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Mantled Howler Monkey  (Alouatta palliata) in Guanacaste




Those very cute noisy monkeys.



Frank & Christine Dziubak

Andrés Jimenez

Andrés Benavente

The Howler Monkeys are without a doubt the favorite animals of residents and tourists of Costa Rica.  Being the tourism stars that they are, they offer the additional advantage of being easy to find due to their impressing howls. They are also very easy to observe because of their group habits and their slow travel.

They have scared the daylights out of more than one incautious tourist with their loud howling. From the intensity of the bellowing one imagines that a giant bear, Big Foot or maybe the Incredible Hulk was charging them.

As a matter of fact I know someone who even suffered an embarrassing accident in his pants, although the biggest embarrassment came when he learned that the origin of his panic had been a little thing that did not even rich waist high on him.


Although the Mantled Howler monkeys are locally known as “Congo” monkeys, the Alouatta palliata has no relationship whatsoever with that African country, as they are found exclusively in the American tropics in an area that extends from the south of Mexico to the north of Brazil.


The peaceful and sociable Congos are quite an icon of Costa Rica and in particular of Guanacaste, frequently appearing on magazine covers, starring in promotional videos and omnipresent models in all tourism or real estate brochures of the area…There is even a local magazine called Howler. 


When all is said and done, all tourists want to see monkeys on their tours and in their ideal mental image of paradise they visualize monkeys howling in the garden of their new house on the beach.



In the mountain, good.  At the beach...much better.

Although they can be found at altitudes up to 2,000mt. Congos prefer lower and warmer grounds with a marked predilection for the lushness of the coastal forests. For this reason it’s usual to see large, healthy groups of Congos moving around complacently and without fear by the coastal towns where, in addition to finding abundant and always green vegetation, they are able to stay at a great distance away from the large cats, their only natural predators.


Their 100% vegetarian diet includes a wide variety of fruits, flowers and a sprinkle of legumes here and there, always combined with large consumption of new tree growth and young leaves.  Their favorites are two local varieties of Ficus plus the new growth and fruits of the Guava Trees (Psidium guajava) and the flowers and leaves of Copperwood tree (Bursera simaruba).




And what about those huge screams?  How do they make them?

Only the adult males can emit those monumental howls. Next to a large guttural sac they have an enlarged Hyoid bone, a bone found on the frontal part of the neck very close to the vocal cords and just under the tongue which by being hollow and enlarged, amplifies about 20 times the original sound made by the vocal cords of the howler.

However their language is not limited only to those loud screams; they have a varied vocal repertoire that includes diverse kinds of grunts, barks, whining, squawks, shrieking and even some soft purring between mother and child.

Over 23 different vocalizations in total have been identified, each with a specific communicational and social function. 







Never heard a Howler howling? Then see this video. Be carefull...first time could be kind of scary!!!


The real pura vida lifestyle !


These peaceful primates live in groups of 10 to 20 individuals, they seldom have internal or inter-group conflicts, have a very low risk of falling prey to other animals, do not know scarcity of food and by simply reaching out with their hands they can enjoy a tasty, varied and abundant meal. Not too shabby for being a monkey, huh?

And to round out a life without major problems, these shameless will rest or sleep on a branch at least 60% of its existence. What a life, right? To us humans their days may look not very stimulating but I assure you that in the animal kingdom there is not subsistence style more pura vida than this.



Would you like to help these guys?

Of course not all is always perfect in Congo’s lives. They face certain difficulties such as electrocution in cables (due to the loss of trees that served as bridges) and also by occasional dog attacks. 

Lend a hand...

Monkey Park: Visit this animal shelter and make a donation to the rescue center for primates and other animals orphaned or affected by an accident.


Monkey bridges: To help reduce the problems of electrocution, organize your community to make artificial bridges to reconnect the Congo’s normal routes. 

You can ask guidance and help to  (Save Monkeys) or by calling (506) 2653 0395


We now invite you to read the other articles of this issue on the virtual version of the magazine. 



Visit our latest issue on virtual paper
…or see previous issues in our virtual kiosk
utopia magazine and travel guide

What else would you like to see in Utopia Magazine? 

Things to do in Costa Rica

Golf in Guanacaste 

Tico Glossary Catalinas island 

Barra Honda Caves

Rincón de la Vieja

Diving in Guanacaste


Marina Papagayo Medical tourism

What does Pura Vida means? 

MAPS Ecology   Culture   

Hotels in Costa Rica Birds

watching guide MarineTurtles 

Playas del Coco NationalParks 

Transportation guide 

Humpback Whales 


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