There are 4,000 known species of insects in Costa Rica so it’s impossible to vacation here without running into one of them at one point or another. It’s just part of the nature and wildlife of Costa Rica which is a tropical country. I know a lot of people are scared of bugs but remember, it was their jungle first and they actually aren’t all too bad.
A lot of people ask me what the bugs situation is like in Costa Rica and here’s some of the insects and critters you may see.
Also keep in mind that it is not normal to see these bugs everyday all the time. Hotels, especially luxury hotels fumigate often and deep clean. Unless you plan to stay really in the rainforests or you’re staying in a cheap budget hostel/hotel, your hotel room won’t be overrun with bugs. In fact, some people visit Costa Rica and hardly see any of the “scary bugs.” It really depends on where you are going and where you’re staying.
Remember, when you are out in the forests, do not touch any trees, flowers, plants, shrubs or leaves. Always follow your guide and stay on the trail!
Arachnids and Insects in Costa Rica
Costa Rica has a lot of spiders including the common daddy long legs that frequent households. Another common spider you may see out in the forests is the Golden Silk Orb Weavers which are actually very cool! They make really big webs and have a pretty coloration. These spiders do get big in size and we have seen them catch a fully grown big grasshopper, it was fascinating to watch.
There are also tarantulas in Costa Rica. We have seen them on a night tour which was crazy. Our guide found them in their home, a hole in the dirt by the side of the trail and it was actually very chill. It did not mind us taking pictures of it or walking right in front of his house!
14 different species of scorpion live in Costa Rica and you need to watch out for these guys because if they sting you, it hurts. We have encountered quite a few of them in our house and I have been stung a few times. BUT don’t freak out – this is not normal. We live on a big forest property so it is more common for us.
If you see one, do not provoke it or get close as they will get aggressive. If you do get stung by a scorpion, they say to immediately wash the area with soap and water or if you have access, put some lime on it. If the area starts to swell, put a cold pack on it to keep the swelling down and to relieve the pain. The pain should subside within a hour or so. If it doesn’t and your symptoms start getting worse or you begin feeling other types of pain, you should see a doctor.
Millipedes and Centipedes
We occasionally see a dead rolled up one in our house or walking around outside especially during rainy season. I have seen them get really long, about the length of my hand!
I know they will release a venom if they bite you so I would avoid these at all costs. It’s painful and it will swell but it’s not life threatening to humans. However, it can cause severe allergic reactions that you need to look out for if you do get bit. They don’t attack people though and are harmless when left alone. They are very common in the rainy season.
It is impossible not to see any ants in Costa Rica but there is one ant that is fascinating: the leafcutter ant. They are common in all the rainforests and you’ll know it’s them when you see tiny pieces of leaves moving in a line on the forest floor. The leafcutter ants take these pieces back to their nest to feed a certain type of fungi that the ant eats. So cool!
One ant that you need to avoid at all costs is the big black one called Bullet Ants. These are more common in the thick rainforest areas such as Braulio Carillo National Park, Sarapiqui, Bijagua, Corcovado and those areas. They have an extremely painful bites.
These ones are usually the insects people are the most grossed out by. Cockroaches are fairly common here and they get big.
Mid to high end hotels do a fairly good job of fumigating so cockroaches shouldn’t be something normal to see. However, if you are staying in really cheap, budget places, you may see one. I saw dead cockroaches in our room when we stayed at Arenal Backpackers Resort.
When you come to Costa Rica, you will get bit. Mosquitoes are present all year round since Costa Rica is a tropical climate. Rainy season is the worst time for mosquitoes because they reproduce in stagnant water. Not only are their bites really annoying, but you can get several diseases from an infected mosquito such as dengue and zika. The only places that doesn’t really have mosquitoes are high elevation areas like Monteverde.
Dengue is a problem in Costa Rica so for your trip, make sure you bring plenty of repellent. You can read up on our favorite products to protect from mosquitoes. We’ve experimented with lots of products and give our verdict on each one.
Now here’s an insect that people love! You can see beautiful butterflies throughout the country since Costa Rica has around 1,500 species of butterflies. The best places are around Monteverde, the Central Valley and the South since you can see the famous Blue Morphos. The most fascinating one in my opinion is the Glasswinged butterfly, it has see through wings!
You can visit butterfly farms to learn more about these insects and their life cycle at La Paz and Monteverde.
If you’re really into insects, you have to take a night tour. We did a Monteverde night walk and saw a variety of insects and arachnids!
Here are some other critters and insects in Costa Rica we’ve seen. I don’t know the names to all of them but they are pretty cool!
If you want to learn more about them, we highly recommend taking a guided walk in Costa Rica. Your naturalist guide will share interesting facts about the creatures which will make you appreciate and respect them more.
More posts on wildlife in Costa Rica:
Here in drake bay at the moment. Spent the morning g fishing from the shoreline & got bitten to pieces by some sort of fly underneath a palmtree. Not sandflies or kissing beetles. Both myself & my wife have welts all over our legs that itch like crazy, spent the last 2hrs trying to identify them. I’ll squash every one that comes near me, just hope it’s not something serious . . . . .
Oh man yes there can be some very intense bugs at the beach, during sunset the gnats will come out and be pretty rough and they bite hard.
