Arguably the most famous animal people want to see when visiting Costa Rica isn’t the monkeys or the whales, it’s the sloths.
Sloths are a symbol of the country because they live the Pura Vida lifestyle of going with the flow and being laid back, and of course, they’re adorable creatures.
While sloths are common in Costa Rica, they’re not very easy to spot.
If you want to see a sloth during your trip, it’s important to learn about them ahead of time so you’ll know where you can expect to find them and what to look for. Sloths camouflage themselves well, so it’s easy not to spot them when searching.
Types Of Sloths In Costa Rica
There are two types of sloths in Costa Rica, including the Brown-throated sloth, which is a species of three-toed sloth, and the Hoffman’s two-toed sloth.
There are six species of sloths in the world, but only two live in Costa Rica.
Three-Toed Brown-throated sloth
The Brown-throated is the most common of the three-toed sloth. Their feet have three toes on each foot with large claws.
They have rounder faces, shorter noses, dark areas around their eyes, and brown necks. This sloth sleeps about 15 hours per day and can be active both day and night.
So it’s the type of sloth you’re more likely to see during the day. This is the most popular type of sloth. It’s smaller than the Hoffmann’s sloth, and it’s strictly a herbivore.
Two-Toed Hoffmann’s Sloth
This sloth is nocturnal, so it’s much harder to see, and if you spot one, it’ll most likely be sleeping.
The two-toed sloth gets its name because the two front feet have two toes, each with long, curved claws. The hind feet, however, have three toes. The Hoffman sloth also has a longer snout, separate front toes, no hair on the soles of the feet, and is larger.
Best Places to See Sloths in Costa Rica
Both types of sloths can be found in the same areas in Costa Rica except for high elevations. It is much more common to find the two-toed sloths in higher evaluations because they have more hair so that they can survive in colder temperatures.
High elevation, in this case, is 3000 feet. Places like Monteverde and Vara Blanca have higher elevations and are places you’ll mostly only find the two-toed sloths.
Keep reading to learn more about the best places to spot sloths in Costa Rica:
1. Caribbean Coast
The Caribbean coast is better for viewing sloths. The Pacific coast is drier, which sloths don’t prefer, except for the Osa Peninsula on the southern end of the Pacific Coast, which is popular among these animals.
2. Wildlife Refuges, Sloth Sanctuaries, and Rescue Centers
If you want to ensure you don’t leave Costa Rica without seeing a sloth, visiting a refuge, a sanctuary, or a rescue center is your best bet.
You’ll never get to pet or hold sloths in Costa Rica, but you’ll be able to see them up close at one of these establishments. It is one of the best things to do when visiting Cahuita.
Touching them is extremely bad for their health because it stresses them out, and humans can emit bacteria that can make a sloth very sick.
If you visit a place that does allow you to pet or hold a sloth, know that this is illegal, and you should go somewhere else and not support this type of business.
Sanctuaries are homes for animals that cannot go back into the wild because they’re handicapped, were previously kept as pets, disabled, born into captivity, etc.
There are several great sanctuaries in Costa Rica.
Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica in Limón was the first-ever rescue facility for abandoned and injured sloths.
You’ll hear stories about the rescue of sloths, and this is considered the best sanctuary on the Caribbean coast.
Selvatura Park’s Sloth Sanctuary in Monteverde is also great. The environment is thoughtfully designed to look like a sloth’s natural habitat. You can find both adult and baby sloths here. These are just a few of the sanctuaries.
Rescue centers work to rehabilitate animals to put them back out into the wild. Some rescue centers helping sloths include Jaguar Rescue Center in Punta Cocles, Proyecto Asis outside of La Fortuna, Toucan Rescue Ranch in Heredia, and Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary in Puntarenas, Costa Rica.
Additional wildlife rescue centers that care for and protect sloths and other animals include Zoo Ave outside of San Jose and Centro El Resccate Las Pumas in Canas.
There are many refugees, rescue centers, and sanctuaries across the country supporting many animals, including sloths.
There is sure to be one near where you’re staying if you’d like to visit to learn more about and support the protection of sloths.
3. National Parks
National parks are another excellent place to find sloths. Parks often have guides you can hire to show you around the park and help you spot wildlife, including sloths.
Manuel Antonio National Park
Located in Quepos, Manuel Antonio National Park is home to many of Costa Rica’s animals, including sloths.
This is one of the most visited parks for people who want to see an abundance of wildlife. Both types of sloths live in this park, and there is even a special trail for sloth spotting.
