5 Places to See Adorable Sloths in Costa Rica — and How to Have a Responsible Encounter

5 Places to See Adorable Sloths in Costa Rica — and How to Have a Responsible Encounter

Costa Rica can be considered a paradise for many reasons. It’s home to more than 800 miles of coastline bordering the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, more than 50% of the country is made up of rainforests, and the entire nation is run almost entirely on renewable energy. But, perhaps best of all, it’s home to sloths. Lots and lots of sloths. 

Costa Rica is home to two types of sloths — the Hoffmann’s two-toed sloth and the brown-throated sloth. And while there is a high chance you’ll see a sloth in the wild on your trip to Costa Rica, the Sloth Conservation Foundation notes that a precise population count can be challenging to nail down, as sloths are rather good at hiding in tree canopies. 

Additionally, reps for the foundation explained that while they can’t give a specific number, it appears as though the sloth population is dwindling quickly in Costa Rica and across habitats in Central America and northern South America due to deforestation, human interaction, and slow breeding habits (sloths only reproduce once every three years). That’s why it’s extra important to view these animals at a safe distance, ensuring both their welfare and yours. And remember to book tours with reputable, ethical guides who will show you where they are without interfering with their daily lives. (You should never pet a sloth, or any other wild animal, so if a destination is offering that, please avoid giving them your business.) 

Here’s where to look for the super slow, adorable creatures hovering in the trees around Costa Rica. 

A three-toed tree sloth hangs on a branch with her baby clinging to her belly, Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica.

Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park, along the Pacific coast, is a biodiversity hotspot thanks to its densely packed rainforest, making it one of the best places to spot sloths in Costa Rica. Guests can enjoy self-guided nature walks through its well-maintained trail system, or they can hop on a tour with a nature guide like Manuel on Airbnb Experiences. The park is also located close to popular beaches and hotels, making it a fantastic home base for your Costa Rican adventure. 

Tortuguero National Park

On the other side of Costa Rica, along the Caribbean coast, travelers will find Tortuguero National Park, which offers a similarly dense forest habitat for sloths. Here travelers will also find a winding system of canals, upping their chances of seeing sloths in the water too (fun fact: sloths are excellent swimmers), as well as endangered green turtles, giant leatherbacks, hawksbill, and loggerhead turtles. Visitors can again go on a self-guided hike, or explore by boat with one of its official tour guide operators

A sloth hanging upside down in a tree in Costa Rica


Corcovado National Park

Corcovado National Park is well known as one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, making it a haven not just for sloths but also for monkeys, tapirs, ocelots, and plenty of pumas. Here, travelers can spot both the three-toed and two-toed sloths. However, due to the park’s massive size (163 square miles), it’s often recommended to stay more than one day to up your chances of seeing the slow-moving critters. 

La Fortuna

La Fortuna is home to Arenal Volcano, a towering volcano that is now lying dormant. While you may not be able to see the lava flow, you still have a great shot at spotting a few sloths living around it. There are plentiful eco-tours and guided nature walks available around the area, which will show you all the best flora and fauna, and take you to a few prime sloth-viewing locations. After the hike, travelers can stay in the area to relax in its hot springs to further unwind. 

A sloth hanging in a tree in Costa Rica


Cahuita National Park

Make one more trip to the Caribbean Coast to visit Cahuita National Park to walk in the lush tropical rainforest and dip your toes in the azure waters all in one go. The serene environment is the perfect place for sloths to call home, as it’s not only a spot where they can find a great hiding spot, but come on, who doesn’t love beachfront real estate? Here, travelers can go on self-guided hikes through the park’s maintained trails and see if they can spot sloths hanging off the trees or climbing down the vines, or go on a guided tour that nearly ensures they spot at least one. 

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