Well, this is exactly the reason that I am planning to move to Costa Rica because of it’s nature and hoping that I will encounter this creatures. Unfortunately, Covid makes the move slightly more difficult.
Hiya, I’m in Cr now ~our blog super helpful, the veggie food one especially! Not seen many insects yet, the usual spiders, ants, mozzieS, but usually I’d be worried about encountering lots of these, or scorpions, OMG! But I’m travelling to work with wildlife this time and the rich diversity of animals, cute, cuddly, insect or bitey will enrich this trip. All beautiful, all nature, and indeed, they were here first, so all respect ~ just please try not to munch on me too much!!!!!
Hi Claire, glad the blog has been helpful! We hope you have a great rest of your time in CR!
Carmen Everywhere says
They are not what you will call cute creatures. I liked the way you wrote posts about reptiles and insects. Not many travelers will write or even notice these bugs, except to squash them. If you look at them long enough you start to develop some empathy for them too… Goodness me!!
I am still not a fun of creepy crawlies…but thanks for the article!
As we’re planning our trip to Costa Rica, I’m constantly being directed back to your blog during my research, and I’m learning so much. You have a lot of knowledge and great resources, thanks! I was considering mosquito netting but read in your packing list post that we don’t really need one if we’re staying indoors. I do have a question though about bed bugs. Do you know if they are prevalent in the hotels? I would gladly deal with cockroaches if I didn’t have to deal with bed bugs (and that’s saying a lot!!!). 🙂
That’s so great! I’m glad the blog is helpful. In all our travels, I’ve only encountered bed bugs once and we were deep into the jungle (no road access, next to a national park). Other than that, we’ve never had any issues. Actually we’ve never really had to deal with any bugs at hotels at all, only hotels that are out in the middle of the nowhere in the jungle, you might get the occasional ant or mosquito fly in. So I wouldn’t worry about bed bugs too much 🙂
Ugh! I have been 95% ready to move to Costa Rica…but I hate creepy crawlies!!! Now, I’m rethinking this plan. I’m in Coco now and was planning to go back home, settle some affairs, and come back and stay for 6 months – 1 year or so. This site has been helpful in helping me to see the reality of life in CR, not just the fantasy of life in paradise. So thanks for that.
First, I have to say that I’m really glad that our blog has helped you see the reality of living in CR! Many people move thinking it’ll be paradise, drinking margheritas on the beach all day and things like that when it is actually not. But don’t let the bugs psych you out 🙂 Just make sure to fumigate your apartment a LOT, when we lived in Coco we always had cockroach infestations which was a complete nightmare.
How do you get rid of those pesky ants that climb up the walls at night? Never see them in the daytime…
Best way to get rid of bugs in the house is to fumigate. Ants always find some way to get in and it usually takes several fumigation to get them completely out
Anyone have any insect (spiders, scorpions,and others) encounters at Selvins cabinas in Punta Uva in Costa Rica?
Very interesting question Tenaya and probably the answer is yes 🙂 I don’t know this place but Costa Rica is full nature and insects are very common. But no worries most of the places in Costa Rica are very clean and they know how to keep dangerous insects away from the rooms.
Good luck !
Nice post. Helpful and well organized. Point of clarity though. Animals are only “poisonous” if eaten (ie Poison Dart Frogs are poisonous). Snakes, spiders, scorpions, et al are venomous. They inject venom into the victim. Easy way to remember the difference…..
poison is ingested.
venom is injected.
Thanks Miles! Good way to remember the two. Either way I would not like to be poisoned or injected with venom haha!
Gulp lol I absolutely frikkin am not going into the jungle and I hope non of you guys don’t there is an 88% – 99.7% chance of getting stung, bit or poisoned lol, I am definitely scared of going to costa rica and scorpions in the drawers and closets, jesus!!
Haha it is a jungle out there for sure. I never got used to the cockroaches in our house! But of all my encounters I’ve never been stung. Thank goodness!
So I am not a fan of spiders and scorpions, but we love to travel and are excited about the chance to visit the jaguar rescue. Should we skip this country or is my worry unfounded?
Don’t let the bugs take over! It’s no doubt you’ll run into one or another when you’re in Costa Rica but nothing you should be terribly concerned of. I’m no fan of spiders and scorpions and especially cockroaches but it didn’t deter me from moving there. Trust me 🙂
Nice post! I’m not looking forward to all the snakes, spiders and other critters when I move to Australia, that’s for sure! Being from England, we have no bugs that would kill us (unless you are allergic) so this will take some getting used to. I’m sure i’ll adjust.
I bet Australia has some pretty big creepy crawleys! You eventually get used to them, well not the poisonous ones though haha
Not gonna lie – creepy crawlers freak me out! My third night in Costa Rica I found a geico on my bed! It was small and eventually moved along but i thought, what else could be crawling under that thing? So I decided to take my beauty sleep elsewhere – on a hammock. I figured as long as my body wasn’t touching any walls or furniture nothing could eat at me while i slept!
haha be glad it was a gecko and not something else! I have been finding huge cockroaches in our bathroom lately. Yuck!!
Sand In My Suitcase says
Great nature post on the creepy crawlers of Costa Rica! We just wouldn’t want to see that Brazilian Wandering Spider…
Thanks guys 🙂 And me neither. Scaryyy!