Costa Rica is one of those countries all nature lovers want to visit. In such small country (14 times smaller than the state of Texas, 4 times smaller than Kansas, and twice smaller than Maine), there are 440 species of herps known to date. It is the most bio-diverse country on Earth in relation with its tiny surface.

Herp lovers find very good conditions to search for herps around the country, as all the touristic infrastructure is made to please such nature lovers with all kind of accommodation and food, immersed into the most wild and protected areas.

As a professional herpetologist and photo enthusiast, I have traveled Latin America exhaustively, and few places match some places in Costa Rica for the abundance of possibilities and quality of species to see.

Herein I will explain about some nice herps you can see herping in the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. Next I will show the Pacific region.

Snakes

These are always the most difficult herps to find… but there are some easy targets. In any nocturnal walk in most of Costa Rica we are going to see probably at least some septentrional cat eyed snake Leptodeira septentrionalis and the blunt headed snake Imantodes cenchoa; in appropriate times (better in dry season) the fer de lance Bothrops asper is also abundant. But of course I always try to go to the best areas and expect more than normal and common species. I look especially for vipers and the main target is the eyelash viper Bothriechis schlegelii, which in the Caribbean side comes in many different colors, being the most attractive the yellow phase. These can be abundant in some places. Also pink, white and lichen phases are easy to spot. But there are other species that can be seen like the hognose viper Porthidium nasutum, and we will explore two areas for one of the target species, the Caribbean bushmaster Lachesis stenophrys.

CR Imantodes cenchoa
CR Bothrops asper
RC Bothriechis schlegelii
RC Porthidium nasutum
CR Lachesis stenophrys

CR Holding Lachesis

Some other snakes we can see are coral snakes (Micrurus mosquitensis, M. alleni), vine forest snakes (Oxybelis brevirostris), large colubrids like Chironius grandisquamis, Spilotes pullatus or Phrynonax poecilonotus; false corals (Erythrolamprus bizona, E. mimus, Rhinobotrium bovalli, Lampropeltis abnorma, etc), tree boas (Corallus annulatus), Boa constrictor (Boa imperator).
CR Micrurus mosquitensis
CR Oxybelis brevirostris

CR Phrynonax poecilonotus

CR Corallus annulatus
CR Boa imperator

Turtles

Rivers and ponds on the Caribbean side of the country are home of different turtles like the black wood turtle (Rhinoclemmys funerea) and the most beautiful relative the Forest wood turtle Rhinoclemmys annulata. Also is possible to find three mud turtles, one widespread along all Neotropics, Kinosternon scorpioides, another along Central America, K. leucostomum, and a nearly Costa Rican endemic, a jackpot: K. angustipons. Big rivers and lagoons also harbor populations of sliders (Trachemys emoli) and the Neotropical snapping turtle (Chelydra acutirostris).

CR Rhinoclemmys funerea
CR Rhinoclemys annulata
CR Chelydra acutirostris

Lizards and caimans

Some of the most conspicuous lizards we are going to see everywhere are the huge Green iguanas (Iguana iguana), that can be found in rainforest, gallery forest or even in the gardens of some of our lodges. The same is valid for one of the most beautiful lizards ever, the magnificent emerald basilisk (Basiliscus plumifrons), which fortunately is very common along rivers. With some luck we can see them running over the water. A slow relative is the forest dweller helmet lizard Corytophanes cristatus.

Walking along paths in forest we can easily see different species of anoles, most brownish, of which the most amazing is the giant anole Dactyloa microtus. Also some skinks and brown leaf litter citizens, not amazing. But sometimes you have the fortune to see one of the most astonishing lizards of Central America, a real jewel, the coral scorpion Diploglossus monotropis! In appropriate rivers and lagoons also is possible to spot spectacled caimans (Caiman fuscus), especially along River Sarapiquí. With more luck is also probable to see some American crocodiles.

CR Iguana iguana
CR Basiliscus plumifrons
CR Corytophanes cristatus
CR Diploglossus monotropis
CR Caiman fuscus
Doc Frog Expeditions © offer tailor made expeditions all over Costa Rica to look for the most amazing herps. Ask at cesarlba@yahoo.com, or check out their Facebook page.

César Barrio-Amorós is a Spanish anthropologist and herpetologist who live in Latin America since 1994. His first years in Venezuela model him as an enthusiastic explorer of the unknown, being one of the few herpetologists to work in the Tepui area (also known as the Lost World). He is a tireless explorer and already discovered 80 new species of amphibians and reptiles, of which described already 50 of them. As a photographer, he also looks to offer particular views of the interested species in their natural habitat. His scientific interest is conservation of endangered species and their habitats, and taxonomy of Dendrobatidae, Terrarana and Viperidae. Some of his papers can be seen here and some of his photos here.

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Doc Frog Expeditions