Seeing Wildlife in Costa Rica: A Visit to Neo Fauna

This is a story about the magic of frogs. More specifically, the magic of the frogs found in a little wildlife sanctuary in Costa Rica called Neo Fauna.

The very first time my husband talked me into taking our boys to Costa Rica, my eldest son was four and his brother was just just two-years-old. I was pretty worried about the whole trip, and my fears were confirmed as both boys started to lose their s#@! a couple hours into the long drive from the airport to our destination. One kid needed a diaper change, and the other kid needed to use the potty, and I started to yell at my husband, “JUST. STOP. ANYWHERE,” when suddenly he veered off the road to left.

He had seen a little sign with an arrow, advertising “Neo Fauna: Frog Garden Butterfly Garden and Serpentarium.” If there’s anything that can catch my husband’s attention, it’s the word frog. Nevermind the whole diaper and potty situation. Frogs! (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

Costa Rican Frog
My husband thinks the bufo is a beautiful creature. Let’s let the internet decide.

We followed a series of little signs up the dirt road, and easily found the colorful Neo Fauna signs. The boys were happy just to get out of the car and run around, but were even more thrilled when it turned out that they got to hold frogs and snakes.

Neo Fauna wormed its way in to our hearts, and we found ourselves returning again in 2019. Its convenient location just off the highway makes it a great stop if you are road tripping around Costa Rica.

Costa Rica Tree Snakes
Holding a tree snake. In the grand tradition of little boys since the beginning of time, holding snakes is somehow fun for these two.

NeoFauna bills itself as a wildlife sanctuary “dedicated to the reproduction and exhibition of endangered species” on its website. On our first visit in 2015, it was an inexpensive little butterfly garden collection of frogs and snakes. By 2019, it had raised the entrance fee and added a cage of white-faced capuchin monkeys as well as a display of macaws and parrots.

It’s a quirky little place. One of the best things about Neo Fauna for us was the passionate guide, whose excitement about these frogs and snakes was matched only by that of my husband. Neo Fauna has a good collection of poison dart frogs and tree frogs; they also had a boa constrictor, fer-de-lance, tortoises, and a small crocodile when we visited. I have seen better butterfly gardens, but it may have just been a bad month when we visited.

Costa Rica Eco Tour
I recommend wrangling a family photo in the Neo Fauna jeep if you get a chance.

Upon exiting the butterfly gardens, you pass through the what the guide called the “restaurant” — the cages that held the small rodents bred for feeding the snakes. The kids alternately thought this was hilarious and bizarre.

Costa Rica is home to numerous wildlife sanctuaries and animal rescues, many of which are seriously devoted to animal rehabilitation — taking in injured animals and preparing them for release back into the wild. Neo Fauna is not in that category. However, if you like reptiles and amphibians, or if you just want a chance to get up close and personal with some of Costa Rica’s most famous animals (here’s your chance for that photo of a red-eyed tree frog!), a visit to Neo Fauna is a great idea for the whole family.

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Costa Rica Wildlife