Ahh, animal tourism. It brings out the best and the worst in people, doesn’t it?
While traveling, we make an effort to make the best decisions we can regarding animals. Some things are obvious: I would never encourage anyone to hold a baby alligator whose mouth is obviously taped shut, but others are not as much so – is this horse appropriately cared for and okay to ride?
Then there is the decision as to where to draw the line – is it acceptable to pet an animal in a sanctuary? What about riding a camel?
Because it can get tricky, we thoroughly research any activities that involve animals to make sure that we are making the best possible educated decision.
When in Costa Rica…
Upon arrival in Costa Rica, we knew we wanted to see a sloth. We had done our research beforehand and didn’t want to see a sloth in a sanctuary.
While there are many out there providing rehabilitative care to injured animals, some of the sanctuaries we researched offered a chance to hold a sloth – a no-no in my books.
So why would educated tourists and visitors alike continue to visit places like these?
I think it is because we are continually on a search for a guaranteed sighting. Nobody wants to pay for the opportunity to see a sloth, but they will pay if it is certain that they will.
Fortunately, we met Carlo on the beach in Guanacaste, where we where staying, who was a rep for Alex on the Beach. We told him what we were looking for and he was able to give us recommendations as to where we should go instead.
Where to See Wild Sloths
The next day, our tour guide Heiner picked us up at our resort and we headed out for the day’s adventure.
We really lucked out with Heiner, as he went above and beyond taking us around Costa Rica. We saw half of the country thanks to him! He was accommodating, positive, professional but fun. Be sure to ask for him if you book your tour with Alex on the Beach.
We had chosen to do the Sloth, Hiking, & Floating River Tour, which was offered as a package. It included a 2-hour river safari, a typical Costa Rican lunch, a hike in the tropical rainforest, sloth and frog watching, and a coffee roaster tour. We opted out of the Liberia City tour and chose the optional waterfall instead.
After an exciting paddle down the Corobici River with RCR Rafting, where we saw monkeys in the trees and crocodiles in the water next to us(!), we had a delicious lunch at the Rincon restaurant.
Heiner then took us to Parc National Volcan Tenorio, to a home-based family business in the area who own a property and work there. The area is called Bijagua.
Like any responsible animal encounter, Heiner couldn’t guarantee that we would see any sloths. Just like a game driver on safari, we had to trust that he knew where they tended to hang out.
We could not have been more thrilled. On our hike, we saw between 25-30 sloths, some high in the trees, some right up close. They also had a 3-foot rule, meaning that you could not go closer than 3 feet from the sloth. Can you spot them below?
Also a Must-See: Catarata Llanos Del Cortes Waterfall
Our tour guide Heiner knew all the secret spots and stopped off at the waterfall on the way to our boat ride. We stopped at Catarata Llanos Del Cortes, in the municipality of Bagaces. The waterfalls used to be free for all, but they have recently taken measures to protect them. Now, you pay an entry fee as it is a protected park. As a tourist, we paid 7$ entry, but if you are a local, it is only $2.
The waterfall was flowing beautifully while we were there, even in the dry season. We didn’t swim in the waterfall, but there is a great jumping rock and pool a short skip over the river.
There are decent toilets (with outdoor sinks) located in the parking lot. I was initially skeptical, but they were much nicer than the Porta-Potty experience I was expecting. There are no restaurants or cafes around so I would bring food and drinks, depending on how long you plan on staying. You could easily spend a morning or afternoon here swimming or hiking around the river.
Level of Difficulty: Easy
I am always reluctant when an activity includes hiking because I am horribly out of shape, so if I can do this hike, you can too. A short walk on a gravel path, then a steep (but wide) set of stairs down to the waterfall, and you are set. I suppose that you could increase the level of difficulty by hiking more around the river, but I saw plenty of people just sitting and enjoying the view.
So many options!
Alex on the Beach had so many options for good tours that it was difficult to pick just one. I imagine that they are all excellent.
We were so impressed with our initial tour that we booked a second one for two days later. We chose the Half-Day Sport Fishing, which meant that we left bright and early at 7:30 am and were back by noon. Like the Sloth Tour before, they picked us up right at the resort.
Our guide Michael was a PHENOMENAL fisherman. From the moment we got on the boat, he was hustling. Bait, cast, reel, repeat. There was not a moment where his hands were not occupied.
He was an intense fellow, as I can imagine many businessmen are. He was deeply invested in our fishing success and wanted to make sure that we were having a good time. The second tour was as successful as the first, as we caught some epic mahi-mahi and even did some dolphin spotting on the bay.
Both times, we were impressed with the quality of guides offered by Alex on the Beach. It is evident that they are hand-picked to ensure a quality tour experience.
Heading to Costa Rica? I can’t recommend Alex on the Beach enough. If you look them up online, be sure to type in alexonthebeachCR.com. If you’re already there, they have an office in Liberia right across from the Coffee Tasting Tour Tio Leo.