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Guatemala Wildlife: Top 23 Animals to See

Guatemala holds some of the most ecologically diverse environments in the world. The massive forest ecosystems and untouched mountains are the best places to see a wide range of wild animals in Guatemala wildlife.

There are probably many wild Guatemalan animals that you have probably never heard of and will only get a chance to see if you book a trip and travel to Guatemala.

In this article, you will learn about 23 incredible Guatemalan animals, some of which are even quite rare and others are so unique that seeing them in the wild is worth the price of your Guatemala vacation.

Top Guatemala Wildlife & Animals

quetzal bird on a tree in guatemala wildlife
The Resplendent Quetzal is one of the most important birds in Guatemala, even the local currency is named after this beautiful bird and you can easily spot them on a day tour.

1. Quetzal

Common name: ‘Resplendent quetzal’

Scientific name: Pharomachrus mocinno

The Resplendent quetzal is a small but strikingly beautiful bird native to Central America, including Guatemala. This bird is considered one of the most magnificent and colorful species in the world.

The quetzal holds significant cultural and symbolic importance in the region and is also the national bird of Guatemala.

There are so many interesting facts about the Quetzal like; the Incas, Mayans, and Aztecs used the feathers of their tails to decorate their outfits. It is truly one of the standouts of Guatemalan wildlife.

Ironically, despite its national significance in Guatemala, because of illegal hunting and habitat destruction, they are on the list to be one of the extinct wild animals in Guatemala.

I recommend taking time to catch a glimpse of the Quetzal by visiting El Biotopo del Quetzal (one of the most important national parks in Guatemala) as part of tours that depart from Guatemala City or Antigua to Coban.

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2. Spider Monkey

Common name: ‘Spider Monkey’

Scientific name: Ateles geoffroyi

The Guatemalan spider monkey, also known as the black-handed spider monkey, is characterized by their long limbs, prehensile tail, and a mostly black body with distinctively lighter-colored hands and face.

Spider Monkeys are curious Guatemalan animals that live mainly in the tropical forests of Guatemala, but again the destruction of their habitat is reducing their population rapidly and in some places, they are almost extinct.

For a chance to see this curious creature in its natural habitat, consider taking the Tikal National Park private tour for an unforgettable experience to see the spider monkey and other wild animals in Guatemala. 

📖 Recommended Reading: If you’re looking for more useful information, check out the Best Places to Visit in Central America.

3. Toucan

Common name: ‘Keel-billed toucan’

Scientific name: Ramphastos sulfuratus

The Guatemalan Toucans are colorful and abundant tropical birds that can be found in Guatemala’s forests, especially in the areas of Peten and Coban, Alta Verapaz

These toucans are known for their vibrant and distinctive appearance, with a black body, a white throat, and a multicolored bill that features shades of green, red, orange, and yellow.

People love them so much that they used to have them as pets. This practice has now been forbidden in the country.

Probably the best place to see the Toucan is Tikal National Park in the Petén region which is home to over 300 bird species and a great place for birdwatching.

The Tikal National Park Wildlife Tour is a recommended option to see the Toucan and beginning at sunrise there is more than enough time to experience all the Park has to offer for Guatemalan wildlife and lots of opportunities for photos too. 

4.Montezuma Oropendola

Common name: ‘Montezuma Oropendola’

Scientific name: Psarocolius montezuma

If you are coming to Central America this magnificent bird called Montezuma Oropendola is something you can’t miss. 

Belonging to the icterid family this amazing bird is recognized for its distinctive appearance and captivating vocalizations.

In Guatemala, it can be seen primarily in the northern region of Peten. 

So keep your eyes open while exploring the Mayan ruins of the area like Tikal and Yaxhá. 

And the Yaxha National Park Tour is a private sunset tour where you will have the opportunity to spot a Montezuma Oropendola and many other wild animals in Guatemala.

5. Olive Ridley Sea Turtle

Common name: ‘Olive Ridley Sea Turtle’

Scientific name: Lepidochelys olivacea

The Olive Ridley Sea Turtle is one of the smaller species of sea turtles and is recognized for its olive-green coloration.

You can observe Olive Ridley Sea Turtles in their natural habitat in Guatemala, particularly along the country’s Pacific coast. 

They love open ocean inhabitants and tend to avoid reef areas. In Guatemala, they can be seen nesting in Monterrico.

Olive Ridley Sea Turtles can also be encountered in mangrove areas and coastal zones along the Pacific coast, so consider taking guided boat tours or exploring these ecosystems for a chance to spot them.

Sipacate-Naranjo National Park located along the Pacific coast of Escuintla in Guatemala is a great place to see the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle. 

