Do you want to learn about the types of snakes in Costa Rica?
If so, you’ve come to the right place. In the article below, I have listed the MOST COMMON snakes you can expect to see. Unfortunately, there are so many snakes in Costa Rica that it would be impossible to list each one. 🙂
You’ll see that the snakes in Costa Rica are very different from each other. They range from venomous species to snakes that use constriction to immobilize their prey. In addition, certain snakes are common to find living around people. For each species, you will find out how to identify that snake correctly, along with pictures, interesting facts, and range maps!
21 COMMON snakes in Costa Rica:
#1. Central American Coral Snake
- Micrurus nigrocinctus
Also known as salviara, limlim, babaspul, and coral macho.
- Adults are 65-115 cm (26-45 in) long.
- Their pattern is two or three-colored, with black, yellow, and red banding.
- The body exhibits smooth scales, the head is rounded, and the eyes have round pupils.
The Central American Coral Snake is mainly found in lowland forests. It is a terrestrial snake that often resides in burrows, leaf litter, or under logs. This species is nocturnal, but you may sometimes find it at dusk or dawn and after rainfall.
Central American Coral Snakes hunt in the leaf litter of their habitat. Their diet consists mainly of other snakes, amphibians, small lizards, and invertebrates. Take care when hiking or walking in its territory. Although this snake is not considered to be aggressive, if it finds itself threatened or if you accidentally step on one, it will not hesitate to bite.
This species is highly venomous! Its venom has a strong neurotoxin that causes weakness and paralysis in victims. The Central American Coral snake has to chew on their victim to inject the venom to its full potential. Therefore, most bites on humans are mild and don’t result in death, but you should still seek medical treatment immediately.
#2. Red Coffee Snake
- Ninia sebae
Also known as the redback coffee snake or the red coffee snake.
- Adults are up to 39 cm (15.4 in) long.
- Their coloring is bright red with short black stripes and black and yellow markings on the head.
- The head is flat, and the eyes are round and black.
Look for Red Coffee Snakes in Costa Rica in savannas, tropical forests, and agricultural areas.
You’ll often see this species on the ground, but they are partly arboreal, so you may notice one in a tree. They are most comfortable hunting on the ground for earthworms, snails, and slugs.
Red Coffee Snakes are not venomous, nor are they aggressive. To avoid predation, they tend to rely on their ability to conceal and intimidate and rarely resort to biting. If disturbed, they flatten their entire bodies or use a tactic of remaining motionless in the position they were discovered, so the threat will leave.
#3. Rhombic Cat-eyed Snake
- Leptodeira rhombifera
- Adults grow 45.7-61 cm (18-24 in) long.
- Their coloring is a mix of brown and light yellow with dark blotches in shades of brown, black, orange, or yellow.
- This species has golden or brown eyes with elliptical pupils, hence the name.
The Rhombic Cat-eyed Snake is mostly terrestrial, so keep your eyes focused on the ground to see one. Their diet consists mainly of frogs. However, they also eat tadpoles, lizards, salamanders, small fish, and mice.
Even though this species is mildly venomous, it isn’t considered dangerous to humans. For one, its venom isn’t strong enough to do much damage. Secondly, the Rhombic Cat-eyed Snake’s fangs are in the rear of its jaw, making it difficult to bite anything larger than a frog. Finally, this species rarely injects venom defensively and prefers to deliver a “dry bite” as a warning.
Despite all this, it’s still better to be safe than bitten. So if you encounter any snake, including a Rhombic Cat-eyed Snake, give it a respectful amount of space and observe from a distance.
#4. Chicken Snake
- Spilotes pullatus
Also known as the tiger rat snake, caninana, yellow rat snake, or serpiente tigre.
- Adults grow up to 2.7 m (8.9 ft.)
- This species’ color is yellow with irregular black crossbands and a yellow snout.
- Their eyes are medium-sized with round pupils.
You can find this arboreal snake crawling through trees near water or forested areas. However, it can also be seen on the ground, especially while hunting. Expect to find the Chicken Snake in Costa Rica during the day since this diurnal species hunts in daylight.
Although Chicken Snakes are very territorial, they are not considered very aggressive. They often descend to the ground and hide in leaf litter if disturbed. If they’re forced to face a predator, they nod their heads and inflate their necks, increasing their size to intimidate the opponent. As a last resort, they strike to bite, even though they are non-venomous.
