Arriving in Costa Rica, there was one thing on my must-do list – visit the world’s only sloth sanctuary, located right outside the town of Cahuita on the Caribbean Coast. When it came down to choosing between the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, the only reason I chose Caribbean was my desire to visit the sloth sanctuary. Baby sloths had become an obsession of mine ever since one popped up in my Pinterest feed and everyone who knew I was going to Costa Rica knew that I was going to see the baby sloths.
The Sloth Sanctuary is located a few miles outside of Cahuita, a small beach town on the Caribbean Coast, about twenty minutes from the more popular destination of Puerto Viejo. Getting to the Sloth Sanctuary is relatively easy – just hop on one of the frequent buses heading back towards San Jose and ask the bus driver to let you off at the Sloth Sanctuary. Or, if you’re like me, wait until you go flying past their bus stop and pull the stop string.
The Sloth Sanctuary provides you with two options – the Buttercup Tour and the Insider’s Tour. The Buttercup Tour offers an hour-long guided presentation of the sanctuary and the history of sloths, followed by an hour-long canoe ride through the Estrella River. The Insider’s Tour includes this along with access to their sloth clinic and lunch or breakfast with Buttercup, the sanctuary’s original sloth. Insider guests are also given the option of staying at the Sloth Sanctuary guest house.
I chose to go with the Buttercup Tour because while I love sloths, I wasn’t about to pay $125 more to eat lunch with one. For a casual observer, the Buttercup Tour is enough to give you enough sloth knowledge to impress your friends and still lets you get up and close with some adorable baby sloths.
Tours run on the hour from 9am to 2pm every day except for Monday. My new hostel buddy and I arrived about a half an hour before the next tour began so we were left with ample time to browse their gift shop (if you like sloths and shopping, bring extra money!) and hang out with Buttercup. Buttercup, the sanctuary’s first sloth, just happened to be hanging out on the deck of the building. Whether he’s here all the time or not, I’m unsure but he seemed to enjoy modeling for the cameras.
The tour itself included around 10 people. We were led to the sloth room where our guide began explaining the differences between the various breeds of sloths and introducing us to the resident sloths. The Sloth Sanctuary works to rehabilitate and release sloths. However, sometimes sloths come through that cannot be released in the wild – for example, they’re missing a limb or they were born in captivity and are unable to survive on their own.
You also learn about their eating habits and the fact they only use the bathroom once a week but always climb to the ground to do so. Also, he goes to great length to convince you that sloths are not, in fact, lazy creatures.
Unfortunately, during this part of the tour, I nearly passed out. It was hot and, just coming from Orosi where it was not nearly as hot and water was free, I thought I could get away without buying watering. I realized how wrong I was when my vision started blurring and I felt nauseous. Oops.
However, once I drank an entire bottle of water, I was able to rejoin the group as they entered the baby sloth room. This was, obviously, my favorite part. Look at how cute these guys are:
Though touching the sloths is prohibited for their safety, the guide did take out one of the babies and bring him around for photo opportunities. This little guy quite liked my iPhone as when I held it up to take a picture, he reached out with his claw and grabbed it. Good thing he’s adorable!
The second half of the tour is a boat ride through the lagoon. Unfortunately, we had trouble spotting animals on our tour up and down a few areas of the lagoon. Our guide seemed a little upset as well so I’m assuming this is not normal. We did, however, see baby monkeys playing in the trees at the end of our tour and while our guide spoke very broken English, he made an attempt to explain our surroundings. Despite not seeing many animals, I still appreciated this addition to the tour. Below is my favorite photo from the entire trip.
I left the Sloth Sanctuary happy and kicking myself for not drinking enough water beforehand. If you’re heading to Costa Rica, the Sloth Sanctuary is a highly recommended stop.
You can learn about the Sloth Sanctuary on their website.
(I apologize for the lack of photos in this post – I had taken many, many more but my iPhone crashed and died before they backed up to my iCloud so I lost most of them.)
Want to read more about my adventurous in Central America? Read all of them here.