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There are butterflies everywhere in Costa Rica. Around 18% of the world’s species can be found in Costa Rica, as well as 90% of the species that are found in Central America. There are more than 1,200 different types of butterflies fluttering around here. It is unlikely that a single day will pass where you don’t see one of some variety, regardless of what part of the country you are exploring. There are some really fascinating butterfly observatories and gardens, where you can learn all about the butterflies of Costa Rica and see some of the most special species.
The blue morpho butterfly is undoubtably the most famous butterfly in Costa Rica. This exquisite butterfly is one of the largest in the world, with a wingspan of 20 centimeters (8 inches). The eyecatching blue color of the wings is actually an optical illusion, just like that of the Rio Celeste, as their wings aren’t actually pigmented that color. Only the males appear iridescent blue; the females are quite dull in comparison.
The magnificent owl butterfly is one of the largest butterflies in Costa Rica. It is a nocturnal butterfly with giant spots on its wings that resemble owl eyes. The Spanish name for the owl butterfly is buho. They are typically found in lowland forests and dine on the fermenting juices of fruit such as mangoes, bananas, and pineapples.
Variable Cracker Butterfly
The variable cracker butterfly is a truly unique species. What makes this butterfly special is that the male makes a snapping sound with his wings when he is defending his territory, and during courtship displays. Who knew butterflies could be so noisy? Their wings are also intricately patterned, which helps to camouflage them amongst the trees.
Glass Wing Butterfly
There are 64 different glass-wing butterflies, but they all share one very unique feature: they have transparent wings. They are called espejitos in Spanish. This migratory species ranges from Mexico to Panama, and can be found on both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of Costa Rica.
The Malachite butterfly is a commonly spotted butterfly in Costa Rica. Its green patterned wings resemble stained glass, or the mineral malachite, which is what is was named after. They have a diverse diet that includes flower nectar, decaying fruit, deceased animals, and tasty bat droppings.
The Butterfly Observatory is located in El Castillo, near Lake Arenal and the Arenal volcano. This observatory is an education and research center that hosts the largest butterfly exhibit in Costa Rica. They offer an incredible tour of the facility, the Metamorphosis Tour, which is led by a highly knowledgable guide who will share with you a wealth of information not only about the butterflies of Costa Rica, but also about the native frogs, insects, and plants. There is a short but lovely nature trail that you can walk along, too.
El Castillo, Alajuela, Costa Rica, +506 24191149
Monteverde Butterfly Gardens
The Monteverde Butterfly Gardens are open every single day of the year from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Their one-hour guided tour is incredible. During this hour, you will explore four different gardens where you will learn all about butterflies and bugs in Costa Rica. There are tons of butterflies here, and you will have the opportunity to see some of the most stunning species. Your guide will also be able to answer all of your pressing questions about butterflies and their lives.
Cerro Plano, Santa Elena, Costa Rica, +506 26455512
Butterfly Observatory at La Paz Waterfall Gardens
There are 4,000 butterflies fluttering round the Butterfly Observatory at the La Paz Waterfall Gardens at any given time, and the on-site laboratory breeds 25 native species of butterflies. This is a perfect place to experience all the different stages of a butterfly’s life, while also learning a great deal of information about them from the butterfly experts. You can also visit the waterfalls, jungle cat sanctuary, aviary, hummingbird garden, and snake and frog exhibits while you are here.
The Butterfly Farm
The Butterfly Farm in La Guacima was the first butterfly exhibit in Central America. The small town of La Guacima is dedicated to butterfly conservation. There are butterfly murals all over the town that depict the true love that this town has for these special creatures. There are tours of the farm offered daily, where you can learn about the lifecycle of butterflies and the native species of Costa Rica.
La Guacima, Alajuela, Costa Rica, +506 24380400