#5. Puffing Snake
- Phrynonax poecilonotus
Also known as the bird snake, dos cocorite, and papa-ovo.
- Adults grow 1.8-2.7 m (70-107 in) long.
- Their coloring varies: grey, yellow, orange, and lavender are all common.
- This species’ eyes are medium to large, usually brown or golden, with a round black pupil.
Look for Puffing Snakes in the dense rainforests of Costa Rica.
This species is mostly arboreal, spending most of its time in treetops. However, it comes to the forest floor to hunt if food is more prevalent on the ground. They have a wide range of prey, including birds, small mammals, frogs, lizards, and insects. The Puffing snake is notorious for consuming bird eggs, which explains its other common name, the Bird Snake.
This species is not aggressive, but it will bite if disturbed. Even though it’s non-venomous, its bite can break the skin and should be avoided if possible. If you see a Puffing Snake in the wild, steer clear of it!
#6. Speckled Racer
- Drymobius margaritiferus
- Adults are 76-102 cm (30-40 in).
- Their coloring is black with blue and yellow spots inside each scale.
- The head of this species is rusty brown with a black patch behind the eyes.
Speckled Racers can adapt to a wide variety of areas such as forest edges, savannahs, humid lowlands, marshlands, forests, clearings, pastures, and even roadsides. Their unique coloring allows them to blend in well, regardless of their terrain. So, don’t be surprised to accidentally stumble upon this snake in Costa Rica!
Even though this species is non-venomous, it is very aggressive. Be careful because Speckled Racers are fast and agile, and they regularly bite in self-defense. Despite its aggressive nature, it’s content when left alone, so give it space and observe its beautiful coloring from a distance.
#7. Black-banded Cat-eyed Snake
- Leptodeira nigrofasciata
- Adults grow up to 75 cm (30 in) long.
- Their coloring is black with white or yellow stripes. Unlike other cat-eyed snakes, this species does not have spots.
- They have very slender bodies, and their large eyes have elliptical pupils.
The Black-banded Cat-eyed Snake prefers forests and clearings but is also comfortable in urbanized areas with nearby vegetation. As a result, it’s not uncommon to find this snake in Costa Rica near parks, suburban backyards, and industrial developments.
Even though it might be nearby, you’ll likely have difficulty finding a Black-banded Cat-eyed Snake. This species is exclusively nocturnal, hunting frogs, skinks, toads, and lizards under the cover of darkness.
Their venom is effective at neutralizing and killing their prey, but it’s mild and not harmful to humans. Furthermore, they rarely bite humans, even if handled, preferring to wait until they’re released and slither away. If you are bitten, symptoms include swelling and irritation that can be relieved with a mild painkiller.
#8. Blood Snake
- Stenorrhina freminvillei
- Adults grow up to 65 cm (26 in) long.
- Their coloring can be red, brownish, or yellow. In addition, some individuals have black vertical stripes across their whole bodies.
- Their eyes are round, medium-sized, and have round pupils.
The Blood Snake in Costa Rica has an unbelievable favorite food: Scorpions!
This small, unassuming snake has a big appetite and often dines on dangerous creatures. In addition to scorpions, Blood Snakes also eat spiders, grasshoppers, and crickets.
Look for this species at high elevations of 2,800 m (9,200 ft) or above in savannas and forests. Additionally, there are many sightings of Blood Snakes near agricultural areas, where they find insects in the churned soil.
Blood Snakes are non-venomous and nocturnal, which means they rarely pose a problem to humans. The worst they can do is startle you on a nighttime hike! 🙂
#9. Central American Indigo Snake
- Drymarchon melanurus
Also known as the blacktail cribo.
- Adults are 1.80-2.40 m (6-8 ft) in total length.
- Their coloring is a glossy olive-brown that fades to black towards the tail.
- The abdomen is yellow to tan. Occasionally they are solid black all over.
The Central American Indigo Snake is mostly terrestrial and prefers forests for its habitat. Look for this snake in Costa Rica, anywhere with plenty of ground cover for it to hide.
