Disclaimer: This article may contain affiliate links. Clicking on them may earn Costa Rica Vibes a commission, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support!

11 Costa Rica Animal Sanctuaries to Visit: Wildlife Rescue

Would you like to see wildlife up close at one of the many animal sanctuaries in Costa Rica?

The wildlife rescue centers in Costa Rica are designed to provide a home for animals that are either being rehabilitated or cannot be released back into the wild. Visiting these centers not only provides a unique opportunity to see Costa Rican wildlife up close but also supports the important work of conservation and animal welfare.

We created this guide to the 11 best wildlife rescue centers in Costa Rica to help you find the perfect sanctuary to visit during your vacation, give you info on volunteering at one of these places, help you to support wildlife efforts, and fill you in on what to look out for and be aware of before visiting one of these rescue centers.

Costa Rica Animal Sanctuaries at a Glance

  • I created a clickable map of all the places on this list so you can easily find a place to visit near where you are staying.
  • Please don’t ever touch or get too close to the wildlife in Costa Rica. This can scare them and can also cause health issues.
  • Read until the end to educate yourself on the various controversies of some of these rescue centers.
sloth costa rica

1. Diamonte Eco Adventure Park

The Diamante Animal Sanctuary is a wildlife conservation and education center located within the Diamante Eco Adventure Park.
Diamonte is the perfect place to visit for an action-packed full day. We recommend it for families, but people of all ages will enjoy it as well.
  • Location: Near Matapalo in Guanacaste. This is a great day trip from most Guanacaste area towns such as Playas del Coco, Playa Hermosa, the Papagayo Peninsula, Playa Flamingo, Playa Potrero, or Tamarindo.
  • Wildlife: The sanctuary is home to a variety of species, including jaguars, pumas, monkeys, sloths, exotic birds, and reptiles. Each animal has been rescued from situations of distress.
  • How to Visit: Visitors can explore the sanctuary as part of the Diamante Eco Adventure Park experience. The park offers several adventure packages that include access to the animal sanctuary. I suggest booking the full-day adventure pass to participate in all the fun things the park has to offer at your own pace.
  • Other Attractions in Diamante Eco Adventure Park:
    • Ziplining: The park features five dual ziplines, including the longest ocean-view zipline in Costa Rica.
    • Hanging Bridges: Explore the canopy from above on a fun hanging bridge walk.
    • Ocean Activities: Enjoy stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, snorkeling, and relaxing in hammocks along the beautiful coastline.
    • Botanical Gardens
    • Butterfly Garden
    • Dining: The all-day pass includes a buffet lunch, fruit drinks, and coffee.
  • Tickets: Tickets can be purchased online or on-site. You can pre-book your day pass here.

Pre-Purchase Your Diamonte Day Pass Here

2. Rescate Widllife Rescue Center

The Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center is a renowned wildlife rehabilitation and conservation facility.
They are focused on rescuing, rehabilitating, and returning wild animals to their natural environment when possible. They also provide lifelong care for animals that cannot be returned to the wild.
  • Location: La Garita, Alajuela, Costa Rica (near the San Jose International Airport)
  • Wildlife: The center is home to a diverse range of animals, including monkeys, birds, big cats, reptiles, and other native species. They specialize in the care of injured and orphaned wildlife, providing a sanctuary for animals that cannot be released back into their natural habitat​​​​.
  • How to Visit:
    • Public Tours: Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center is open to visitors daily from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Here you can walk around the park at your own pace to explore the wildlife sanctuary. Tickets can be purchased online or at the gate. You can pre-purchase your tickets through Viator here.
    • Guided Tours: For a more in-depth experience, the center offers guided tours where knowledgeable staff provide detailed information about the animals and the center’s conservation efforts. These tours can be booked in advance.
  • Volunteer Opportunities: The center offers a variety of volunteer and internship programs. Volunteers can assist with animal care, rehabilitation, education programs, and maintenance tasks. I think this would be a really fun place to volunteer. You can get more info on their website.
  • Support the Center: There are several ways to support the Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center. They have an extensive list of current projects which need funding on their website.

