Field Guides and the Like
ALMOST BEST FIELD GUIDE
"Field Guide to the Wildlife of Costa Rica" - by Henderson.
If they did 26 more versions of this we'd get them all and be horribly broke. Not so many creatures - but a beautiful selection of the most interesting creatures. One or two pages on each with local Tico names and a distribution of where you might find each based on actual observations.
Makes a very nice reference of the creatures you may well see on your trip - just wish it were longer (it is only 530 pages).
This book is excellent!
THE STANDARD IN BIRD BOOKS
"A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica" - by Gary Stles and Alexander Skutch.
Visitors who are birders always seem to have this book in hand as they arrive at Pura Vida off American flight 2167 and the like. Guests can't be wrong eh? With "an avifauna of 830 species, more than in all of North America" you need a fat (500 plus pages) detailed book.
Skutch was a legendary biologist and ornithologist who died recently at nearly 100 - this book is a part of the legacy of a legend. Get it before you come as it costs a small fortune here. Another excellent guide.
A NEW BIRD BOOK STANDARD
"The Birds of Costa Rica" - by Richard Garrigues and Robert Dean.
This is an excellent birding book specific to Costa Rica. 820 species are identified on 166 color plates - birds on every page turn! This is not a replacement for the Stles/Skutch book but is great for field identification.
Henry Kantrowitz is a local guide and bird expert and notes: "the new bird book didn't include the common Spanish names for a couple of reasons. One is because it is considered a field guide.
"The Costa Rican common names vary sometimes from area to area. Also many different species have the same Costa Rican name. For example; six of the yellow chested flycatchers are all called pecho amarillo for all six species. They wanted to make the book as compact as possible to take out into the field. Most birders when out in the field are not interested in the common Costa Rican names. This book is not to replace, Birds of Costa Rica by Styles and Skutch. That book goes into much more detail about habits, distribution, nesting, feeding and more including the common Costa Rican names."
The new book is excellent for the field and Robert has outdone himself with his drawings of the birds. I highly recommend this book to anyone that is interested in birding here in Costa Rica."
Henry, thanks for your continued valued commentary!
BEST TROPICAL PLANT BOOK (CR specific)
"Tropical Plants of Costa Rica: A Guide to Native and Exotic Flora (Paperback)" - by Willow Zuchowski
If you have just one plant/tree/arbusto book this is it. All the Costa Rican names as well as common and latin names, great photos of real trees and plants, good diagrams of seed pods etc, excellent description of habitat, habits and really interesting LOCAL info such as "it is bad to dispose of Guanacaste tree sawdust in streams because. . .".
This book has a most interesting organization with chapters on living fences for example, roadside and garden plants (great butterfly plants etc) and fruits (including details on bananas, coffee etc).
The author lives here and it shows. A real Costa Rican gem, paperback, high quality binding and paper - a must have for anyone with an interest in the amazing flora of Costa Rica.
LITTLE TREE BOOK
"Tropical Trees of Costa Rica" - by Zuchowski and Forsyth.
The small edition for gift shops - I really like everything Ms Zuchowski does - maybe one day we will meet and I can say Thank You!
Thank you for all your work to produce a number of lovely readable well illustrated tomes on Costa Rica!
This tiny 95 page handbook is something any traveler with an interest in our forests and environment would love to have - now this one would work fine on an iPad!
Now where can I find a Cerillo tree? She says it is "not very conspicuous"!
"Tropical Blossoms of Costa Rican" - by Zuchowski and Forsyth.
Another nice "little book" of just 78 pages which any traveler would love to have handy when trying to identify why a pink velvet banana looks so good but is uncontainable. We finally eradicated it from the garden though it was a very pretty plant.
Another recommended work.
BEST BOOK OF FRUITS
"Fruits of the Tropics" - edited by Sancho & Baraona.
There is a new edition of this photographic guide that will help you navigate the more interesting breakfast fruit plates and the wonderful farmers markets every weekend throughout Costa Rica. A slim volume but it does help make our exotic fruits more accessible. As the introduction to the second edition reminded us "admire them in the farmers markets and be sure to taste them". This third edition has more fruits, the common Costa Rican names you will find at the feria and suggestions of what you can do to prepare them.
If you haven't tried mangosteen, didn't know that pejibaye was the source of the hearts of palm (I didn't), and don't know what to do with your jaboticaba tree then you'll want this book(let).
I often use it at the Pura Vida breakfast to explain a unique new fruit a guest has never seen.
COOL BUG BOOK
"Smithsonian Handbook - Insects, Spiders and other terestrial arthropods" - edited by George McGavin.
Wonderful pictures, very detailed "creature layouts" - an excellent recognition guide.
Know what just landed on you and see if it is friendly. If it is not, be kind to it - nothing really nasty has bitten us in the 20 years of traveling here. This book is not about Costa Rica but has a good selection from the neo-tropics.
BEST SLIMY CREATURE FEATURE
"A Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of Costa Rica" - by Twan Leenders.
I prefer the layout of "A Field Guide to Wildlife" but the details and photography as well as the specialization is better in this well produced guide. If you want to know what just slithered by you deep in the jungle of Tortuguero, this would be a good book to identify it.
The photographs are excellent including a photo of the now extinct golden toad. A nice touch is the section on insects that mimic reptiles as well as something on the evolution of the reptile world.
This may not appeal to the creationists who seem to insist . . . well you know the real story.
BEST WHITE ALBUM CREATURE FEATURE
"BEETLES of Costa Rica" - by Angel Solis.
Actually like many books here not only is this the best strictly beetle book, it is the only one I have found.
The book is small and very useable - it is in english and spanish and is published by INBio locally in Heredia - a marvellous source for books on natural history in Costa Rica.
A wonderful introduction to this enormously diverse bunch of critters that scurry around everywhere in Costa Rica. The Cleridae are soooo cute!
A BOOK OF PARKS
"Costa Rica's National Parks and Preserves" - by Joseph Franke.
The introduction describes how we felt our first day in the stunning rain forest of Corcovado park - If you have never been to a tropical forest, you might not be able to appreciate the trouble that even the likes of Charles Darwin had describing it when he wrote,
"Epithet after epithet was found too weak to convey to those who have not visited the intertropical regions, the sensation of delight which the mind experiences."
We think you could dispense with many travel plans and use a book like this to wend your way around the wonderful neo-tropical parks of Costa Rica.
"Medicinal Plants of Costa Rica" - by Ed Bernhardt.
You know you got a good one when Amazon doesn't have it. Ed is a local writer and plant dude and the book is a beautifully produced guide to things that make you well.
Excellent photos, nice design, useful information go to make this a worthy book for any resident.
I liked it.
"Science and Scientists in a Costa Rican Cloud Forest" - by Sneed Collard.
For those wanting more on Monteverde than you can find in a guide book - a nicely illustrated tale of biologists doing what they do best in a place some now call home.
Most people who come to Costa Rica will at some point visit this unique area and come back with their own unique reflections. This book is told through the eyes of the visiting or resident scientists.