The Six Diverse Forests of Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a rugged, rainforested Central American country with coastlines on the Caribbean and Pacific. It is known for its beaches, volcanoes, and biodiversity. Roughly a quarter of its area is made up of protected jungle, teeming with wildlife.

While Costa Rica’s total land mass may not be impressive, the amount of different species that occupy that small area is certainly impressive. Those species live in the many different types of forests in Costa Rica; many of which are part of a National Park, reserve or refuge.

Tropical Rainforests

Rainforests are filled with huge trees and receive large amounts of precipitation. A canopy is creating by the towering trees of the rainforest, which blocks the penetration of sunlight and limits the amount of vegetation on the ground of the forest. Rainforests are mostly known for the vast numbers of species that live within them. You will often hear monkeys howling and birds singing in the canopy of trees, while frog’s voices fill the air closer to the ground. Sloths, snakes and bats also call the rainforest home. Not often seen in the rainforest are larger cats, like jaguars and pumas.

Cloud Forests

The cloud forests of Costa Rica are in protect areas, like the Monteverde Biological Reserve, Santa Elena Reserve and the Los Angeles Reserve. These forests get their name because they are blanketed in clouds. The environment of clouds is formed as a result of the air cooling as it is pushed up the mountain slopes; what appears as clouds or fog is actually condensed water vapor. The biodiversity within a cloud forest is highly endemic. The range of species varies throughout each reserve; the Monteverde houses all six species of big cats, while the Santa Elena houses the spider monkey.

Tropical Dry Forests

As the name implies, the tropical dry forests receive much less precipitation than the rainforests and cloud forests. The tropical dry forests are located in lower elevations on the North Pacific coast of Costa Rica. The national parks that are made up of dry forests include Guanacaste, Rincon de la Vieja, Santa Rosa and Palo Verde. Monkeys, birds and cats can be found here, along with some truly stunning trees and flowers. Visitors can also spot scorpions, snakes and lizards on the ground.


The Mangroves are found along the Pacific coast. This unique ecosystem is formed where salt and freshwater meet, transitioning from dry to wet forests. Costa Rica has seven species of mangrove trees, and the roots of the trees lie above the water, appearing to prop the trees up. These trees help stabilize the area against the tide and storm surges, and the root system also offers protection from predators for the local wildlife.

Lowland Rainforests

The lowland rainforests can be found in areas with an elevation of up to 1,000 meters. These area experience high rainfall and have warm temperatures consistently throughout the year. The forest’s trees help create a layered ecosystem that supports niche micro environments, adding to the diversity that can live there. The lowland forests are filled with many creatures, including pumas, birds, bats and tree frogs. Besides the exotic wildlife, there are also many plants and waterways to discover.

Riparian Forests

Riparian Forests can be found near river, streams and other bodies of flowing water, therefore they are prone to flooding. The forest along the Rio Chirripo is one example of a riparian forest in Costa Rica. With moisture and high humidity, this habitat is ideal for many land and water animals, many of which have adapted to and now require this unique environment. Many bird species call the riparian forest home, including hummingbirds.