbivorous, can be more omnivorous, sometimes eating insects and small animals. Their diet reflects their adaptability to the diverse habitats of the region.

Where to Spot Them: You won’t be walking the streets of Tamarindo for long before an iguana or ctenosuras passes you by. These reptiles, known for their distinctive spiny backs and agile movements, are often found lounging in the sun on tree branches, rocks, or even rooftops. 

They are particularly visible in areas with abundant vegetation, such as gardens, parks, and near the beaches. The warmth of the sun often draws them out, making daytime the best period for sightings. Iguanas and Ctenosaurs are generally docile and unobtrusive, allowing for close observation without disturbance. 

Their presence around Tamarindo vacation rentals and public spaces offers a unique opportunity to witness these creatures in their natural habitat, contributing to the authentic and natural experience of staying in this beautiful Costa Rican town. 


Get to Know Them: Tamarindo is renowned for its sea turtles, offering visitors a unique opportunity to witness these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. The most notable among them are the Leatherback turtles, the largest of all living turtles, known for their impressive size and distinctive leathery shell. These gentle giants come ashore to lay their eggs, a spectacular natural event that draws visitors from around the world. 

The Olive Ridley turtles are also commonly seen in this region. They are smaller but equally fascinating, known for their synchronized nesting in large numbers, a phenomenon known as “arribadas.” These nesting events are crucial for the survival of these species and are a highlight for wildlife enthusiasts visiting Tamarindo.

Where to Spot Them: The best time to see these turtles in Tamarindo is during the nesting season, which typically runs from October to March for Leatherbacks and from July to November for Olive Ridleys. Turtles can be seen on beaches in and around Tamarindo, although the likelihood and frequency of sightings can vary. 

The Las Baulas National Marine Park, just north of Tamarindo, is the prime location for turtle watching, especially during the night when these creatures come ashore to nest. Guided tours are available, offering an educational and respectful way to observe these turtles. 

Day Trip to Nearby Parks

While Tamarindo has amazing wildlife wandering its streets, beaches and forests, we understand you might be craving some more creature encounters. Take a day trip to one of Costa Rica’s many beautiful national parks. Tamarindo is conveniently located near several wildlife and national parks that offer visitors the opportunity to explore and encounter a variety of flora and fauna. Here are some notable parks near Tamarindo:

  1. Las Baulas National Marine Park: This park runs straight through Tamarindo. You can access the park from Playa Grande or by crossing the Tamarindo-Playa Grande estuary by panga boat/ferry. This park is famous for being a nesting ground for the endangered Leatherback turtles. Apart from the turtle nesting season, the park also offers mangrove estuaries that are home to various bird species, howler monkeys, and other wildlife.
Photo Credit: ‘Howler monkeys, Rincon de La Vieja National Park’ by Gregoire Dubois via CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 DEED
  1. Rincón de la Vieja National Park: As it is located around a 3 hour drive from Tamarindo, this park would be perfect for a day trip or overnight stay. It is known for its active volcano, hot springs, waterfalls, and diverse wildlife, including monkeys, sloths, and a wide range of bird species. It’s great for hiking and witnessing the different ecosystems of Costa Rica.
  1. Palo Verde National Park: This park is a 2 hour drive from Tamarindo and is famous for its wetlands. It is truly a birdwatcher’s paradise with hundreds of bird species calling it home, including herons, storks, and ibises. It is also a great place to see crocodiles, monkeys, and other wildlife.
  1. Santa Rosa National Park: One of the oldest national parks in Costa Rica, Santa Rosa is known for its historical significance and rich biodiversity. Located a 2.5 hour drive away from Tamarindo, this gorgeous park offers pristine beaches, tropical forests, and a variety of fauna like deer, monkeys, and numerous bird species.
  1. Diria National Park: Only a 1.5 hour drive from Tamarindo, the Diria National Park is lesser-known but equally enchanting as the ones listed above. This park offers a more secluded experience and is characterized by its dry tropical forest. It is home to a variety of wildlife, including howler monkeys, armadillos, and a multitude of bird species. There are also some great hiking trails in Diria National Park.

Tamarindo’s Wildlife Awaits

The rich tapestry of Tamarindo wildlife, from the majestic Leatherback turtles to the echoing calls of Howler Monkeys, reveals a paradise for nature lovers and adventurers alike. Each encounter with the local fauna is a reminder of the beauty and diversity of this coastal haven. Whether you’re exploring the depths of national parks or simply enjoying the view from your Tamarindo vacation rental, the memories of this wildlife haven will stay with you long after your visit.