Pre-Purchase Your Rescate Wildlife Center Tickets Here

3. The Sloth Sanctuary

11 Costa Rica Animal Sanctuaries to Visit: Wildlife Rescue
The Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica is a dedicated facility focused on the rescue, rehabilitation, and research of injured and orphaned sloths.
The sanctuary also aims to educate the public about these unique creatures and the importance of their conservation.
  • Location: Cahuita on the Caribbean Coast
  • Wildlife: The sanctuary primarily cares for both two-toed and three-toed sloths. These animals are often victims of deforestation, car accidents, or electrocution from power lines. The sanctuary provides them with medical care and a safe environment for rehabilitation with the goal of releasing them back into the wild whenever possible​​​​.
  • How to Visit: The Sloth Sanctuary offers several types of tours. These include the Buttercup Tour, which provides an introduction to sloth biology and behavior, and the Insider’s Tour, which offers a more in-depth look at the sanctuary’s operations and rehabilitation efforts. These tours are by reservation only.
  • Volunteer Opportunities: The Sloth Sanctuary offers a volunteer program for animal lovers. Volunteers assist with tasks such as feeding, cleaning, and providing enrichment for the sloths. You can find out more on their website
  • Support the Sanctuary: The sanctuary is always thankful for donations. They also have a merch section on their website which helps support their efforts as well as a wish list of items that they currently need.

Find Out More About the Sloth Sanctuary

4. La Paz Waterfall Gardens

la paz waterfall
La Paz Waterfall Gardens is a sprawling nature park and wildlife sanctuary.
The park features five magnificent waterfalls, lush rainforests, and a wide variety of native wildlife.
It is one of the most popular ecological attractions in Costa Rica and is a great place for families who want to see a variety of wildlife in a condensed area with well-maintained features.
You can check out our complete guide to visiting La Paz for more info.
  • Location: Vara Blanca, just north of Alajuela (this is a great day trip from the San Jose Airport area)
  • Wildlife: La Paz Waterfall Gardens is home to a variety of wildlife, including jaguars, pumas, ocelots, monkeys, sloths, birds, and reptiles. The sanctuary also houses the largest butterfly observatory in the world and numerous species of hummingbirds, snakes, and frogs​​​​​​.
  • How to Visit:
    • La Paz Waterfall Gardens is open year-round from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and visitors can explore the park on their own​​​​.
    • Tickets: Entrance fees are $58.00 USD for adults and $41.00 USD for children (ages 3-12). Tickets can be pre-purchased online or on-site​​.
    • Facilities: The park features several amenities, including restaurants, gift shops, and bathrooms throughout the premises​​.
  • Attractions at La Paz Waterfall Gardens
    • Waterfalls: The park boasts five stunning waterfalls connected by a series of paved trails and staircases, providing breathtaking views from various angles​​​​.
    • Wildlife Exhibits: jungle cats exhibit with rescued jaguars, pumas, and ocelots, the largest butterfly garden in the world featuring over 25 species of butterflies, aviary with numerous bird species such as toucans and macaws, sloth exhibit that is home to rescued animals which were previously kept as pets or found injured.
    • Other Exhibits: Visitors can also explore the hummingbird garden, serpentarium, frog pond, and a traditional Costa Rican farmhouse (casita) showcasing local culture and history​​​​.

Pre-book Your Tickets to La Paz Waterfall Gardens Here

5. Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary

The Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary is dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating injured, orphaned, and displaced wildlife. 
They provide medical care and rehabilitation. Whenever possible, they release animals back into their natural habitat. For those that cannot be released, Alturas offers a permanent home.
  • Location: Near Dominical on the Central Pacific coast
  • Wildlife: The sanctuary cares for a variety of animals, including monkeys, sloths, birds, and reptiles.
  • How to Visit: Tours are available daily at 9:00 am., 11:00 am., and 1:00 pm. Reservations are recommended. They are closed on Mondays.
  • Volunteer Opportunities: Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary offers volunteer programs, which, in my opinion, seem to be excellent. Volunteers assist with animal care, feeding, and rehabilitation activities. Programs can range from short-term stays to longer commitments, depending on your availability and the sanctuary’s needs.
  • Support the Sanctuary: Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary appreciates donations. The sanctuary also has a wish list of items needed for animal care, which can be found on their website.

