sloth in costa rica in manuel antonio

Sloths are some of the most unique and adorable animals. Featured in Disney’s hit Zootopia, I never thought I would have the opportunity to see this adorable upside down, slow animal until we planned Costa Rica travel a couple of years ago. While seeing sloths in the rainforest was definitely something we were excited about, we hadn’t planned our trip for it specifically. But seeing the incredible wildlife is certainly a top reason to visit Costa Rica. After another trip to this beautiful country, we’ve rounded up the best places to find sloths in Costa Rica.

Sloths can be found in many areas of Costa Rica. But the better places to spot them tend to be on the Caribbean side or southern Pacific coast in the areas with the most precipitation. On the Caribbean side, which is a little harder to get to, Puerto Viejo and Tortuguero are excellent areas to find sloths. On the Pacific side, Manuel Antonio, the Osa Penninsula and Uvita areas are excellent places to spot sloths on Costa Rica vacations.

It is illegal to touch any wildlife in Costa Rica. The thought of holding a sloth never even crossed my mind. But apparently people ask. So, just know not to even consider it.

About Sloths in Costa Rica

Sloths live in tall trees in the rain forests of Central and South America. They spend much of their lives upside down and have fur that parts and falls up towards their head. Because they have such a slow metabolism, they move very slowly. They are nocturnal and sleep fifteen to twenty hours a day. Thus they are difficult to spot high in the trees as they blend right in. Both two-toed and three-toed sloths call Costa Rica home.

View of Manuel Antonio. Costa Rica from above.

Best Places to Find Sloths in Costa Rica

Sloths in Manuel Antonio

We have visited several areas of Costa Rica. Of those we found Manuel Antonio to have the most concentration of unique wildlife, including sloths. We did see several sloths in La Fortuna/ Arenal. But they were so far away, high in the trees that we needed binoculars or a spotting scope to see them. Most guides provide these.

Guide Viviana with Inga Tours making sure that her clients have a wonderful experience at Manuel Antonio National Park.

But in Manuel Antonio sloths were plentiful and not as high up. We were easily able to spot several on our own, without a guide or spotting scope. This was the case both at our resort property, Tulemar, and at Manuel Antonio National Park. Tulemar is home to The Sloth Institute of Costa Rica. The Institute releases orphaned and hand raised sloths back into the rain forest property adjoining Tulemar. So several of these sloths make Tulemar home. And, daily sloth walks are available to resort guests.

We’ve always found guides are the best way to ensure you see and experience all that you want. If you are going to visit Manuel Antonio National Park, members of our group truly appreciated the expertise and knowledge of Vivian with Inga Tours.

manuel antonio is a great place to see sloths in costa rica
Sloth as seen from a scope in Manuel Antonio National Park. Photo courtesy Lavelle Carlson.

Sloths in Arenal

The very first tour we took upon arrival was a sloth tour. We were in the La Fortuna/ Arenal area and never would have spotted them just outside our resort without the help of a guide and his scope. They were so, so high up in the trees and so, so still that they just blend right in. While they can be spotted in the Arenal Volcano National Park area, there are other places with even better sloth viewing.

Arenal volcano is the center of our favorite 10 day Costa Rica itineraries.

Sloths on the Osa Peninsula

The most bio-diverse area of the country is Corcovado National Park location on the Osa Peninsula. It is remote with a stunningly beautiful landscape. As, with all the Costa Rica national parks it is best to hire a guide to point out the animals. Sloths are only one of many animals that you can spot here in their natural environment.

Sloth Sanctuaries in Costa Rica

There are several wildlife rescue centers that offer opportunities to see sloths up close. These include the Sloth Institute in Manuel Antonio, the Jaguar Centre in Puerto Viejo, the Sloth Sanctuary in Cahuita and the Toucan Rescue Ranch north of San Jose. Research these before you go. Some are more reputable than others. And, ultimately, the best way to see a sloth is in their natural environment. Any of the Costa Rican national parks in rainy areas will provide this opportunity.

Where to Find Sloths in Costa Rica

Liana Moore

Liana Moore is a third-culture kid with a hangover from those days that is a severe case of wanderlust. She is more comfortable driving the cliffs of Amalfi, Italy or the dirt roads of Costa Rica or attempting to decipher the street signs of Osaka, Japan than navigating the theme parks of Disney World. But she loves it all. She doesn't believe a vacation is complete without an adventure. Her husband and kids know well that "adventure" often is code for mishap or challenge and it usually results in a good story. They seek outdoor experiences whether in the mountains, on a beach or in the jungle of a tropical country. Her favorite vacation is... all the ones she hasn't yet taken, as well as those she plans on taking again. And, that list is so, so long. But she continues to extensively explore her home state of Colorado, spends lots of time wandering Texas, California, New Mexico, Costa Rica, Mexico, Norway and has even explored Kazakhstan.

2 thoughts on “Where to Find Sloths in Costa Rica

  • January 17, 2022 at 2:28 pm

    My dream in life is to be a sloth – just take my time. These are great pictures of the sloths.

  • January 17, 2022 at 3:58 pm

    We were very fortunate to see so many Sloths the day we visited Manual Antonio National Park. One came down from a tree and crossed a walking path in the park.


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