Do Critters Give you the Jitters?

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I don’t like spiders and snakes and that’s not what it takes to love my new home.

One of the things many of have to adapt to in the tropics is the abundance of unfamiliar wildlife. Some if it is actually dangerous but much of it is just, well, different.  Probable the animals most of us are afraid of are spiders and snakes so we will discuss these first.

top 10 Dangerous reptiles

The most dangerous things you may encounter, hopefully not but it is possible, are snakes. They are among the top 10 dangerous reptiles in the world.  Pit vipers are everywhere in the tropical rain forests and farmlands

Palm viper
Notice the eyes and the arrowhead shape of the head

that are in many areas of the tropics and they come in many shape, colors and sizes. The critical thing to understand is, most do not want to mess with you any more than you want to mess with them.


Recognition is the most important skill needed to avoid them

Since there are so many types of vipers the easiest way to recognize one is by the shape of its head, the pupils of its eyes and the pits on its snout. Those are the 3 things they all have in common. The shape of a pit viper’s head is basically that of an arrowhead, almost triangular in form. Their eyes have pupils that are not round rather elongated, but you really do not want to get close enough to look into their eyes, you will see no love there. Finally the pits near their nostrils can be seen from a fair distance but your best indication will be the shape of their head.

While we are discussing dangerous snakes Constrictors such as the Boa or

Boa Constrictor
Too big to mess with

a Python can be dangerous also but more to children and pets. Large ones have been known to kill adults as well. The easiest way to know not to mess with one is its size, if it is big, leave it alone.

Crocodiles, Alligators and Caiman are similar looking animals that are dangerous to pets and humans. Crocodiles live in fresh or salt water and are the most aggressive of the 3.  Alligators can also be deadly and both Caiman and Alligators live in freshwater.   Caimans are the least aggressive of the 3 but are still dangerous to children and pets.

Scorpions and Tarantulas are all over the tropics and while they most

If it stings, you will hurt

likely will not kill you their sting is very painful and will most definitely ruin your day and the next few to follow. Avoid them.

Venomous toads are common in the tropics.

Yep you read that right. Tropical toads produce a poison on their skin that is absorbed through your skin or directly ingested if eaten. They have been known to kill your dogs and cats so stay away from them.

Big cats

Yes Mountain lions, jaguar and Puma exist in the tropics but they do not like human contact. Should you see one, back away slowly.   Less common but also a part of the fauna are ocelot, jaguarundi and margay.   The last 3 are smaller cats that pose little danger to humans.


In addition to feral dogs which pose little or no danger, coyotes are rampant through the American tropics.  They are dangerous to small pets and even bigger dogs if they are hunting in a pack. They are not a danger to adult humans.

Insects that aren’t Tarantulas or Scorpions

The mosquito is a carrier of countless diseases and every step should be taken to minimize the chance of being bitten. These include eliminating all standing water on your property, staying inside at sunrise and sunset and wearing repellant if the occurrence is high. One natural repellant is burning a bit of rosemary, they hate the odor it produces.

African honey bees swarm and attack if you bother them and they can be deadly.  If you encounter a hive on or near your property call an exterminator, do not try and eliminate them yourself.

Wasps, a whole lot of pain but not often deadly.

Nasty but not dangerous.


Mice, rats, guinea pigs are all present in some locations, but mice and rats are present everywhere


I am not sure which is worse the beetle, the cockroach, the termite or the fly but be prepared all are abundant in the tropics. Flies, termites and beetles are seasonal while the infamous cockroach thrives year round. Both beetles and termites reproduce in the early months of spring which in most of the tropics is also the beginning of the rainy season. The fly, or should I say the horde arrives with the late spring or beginning of summer which also coincides with the fresh tropical fruit season, they seem to love mangos.

Cool reptiles

Iguanas are cool

Salamanders are everywhere and they eat insects so let them live, they are helping you.

Finally the coolest of all is the Iguana.  It looks like a dragon from the prehistoric ages and does not hurt anything except the vegetables they eat.


If you have any suggestions, ideas and or questions please leave a comment below.

10 thoughts on “Do Critters Give you the Jitters?”

  1. To tell you the truth…critters do give me the jitters!! I vacationed in the tropics this past winter and stayed in a villa. It was great because it was so open and airy with a beautiful view. But when you have a house that has the doors open all of the time, you have to expect that critters are going to get in. Luckily none of them made it to my bedroom, which would have really done me in…lol!!
    Great information in this post. Very helpful for anyone taking a trip to the tropics!!

    1. Thank you Emily,  The goal of our site is to present an honest look at what to expect from the tropics.  While most never see most of the dangerous critters mentioned, anything is possible so knowing what might show up, before it actually does show up can help prepare.

  2. I’ve always wanted to travel around the world and see everything that’s out there. Thanks to your article, I have decided that I definitely don’t want to visit the tropics! I believe I will do my critter watching from the safety of my living room television, and limit my travels to the Caribbean and maybe Hawaii and Florida.

    1. Hi Judy, Many of those very critters I wrote about are in Florida and the caribbean. You can not let the jitters keep you from loving the travel, but if you do visit warm places watch out for those critters.

  3. First I must say that I love the title haha. I love critters! I honestly never would have thought about mountain lions in the tropics. I am conscious of them here in the mountains but it wouldn’t have occured to me on vacation. Great post. A wealth of information.

  4. Who knew retirement could be so dangerous?

    I’ve often found that about tropical vacation. All sorts of crawly things around you to give you the heebie jeebies. I lived in Brazil for a couple years and we had to put all our food, perishable or not, in the fridge or it would get taken away by the constant trail of ants moving along our floors and walls.

    Stay safe out there.

    1. It really isn’t any more dangerous than living in Georgia, Florida Texas or Southern California.but the actual critters are not the exact same ones although quite  few are.  Ants, oh my lord you have to seal your food in ziploc plastic bags or glass jars.  

  5. Thank you for your article. I remember going on a cruise and we when we were on Grand Cayman island there were iguana everywhere! They were such a cool addition the backdrop of lounging on the beach. I love tropical area and find the change in wildlife fun, but when it comes to snakes.. no thank you. Good information!

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