From sloths to rainforests, Costa Rica is well-known for its biodiversity. The country features 12 different ecosystems, with thousands of different plants and animals. Even though the country continues to develop and expand its cities and population, Costa Rica continues to prioritize protecting the natural world. So far, Costa Rica is the only tropical country in the world that has reversed the effects of deforestation. Within the many diverse ecosystems, some surprising plants and animals hide in plain sight.
The biodiversity of Costa Rica is astounding. In a few hours, one can travel from the mountains to a beach to a rainforest or a city. Green is a popular color in the natural world, but that doesn’t stop pinks, purples, blues and reds from popping in around Arenal Volcano.
Leafcutter ants work all over Costa Rica, including Carara National Park. These tiny workers can carry up to 20 times their weight and each one serves an important function. Leafcutter ants carry parts of leaves back to their nest, where they harvest the fungus from them. Some roles include foraging, defending the nest and their queen and caring for the youngest ants.
The hike down to La Fortuna waterfall is worth every step. Surrounded by a canopy of lush, green trees, the waterfall is aptly named “The Fortune.”
High up in the mountains around the Central Valley, cows graze underneath the warm Sun
Hikers are rewarded from the many flights of stairs at La Fortuna with a swimming hole at the bottom of the waterfall. Moss and vines creep along the slick rocks and the cool spray creates a magical world below the tree canopy.
Bats sleep peacefully underneath the refuge of leaves in a buffer zone. They chew the ends of the leaves to bend them to protect them as they rest. Buffer zones provide important habitats for the flora and fauna in Costa Rica that are caught between protected forests and cities.
While zip-lining and bunging jumping are two popular activities for tourists in Costa Rica, riding a gondola lift above a forest canopy is one of the least-intrusive ways to enjoy the country. Ecotourism is a major source of revenue for Costa Rica, and the added strain on resources requires creative solutions so tourists can enjoy the natural beauty without harming it.
A crocodile (or cocodrilo) basks in the Sun beside the Rio Tarcoles. Although it looks like she’s smiling for the camera, this female crocodile has her mouth opened to help keep cool, as crocodiles cannot sweat.
Delicate white mushrooms cover a fallen tree in Carara National Park. The natural rejuvenation of the forest continues after the years of work reforesting and protecting this ecosystem.
Playa Azul is a beach for the crocodiles. Surrounding by mountain ridges and trees, the beach is a hidden gem in Costa Rica. Anyone can enjoy the beautiful landscape, but swimming is not allowed so as not to disturb the many crocodiles who call Playa Azul “home.”
Kaija Schlangen is a student at the University of Minnesota Duluth. She is an ISA Photo Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in San Jose, Costa Rica.