A Few Good Zoos in Costa Rica

Things to Do — By Sophia LaMonica on June 28, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Three-toed sloth in achiote and cacao trees at the Lizard King Resort, Puerto Viejo

Zoos in Costa Rica, are for the most part, colorful sanctuaries alive and brimming with the exotic creatures that populate most nooks and crannies of the country. The aim here is rescue, rehabilitation, and release for injured and orphaned wildlife, where all kinds of animals hope to get to go for the support and care they need to survive. If you have a chance to visit one of Costa Rica’s “zoos,” it will no doubt deepen your appreciation of each of the species that you encounter, so without further ado, here are a few good zoos in Costa Rica:

1)    Zoo Ave

Pronounced “zuave” (ave is bird in Spanish),  Zoo Ave is indeed is a smooth place to get an eyeful of birds, and so much more. Green and scarlet macaws, the elusive quetzals, and several species of toucans are treats on display for bird-watchers, who are bound to end up with a camera full of beautiful bird photos. This animal sanctuary is also home to large iguana, monkeys, deer, and even a 12-ft. crocodile. Zoo Ave is a privately owned property that houses only injured, donated, or confiscated animals. The 40 acres of Zoo Ave is a lovely place to stroll amid bamboo trees and tropical flowers. A complete tour takes about two hours.

To get to Zoo Ave from San Jose, drive or take a bus to Alajuela, then head towards Atenas and get off at Zoo Ave before you get to La Garita.

admission $15, students with valid ID $13


Lizard King Resort's green iguana

2)    Hepetologica Refuge of Costa Rica

Snakes may be the sinewy stars of this refuge, and each tour starts with the most venomous of the species, but all kinds of reptiles, mammals, and birds that have been abused or abandoned are sheltered at this rescue and rehabilitation center. A team of animal professionals and passionate tour guides are led by biologist Rodolfo Vargas, who is dedicated to his dream of caring for the less fortunate creatures that come to his refuge from all over Costa Rica until they are ready to be set free again. All the usual suspects may be found at the Herpetologic Refuge of Costa Rica, from spider monkeys to sloths and of course, snakes. A short ride from San Jose, the refuge is located on the Old Road between Escazu and Santa Ana, in Alto de Las Palomas. Pick up a cool souvenir at the gift shop, souvenirs, like a T-shirt with Sobek the Croc on the front.

$4 for adults, $3 for kids under 12 and for seniors.


red-eyed tree frog

3)    Jaguar Rescue Center

In 2008 The Jaguar Rescue Center opened with the mission “not to be a zoo, but rather a rescue and education center with the end goal of releasing the animals back into the wild once rehabilitated or of the age of sexual maturity.” On the Caribbean coast just south of Puerto Viejo, the Jaguar Rescue Center’s twice daily guided tours offers tours offer  unique hands-on playtime with monkeys and sloths and snakes, some of their specialties. Highly recommended for animal lovers of all ages.

admission is $14, tours are every day at 9:30 and 11:30 am except Sundays. The Jaguar Rescue Center is in Playa Chiquita, a few kilometers south of Puerto Viejo, across from the beach.




Photos courtesy of Lizard King Resort Facebook

Tags: Caribbean, Costa Rica, costa rica zoos, Herpetologic Refuge Costa Rica, Jaguar Rescue Center, Lizard King Resort, national zookeeper day, Puerto Viejo, Zoo Ave