Find out more about visiting Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary

6. The Jaguar Rescue Center

The Jaguar Rescue Center gives both temporary and permanent residence to wildlife.
They provide essential veterinary services, give round-the-clock care, and provide comfort to creatures unable to survive in the wild.
  • Location: Near Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast
  • Wildlife: The sanctuary is home to monkeys, wild cats, sloths, anteaters, and an array of bird species such as macaws and toucans.
  • How to Visit:
    • There are tours that operates daily at 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.
    • Tickets can be purchased online.
    • The sanctuary also offers private tours at 2:00 p.m., providing a VIP exclusive experience tailored to individual preferences.
  • Volunteer Opportunities: The Jaguar Rescue Center offers volunteer programs for those interested in animal care and rehabilitation. They offer a variety of programs from short to long term and even have internships.
  • Support the Sanctuary: Donations and adopting an animal are great ways to support the Jaguar Rescue Center.

Find out more about visiting the Jaguar Rescue Center

7. Kids Saving the Rainforest

Kids Saving the Rainforest (KSTR) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of the rainforest and wildlife through education, rehabilitation, and reforestation efforts. It was founded by two nine-year-old girls in 1999 and has since grown into a significant conservation effort.
  • Location: Near Manuel Antonio
  • Wildlife: The sanctuary rescues and rehabilitates Costa Rican animals such as monkeys, sloths, birds, and other native species. KSTR operates a wildlife rehabilitation center providing medical care and shelter to injured or orphaned animals.
  • How to Visit: Tours are available by reservation only. These tours offer a behind-the-scenes look at rehabilitation efforts and various animals.
  • Volunteer Opportunities: KSTR offers programs for individuals interested in conservation, including animal care, reforestation projects, and educational outreach. These programs vary in length and accommodate both short-term and long-term volunteers. This is a popular place to volunteer, so definitely check out their website for all the great opportunities.
  • Support the Organization: On their website they have a list of projects that need support and funding. They are always thankful for donations.

Plan Your Visit to Kids Saving the Rainforest

8. Toucan Rescue Ranch

toucan costa rica
The Toucan Rescue Ranch (TRR) is a non-profit organization focused on the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of Costa Rica’s native wildlife.
The ranch also engages in education and research to promote wildlife conservation.
  • Location: San Isidro
  • Wildlife: TRR specializes in the care of toucans, sloths, owls, and other native wildlife. They rescue and rehabilitate animals that have been injured, orphaned, or confiscated from the illegal wildlife trade, providing them with medical care and a safe environment for recovery.
  • How to Visit:
    • Tours: Available by appointment only. Tours offer a comprehensive look at the rehabilitation process and allow visitors to see various animals up close. They offer a variety of tours including one in which you can drink some fresh Costa Rican coffee while observing the sloths.
    • Spend the Night: TRR also offers the unique chance to spend the night at their rescue center. I think this is a super cool and unique experience. It will give you the chance to speak with the sanctuary staff and see up close what goes into the animals’ care.
  • Volunteer Opportunities: Toucan Rescue Ranch provides volunteer programs for individuals passionate about wildlife conservation. Volunteers assist with animal care, feeding, enrichment activities, and facility maintenance. These programs vary in duration.

Plan Your Visit to Toucan Rescue Ranch

9. Proyecto Asis

Proyecto Asis is dedicated to the conservation and rehabilitation of Costa Rica’s native wildlife. The center aims to rescue and rehabilitate animals that have been injured, orphaned, or confiscated from illegal trade, and also focuses on educating the public about conservation issues.
  • Location: La Fortuna
  • Wildlife: Proyecto Asis cares for a variety of animals including monkeys, sloths, birds, and other native wildlife. The center rehabilitates animals with the goal of releasing them back into the wild whenever possible. For those that cannot be released, Proyecto Asis provides long-term care​​​​.
  • How to Visit: Proyecto Asis offers guided tours that provide an educational experience about wildlife rescue and rehabilitation efforts. Tours include an opportunity to see the animals and learn about their stories and the broader conservation challenges they face.
  • Volunteer Opportunities: Proyecto Asis offers volunteer programs for individuals interested in contributing to wildlife conservation. Volunteers assist with daily tasks such as feeding animals, cleaning enclosures, and participating in educational outreach programs.

