Six Costa Rica Book Recommendations

Have you bought the best “Birds of Costa Rica” book for your bird watching tour? or do you know which books to buy for your trip in the country? As your trip to Costa Rica approaches you may be thinking about which books you should be reading or bringing with you on your trip.


1. Birds of Costa Rica Book by Richard Garrigues and Robert Dean

Let’s start with the best field guide. Our preference above all others is “The Birds of Costa Rica” by Richard Garrigues and Robert Dean. The book is in its 2nd edition. This edition includes all the updates and changes to the species list for the country. Richard has spent his entire life in Costa Rica, raised a lovely family of avid naturalists and birders, and is a passionate birder himself.  He watched guides and birders struggle with the large cumbersome Stiles & Skutch field guide for many years and then decided to create a smaller, easy to carry version. The book is nicely illustrated and includes the ever-important distribution maps for each species. This way you can check your sighting and make sure you saw what you think you saw.

The back of the book includes a checklist for the birds of Costa Rica, but most guides will provide those for the members of their birding group. Our guides, with Costa Rica Focus, do provide those birding lists to everyone on the trip. I asked Birding Guide Extraordinaire, Rodolfo “Rudy” Zamora which guidebook he prefers, and he immediately answered, “Oh, no doubt the Garrigues book, The Birds of Costa Rica.” “It fits easily in my backpack, the illustrations are solid, and the distribution maps really help me if I’ve seen a highly uncommon bird, and I want to check to be sure it was what I think it was.” “I also like supporting a local person, who has lived his life an advocate for birds, animals, and conservation and ecology in Costa Rica.” So, pick up your own copy of the Birds of Costa Rica, by Richard Garrigues and Robert Dean. It will give you everything you need to help you identify the many new species you’re about to see during your trip to Costa Rica.

birds of costa rica book

Other Costa Rica Book Recommendations:

2. A Neotropical Companion by John Kricher

If you have a keen interest in biology, and the relationships in nature, the Neotropical Companion is a fascinating read. It acts as an introduction to the ecosystems of the New World Tropics. Reading this book will give you a deeper appreciation and understanding of the world around you as you trek through the cloud forests of Monteverde or the lush tropical rainforest of the Osa Peninsula. This book helped me to see the tropics in a more complete way and understand the fragility and strength of the rainforest and its inhabitants.

A Neotropical Companion John Kricher

3. A Naturalist in Costa Rica by Alexander Skutch

I recommend ANYTHING, and EVERYTHING written by Alexander Skutch. A renowned naturalist, Skutch lived 35 years in the Southern Zone of Costa Rica. His book “A Naturalist in Costa Rica” picks up where his memoir stops. His stories are rich with detail and charm. Skutch was a pioneer in Ornithology in Costa Rica and a true leader in ecology. He writes about his early days on his farm (which he called his sanctuary), and his studies of birds, butterflies, and animals. It’s a must read for anyone coming to Costa Rica.

Naturalist Costa Rica Alexander Skutch

4. Monkeys are made of Chocolate by Jack Ewing

The author, Jack Ewing, lived 3 decades in the Southern Pacific of Costa Rica. This book is his testament to the wonders of living in and around the Tropical Rainforest. It’s a collection of essays and observations on how people, plants, and animals interact with one another in the jungle. For the inquisitive traveler, the book will get you very excited to visit Costa Rica.

 Monkeys are made Chocolate Jack Ewing

5. The Mammals of Costa Rica: A Natural History and Field Guide by Mark Wainwright

If you’re looking for the definitive guide to mammals in Costa Rica, this is the guide book for you. It’s small and easy to carry, includes accurate illustrations and solid distribution maps to aid in correctly identifying everything you see. The text is clear and entertaining, and the author includes local folklore and mythology. This is a fantastic book for animal lovers and naturalists alike.

The Mammals Costa Rica A Natural History and Field Guide Mark Wainwright

6. Costa Rican Natural History by Dan Janzen

This is a great book for anyone who really wants to deep dive into the Natural History of Costa Rica. It reads more like a science book than anything else, but if you want the hardcore information without any prose or pretty pictures, this is the book for you.  It’s a unique work from a committed naturalist. While not a page turner, it is filled with excellent information on all things natural in the tropics.

Costa Rican Natural History Dan Janzen

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Costa Rica Focus is a birding tour company that offers customized Costa Rica birdwatching tours for individuals or groups of people and guided by a knowledgeable birding expert who will help you spot and learn about the beauty of the birds of Costa Rica. Let’s talk about your Costa Rica birding vacation!

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