Although it’s non-venomous, the Central American Indigo Snake is highly predatory and opportunistic. It won’t hesitate to hunt just about anything, including bird and reptile eggs, fish, snakes, frogs, birds, and small mammals.
When it comes to humans, this species is more likely to flee or hide than confront you. Since it isn’t venomous, you don’t need to worry about danger. However, it’s best to leave the Central American Indigo Snake alone and give it a respectful amount of space.
#10. Central American Lyresnake
- Trimorphodon quadruplex
- Adults grow up to 1 m (39 in) long.
- Their coloring is brown or tan, with dark brown or black bands with light-colored borders.
- They have a broad head with a slightly smaller neck and large eyes with vertical pupils.
The Central American Lyresnake prefers hidden places humans can’t easily find or reach. This includes rocky crevices, outcroppings, and canyon walls. Unfortunately, their secretive nature makes them difficult to research, and little is known about them.
However, we do know that this species is a primarily nocturnal snake, active during late night hours. They are considered to be mostly terrestrial, although they are occasionally found in trees, where they sometimes hunt bats.
Central American Lyresnakes are mildly venomous, which is typical for many rear-fanged snakes. Their venom is likely not dangerous to humans, but caution is advised because so much of this species is unknown. Take care when hiking through its habitat.
#11. Central American Milksnake
- Lampropeltis abnorma
- Adult sizes are highly variable, 36-183 cm (14-72 in) long.
- They have smooth and shiny scales, and their coloring is alternating bands of red-black-yellow or white-black-red.
The Central American Milksnake is usually found in forested regions. However, it’s possible to encounter them in areas such as prairie, swamps, farmland, and rocky slopes. This snake is primarily nocturnal, especially during the summer.
Unlike most snakes in Costa Rica, this species migrates seasonally.
During the winter, they move to drier habitats to hibernate, then move to moist habitats when summer comes. The hibernation period for the Central American Milksnake starts in October or November and lasts until the middle of April.
Their venom isn’t dangerous to humans, and they are considered docile. Because of this, they’re often kept as pets. Unfortunately, their numbers are slightly declined due to harvesting for the pet trade, but they are still plentiful in their range.
#12. Mexican Parrot Snake
- Leptophis mexicanus
- Adults grow up to 172 cm (68 in) long.
- This species has a slender-looking body that’s smooth with shiny scales. The eyes are big and yellow with round black pupils.
- The Mexican Parrot Snake exhibits vivid colors, usually green and white on the abdomen, with a yellow stripe across its body length.
Look for this snake in Costa Rica in tropical forests, agricultural areas, and near humans.
Mexican Parrot Snakes often choose places near a water source. You might need to look in the trees for one. This species is partly arboreal and an excellent climber, able to camouflage between the green leaves on the trees. However, they are adaptable and hunt on the ground as well.
Mexican Parrot Snakes are non-venomous and have a high tolerance for human disturbance. They aren’t aggressive, even if disturbed or threatened. Their defensive action is to open their mouths to intimidate the opponent, but they rarely resort to biting.
#13. Neotropical Whip Snake
- Masticophis mentovarius
Also known as Sabanera.
- Adults are 180-252 cm (6-8 ft) in total length.
- Their coloring is off-white, brown, or gray. They have transverse blotches and dark, narrow stripes across the body.
- This species’ eyes are light brown or golden, with round pupils.
Neotropical Whip Snakes in Costa Rica prefer open areas. So, look for this species in forest edges, savannas, mangroves, and beaches. They’re primarily terrestrial, although they can sometimes be seen in trees and shrubs. Your best bet is to focus on the ground. This thin, long species is easy to mistake for a fallen vine.
This species is non-venomous, but if disturbed, it is known to bite. Despite being relatively low-risk to humans, you shouldn’t underestimate the Neotropical Whip Snake! It’s famous for its incredible speed and highly alert hunting style. This adaptable predator most often hunts lizards, other snakes, and small mammals.
#14. Rainforest Hog-nosed Viper
- Porthidium nasutum
Also known as Hognosed Pit Viper.
- Adults are 40-60 cm (16-24 in) long. The females tend to be relatively larger than the males.
- The body is stout, with a triangular-shaped head and a short, thin tail. They have an upturned snout.
- Their coloring is shades of brown with alternating cream and dark brown rectangular marks on the back.
