Costa Rica is a country famous for it's abundant monkey population. Of 250 species of primates in the world, 68 of these species are located in the Americas, and there are four kinds of monkeys native to Costa Rica:
1) Mantled Howler Monkey
2) White-faced Capuchin Monkey
3) Central American Squirrel Monkey
4) Geoffroy's Spider Monkey
The Southern Pacific Zone is the only section of Costa Rica in which you can see all four monkey species in the wild. The only national park where all four species exist together is the Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula.
All of the Costa Rican monkeys are active during the day and live in the treetops. You can observe them munching on fruit, leaves and insects, and swinging between the trees using their prehensile tail like a fifth limb. My husband Andy and I have been lucky in our travels across Costa Rica, and we have witnessed all four monkey species in the wild.
1 - THE MANTLED HOWLER MONKEY
The booming roar of a howler monkey can be heard from over 3 miles away and is the reason this monkey was gifted it's name. Howling loudly at dusk and dawn, the males call to each other across the jungle, to claim their section and warn others away. Known for being the loudest land animal, the chilling sound of a howler monkey is startling and I will never forget the first time I heard it.
Here is a video I took of one howling:
Howler monkey howling in Samara, Costa Rica
Howlers are the 2nd largest monkey species in Costa Rica. Adult males average 16 pounds and adult females 12 pounds. Despite their booming howl and large size, they are known to be a gentle breed with a calm, peaceful nature about them.
Infants are silver to golden brown and in adulthood become black with brown or blonde saddles. Howler monkeys are sedentary foragers and live on a diet of plants and fruit.
*fun fact!*: the call of the howler monkey was used in Jurassic Park as the sound of the T-Rex.
2 - WHITE-FACED CAPUCHIN MONKEY
The white-faced capuchin monkey is the 2nd smallest monkey species in Costa Rica. Adult males average just over 8 pounds and females around 6. Known to be the most curious monkey, they will get down on low branches to carefully examine you as you photograph them. But watch out, they may throw a stick or two at you when you're not looking, as they are known to be one of the more aggressive monkey species.
Capuchin monkeys will eat absolutely anything and are notorious for robbing tourists. One friend of ours had her M & M's stolen from her purse, by a capuchin monkey, while she swam in the ocean. And another friend of ours was nearly attacked by one as he ran up her legs to grab her granola bar from her hand.
We have come across the capuchin monkeys quite a few times in the wild, but the most memorable experience was the time we stumbled onto some accidental white-faced monkey porn:
*fun fact!*: capuchin monkeys are thought to be the most intelligent monkey species in the world and have even been trained to assist paraplegics.
3 - CENTRAL AMERICAN SQUIRREL MONKEY
The smallest of the Costa Rican monkey species is the adorable squirrel monkey. They typically average around 1.5 pounds and are similar in size to a squirrel. These tiny guys will eat mostly anything but prefer insects. Very entertaining to watch, they fly through the trees and forage for food, while squeaking, chirping and playing amongst each other.
Here is an entertaining video I took of them flying through the trees in our yard:
Squirrel monkeys in Costa Rica: MONKEY CROSSING!
The squirrel monkey, aka the Titi monkey, is making a comeback after near extinction, and is no longer considered "endangered". As their population continues to grow they have been upgraded to "vulnerable" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
*fun fact!*: squirrel monkeys are known to have the largest brain to body mass ratio of all monkey species in the world.
4 - GEOFFROY'S SPIDER MONKEY
The spider monkey is the largest of the Costa Rican monkey species, averaging around 18 pounds. They are easily recognized by their long, slim arms and large size. A bit more elusive than the other monkey species, they are somewhat rare to spot in the wild.
The IUCN has rated the Geoffroy's Spider monkey as endangered. Spider monkeys are the first animal to vanish from an area once deforestation has occurred, as they require large, lush areas to reproduce. The presence of a spider monkey in a particular forest is a strong indicator of the success and health of that particular area.
*fun fact!*: spider monkeys do not have thumbs, they maneuver through the trees using only their prehensile tail and their arms.
But of all of our monkey sightings in Costa Rica, there is nothing quite like getting lost in the pure, innocent eyes of a baby monkey. Seeing a monkey baby is always my favorite experience.
How many monkey species did you see on your trip to Costa Rica? Which one is your favorite? Tell us in the comments!
Kari Pinkerton Silcox
It would be a tragedy to die, having never really lived. Which is why my husband Andy and I quit our jobs, sold our house and decided to chase our dreams. We moved to Costa Rica without a plan, and this is the story of our adventure.