Sipacate-Naranjo National Park beaches are breeding areas where several endangered turtle species lay their eggs, including the olive ridley.

6. Armadillo

Common name: ‘Nine-banded Armadillo’

Scientific name: Dasypus novemcinctus

These armored little guys can be found from northern Argentina to the southern United States. 

Armadillo’s habitat is moist soil near the creeks, streams, and arroyos near which it generally lives and feeds. 

Armadillos are primarily nocturnal animals, so night safaris or guided tours that focus on nocturnal wildlife viewing can increase your chances of encountering them.

Armadillos are known for their elusive nature, but with the right timing and guidance, you may have the opportunity to spot these unique creatures in their natural environment. 

Many of Guatemala’s national parks and wildlife reserves provide habitat for armadillos. Places like Tikal National Park, Sierra de las Minas Biosphere Reserve, and Laguna Lachúa National Park offer opportunities to encounter these creatures and other wild animals in Guatemala.

7. Vampire Bat

Common name: ‘Vampire Bat’

Scientific name: Desmodus rotundus

This species of bat is one of three vampire bat species and is known for its feeding habits, which primarily involve blood meals from various animals, including livestock.

Vampire Bats live in a range that covers Mexico, Central America, and part of South America. 

In Guatemala, its preferred habitat is the tropics. They are commonly found in slowly bleeding farm animals like chickens.

Common vampire bats are primarily nocturnal, and observing them in their natural habitat can be challenging due to their secretive and nocturnal behavior. But the limestone cave systems of the Peten department are a good place to look for these little vampires.

8.Ocelot

Common name: ‘Ocelot’

Scientific name: Leopardus pardalis

The ocelot is a small wild cat known for its beautiful spotted coat and adaptability to a range of habitats including forests, highland mountain areas, and mangroves.

Many people confuse these cute felines with domestic cats because of their tiny bodies. These small carnivores love eating animals like rabbits, lizards, fish, and armadillos. 

Ocelots are elusive and primarily nocturnal animals, which can make spotting them in the wild quite challenging. But you could catch a glimpse of them at either Maya Biosphere Reserve, Tikal National Park, or Sierra de las Minas Biosphere Reserve as well as other wild animals in Guatemala.

9. Brown Rat

Common name: Brown Rat

Scientific name: Rattus norvegicus

Brown rats are one of the best-known and most common animals in the world. They are the second most successful mammal in the world. 

In Guatemala, just as in the rest of the Countries of the world, they are mostly found in populated areas.

10. Capuchin Monkey

Common name: ‘White-Faced Capuchin’

Scientific name: Cebus capucinus

White-faced capuchin monkeys are small to medium-sized primates with distinct facial markings, typically having a white face and dark-colored body.

These small and inquisitive monkeys are the easiest to observe in the wild. 

Capuchin monkeys are diurnal (active during the day) and are often seen in the canopy of trees, where they forage for fruits, insects, and other food.

They can be found in forest and mangrove habitats up to 2,100m elevation. 

Tikal, one of the most famous Mayan archaeological sites in Guatemala, is also home to a variety of wildlife, including white-faced capuchin monkeys. 

You can explore the Tikal ruins and keep an eye out for these monkeys in the surrounding forest.

Tip: Guatemala Wildlife tours are safe, but be aware!

Wild animals are unpredictable.

Get travel insurance before starting your journey.

I recommend Visitors Coverage.

11. White-Lipped Peccary

Common name: ‘White-Lipped Peccary’

Scientific name: Tayassu pecari

White-lipped peccaries are social and gregarious mammals that belong to the pig family (Suidae) and are known for their distinctive white facial markings.

White-lipped Peccaries are the big and aggressive brothers of the collared peccary and are widely considered the most dangerous peccary

They have been known to kill jaguars when trying to defend themselves. 

White-lipped peccaries often travel in groups, making them easier to spot and hear due to their vocalizations and the sound of them moving through the forest.

Maya Biosphere Reserve (Reserva de la Biosfera Maya) is a massive protected area in northern Guatemala that encompasses several national parks and wildlife reserves, including Laguna del Tigre National Park and Sierra del Lacandón National Park. 

These areas are home to White-Lipped Peccaries and other wildlife and there are several tours and day trips you can book online to visit Guatemala’s national parks and observe the amazing wildlife.

12. Brown Basilisk

Common name: ‘Brown Basilisk’

Scientific name: Basiliscus basiliscus

Brown Basilisks have the nickname ‘Jesus Lizard’ because when fleeing from a predator, they are so fast that they can even run on top of the water. 

They are native to Panama, Belize, northwestern Colombia, and Costa Rica. In Guatemala, this species is widespread and found practically anywhere where there is a water source. This species can be found in tropical and subtropical wet, moist, and dry forest habitats.

