15 Fascinating Facts About Sloths in Costa Rica: A Short Guide to These Slow-Moving Wonders

I believe most of us have heard about sloths. They are the little guys that always look sleepy and like to hang out in trees and move as slowly as possible. One of the favorites for wildlife viewing, they are so fun to watch.

These guys are the champions at saving energy in the animal world, and here are some of the interesting facts about sloths.

sloth costa rica
Did you know that EVERYTHING is slow in sloths? Even the food digestion, sloths mainly eat leaves, fruits, and sometimes sap from trees.

They can be found in Southern Central America and most of South America. Also, among animals in Costa Rica, they can be found in Puerto Viejo, the South Caribbean region, where the only sloth rescue in the world is located. But do we know their best-kept secrets?

Discover the world of Costa Rica’s enchanting sloths through 15 captivating facts, from their ancient history to their challenges. Costa Rica, a Central American paradise, is renowned for its lush rainforests, diverse wildlife, and stunning biodiversity.

Among the country’s many inhabitants, sloths are some of the most captivating creatures you can encounter. These slow-moving, tree-dwelling animals have captured the hearts of travelers and nature enthusiasts alike.

I highly recommend booking a flight to Costa Rica to witness these enchanting creatures in person and truly appreciate their beauty. 

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Top 15 Fun Facts About Sloths

Slow Movement:  Sloths are famously slow movers, primarily due to their low metabolic rates. Their leisurely pace helps them conserve energy, making them efficient tree-dwellers.

Sleeping Habits:  Sloths are known for their long hours of sleep. Some can sleep up to 15 hours a day, while others are more active at night, making them nocturnal.

Algae-Green Fur:  Sloths’ fur is often covered in green algae, which provides excellent camouflage in the rainforest and acts as a form of protection against predators.

Hanging Around:  Sloths spend most of their lives hanging upside down in trees, thanks to their specialized hook-like hands and feet.

Slow Digestion:  Sloths possess an exceptionally slow digestive system, requiring up to a month to process a single meal. As herbivores, their diet primarily consists of leaves, buds, and tender shoots from a diverse range of trees and plants. This remarkable adaptation enables them to efficiently extract the maximum nutrients from their plant-based sustenance.

No External Tail:  Unlike many animals in the rainforest, sloths lack external tails. Their tail bones are hidden beneath their fur.

Slow Birth Rate:  Sloths have a low birth rate. They typically give birth to a single baby every one to three years, depending on the species, the baby sloth clings to its mother’s belly for several months.

Slow Swimmers:  While sloths are excellent climbers, they are not adept swimmers. They can float on water but rarely venture into rivers or ponds.

Vulnerable to Deforestation:  One of the most significant threats to sloths in Costa Rica is habitat loss due to deforestation. As their rainforest homes shrink, these creatures face a challenging future.

Dedicated Conservation Efforts: Fortunately, Costa Rica has made significant strides in protecting sloths and their habitats. There are numerous wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centers in the country, such as the Sloth Sanctuary, dedicated to the conservation of these unique animals.

Ethical Tourism: Visitors to Costa Rica can support sloth conservation by choosing wildlife tours that prioritize ethical and sustainable practices, such as observing sloths from a distance and not disturbing their natural behavior.

Lifespan: Sloths in the wild can live up to 20 to 43 years, while those in captivity often have even longer lifespans.

Costa Rica’s Rich Sloth Population: Thanks to its lush rainforests and dedicated conservation efforts, Costa Rica boasts a thriving sloth population, making it one of the best places to spot these delightful creatures in their natural habitat.

Poor Eyesight: Sloths have remarkably poor eyesight, as scientific studies have revealed that they struggle to distinguish their offspring if they are even as close as five feet away.

If you are considering a visit to watch sloths in Costa Rica, ensure your journey’s safety by securing comprehensive travel insurance. Click here for more details and to explore your options.

sloth hanging from tree in costa rica
Look up to the top of the trees! If you go on a wildlife tour in Costa Rica, that’s where you’ll spot most of the sloths, since they spend most of their life hanging on trees.

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Sloth Breeds and Types

Two-toed Sloth: 

Costa Rica is home to two species of two-toed sloths, Linnaeus’s two-toed sloth and Hoffmann’s two-toed sloth. They have two claws on their front limbs, making them well-suited for life in the trees.

Three-toed Sloth: 

Costa Rica is also home to three-toed sloths, including the brown-throated three-toed sloth and the pale-throated three-toed sloth. Despite their name, they have three toes, but this doesn’t affect their slow and deliberate lifestyle.

Pygmy Three-toed Sloth: 

A particularly rare and fascinating breed, the pygmy three-toed sloth, is native to Panama but not far from Costa Rican borders. These tiny sloths are critically endangered, with only a few hundred individuals left in the wild.

