Where to See Sloths in Costa Rica
Where to see sloths in Costa Rica: With a bounty of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, Costa Rica is a paradise for wildlife lovers and a must-visit for anyone smitten with these slow-moving, tree-dwelling creatures.
Costa Rica: The Sloth Haven
Costa Rica, a small country in Central America, is home to two species of sloths: the three-toed sloth and Hoffman’s two-toed sloth. These adorable animals dwell in lush rainforests, cloud forests, and national parks, living the slow life amongst the tall trees.
The country’s biodiversity is off the charts, a veritable treasure trove of flora and fauna. From the Pacific Coast to the Caribbean Coast, and from the dry forest of the north to the wet and wild southern Costa Rica, the country is a banquet of natural wonders.
Where to Find Sloths in Costa Rica
So, where’s your best bet to spot sloths in the wild? Let’s break it down.
Manuel Antonio National Park
Manuel Antonio is our top pick due to the combination of scenery, resorts, and wildlife. This park offers a good chance of sloth sightings. A guided tour with a naturalist guide can boost your chances and provide fascinating insights into the lives of these interesting creatures.
One of the best places to stay near Manuel Antonio is Tulemar, winner of TripAdvisors’ best worldwide for several years. We’ve stayed at this resort, and sloth spottings are easy whenever you step out of your villa.
No sloth tour was needed here; we saw so much wildlife in the resort area that we didn’t even go into the national park!
Tulemar Resort is a luxurious getaway in the heart of Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. Offering a range of accommodations, from intimate bungalows to spacious villas, it’s the perfect destination for any traveler. With its private beach, lush rainforest surroundings, and abundant wildlife, Tulemar provides an unforgettable experience in a tropical paradise.
Where To Eat: El Patio de Café Milagro for breakfast. Our favorite dinner was a private check, Chef Jose, cooking in our villa!
How To Get There: To reach Tulemar Resort, fly into one of Costa Rica’s two main international airports, Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) in San José or Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (LIR) in Liberia. From there, rent a car or arrange a private shuttle (our preference) to transport you directly to the resort. The journey from SJO takes approximately 2.5-3 hours, while the drive from LIR lasts around 4-5 hours, offering scenic routes through the beautiful Costa Rican countryside.
Tip: We found some great prices during October, the rainy reason. Check for the best prices here:
Corcovado National Park
Touted by National Geographic as “the most biologically intense place on Earth”, Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula is an excellent place to spot sloths, howler monkeys, and other wildlife.
Near the Arenal Volcano National Park, La Fortuna offers a variety of sloth tours. Keep your eyes on the tree branches; you might even spot a baby sloth! Although we saw several in the area, we didn’t see nearly as many sloths in the La Fortuna area as in Manuel Antonio.
Monteverde Cloud Forest
The cloud forest is a protected area and a great place for sloth spotting, especially three-fingered sloths. Opt for a private tour for the best experience.
Tortuguero National Park is on the Caribbean side and is another hotspot for sloths in Costa Rica. The greenery and low metabolic rate of sloths make for a perfect match.
Costa Rica’s rescue centers and sanctuaries are the way to go for those seeking a more up-close-and-personal encounter with sloths.
Costa Rican Sloth Sanctuaries and Rescue Centers
Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica – Near Puerto Viejo de Talamanca on the Caribbean coast, this sanctuary offers the “Buttercup Tour”, named after their first rescue, a three-toed sloth. Here, you’ll learn all about the natural environment of sloths and witness the care given to young and adult sloths.
Jaguar Rescue Center – Located on the south Caribbean side, this rescue center is home to many sloths. Their mission is to rescue, rehabilitate, and release wild animals back into their natural habitats.
Toucan Rescue Ranch – This wildlife refuge near San Jose offers educational tours where you’ll meet a variety of animals, including the lovable Costa Rican sloth.
Proyecto Asis – Close to La Fortuna, this center offers a chance to volunteer and work with sloths and other wild animals.
Sloth Institute – Based near Manuel Antonio National Park, this institute focuses on the research, rescue, and release of sloths. Each of these centers contributes to the vital task of preserving the lives and habitats of these remarkable creatures.