Basilisks are known for their excellent climbing and swimming abilities, and they are often seen basking in the sun near water or running on the surface of ponds and streams.

To see the Jesus Lizard in the wild, the Rio Dulce region in eastern Guatemala is a good place to visit with its rivers and lush landscapes that provide a suitable habitat for basilisks.

Take boat tours in Rio Dulce or explore the riverside areas to spot them and other water-based wild animals in Guatemala.

13. Spectacled Caimans

Common name: ‘Spectacled Caiman’

Scientific name: Caiman crocodilus

Spectacled caimans are small to medium-sized crocodilians and are known for their bony ridge between the eyes that gives them a “spectacled” appearance.

Although they are one of the smallest crocodile species, these guys are fierce predators. It can be found in much of Central and South America. It lives in a range of lowland wetland and riverside habitats and can tolerate salt water as well as fresh. 

Spectacled caimans are primarily nocturnal and can often be observed near the water’s edge and can be commonly found in wetlands and rivers, especially in the lowland regions of Guatemala

14. Black Hawk

Common name: ‘Black Hawk’

Scientific name: Buteogallus anthracinus

Black hawks are medium-sized raptors known for their dark plumage and distinctive call. These are successful predatory birds with a mysterious touch. 

They inhabit the Southwestern United States through Central America to Venezuela, Peru. 

Black hawks are typically observed perched in trees or flying over their preferred habitats.

Generally, these birds are found in lowland habitats, with a source of water nearby. In Guatemala, it can be found around the Caribbean coasts.

15. Black-Necked Stilt

Common name: ‘Black-Necked Stilt’’

Scientific name: Himantopus mexicanus

Black-necked stilts are wading birds known for their long, slender legs and distinctive black neck and head.

The Black-necked Stilt is an abundant shorebird of American wetlands and coastlines. It is found in Central America and the Caribbean. 

In Guatemala, they are commonly seen in the southern coasts. It is found in estuaries, salt ponds, and emergent wetland habitats.

Black-necked stilts are wading birds often seen foraging for food in shallow waters, particularly along the water’s edge.

16. Yucatan Black Howler

Common name: ‘Yucatan Black Howler’’

Scientific name: Alouatta pigra

Yucatan Black Howler
If you go on a vacation to spot the Guatemalan wildlife, make sure to check out the different types of monkeys and spot their interesting behavior.

The Yucatan Howler is a species of howler monkey native to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, northern Belize, and northern Guatemala.

Yucatan howler monkeys are known for their distinctive calls and black fur, and they primarily inhabit forests and rainforests in the Yucatan Peninsula.

These howler monkeys are primarily folivores, which means their diet mainly consists of leaves. They also consume fruits, flowers, and some insects.

Yucatan black howlers are considered a near-threatened species due to habitat loss and hunting. Conservation efforts are in place to protect their populations.

Tikal National Park, one of the most famous Mayan archaeological sites in Guatemala, is also home to a population of Yucatan Black Howler Monkeys. 

While exploring the park’s ancient ruins, keep an eye out for these monkeys in the surrounding jungle and a few other wild animals in Guatemala.

📖 Recommended Reading: If you’re looking for more useful information, check out Everything you need to know about Tikal.

17. Jaguar

Common name: ‘Jaguar’’

Scientific name: Panthera onca

Jaguars are the largest big cat species in the Americas and are known for their powerful build and distinctive rosette-patterned coat.

Guatemala is one of the countries in Central America where jaguars can be found in their natural habitat. They inhabit a range of ecosystems, including tropical rainforests, lowland wetlands, and montane cloud forests. 

These elusive predators are known for their ability to adapt to various habitats and are typically spotted near water sources, forest edges, and areas where they hunt for prey.

Seeing a jaguar in the wild is a rare and challenging experience due to their elusive nature and declining population.

But, you could book a trip to the northern Petén region of Guatemala and visit the Maya Biosphere Reserve (Reserva de la Biosfera Maya) known to have Jaguars inhabit the region. 

It is one of the best places to have a slim chance of encountering jaguars. And even if you don’t manage to spot a Jaguar you will get to see a wide range of wild animals in Guatemala.

jaguar
Of all the animals in Guatemala, the Jaguar is also one of the most important in the country due to its presence across indigenous cultures like the Mayans.

18. Baird’s Tapir

Common name: ‘Baird’s Tapir’’

Scientific name: Tapirus bairdii

Baird’s tapirs are the largest land mammals in Central America and are known for their distinct appearance, characterized by a long, flexible proboscis or snout.

Baird’s tapirs are primarily crepuscular and nocturnal, meaning they are most active during dawn and dusk or at night.