Plan Your Visit to Proyecto Asis

10. Sibu Wildlife Sanctuary

Sibu Wildlife Sanctuary is a dedicated refuge for Costa Rica’s native wildlife, focusing on the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of injured, orphaned, and displaced animals.
They also are working on building bridges for wildlife over electrical wires to stop injuries.
  • Location: Nosara
  • Wildlife: The sanctuary primarily focuses on howler monkeys but also cares for other native species such as coatis, anteaters, and various birds.
  • How to Visit: Tours are available by appointment and offer an intimate look at the sanctuary’s operations, including the rescue and rehabilitation efforts. These guided tours are held on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings. You need to pre-book tickets on their website.
  • Volunteer Opportunities: Sibu Wildlife Sanctuary offers volunteer programs. Volunteers assist with tasks such as animal care, habitat maintenance, and educational outreach.
  • Support the Sanctuary: You can support the sanctuary by donating on their website.

Find Out More on the Sibu Wildlife Sanctuary Website

11. The Sloth Institute

A sloth hanging in a tree in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
The aim of The Sloth Institute is to enhance the welfare and conservation of wild and captive sloths through research, education, and collaboration.
They do this by conducting various studies on sloth behavior, health, and habitats as well as by working with local communities and schools to foster a greater understanding and appreciation for sloths​​.
  • Location: Manuel Antonio
  • Wildlife: Primarily sloths, both two-toed and three-toed species
  • How to Visit: The Sloth Institute is not open to the public for regular tours, but you can learn about their work and support their mission through donations or by purchasing merchandise from their online store. The best way to actually visit is by volunteering with the institute.
  • Volunteer Opportunities: They offer a range of programs from Sloth Research Technicians to Husbandry and Field Technician roles.
  • Support the Sloth Institute: You can support the Sloth Institute through donations, virtually adopting a sloth, or purchasing items from their online store.

Find out more about volunteering or supporting the Sloth Institute

Other Things to Know About Wildlife Sanctuaries in Costa Rica

11 Costa Rica Animal Sanctuaries to Visit: Wildlife Rescue

Visiting wildlife sanctuaries can be a rewarding and educational experience, but there are several important factors to consider to ensure a safe and responsible visit for both you and the animals.

Current Costa Rica Travel Discounts

Controversies About Rescue Centers

While many wildlife sanctuaries in Costa Rica are dedicated to the ethical treatment and rehabilitation of animals, some have faced controversies regarding their practices. Key issues include:

  • Commercialization: Some sanctuaries may prioritize profit over animal welfare, leading to overcrowded conditions and inadequate care​​​​. In this situation they become no different than for-profit zoos.
  • Lack of Regulation: The absence of strict regulations and oversight can result in some facilities operating without proper standards.
  • Permanent Captivity: Criticism arises when sanctuaries do not make enough effort to release rehabilitated animals back into the wild. There is a belief that some places keep animals as permanent residents to attract more visitors​​​​.

Some of the places I listed above have faced controversy in the past.

It is up to you to decide if a particular sanctuary is a place that you feel comfortable supporting.

Safety for Visitors and Animals

Ensuring your safety and the safety of the animals during your visit is essential:

  • Follow Guidelines: Always adhere to the sanctuary’s rules and guidelines. This includes keeping a safe distance from animals and not attempting to touch or feed them unless explicitly allowed by staff​​​​.
  • Stay on Designated Paths: Stick to designated trails and areas to avoid disturbing the animals and their habitats.
  • Do Not Feed the Animals: Human food can be harmful to wildlife and disrupt their natural diets. Feeding animals can also lead to dependency on humans and alter their natural behaviors​​.
  • Avoid Flash Photography: Flash can startle and stress animals, particularly nocturnal species or those with sensitive eyesight.
  • Respect Their Space: Give animals ample space and avoid loud noises or sudden movements that could frighten them​​.