There are also many guides that can bring you on a sloth search. The best place to look for a sloth is way up in the trees, as high as you can search. Manuel Antonio Park is a MUST-do when visiting the area.
4. Arenal Volcano National Park
Located in La Fortuna, this park has a lush tropical forest and views of the Arenal Volcano. It’s also an excellent place for wildlife lovers.
The best place to find sloths in this area is along Bogarin Trail, which is a 1.2-mile trail and home to over 20 sloths and other animals.
The sloths will often be tucked inside thick leaves high up in the trees, so it’s much easier to spot them with the help of a guide or if you have a trained eye for them. Once you learn how to spot them, you will see them everywhere.
5. Monteverde National Park
This is one of the most intriguing national parks, home to the cloud forests of Costa Rica.
You can spot sloths here, but only the Hoffman’s sloth which has more fur and can survive higher elevations.
The Hoffman sloths are nocturnal, so it’ll be hard to spot them during the day, but you can go on a guided nighttime tour for a better chance of seeing these lazy, cuddly creatures.
6. Corcovado National Park
Located on the Osa Peninsula on the Pacific Coast, this national park is great for seeing all sorts of animals, including whales, monkeys, and sloths.
You’ll have to be able to walk pretty far to see sloths, so it’s not the best place to see sloths if you’re not up for walking. However, if you like a nice hike, you can hire a tour guide and have a wonderful time looking for sloths.
7. Cahuita National Park
In the town of Limon by the border of Panama, Cahuita National Park is a great place to find sloths. The park is free to enter, which is a huge plus, and it’s one of the most accessible parks in the country.
Besides sloths, you can see a ton of other wildlife in this national park. It is also one of the best places to snorkel in Costa Rica.
8. Tortugeoro National Park
Also located in the Limon province, this is another excellent place to spot sloths. There is a great chance you’ll leave here having seen a sloth or two as well as monkeys, lizards, and lots of other animals.
9. La Amistad National Park
This is a world heritage site on the border of Costa Rica and Panama. It’s also one of the largest national parks in the country.
The park is very remote, so if you’re not willing to hike or put in the work to see sloths, you may not spot them here.
It’s not quite as easy to find sloths in this park, but it’s a beautiful park to explore and simultaneously search for sloths. Since this park is much more remote, there aren’t as many tourists, so you can have the area to yourself; just be ready to hike!
Best Way To Guarantee A Sloth Sighting
Sloths can be hard to find because they camouflage very well with their surroundings. They’re usually found high up in trees, and guides are trained to look for them and usually use binoculars to do so.
If you want to see a sloth, the best thing to do is hire a guide. You can go on guided tours in many national parks, which is a great option.
You’ll be able to see sloths this way but also learn about the park from your guide.
Tips For Seeing A Sloth In The Wild
If you don’t plan to hire a guide and want to spot a sloth all on your own, that is completely fine! However, there are a few things you’ll want to learn before setting out on your sloth search adventure.
- Sloths are usually found high up in trees, so keep your head raised towards the sky and look in the branches.
- Sloths have a favorite kind of tree. It’s the Cecropia Tree, so memorize the way it looks and search for this tree first. Once you find one, you can examine it for sloths.
- You’ll have better luck seeing sloths on the Caribbean Coast vs. the Pacific Coast.
Additional Fun Facts About Sloths
- Sloths can turn their head almost completely around.
- Sloths like to be upside down, and their internal organs have adapted over time to allow them to be upside down nearly 90% of the time.
- They have a very slow metabolism, and it can take up to a month to digest a meal.
- They only come down from their tree once a month to poop.
- Sloths sleep 15 to 20 hours per day and barely move throughout the day.
- Their fur is covered in algae and moths. The algae are used to camouflage the sloths in the trees. The algae also supplement their diet, and in return, the algae can survive from the shelter and water that the sloth’s hair retains.
Final Thoughts On Sloths In Costa Rica
As you can see, sloths are found all over Costa Rica and are not impossible to spot. With a bit of training and a local guide, you’ll be on your way to finding these adorable animals.
If you get really lucky, you might even see them while they’re on the forest floor instead of high up in the trees, when they have their monthly poop.
This is the most dangerous thing they do during their life because they’re vulnerable to predators. Believe it or not, since sloths are lazy creatures, they’re excellent swimmers.
If you’re extra lucky, maybe you’ll spot one going for a dip.
If you’ve been dreaming of seeing a sloth in real life, you’ve come to the right place. Costa Rica is one of the best places to see this wonderful animal.