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One of the top five experiences I had on my Central America backpacking trip was undoubtedly visiting the Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica. The Sloth Sanctuary is a one of a kind place near the small town of Cahuita in Costa Rica that should be on the bucket list of every single sloth fanatic out there.
Here you can see sloths who have been taken in by the sanctuary become rehabilitated, and if you’re lucky you might be able to get up close and personal with them.
With the rise of popular internet memes such as stoner sloth and rape sloth, alongside with the movie Zootopia, these adorably-ugly creatures have stolen the hearts of millennial’s everywhere. Almost everybody has heard of these previously unknown animals who haven’t always had the best reputation locally. The Sloth Sanctuary while not famous internationally has become more well known over recent years, despite its off the beaten track location.
The Sloth Sanctuary was at the top of my list when I visited Costa Rica as part of my backpacking trip, so here’s how the experience was and whether I think its worth the effort and cost.
How to Get To The Sloth Sanctuary
First things first – you’ll probably want to know how to get to the Sloth Sanctuary.
The sloth Sanctuary is on the outskirts of Cahuita, a laidback beach town located half an hour or so away from the more popular tourist spot of Puerto Veijo. However you don’t have to visit the sanctuary from Cahuita, or even Puerto Veijo if you have the cash to spend for a pricier (but much more convenient) shuttle from San Jose.
On my trip I didn’t have a lot of money at this point (9 month trip nearing the end) so I caught a local bus from Cahuita that went past the Sloth Sanctuary, however I wouldn’t recommend this if you don’t know enough Spanish to tell the driver where you want to stop, as they might not necessarily know where your stop is (our driver hadn’t heard of the sanctuary).
Fortunately there are much easier alternatives (and still affordable) such as catching a taxi, or hopping on a bus that does stop outside the sanctuary – you can see all the options here on their website.
An important fact – you can only visit the sloth sanctuary from Tuesday to Sunday, plan your schedule accordingly to avoid any disappointment. *Days may change*
Want An Easier Way? Take a Tour
If the thought of getting to an obscure border town gives you anxiety, or seems like it should be placed in the ‘too hard’ basket, hop on a day tour instead. See the prices for the Buttercup tour here, and read below to hear more about it.
Meet the sloths: The Buttercup Tour
The Sloth Sanctuary Costa Rica offers two tours to let you meet the sloths. The first, more basic tour is the Buttercup tour and is a lot cheaper than the second option (which I’ll delve into in the next section).
The Buttercup tour lasts for roughly two hours. I’m hesitant to say a price as it depends on whether you have your own transport to the sanctuary, or if you’re joining a tour. Obviously the tour is much more expensive, but it makes it a lot easier if you’re not familiar with Spanish, or have your own rental car.
During this tour you’ll not only get to visit the sloth sanctuary’s nursery and learn about these interesting creatures, but you’ll also get to experience a guided canoe ride through the surrounding area.
While you may not see a lot of different animals on the canoe tour the amount of large crabs I spotted was staggering. I’m not sure if this is common all year round or if I just got lucky, regardless you’ll need a zoom lense to photograph these colorful crabs. While many were blue, there were heaps of crabs that looked like walking rainbows.
Apart from crabs we also saw some baby bats, what looked like a sloth in a tree and some colorful birds.
After or before your canoe ride, it depends on what time you visit, you get to visit the nursery and learn about the sloths from one of the volunteers or family members that work in the sloth sanctuary. While you aren’t allowed to touch the sloths you do get to be very close to them during the talk.
The Insiders Tour at the Sloth Sanctuary Costa Rica
Since I had sloths on the brain in the lead up to visiting the sloth sanctuary in Costa Rica I decided to opt for the more expensive Insiders tour. It’s more expensive than the regular tour and comes with special access and a reduced maximum group size of six – in fact, there were only two of us on the tour I went on.
The tour starts with either breakfast or lunch, I personally opted for lunch which I enjoyed. While eating lunch you get to watch one of the sloths chilling in the swing chair picture above – naturally I chose the table as close as possible to her.
After lunch I headed into the special area of the Sloth Sanctuary where I was able to feed and hang out with the sloths in their inhabitant. Sloths eat hibiscus flowers (I think that was the name of the flower) like humans eat chocolate so this was what we got to feed them.
One important rule with sloths is that you can’t pick them up or cuddle them like you would a kitten but you can get very close to them. Close enough to take some selfies in fact. The sloths are not afraid of humans so they will swing quite close to you and may even touch you at times.
For baby animal lovers the coolest part of the Sloth Sanctuary’s Insider Tour will be at the end when you get to see the baby sloth nursery. You don’t get to hold them or pat them as its not good for the sloths but you do get to be quite close to them and take a few non invasive photographs. I want to warn you though – there is nothing cuter than a baby sloth up close.
I had such a great time on this tour and would 100% recommend splashing the extra cash for the Insiders tour if you love sloths and have always wanted to interact with one. You get unbelievably close to these animals and get to ask lots of questions with the person leading you around the area.
You also get a decent meal while getting your first glimpse of one of the sloths – I actually wasn’t aware there was a sloth in the restaurant when we arrived so that was a lovely surprise.
On the other hand if you’re simply passing through with only a mild interest in sloths the cheaper Buttercup tour might be the better option. While you don’t get to get as close with the sloths you can see them in the group presentation within arms length.
Information for Sloth Sanctuary Trip Costa Rica Travel
Where to book your tour: Basic tour including transportation from Cahuita can be booked here – see prices. Alternatively if you speak Spanish there is a local bus that drops you off sort of near the sanctuary and you can walk. If you do that option you’ll need to book from the Sanctuary’s website here.
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