As its name suggests, this species is most often found in rainforests. The Rainforest Hog-nosed Viper is a terrestrial species and, due to its color, is difficult to spot in the jungle foliage.
In addition to its camouflage, you’ll have trouble spotting a Rainforest Hog-nosed Viper because it’s nocturnal. During the nighttime, it hunts frogs, lizards, small mammals, small birds, and other snakes.
Use extreme caution when you’re in this species’ territory. It’s a highly venomous viper, and if a bite goes untreated, it can cause death in humans. Unfortunately, Rainforest Hog-Nosed Vipers frequently pass through plantations and sometimes enter gardens, so bite incidents are not uncommon.
If you receive a bite from one of these snakes in Costa Rica, get treatment right away.
The symptoms are painful, often severe, and can last days. Redness and pain around the bite, nausea, vomiting, trouble breathing, low heart rate, and vision problems are all common symptoms. Avoid this dangerous snake if possible!
#15. Side-striped Palm Pit Viper
- Bothriechis lateralis
Also known as Yellow-lined Palm Viper, Green Palm Viper, and Parrot Viper.
- Adults are 80-100 cm (31-39 in) long.
- Their coloring is emerald green to bluish, overlaid with a series of yellow vertical bars.
- These slender snakes have prehensile tails and round, yellow eyes with vertical pupils.
The Side-striped Palm Pit Viper is most often found in forested areas. However, this adaptable species also frequents agricultural developments like coffee plantations.
They are primarily arboreal, preferring to quietly spend their time in the thick foliage of trees and shrubbery. Side-striped Palm Pit Vipers eat small birds, rodents, lizards, and frogs. To hunt, they cling to branches with their prehensile tails and snatch prey quickly and firmly.
This species relies on its camouflage to avoid disturbance rather than attacking, but if they are threatened, they strike quickly. The venom is not as potent as in other vipers, but bites still need immediate medical attention. They are extremely painful, and the symptoms can be life-threatening if a victim doesn’t receive treatment.
#16. Cloudy Snail-eating Snake
- Sibon nebulatus
Also known as Slug-eating Snake, Cloudy Snail Sucker, Clouded Snake.
- Not bigger than 71 cm (28 in), these snakes can fit in the palm of your hand.
- They have wide heads and large eyes, and their tails are more slender towards the tip.
- Coloration is usually gray or brown, patterned with dark bands and spots.
The humid forests of Costa Rica are home to Cloudy Snail-eaters. Pay attention to the forest floor, where these tiny snakes crawl along the carpet of dead leaves at night. They’re especially active after a good rain.
Cloudy Snail-eating Snakes are quite crafty hunters and have a perfect system to catch a meal! First, they track down the scent of their favorite prey. Then, when they catch one, they’ll drag the snail until its shell gets stuck between rocks. Finally, they’ll pull the soft body out and swallow their prize.
Cloudy Snail-eaters are a non-venomous species. And they’re too small to cause serious damage when biting. So instead, they’ll secrete a foul odor to defend themselves against attackers.
#17. Eyelash Viper
- Bothriechis schlegelii
Also known as Eyelash Pit Viper, Eyelash Palm Viper, Schlegel’s Viper, Eyelash Lancehead, Eyelash Mountain Viper, Horned Palm Viper, Parrot Snake.
- Adults are generally 55-82 cm (22-32 in) long.
- Their heads are broad and triangular.
- Coloration depends on habitat. These include bright yellow, green, orange, or pink. You might also see dark speckles dotted all over the body.
Look for this small snake in Costa Rica in forests and woodlands.
The fancy-looking Eyelash Viper earned its name from the pair of modified scales above its eyes which resemble eyelashes. A myth tells of this viper winking at its victims after biting them. But, of course, snakes don’t have eyelids, so they can’t actually wink!
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Did you know that Eyelash Vipers are resourceful creatures? To hydrate, they drink the water droplets that gather on leaves. In addition, they use their tails to grab onto branches, positioning themselves to hunt rodents, lizards, and small birds at night.
Eyelash Vipers are generally docile but will strike in defense if threatened. They’re moderately venomous, and while there are no recorded human deaths, their bites can still be very painful. So be careful if you happen to find one!
