Costa Rica Ecoregions

Costa Rica Ecoregions

Caribbean Lowlands

The Caribbean Lowlands includes the Caribbean Coast, in this region the rainfall goes over 4000 mm (200″), the landscape is very plain, wide near Nicaragua and narrow toward the southern part bordering Panama, this region is characterized by the richest ecosystem of the world, the rainforest (tropical humid forest), and the major number of birds of the country. The prevailing flora in the Tortuguero plain and most of the coast is evergreen swamp forest and a great part of the forest floor is underwater most of the year. In the west of this region the dry season is more notorious, where a big portion of the lowlands of the Frio river or Guatuso is flooded during rainy season and dries by the dry season. Caño Negro wetland, a 4 km lake forms by the rain and contracts into the bed of Frio river, the cattle activity, rice, cacao and sugar canne  fields are very common in that area.The Sarapiquí river and nearby is another highlight to this part of the country, considered as the most accesible rainforest of the world and the capital of birds in Costa Rica. In the south Caribbean there are 2 large lowland valleys, La Estrella and Talamanca, still inhabited by indigenous communities. The coastal hills of this region are home of one of the biggest raptor smigration in the world and the biggest migration of peregrine falcons. Home of some of the top national parks and protected rainforest including Tortuguero, Caño Negro, the Arenal Volcano, La Selva Biological Station, Maquenque, Cahuita, Kekoldi and the lower parts of Braulio Carrillo and La Amistad, the Caribbean lowlands host more than 500 species of birds. This is must during a Costa Rica holiday.

Rainforest in Sarapiqui Costa Rica

Rainforest by the banks of the Sarapiqui River

The Highlands

The highlands are a group of  4 mountain ranges, considered the backbone of Costa Rica, from Northwest to southwest. The northern part of the highlands is the Guanacaste mountain range formed by 4 volcanoes (Orosi, Rincon de la Vieja, Miravalles and tenorio), south is located the Tilaran mountain rainge, near the Arenal Volcano and its dam lake; the Central Volcanic range with the Poas, Barva, Irazu and Turrialba volcanoes, and finally the Talamanca mountain range, home of the highest mountain in Costa Rica, Chirripo peak 3820 m above the sea (12532 ft). The cloudforest makes of this eco-region a very special place for endemic species in areas such as Monteverde and San Gerardo de Dota. The cloudfores is the shelter and home to one of the most beautiful birds of the world, the Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno), which is in the hot list of all the birdwatchers as beginners as experts and nature lovers as well. In the center of the highlands is located the Central plateau, divided into 2 intermountain valleys, the Occidental central valley on the pacific slope and the Guarco on the oriental side. The mayor part of the Costa Rica population inhabit the Central plateau in the main cities of San Jose, Heredia and Alajuela. In the highlands it is possible to find some of the most visited national parks of the country, including the Poas volcano, Irazu Volcano, and also many other important protected areas, rich in birds and other wildlife such as the Braulio Carrillo National Park, Tapanti, Los Quetzales national park, La Amistad national park, Turrialba volcano, Chirripo national park and Guayabo national monument. San Gerardo de Dota, Monteverde and some of the volcanoes are at least some of the must areas to visit in the “backbone” of the country.

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Panoramic view in the highlands of the Talamanca mountain range

The Central and Southern Pacific Lowlands

The pacific side is composed by two lowlands: The Dry Northwest and the Central and Southern Pacific Lowlands, very different in weather and wildlife. The Central and Souther Pacific Lowlands hosts some of the most important remnants of virgin rainforest (tropical humid forest) in Central America, by first sight the rainforest of the south is similar to the one from the Caribbean Lowlands , but with a deep sight it is easy to notice the great variability of flora and fauna between both eco-regions. The limit with the Dry northwest Lowlands is the Carara national park  and the Turrubares hills, home of the Scarlet macaw. In the Osa Peninsula is located Corcovado national park, the most intense places in terms of biodiversity of the planet according to National Geographic. The peninsula is also an endemism area for birds, plants and other wildlife. Besides Corcovado and Carara, there are some other important protected areas and birding and wildlife hotspots in the area including Manuel Antonio National Park, Ballena Marine National Park, Cano Island biological reserve, Piedras Blancas and Tarcoles river.

Crocodiles in Tarcoles River

Crocodiles in the Tarcoles river

The Dry Northwest Lowlands

The North Pacific of is the driest side of Casta Rica and the last part of the Mesoamerican dry forest. The dry season last over 6 months. In the surroundings of the Nicoya Gulf and basins of Bebedero and Tempisque rivers, the lands is plain, broken in some areas by limestone hills. The natural flora of the region is mainly deciduous forest (most of trees and shrubs lost the leaves in dry season), in the bottom of the rivers the forest is evergreen. This region is popular for it’s beaches, also for the water birds including the mystical rare and endangered Jabiru, also the wetlands and mangrove areas of Palo Verde National Park, La Ensenada Wildlife Refuge and Hacienda Solimar, where the wildlife is only meters of the visitor.

dry forest wetland costa rica

Storks, egrets and other water birds in La Ensenada Wildlife Refuge

Tours visiting the Costa Rica 4 ecoregions:

Costa Rica’s Birding Hotspots

Costa Rica Wildlife