01 May 2024

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There are around 245 species of reptiles in Costa Rica. 130 species are snakes, however only 23 of them are venomous. Most of the venomous snakes belong to either the Viperidae or the Elapidae families. On this post we wanted to share the most unique species that we will try to find on our Costa Rica Herping Tour. This post features some stunning photographs from our guides Kevin Venegas and Max Benito Smeele.


Central American Lancehead (Bothrops asper)

This large (over 2m) pitviper, is probably the most common venomous snake in Costa Rica. Its common names are Fer-de-lance or Terciopelo. It may be identified by its triangular-shaped head, heat-sensing pits between the eyes and nostrils, and a dorsal pattern of 14–28 pale X-shapes. Its brownish colouration provides excellent camouflage to this snake.

Rainforest Hognosed pitviper (Porthidium nasutum)

Rainforest hognosed pitviper is a small terrestrial snake (65cm). It usually remains coiled up in the leaf-litter waiting for its pray. It can be found mainly on the Caribbean and Southwest humid and premontane forests in Costa Rica. It can be identified by its stout body, triangular-shaped head, heat-sensing pits and its upturned snout.

Central American bushmaster (Lachesis stenophrys)

The Central American Bushmaster is the longest viper in the world. It can reach over 3m in length. It is native to Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama and enjoys tropical rainforests and lower montane wet forests where heavy or extremely heavy rainfall is expected during the year.

Black-headed Bushmaster (Lachesis melanocephala)

The Black-headed Bushmaster is probably the rarest species of the Lachesis genus. It can only be found on a small spot of Costa Rica, at the lowland tropical forest. It also gets over 3m long. It exclusively has a mammalian diet. A specific conservation project has been set-up to monitor and save the species.

Central-American Rattlesnake (Crotalus simus)

The Central-American Rattlesnake is the largest rattlesnake. It can be found from Mexico to Costa Rica, and it mainly inhabits semi-arid dry tropical forests and coastal scrub forests.

Central American Eyelash-Pitviper (Botriechis nigroadspersus)

It is a small (50-85cm) arboreal pitviper. Its name comes mainly from its modified scales above the eyes that look much like eyelashes. It is a nocturnal snake that prefers moist lowland rainforests, cloud and montane forests up to 2500m. it mainly feeds on birds, amphibians and reptiles. It comes with different colour morphs, the most interesting ones are the Christmas tree morph and the Yellow morph (Oropel).

Lora Green Palm-pitviper (Bothriechis lateralis)

Another arboreal pitviper that can only be found in Costa Rica and Panama. It prefers lower montane forests and rainforests but can also be found on coffee plantations. They can exceed 100cm in length, but they usually remains around 80cm or less. Their colours are usually emerald green to bluish green ground colour, that can be overlaid with a series of yellow vertical bars.

Black-speckled palm-pit viper (Bothriechis nigroviridis)

A small (up to 50cm) pitviper from Costa Rica & Panama. It can be found in higher elevations between 1350m and 3000m. It is arboreal, but it can also be found on the ground. Its unique patterns and beautiful colouration make it a very unique looking snake.

Costa Rican coral snake (Micrurus mosquitensis)

A beautiful, medium-size snake. It can be found on the Caribbean side from Nicaragua to Panama. Its colouration includes red, black and yellow. It is a terrestrial snake that is mainly active during twilight and at night. It feeds on other snakes and caecilians.

Central-American Boa (Boa imperator)

While Costa Rica does not have Anacondas, it has its own constrictor, the Central-American Boa. This specimen can be found from Mexico to North Colombia. It is one of the smaller boa species with a length between 1,3-2.5m. It has similar colours as the Boa constrictor, but has a darker red on the tail.


Reptiles and amphibians can be found all year around, although they are more difficult to find them during the dry season (January to April). The wet or green season (late-May till December) is the best time to look for our cold-blooded “friends”. The peak of the wet season is between July and November, and it should provide plenty of sightings all over the country.

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