Spotting Sloths in the Wild
Spotting sloths in their natural habitat is an experience like no other. These nocturnal animals spend most of their lives hanging upside down on tree branches, feasting on leaves, twigs, and buds, especially from cecropia trees. The three-toed sloths, or “Brad \ypus Variegatus”, are characterized by their three long claws or “fingers” on their front feet. Hoffman’s two-toed sloth, “Choloepus Hoffmanni”, on the other hand, has two fingers on their front feet.
The sloths’ slow movements and greenish hue (thanks to the green algae in their fur) blend seamlessly with the foliage, creating a living, breathing snapshot of the entire ecosystem at work. It’s like trying to spot a puzzle piece that doesn’t want to be found, but seeing a sloth is a little magic in real life.
This sloth was hanging out at our breakfast restaurant in the above picture. This was just across the street from our resort in Manuel Antonio, Tulemar.
A Few Tips for Your Sloth Adventure
Exploring Costa Rica’s national parks and wildlife centers is the best way to see sloths in their natural habitat. Here are a few tips to make your sloth-spotting adventure a success:
- Patience is key: Sloths are known for their slow movements. They aren’t going to make it easy for you! Be patient, stay quiet, and keep your eyes peeled on the tree branches.
- Hire a guide: A trained guide can drastically increase your chances of spotting these cute creatures. They know the best places and can spot these well-camouflaged animals from a mile away.
- Bring binoculars: Sloths usually hang out high in the trees. A pair of binoculars can come in handy to get a closer look.
- Respect their space: Remember, you’re in their home. Keep a safe distance and avoid any actions that could disturb the sloths or other wild animals.
- Join a tour: Sloth tours, such as the “sloth tour” in La Fortuna or the “Buttercup tour” at the Sloth Sanctuary, can provide a unique and informative experience.
- Consider visiting a rescue center or sanctuary: If your heart is set on seeing baby sloths, visiting a place like the Sloth Rescue Center or the Sloth Institute might be your best bet.
Whether spotting them from the side of the road or gazing up at them from the forest floor, witnessing sloths in Costa Rica will surely be an experience you won’t forget. From the Manuel Antonio National Park to the Tortuguero National Park and the Toucan Rescue Ranch to the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica, the opportunities to encounter these fascinating animals are endless.
So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags, book your ticket, and get ready to meet the sloths of Costa Rica. It’s time to see the world at a sloth’s pace!
- Are there sloths all over Costa Rica? Yes, sloths can be found across Costa Rica, from the Pacific Coast to the Caribbean. The best places are usually the national parks, cloud forests, and wildlife sanctuaries.
- What are the types of sloths in Costa Rica? Costa Rica is home to two types of sloths: the three-toed sloth and the Hoffman’s two-toed sloth.
- Is it safe to touch a sloth? It’s best to avoid touching sloths or any wild animals. They can be stressed by human contact, and it’s crucial to respect their natural behavior and habitat.
- What other wildlife can I see in Costa Rica? Costa Rica’s wildlife is incredibly diverse. You can see howler monkeys, various birds, reptiles, and more besides sloths.
- Can I volunteer at a sloth sanctuary? Some sanctuaries, such as Proyecto Asis and the Jaguar Rescue Center, offer volunteer programs. You can help care and rehabilitate sloths and other wild animals.
- Why do sloths move so slowly? Sloths have a very low metabolic rate and move slower than most other mammals. This slow lifestyle helps them conserve energy.
- Can sloths be seen year-round in Costa Rica? Yes, sloths can be seen year-round. However, the dry season (from December to April) is often considered the best time for wildlife viewing in Costa Rica.
- Can I see sloths in the city? While it’s possible to spot a sloth in some city parks or even hanging out on an electrical line, your best chance to see these creatures in their natural habitat is in the country’s national parks and sanctuaries.
- Are there tours specifically for sloth-spotting? Yes, there are many sloth-specific tours available in Costa Rica. These tours are led by experienced guides who can help spot these elusive animals and provide interesting facts about their lifestyle and habits.
- How can I best photograph a sloth? Patience is key when photographing sloths. Since they move so slowly, you can wait for the perfect shot. Using a good zoom lens can help, as sloths often hang high in the trees.
Visiting Costa Rica offers an amazing opportunity to witness sloths in their natural habitat. As we journey through the lush rainforests, we become part of a world teeming with life and biodiversity. Seeing a sloth in Costa Rica isn’t just about spotting an adorable animal; it’s about experiencing the vibrant pulse of nature itself. So, head out to the land of Pura Vida and enjoy this unique sloth-filled adventure!