Short Guide to Costa Rica’s Sloths

Have you ever wanted to meet a sloth in real life? If not, you will by the end of this blog! These lovable tree-dwellers are one of the most common creatures in Costa Rica’s many forests. Despite this fact, many visitors leave saddened as sloths are quite tricky to spot. Therefore, the guide below functions as a step closer to seeing these incomprehensively cute animals in the flesh.

Costa Rica’s Smiling Sloths

Costa Rica’s dense forests are home to two of the world’s six sloth species: the familiar brown-throated three-toed sloth and the more elusive Hoffman’s two-toed sloth.

The three-toed sloth with a distinctive brown neck and black markings around its beseeching eyes, is the most common sloth species to spot. Sporting a round head, sleepy eyes, inconspicuous ears, and a ‘pura vida’ smile, you are most likely to see them hanging about during the day, typically in the high canopy of a forest.

Smiling Sloths

Although named the two-toed sloth, these sluggish creatures have two long, curved toes on their front feet, and three curved toes on their back feet. In contrast to the three-toed sloth, the two-toed is nocturnal, larger, and dons a longer, pig-like snout. They love to hang upside down in between tree branches within rainforest canopies!

Where to look up

Spotting sloths is not as easy as you’d think – it requires knowing where to look! As arboreal animals (i.e., living in trees), your best bet is directing your binoculars towards the sky-scraping treetops. Yet, you may get lucky and catch them descending to the forest floor where they poop once a week! Or you may even spy a sloth or two relaxing in a gentle river. They’re actually incredibly strong swimmers!

Here are some Costa Rican destinations, perfect for sloth-watching:

  • Manuel Antonio National Park: Not only has Manuel Antonio gained the reputation of Costa Rica’s most popular national park, but it is also deemed as the best place to watch sloths in their natural habitat. The park even has a dedicated sloth trail!
  • Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve: Due to cooler temperatures, Monteverde visitors will only be able to see the two-toed sloth. As they are harder to spot, a night tour is recommended.
  • Tortuguero National Park: Seeing sloths at Tortuguero is extremely common. However, bear in mind that the only way to reach the park is either by plane or by boat.
  • Corcovado National Park: Considered as the most biologically dense place in the world, you are guaranteed to come across a lazy sloth here!

It is recommended that you hire a guide upon visiting a national park. This will increase your chances in spotting these furballs in action or peacefully sleeping, as they can point them out instantly. However, if you decide against a guide, make sure to do some research on trees that sloths are most likely to hang out on. Juicy leaves and a lofty environment make the cecropia or guarumo one of their favourite trees!

Where else to spot them

If you want to avoid disappointment, you can always visit a wildlife rescue centre. The Sloth Sanctuary, the original rescue centre for sloths, is situated on the southeast Caribbean side. It is dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of injured, orphaned, and abandoned sloths. Here, you can choose between two tours (Buttercup Tour and Insider’s Tour) to experience sloths up close. However, keep in mind that visitors are not allowed to touch any sloths!

Other centres include the Jaguar Rescue Centre, which serves as temporary and permanent home to injured sloths. Also, the Costa Rican Animal Rescue Center which is committed to protecting and helping endangered animals including sloths, monkeys, kinkajous (honey bear), and coati (hog-nose coon). Toucan Rescue Ranch near downtown San Josecito is also dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of Costa Rican wildlife. They also offer three educational tours to choose from for more personal experiences. ‘Slothies & Coffees’ is definitely one to check out!

REMEMBER – do not touch any sloths that you come across on your trip. The fur of a sloth is home to a thriving ecosystem of insects, algae, and fungi. Therefore, contact between sloths and humans can be extremely harmful to both.

Have you been dazzled by all the sloth pictures? Choose our Costa Rica tours  for a slothsome holiday! Traverse through dense forests for real as our tours explore a variety of national parks including Tortuguero, Manuel Antonio, and Monteverde!

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