Miraculous B Movie Stand Ins on a Costa Rica Beach?

jesus christ lizards costa rica

Juvenile Jesus Christ Lizard Manuel Antonio Costa Rica


My jaw hit the sand.


Floored, I watched these primitive-looking lizards walk on water.


Or run on water.


Either way; the guys defied the laws of physics, on a quiet Costa Rica beach.


Jesus Christ Lizards in Costa Rica


Jesus Christ Lizards are aptly named.


These chaps are so light on their feet and move with such speed that they literally skip on water, gliding across small streams with alarming speed.


I recall watching a JCL for the first time on Playa Espadilla, Costa Rica, by Manuel Antonio National Park.


B Movie Stand In


The common basilisk male looked like a stand in from a B movie in the 1950’s, with its huge frill and primitive nature. Classic monster movie material here.


I saw one such lizard slowly scaling a tree during our first trip to the beach. A few days later though I spotted the queer looking dude milling around by a small stream feeding into the Pacific Ocean.


One moment I spied a smallish lizard with its impressive headgear lazing in the sun.


The next split second I couldn’t believe my eyes; the guy ran on water!


Picture a Jesus Christ Lizard using its tail as a rudder and sprinting across a calm body of water, moving not entirely unlike a goose as it waddles to and fro. But the JCL moved with blinding speed.


Each step is a skip, tapping the water for a mini second before bounding forward toward land.


The miraculous nature of its wizardry left this experienced world traveler in awe.


Caiman – aka consumer of Jesus Christ Lizards – in Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica.


How quickly would virtually all creatures sink trying to pull off the same act? Yet the common basilisk calmly dances across the water like it’s barely breaking a sweat.


I observed a series of both juvenile and adult JCLs sprinting across the water in territorial disputes while lazing on the beach, admiring the sheer stunning lightness of their movement that would have made a ninja jealous. The creatures also evade predators through this brilliant strategy.


Jesus Christ Lizard Facts


  • the common basilisk is found in Central America and South America near water sources
  • The area around Manuel Antonio National Park – where I spotted these guys frequently – has one of the higher populations of JCLs in all of Costa Rica
  • juveniles run on water with greater ease due to their lighter weight
  • common basilisks are excellent swimmers


Is this My Most Awe-Inspiring Encounter with Wildlife?


It’s up there, for sure.


jesus christ lizard costa rica

There’s our guy again.


From facing a spitting cobra in Bali to evicting a huge centipede from the house in Thailand I have a rich array of wildlife stories to share. But I have seen nothing remotely close to the physics defying sprint of this amazing critter.


Toss in the primitive appearance of the lizard – he looked to be on par with the centipede, in terms of its primal look – and you have one of the more unique animals I’ve had the pleasure to meet on the road.