Baird’s Tapir
Baird’s Tapir is an interesting-looking type of tapir that stands out due to its facial structure and can be easily spotted on flooded grasslands and sometimes marsh areas.

To see the Baird’s Tapir you could visit Sierra del Lacandón National Park which is part of the Maya Biosphere Reserve (Reserva de la Biosfera Maya). 

The Maya Biosphere Reserve is a vast protected area in the northern Petén region known to be a stronghold for Baird’s Tapirs. 

19. Guatemalan Pygmy Owl

Common name: ‘Central American Pygmy Owl’’

Scientific name: Glaucidium griseiceps

These small owls inhabit a variety of woodland and forested habitats across their range. 

While they can be found in Guatemala, they are also present in other parts of Central America, making them a regional species.

Their adaptability to different types of forested environments allows them to thrive in a variety of locations within the region.

Central American pygmy owls are small owls with a distinctive appearance, including a round head and large yellow eyes.

Unlike most other owls, Central American pygmy owls are often active during the daytime. They are known for their distinctive calls.

a Guatemalan Pygmy Owl on a tree
Guatemalan Pygmy Owl is as cute as other owls but with a BIG difference, while other owls tend to be active at night, the pygmy owl can be found active during the daytime.

Consider staying at eco-lodges in Guatemala near known owl habitats and national parks and reserves.

20. Geoffroy’s Spider Monkey

Common name: ‘Geoffroy’s Spider Monkey’’

Scientific name: Ateles geoffroyi

Geoffroy’s spider monkeys are large, long-limbed primates known for their prehensile tails and are often recognized for their black fur and bearded appearance.

Geoffroy’s spider monkeys are often seen high in the canopy of trees, where they forage for fruits and leaves.

While exploring the ancient Mayan ruins at Tikal, you may also encounter these monkeys in the surrounding jungle.

Geoffroy’s Spider Monkey
Another interesting Guatemalan animal that can be also found in other countries of the region, and be easily spotted while exploring Tikal.

21. American Crocodile

Common name: ‘American Crocodile’

Scientific name: Crocodylus acutus

American crocodiles are a large species of crocodile known for their powerful jaws and semi-aquatic lifestyle. The American Crocodile is the second type of crocodile found in Guatemala together with the Spectacled Caiman.

American crocodiles are often seen basking in the sun near the water’s edge or partially submerged in water. 

American Crocodile
American Cocodriles as well as other types are easily spotted throughout northern Guatemala and near tourist places like Flores, just 45 minutes away from it at the Laguna de Macanche.

22. White-nosed Coati

Common Name: White-nosed Coati

Scientific name: Nasua narica

White-nosed coatis are members of the raccoon family (Procyonidae) and are known for their distinctive white facial markings and long, ringed tails.

White-nosed Coati
While these types of Coati are members of the raccoon family, people often say they look like little bears. The White-nosed Coati stands out a lot due to the color of his fur.

To see white-nosed coatis in their natural habitat in Guatemala, you can explore various regions with suitable woodland, forested, and lowland habitats

White-nosed coatis are often observed foraging on the forest floor or in trees, searching for fruits, insects, and other food. 

23. Hawksbill Turtle

Common Name: Hawksbill Turtle

Scientific name: Eretmochelys imbricata

Hawksbill turtles are a critically endangered species of sea turtle known for their distinctive beak-like mouth and beautiful tortoiseshell pattern on their shells.

Hawksbill Turtle
Hawksbill Turtle and other types of turtles play a huge role in Guatemala Wildlife, you can find tours to spot them and even get to release baby turtles in Monterrico.

To see hawksbill turtles in their natural habitat in Guatemala, you can explore various coastal regions, particularly along the Caribbean coast, where these turtles nest.

Hawksbill turtles are primarily encountered in the water when they are foraging or nesting on sandy beaches to lay their eggs.

The most notable location for hawksbill turtle nesting and conservation in Guatemala is the Monterrico-Hawaii National Park. The park, especially the area near the town of Monterrico in Guatemala, is known for its efforts in sea turtle conservation. 

The best time to see hawksbill turtles nesting in this area is during the nesting season, which typically occurs from July to November.

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Tips

If you want to travel without the hassle and confusion – check out a complete guide for traveling to Guatemala.

Places

For more travel ideas to add to your bucket list, check out a complete guide to all the best places to visit in Guatemala.

Food

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8 thoughts on “Guatemala Wildlife: Top 23 Animals to See

  1. My family is planning a trip to Guatemala for sometime next year. I’m very interested in the wildlife there. Any way you could give me more information?!

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  6. this is great website. I’m from guatemala , i was adopted. I love hearing about the animals that live in my home country .

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