#18. Giant Parrot Snake
- Leptophis ahaetulla
Also known as Parrot Snake, Lora.
- These slim-bodied snakes can grow to 172 cm (68 in) long.
- Typically, the coloration is bright green or bronze with a lighter underside. Yellow stripes are sometimes seen at the sides.
- They have noticeably large, yellow eyes with round pupils.
- Look for a black lining along the eyes on both sides of the head.
Among the trees and underbrush of Costa Rica’s jungles, you might encounter what you think is a moving vine. However, a closer look would reveal it to be the Giant Parrot Snake! It’s a long, slender snake whose name refers to its vivid colors.
Parrot Snakes are only mildly venomous. Their fangs are set at the back of their mouths, so it’s harder for them to deliver venom. Even so, don’t tempt a bite! The bacteria in their mouths can cause a serious infection that requires medical attention.
Despite being narrow and seemingly harmless, Parrot Snakes are fierce predators. They hunt in daylight, taking down small birds and tree lizards with aggressive agility. Occasionally, if food is scarce, they are known to cannibalize each other.
#19. Central American Boa
- Boa imperator
Also known as Boa Constrictor Imperator, Common Northern Boa, Colombian Boa.
- These large reptiles are generally 130-250 cm (51-98 in) long.
- Female boas are much larger than males.
- You might notice a dark streak that extends from their eyes to the back of their jaws.
The Central American Boa prefers humid rainforests but occasionally inhabits drier environments like savannas. It is a stealthy hunter, slow-moving and well-camouflaged. At dusk, it ambushes birds, lizards, and smaller mammals, constricting them until they stop breathing.
As one of the most territorial snakes in Costa Rica, this species lives most of its life in isolation.
The only time Central American Boas interact with each other is to breed.
If you encounter one in the wild, remember that it won’t hesitate to strike you repeatedly in rapid succession. Even though they aren’t venomous, their bites can still hurt. Watch your step!
These snakes are quite popular as pets because of their striking patterns and lack of venom. In addition, some snake keepers breed them to produce unique-colored morphs. You might even find a Central American Boa that’s entirely white.
#20. Common Blunt-headed Tree Snake
- Imantodes cenchoa
Also known as Fiddle-string Snake, Neotropical Blunthead Treesnake.
- They grow to be 80-150 cm (31-59 in).
- They have slender bodies, narrow necks, and large heads.
- Brown and black patches alternate along the body.
This small, cartoonish snake slithers among low vegetation in rainforests in Costa Rica. If you look closely, you’ll notice its bizarre set of eyes! They are comically large with vertical slits for pupils. This gives the Common Blunt-headed Snake better vision than other snakes.
Wide awake at night, they feed on sleeping lizards, amphibians, and reptile eggs. When the sun comes out, you might find Common Blunt-headed Snakes coiled and resting on vines and bushes. They like cool, wet environments and are more active in the rainy seasons.
Common Blunt-headed Snakes have mild venom and docile natures. Therefore, they pose no danger to humans. However, they don’t do well in captivity, so it’s better to observe this snake in the wild instead of keeping one as a pet.
#21. Terciopelo (Fer-de-lance)
- Bothrops asper
- On average, these vipers are 120-180 cm (47-71 in) long.
- Terciopelos have wide, flat heads.
- Females can grow up to 10 times larger than males.
- They range from brown to gray. Patterns include dark spots and stripes that form triangles along the body.
The Terciopelo, also referred to as a Fer-de-lance, is a venomous species in tropical rainforests and lowlands. They have a fierce reputation and are responsible for many of the snakebites that occur in Costa Rica. Unfortunately, they also have large fangs and an exceptionally high venom yield. This snake is impressive but terrifying and has been nicknamed “the ultimate pit viper”!
Tercipelos are patient predators. It will disguise itself among leaf litter for long periods, then bite swiftly once prey comes in range.
The venom of a Terciopelo is dangerously potent. Unfortunate victims can experience fevers, internal bleeding, and even death in extreme cases. It’s important to seek medical attention immediately if you’ve been bitten. If the Terciopelo is cornered, it will strike faster than you can react. So always keep a respectful distance!
Check out these guides to other animals found in Costa Rica!
Which of these snakes have you seen before in Costa Rica?
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