Sloths in Costa Rica – How to See These Cuties

A sloth hanging in a tree in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
about us

Hi! We’re Thomas (the German) and Sarah (the US-er).

We met in Virginia, moved to Germany, and now live in sunny Costa Rica.

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Have you ever seen a sloth in real life? If not, I promise you they are as cute, unique, and fascinating as you imagine.

One of the most popular things to do while visiting Costa Rica is to try and see a sloth. And, I can assure you that this goal is very achievable.

We created this guide to give you some fun sloth facts, tell you how to guarantee you see at least one, and to share some sloth pictures….because who doesn’t love sloth pics?!?!

Types of Sloths in Costa Rica

sloth cahuita costa rica

There are two types of sloths. These are the two-toed and three-toed sloths. In Costa Rica, you can find two species of sloths. These are Hoffman’s two-toed sloths and the Brown-throated sloth (a three-toed sloth).

Hoffman’s Two-Toed Sloths

These sloths have two toes on their front feet and three toes on their back feet. They are nocturnal, so if you see them they will most likely be sleeping. 

Brown-Throated Sloths

This three-toed sloth is the most common sloth in the world. They are much more active than the Hoffman’s two-toed (but still fairly inactive in comparison with most other animals). 

They are not nocturnal, so you might get lucky and see them moving about. However, they typically sleep between 15 and 18 hours per day. 

As an adult, they typically weigh between five and 14 pounds. 

Fun Sloth Facts

sloth costa rica
Brown throated sloth. See it’s three nails on its front legs?

– Sloths have a life span of about 30 years old in the wild

– Sloths typically make their way to the ground once a week to defecate

– Baby sloths are born with full long claws

– The fur of a sloth provides an entire ecosystem for various bugs, fungai, and algae. The sloth we took a picture of above is helping to grow some serious algae or moss!

– They eat leaves, branches, and some insects. The cecropia tree leaves are their favorite. so, look for them in those trees.

– It takes them almost two weeks to digest one meal

Best Places to See Sloths

sloth costa rica

You can usually see sloths anywhere in the country if you look hard enough. However, you will have the best luck the further south you get, due to a higher concentration of them.

A few of our favorite spots for spotting these cute creatures are.

Cahuita – We have seen a sloth chilling in the trees on Playa Negra here a few times. And it is usually close to the ground and happy to pose for photos. Also, you will likely see sloths in the Cahuita National Park. If you want to guarantee that you will see them, hire a guide.

Manuel Antonio – Manuel Antonio National Park is a great place to see TONS of wildlife including sloths. They are typically high up in the trees relaxing. 

You can just show up at the park and hire a guide, but if you would like a tour with transportation we highly suggest a private tour with Manuel

Corcovado Area – Corcovado National Park is located in a remote area of Costa Rica called the Osa Peninsula. To visit this park you need to enter with a certified naturalist guide.

Note: We suggest bringing a pair of pocket binoculars with you on your trip to Costa Rica. They take up almost no space in your suitcase and are great for spotting hard-to-see wildlife. 

Although these are the places we have seen the most sloths, it doesn’t mean you won’t see one in other parts of the country. 

The problem is that usually, they are so high up in the trees and so inactive that you won’t even spot them. They just look like a little furry dots in the trees. 

This is when it is a good idea to hire a guide. So, lets talk about that….

Wildlife Tours to See Sloths

sloth costa rica

When you visit national parks in Costa Rica it is sometimes possible to hire an experienced wildlife guide to walk you through the park.

Your guide will carry a large telescopic lens. This is so helpful when spotting sloths because usually, they are hiding high up in the trees.  You can then use your phone to get a close-up picture through the lens like the image above.

Usually, the guide will be very knowledgeable about the wildlife in the area. Plus, they do these tours almost every day so, they know exactly where the animals hang out. 

Protecting Sloths

Please never touch a sloth (unless you are rescuing it). This can be very scary for them and causes their heart rate to rapidly increase which can lead to early death.

Plus, you can damage the ecosystem in their fur.

We have never seen this, but have heard of people setting up roadside stands with an offer to hold a sloth for pictures. Usually these people have taken a young sloth from their mother and are using them to gain profits.

Please don’t participate in this. In fact, if you see this, try to take a photo of the person and immediately call the police (911). The police take wildlife protection very seriously and will respond.

Sloth Sanctuaries in Costa Rica

sloth costa rica

There are multiple sloth rescue centers located throughout the country. These places are typically non-profit facilities which rehabilitate wildlife after they are hit by car, attacked by other wildlife etc.

Unfortunately, because sloths are so slow-moving, they occasionally get hit by cars when coming down from the trees once a week. 

Also, occasionally people will take in sloths and other wildlife as pets. When they are confiscated by the Costa Rican Wildlife Ministry they are often released to the care of one of the following facilities. Usually they can then not be rereleased back into the wild because they have been too domesticated.

I tried to only include facilities in this list that have a good reputation and are actually rehabilitating wildlife. However, there is some controversy about some of these places. Some issues I have heard about include:

– Caged in habitats seem too small. 

– It is sometimes questionable when they charge high admission fees, how much of that profit is going to the animals? 

– And are they really releasing the wildlife when they are rehabilitated or are they keeping them to continue making a profit off of them? 

These are things you need to decide for yourself. I can’t really comment on it due to not knowing enough about them.

Kids Saving the Rainforest

Located in the hills above Quepos, this place has over 50 species of rescued animals. It is possible to visit here as a day tour, volunteer for a day, or volunteer for an extended period of time.

Sloth Institute

A non-profit facility located in Manuel Antonio. One project of theirs whichI really like is that they are working to install rope crossing bridges over roads to help sloths cross.

It is not possible to visit the Sloth Institute, but you can check out their site for volunteer programs or if you are interested in donating to support their efforts.

Sloth Sanctuary

The Sloth Sanctuary is located on the Caribean coast just outside of Cahuita. They offer two tour options including one in which you can visit their sloth NICU/ Nursery. This is probably the most well known sloth resvue center in the country.

La Paz Waterfall Garden

La Paz Waterfall Gardens is located about an hour from the San Jose International Airport near Poas Volcano.

This place is a popular destination for families because you can see tons of wildlife, visit an impressive waterfall, and learn about Costa Rican culture all in a condensed area.

Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center

This facility is located in Alajuela and is just a short drive from the San Jose International Airport. This is a great place for people of all ages. It is easy to walk through and you can see tons of different wildlife being rehabilitated.

It is possible to visit here as a day trip or volunteer for an extended period of timr.

Jaguar Rescue Center

The Jaguar Rescue Center is located near Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean Coast. It is possible to visit here as a group or private tour. You can see a variety of rexcued wildlife here.

And that is all for sloths in Costa Rica. If you have any questions, just leave them in the comment section below. We are always happy to help you out!

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