Where Have the Animals Come From?

The animals in a lot of these sanctuaries have come from a variety of places. Some have been rescued after being injured from things such as being hit by a car. A lot of the animals have also been confiscated after being kept illegally as pets as part of an illegal pet trade.

The goal should always be to provide rehabilitation and release the animals back into their natural habitats. However, this is not always possible, especially with wildlife that has been kept as pets. They have often become too domesticated to survive on their own in the wild.

Other Ways to See Wildlife in Costa Rica

11 Costa Rica Animal Sanctuaries to Visit: Wildlife Rescue

Costa Rica is such a wildlife abundant country that it is always possible to see animals without visiting a rescue center. A few ways to see animals are:

  • Visit a National Park: There are many amazing national parks throughout the country that provide a sanctuary to wildlife. Check out our guide to national parks in Costa Rica for more info.
  • Take a Wildlife Tour: It is possible to hire a guide and take a wildlife tour almost anywhere in the country. For example, we love wildlife night tours in Monteverde or to hire a guide at a national park. These guides typically walk the trails every day and know where the wildlife hang out. They also often carry telescopic lenses so you can get a better view of animals hiding high up in the trees.

Conclusion: Wildlife Sanctuaries in Costa Rica

Exploring wildlife sanctuaries in Costa Rica is an incredible way to experience the country’s rich biodiversity while supporting vital conservation efforts.

From the playful monkeys at the Jaguar Rescue Center to the serene sloths at The Sloth Institute, and the big cats at La Paz Waterfall Gardens, these centers are beacons of hope for countless animals.

However, it’s essential to visit responsibly. Be aware of the controversies and ensure that the sanctuaries you support prioritize the well-being of their animals. Follow guidelines to keep both yourself and the animals safe.

Your visit can make a significant impact. By purchasing tickets, donating, or volunteering, you contribute directly to the ongoing efforts to rescue, rehabilitate, and release wildlife.

In summary, a visit to Costa Rica’s wildlife sanctuaries not only enriches your travel experience but also plays a part in the critical work of preserving the country’s natural heritage. Make your visit count by choosing ethical sanctuaries, respecting the wildlife, and spreading the word about the importance of conservation.

If you have any questions about visiting any of these Costa Rica animal sanctuaries don’t hesitate to leave them in the comment section below. We are always happy to help you out.

You Might Also Like:

Costa Rica Travel Details: What You Need to Know

🚗 Should I rent a car in Costa Rica?

Having a rental car will give you the most flexibility when traveling in Costa Rica. This will also allow you to take fun day trips on your own.

🏄🏽 How can I book things to do?

We find that Viator tends to have the most comprehensive selection of activities with secure booking and good cancellation policies.

🍍 I’m overwhelmed with planning. Can you help?

Of course! I suggest joining our Facebook group for specific questions and head to our Start Here Page to get started planning.

✈️ What is the best way to book a flight?

Usually, we have the best luck finding great prices with Skyscanner. Check for flights to both San Jose Airport (SJO) and Liberia Airport (LIR).

🛏️ What is the best way to book my Costa Rica hotels?

We highly suggest Booking.com for hotel bookings and typically use VRBO for Costa Rica vacation rentals.

🗣️What is the main language in Costa Rica?

The main language in Costa Rica is Spanish. Most people working in tourism speak at least some English.

💰 What is the currency in Costa Rica?

The currency used in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican colón (CRC). However, the US dollar is widely accepted in most tourist areas

📞 What is the best way to stay connected?

An eSIM from Airalo is the easiest way to get 4G data while traveling in Costa Rica.

🌴 Is Costa Rica safe?

Generally, Costa Rica is considered safe for tourists. However, like any travel destination, it’s best to use caution and be aware of your surroundings.

🛂 Do you need a passport to go to Costa Rica?

Yes, Costa Rica is its own country. You will need a passport to visit.