How the most beautiful Halloween crabs stole my sleep

Abby Tegnelia Cheryl Grant

Relaxing with my friend Cheryl after re-adjusting to sleeping in the jungle.

On a previous trip to Costa Rica, I first laid eyes on a beautiful purple and orange type of crab (nicknamed the Halloween crab) and took the photo below of it in shallow ocean water. I thought it was the most people sea creature I had ever seen! On this trip? Well, I could still see its beauty, but when they descended on my vacation home by the dozens, my view did change a bit! It all started our first night in our Costa Rican paradise on the dense jungle beaches of Santa Teresa. My friends ever so politely recommended I stay in a certain bedroom downstairs. It wasn’t until later that they told me there was a bat in one of the upstairs bedrooms.

Did I mention that the house was open-air? In the jungle?

After almost two years of living back in Las Vegas, I had forgotten what it was like to sleep in the jungle. I’ve fought insomnia my entire life, with the year I spent in Coco, Costa Rica the only time I learned to sleep soundly, without a stressful job and busy life racing through my brain at night. But learning to sleep among the scorpions and other critters had taken a little practice. And I was out of practice.

This all came to a head at sundown during my first night in Santa Teresa.

It was all fun and games… until sundown.

Earlier, we had read a simple notice on the refrigerator instructing guests to close the gates at dusk for the crabs. We looked down for the first time and sure enough, there were foot-high plexi-glass gates. We shrugged and went out by the pool. I happened to be in my room when I heard the good-natured shrieks: “close the gates!”

Dozens and dozens of those beautiful crabs were coming up from the beach, right at sundown. They were everywhere!

Halloween crab

I was so happy with this photo of a Halloween crab on a previous trip — before they descended on my vacation house by the dozens.

What followed in the next day or two may or may not have included my shrieking and standing on my bed while a crab loudly tapped across the tile in my room taka-taka-taka-taka before Kelsey easily swept it out.  Andreea ridded my room of the second, laughing hysterically at me.

One of my crab-slayers (although we just shooed them outside), Andreea, in our pool.

In the end, it was an easy and fast transition. I quickly learned that you can hear those crabs from a mile away, so I didn’t need to fear any surprises. And my muscles remembered that after you check your sheets for scorpions, that means there are no scorpions in your sheets. It is that simple. And then sleep came so easily in the complete darkness of the thick trees of Costa Rica.

I woke up the next morning, before putting in my contacts, and saw what I thought was a doorstopper or something against the wall. Then it moved. I laughed, got up and grabbed my glasses. Taka-taka-taka-taka it clipped as fast as it could to the corner of the room, where it froze. Does she see me? After a few minutes, it slowly, very slowly, made its way in a sort of crab sideways tip-toe towards the bed, under which it stayed.

But I never thought of it again. Not even when I was trying to sleep.

Andreea took a stunning close-up of one of the crabs for her awesome Costa Rican blog, The Sasu Post. Check it out!


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I'm a life-long travel junkie journalist who works hard to find adventure in everyday life after two years of travel and expat living.

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  1. I LOVE this story!!! Probably my favorite. I cannot imagine checking my sheets for scorpions. The crabs … that’s just cute 🙂

  2. Crabs…now the colourful ones don’t bother me, they’re kinda cute. The bigger ones…well, they’re just spiders with shells. Ditto to scorpions. Bleargh!

    I can’t imagine a whole bunch of crabs swarming where I’m staying though?! Still, better crabs swarm your pad in the jungle rather than, say, centipedes or tarantulas *shudder*

  3. I remember those crabs from my trip to Costa Rica last year! Thankfully none of them ambushed me at night, but I did hear a giant rodent munching its way through our spare food supplies in the jungle in Corcovado. You’ve got to love sharing your bedroom with nature!

  4. Lol don’t you love trying to sleep in the jungle? It’s like nothing else!

  5. Damn… now I want to go back. And I was JUST there!
    Thanks lol

  6. Finally we got the story of the Crabs! Love it Abby! So well written as always!

  7. I’ll never forget that sound!! Taka-taka-taka-taka….

  8. Wow! That is honestly the most beautiful colored creature I’ve ever seen! A bit freaky at first but truly unique 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    Cathy Trails

  9. It is SO gorgeous!!! I want one now haha!

  10. I wanted one… until the invasion!

  11. The crabs really do look cute. I could probably handle listening to them at night without too much worry. The scorpions on the other hand…wouldn’t it be much simpler if we could just teach the crabs to eat the scorpions? Somebody should get on that!

  12. I don’t think these guys are trainable lol. At least a dozen did suicide missions into the pool every night!

  13. Is that what those guys are called?!? I saw a ton of them on Roatan in December and had no idea! Such beautiful little creatures–though you’re brave to sleep in an open-air house!

  14. They have like 18 names! I picked the one I liked best. 🙂

  15. You are not going to believe this….There is a big purple crab on my deck right now. The craziest part is I live on the 4th floor….Most humans can’t even do these stairs!!!! Great post chica. It was awesome to see you 🙂 Come back soon!!!

  16. Sasu was the only one brave enough to get into the crab infested waters! lol

  17. A crab invasion sounds scary! Although I’ll take crabs over scorpions.

  18. I must go to Costa Rica now to see those crabs! And maybe fry one up for dinner. 🙂

  19. I know those stairs. How did that little guy get all the way up there?! That Sasu lol. She thinks we’re such wusses!


    The taka-taka-taka got me. This is so great!

    They look delicious. I think I would eat any that got into my house.

  21. Of all the pests you could encounter, crabs seem like one of the most tame. And coolest looking.

  22. This made me laugh. That crab is so colourful!! I kinda want one as a pet 🙂

  23. Aww, those crabs are so pretty! I know crabs aren’t the most evil of villains, but there strong little claws scare me. I don’t want to lose my pinkie toe!

  24. When I was in Costa Rica, my friend woke me up screaming because she discovered a crab crawling around in her bed under the covers. This crab is quite pretty, but after that experience, they all freak me out.

  25. Those crabs must only be in Costa Rica, I have never seen one anywhere else in Central America.

  26. Those are stunning crabs! Not so sure I’d want them in my room, but I would share if they happened to be there.

  27. hahaha this is great. I love imagining you freaking out but then eventually just letting go and learning to live with it. It’s good for you! Also, those crabs are totally awesome looking.

  28. OMG, when I was in Costa Rica in May, these Halloween crabs were EVERYWHERE! When I went in October, I didn’t see a single one, so I didn’t know they existed. Then this last time, I stayed at an eco-friendly resort that had planks everywhere so as not to disturb wildlife…but that meant that when you walked along them, crabs heard you coming and scampered everywhere! They scared the crap out of me. I would freak out if they were in my room!

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