On my first visit to Costa Rica, in 1995, one of my most exciting experiences took place on a boat trip on the Corobici River. As we came around a gentle bend, I saw an animal basking on the muddy bank and I announced that this was the first alligator we’d seen. Our guide chuckled and quietly corrected me. “That is what our American travelers think when they see one of these, but this is an American crocodile – not an alligator.” I had a vague memory of having heard of the American crocodile, but I’d never seen one during any of my many visits to Florida, where they can sometimes be found. It was a thrill to unexpectedly see such an impressive animal as we slowly drifted downstream.
Both the American alligator and the American crocodile are crocodilians – the name given to the family that includes the world’s largest reptiles. While all crocodilians share certain characteristics, the easiest way to identify one from the other is the shape of their snouts. Alligators have a wider and rounded snout, while crocodiles have a narrower, more pointed snout. While some members of the crocodile family are known to be aggressive, the American crocodile tends to be a shy creature.
The American crocodile is just one of the many unique wildlife species to be found while exploring Costa Rica. If you have a favorite Costa Rican creature, please click here and let us know what it is.