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Types of forests you can experience in Costa Rica

It isn’t a coincidence that Costa Rica is the greenest country on earth, because by itself, it represents 6% of the world’s biodiversity, and its national parks & reserves occupy 25% of the whole territory; which makes the Ticos and Ticas fervent protectors of the country’s biodiversity. These national parks and reserves are home to not only an amazing fauna, impressive volcanoes, but also a very rich breathtaking flora. This wonderful flora is a beautiful blend of different verdant lush forests.

In this sense, there are 6 types of forests found in the country. Let’s take a look at them !

Tropical Rainforests

The tropical rainforests are mostly found in the southwest (eg. Osa peninsula) and the lowland Atlantic (eg. Tortuguero) regions. These forests receive more than 5000 mm of rain yearly, which is a good thing for the country’s climate and ecosystem. So, it’s no wonder why they are called «rainforests». They house huge trees, many plants and animal species. Visitors can see mammals, birds, amphibians, fish and reptiles.

During a hike, people can certainly hear the reverberation of the monkeys’ howling and the singing of different birds. However, big felines like jaguars and pumas are not seen very often in the rainforests, but they are there.

Besides hiking and observing birds, tourists can do rafting, zip-lining and horseback riding in the tropical rainforests.

Cloud Forests

There are specific reasons why they are called «cloud». First, it’s because they are blanked in clouds, which is actually some kind of fog caused by condensed water vapor. Another reason is, when walking through the forest, damp air can be felt.

The cloud forests can be found across the country in the high slopes of the local volcanoes and mountains. They are in protected areas, like the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve, Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, and the Los Angeles Cloud Forest Reserve. The biodiversity of a cloud forest is not as numerous as that of a rainforest, but many animals found in it are found nowhere else in the world. The Monteverde Reserve is home to all the 6 species of big cats.

Visitors can of course hike, observe birds, do zip-lining and canopy tours in these forests.

Tropical dry forests

Dry doesn’t mean that there is no precipitation. It simply means that these forest receive much less precipitation than the rainforests and cloud forests. The tropical dry forests are found in the lower elevations on the North Pacific coast of Costa Rica, in Guanacaste.

Like the other forests, dry forests are part of the country's national parks. Rincon de la Vieja National Park, Guanacaste National Park, Santa Rosa National Park and Palo Verde National Park are holders of dry forests.

Another particularity that differentiates tropical dry forests from the others is that they are less dense. Thus, it is easier to spot the diverse wildlife living there (monkeys, birds, felines, scorpions, reptiles).

Concerning activities, visitors can hike, observe birds, do kayaking and horseback riding.


Mangroves are found along the Pacific Coast (Guanacaste & Puntarenas). This type of forest is a unique ecosystem of marshes including a group of specific plants mainly woody, developing only in the area of tidal sway, called foreshore.

Even though there isn't much diversity in the extreme conditions of Costa Rica’s mangroves, they serve as a nesting site for birds and also houses marine life. Other creatures that can be found are snakes, monkeys, bats, iguanas, and in the waters, there are crabs, lobsters, shrimps, etc.

Activities like bird watching and canoeing can be done in this type of forest.

Lowland rainforests

The lowland rainforests are found in areas with an elevation of up to 1000 meters in Costa Rica. These areas receive heavy rainfalls but have warm temperatures consistently during the year.

These forests are home to a variety of life (pumas, birds, bats & tree frogs) and trees taller than those found in other forests. The environment is suitable for growth and reproduction throughout the whole year, to the benefit of local plant and animal species.

While visiting this type of forest, tourists can hike, do rafting and biking.

Riparian forests

Riparian Forests are located near rivers, streams and other bodies of flowing water. They are adjacent to the water, thus helping minimizing soil erosion and floods. The forest along the Rio Chirripo River (Heredia) is one example.

With the high humidity it generates, this type of forest is ideal for many land and water animals. Many of these animals have adapted to such environment and now need it to insure their survival. Several bird species call the riparian forest home, including hummingbirds.

Visitors can hike, do water activities and enjoy watching these animals.

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