11 Spectacular Snakes in Costa Rica: A Casual Guide for the Curious Explorer

Last updated on August 31, 2023
snakes in costa rica

¡Hola amigos! Living in Costa Rica, with its luscious rainforests, dense mangroves, and mesmerizing highlands, has been nothing short of an adventure. Among the myriad wonders to be discovered here, I’ve developed a peculiar interest in its snakes. That’s right! Snakes – slithery, sometimes scary, but ever so fascinating.

Costa Rica is home to approximately 139 snake species, and while some can give you a bit more than just a fright, many are absolutely harmless and, dare I say, charming. Here are 11 that you might encounter on your Costa Rican escapade:

1. Fer-de-lance (Bothrops asper):

One of the most infamous in Central America, this viper is responsible for more snakebite cases than any other in the region. They can grow up to 2.5 meters and are recognized by their triangular heads and distinctive patterning. Though dangerous, they’re integral for controlling rodent populations. So, respect from a distance!

2. Eyelash Palm Pitviper (Bothriechis schlegelii):

I mean, come on, who wouldn’t be intrigued by a snake with ‘eyelashes’? This petite, tree-loving serpent sports elevated scales above its eyes that look like eyelashes. With vibrant colors ranging from green to pink, they’re as mesmerizing as they are elusive.

3. Boa Constrictor (Boa constrictor):

An iconic species, these powerful non-venomous snakes constrict their prey. If you’re lucky, you might spot one relaxing on a tree branch or slithering in the underbrush. And while they can reach sizes that may give the faint-hearted a pause, they’re generally calm when unprovoked.

4. Coral Snake (Micrurus species):

“Red on yellow, kill a fellow; red on black, friend of Jack.” This rhyme speaks to the vibrant bands on this venomous snake. While beautiful, be cautious. Their potent neurotoxic venom is a defense mechanism, so avoid close encounters.

5. Vine Snake (Oxybelis fulgidus):

Incredibly slender and usually green, this arboreal species can sometimes be seen mimicking vines as they hang from branches. They might have a ‘mean mug’ with their pointy snout, but these guys are generally harmless to us.

6. Terciopelo (Bothrops asper):

Also known as the Fer-de-lance, this viper has quite the reputation. It’s deemed responsible for most venomous snakebites in its range. However, when left undisturbed, they’d rather go about their business than pick a fight.

7. Bushmaster (Lachesis muta):

The name says it all. This is the longest viper in the Americas and the world’s second-longest venomous snake. Its cryptic coloration makes it a master of disguise in leafy surroundings, but trust me, spotting one is a treat (from a safe distance, of course!).

8. Central American Rattlesnake (Crotalus simus):

Ah, the good ol’ rattlesnake! Characterized by the rattle on its tail, this snake sends chills down many spines. But did you know its rattle is a defense mechanism to warn potential threats? Respectful distance is the name of the game.

9. Mesoamerican Python (Loxocemus bicolor):

It’s a bit of a misnomer since it’s not a true python. This snake is the sole species in its family, making it unique. If you happen upon one, consider yourself amidst a rare Costa Rican moment!

10. Parrot Snake (Leptophis ahaetulla):

With large eyes and an elongated head, these green beauties prefer habitats close to water. Their penchant for munching on amphibians earns them a top spot in the eco-chain of Costa Rican waterholes.

11. Sea Snakes:

While not a single species, Costa Rica’s Pacific coast harbors a variety of these aquatic serpents. Though they possess potent venom, encounters with humans are minimal. Spotting them is a testament to the aquatic diversity this country boasts.

Closing Thoughts:

From the lofty trees of the rainforest to the hidden crannies of the dry forest, from the freshwater streams to the salty Pacific, Costa Rica’s snake diversity is a testament to the country’s natural wealth. While some snakes warrant a wide berth, many are just trying to live their slithery lives and play a crucial role in the ecosystem.

If you’re planning on exploring, always remember: appreciate from a distance, tread carefully, and ensure you’re equipped with knowledge. It makes the journey richer and safer.

Until next time, ¡Pura Vida!