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.
What an adventure, and a beautiful adventure 🙂
Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment Ann. It was definitely an adventure (especially the crocs in the water beside our raft!), but I am grateful for every minute!
This is very insightful and I will be doing much more research from now on. My daughter loves sloths and this is her dream. To see wild sloths in their habitat would be an amazing experience.
It is hard to resist their cuteness and slow pace! They are for sure one of my favourite animals to watch as they give you lots of time to take good pictures! I am glad that you found this post informative, Amanda. We all try to make the best decisions we can while traveling, but I am continuously learning as well. Thanks for reading.
Neha Kulshrestha says
Wow, just read about sloths in books. Never seen them live. Amazing to see the creature in its natural habitat.
Yes, I agree Neha! It is definitely fascinating to see them relaxed and “hanging out” in the trees. Thanks for leaving a comment!
This is a great tourism guide!!!
Thanks Sneh for stopping by and for your kind words!
I still haven’t been to Costa Rica, but maybe soon. Definitely adding “seeing sloths” to my bucket list. It’s fascinating to see these animals in their natural environment.
I agree Anisa! I think it is a much better experience for everyone if the animals are not stressed. Would definitely recommend Costa Rica as a destination!
I’d love to see sloths because they seem to be my spirit animals :p It sounds like a great tour though!
I am definitely sloth-like some mornings as well. The good news is that Costa Rica is also known for some of the best coffee! haha
Yukti Agrawal says
Thanks for sharing all tips about getting glimpse of some wild animals, especially sloths in Costa Rica. The area of Catarata Llanos Del Cortes Waterfalls looks so serene and peaceful. I was not knowing this place but looks like worth visiting.
I was definitely surprised at the beautiful waterfalls we saw in Costa Rica! I was not expecting to see so many beautiful sites. The rainforest was stunning, and I loved spotting the sloths and the monkeys. Definitely worth visiting. Thanks for stopping by!
Finding ethical tour groups is not always easy. Sounds like you had done your homework extensively and lucked out with some great guides 🙂 The sloths are cool looking. Are they dangerous up close? Hoping to go to Costa Rica soon and will certainly check out Alex on the Beach.
Sounds great Rosemary! The sloths were not dangerous as they did not move very quickly (haha), but I heard that they have sharp claws and a death grip if they held onto you. The Costa Ricans were very protective of their environment, so I am sure they will tell you to not go too close when you are there!
Whenever I hear ‘sloths’ I remember them from the movie zootopia and their fun version. It is good to know there are ethical tours to see less known animals in the wild and know about their life. I’d definitely like to explore that.
The sloths in the movie Zootopia are quite funny! I love them as well. I’m glad you enjoyed the article. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.
Such a funny animal, so lazy. Definitely would love to visit Costa Rica and to see them (in slow motion). 🙂
Just slow going…enjoying life one belly scratch at a time! Thanks for stopping by Unta!