It is highly recommended to hire a guide when visiting a national park in Costa Rica. This significantly enhances your chances of spotting these charming furballs in action or enjoying their peaceful slumber, as guides can expertly point them out.

However, if you opt to explore without a guide, researching the tree species that sloths prefer is crucial. Trees like cecropia or guarana, with their juicy leaves and lofty canopies, are among the favorites of these delightful creatures.

History of Sloths in Costa Rica

Ancient Beginnings: 

Sloths have a long history in Costa Rica, dating back millions of years. Fossils of giant ground sloths, which lived around 5 million years ago, have been discovered in various parts of the country.

Name Origin: 

The word “sloth” comes from the Old English term “slaw,” meaning slow. It perfectly describes the unhurried pace of these charming creatures.

Indigenous Beliefs: 

Indigenous communities in Costa Rica, such as the Cabécar people, revere sloths as spiritual beings. They believed sloths to be ancestors and protectors of the rainforest.

Population of Sloths in Costa Rica

According to a 2020 research study, it was estimated that there are approximately 5 million sloths in Costa Rica.

 sloth hanging from tree in costa rica
While they spend most of their life hanging on trees, sloths are incredibly good at swimming!

Spotting Sloths at Wildlife Rescue Centers

While observing sloths in the wild is a thrilling experience, those who want to ensure a guaranteed sighting often opt for a visit to wildlife rescue centers. These sanctuaries offer a controlled environment where you can get up close and personal with these fascinating creatures. Here are some notable options:

Sloth Sanctuary

The Sloth Sanctuary is a haven for these slow-moving wonders, dedicated to their rescue, rehabilitation, and conservation.

Location Southeast Caribbean side of Costa Rica
FocusRescue and rehabilitation of injured, orphaned, and abandoned sloths
ToursButtercup Tour and Insider’s Tour offer close encounters with sloths

Important Note:  While you can observe and learn about sloths in detail, visitors are not allowed to touch them.

Jaguar Rescue Center

The Jaguar Rescue Center in Costa Rica is a vital sanctuary dedicated to the rehabilitation and conservation of a wide range of wildlife, not just jaguars. It provides a unique opportunity for visitors to learn about and support the rehabilitation efforts of these amazing creatures.

LocationNear Puerto Viejo, Limón Province
FocusProviding temporary and permanent shelter to injured sloths and other wildlife
ExperienceGet to see a variety of animals, including sloths, in a rehabilitation setting

Costa Rican Animal Rescue Center

The Costa Rican Animal Rescue Center is a haven for injured and orphaned wildlife, dedicated to their rehabilitation and release back into the wild. This nonprofit organization plays a crucial role in preserving the rich biodiversity of Costa Rica.

LocationNear La Garita, Alajuela
FocusConservation and care of endangered animals, including sloths, monkeys, kinkajous, and coatis
OpportunityObserve the vital work being done for various species in a safe environment

Toucan Rescue Ranch

Toucan Rescue Ranch is a renowned Costa Rican organization dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and conservation of wildlife, including sloths and toucans. Their commitment to these majestic creatures plays a vital role in preserving the country’s rich biodiversity.

LocationSan Josecito, near San Isidro de Heredia
FocusRescue, rehabilitation, and release of Costa Rican wildlife, including sloths
ToursEducational tours offer a more intimate experience
Experience‘Slothies & Coffees’ tour, combining sloth encounters with a coffee experience

While these rescue centers allow you to observe and learn about sloths and other animals, it’s important to respect their guidelines, which often prohibit touching the animals to ensure their well-being and safety. 

By visiting these centers, you not only witness the vital work being done for wildlife conservation but also contribute to the efforts to protect these remarkable creatures.


What is the best time of day to see sloths in Costa Rica?

The best time to see sloths in Costa Rica is during the early morning or late afternoon.

What is the best place to see sloths in Costa Rica?

The best places to see sloths in Costa Rica include Manuel Antonio National Park, Arenal Volcano National Park, and Tortuguero National Park.

Can you see a sloth in Costa Rica at night?

Yes, you can see sloths in Costa Rica at night. Some sloth species, like the three-toed sloths, are nocturnal, which means they are more active during the night. If you’re on a guided night tour in a suitable habitat, you may have the opportunity to spot them in their natural environment.

Is it safe to hold a sloth in your hand?

It is generally not safe to hold a sloth in your hand. Sloths have strong, sharp claws that can cause injury, and they may become stressed or anxious when handled, which is detrimental to their well-being.

It’s best to observe sloths in their natural habitat or under the care of professionals at wildlife rescue centers.

Can you adopt a sloth in Costa Rica?

Yes, it is possible to symbolically “adopt” a sloth in Costa Rica through various wildlife conservation organizations and sanctuaries. However, it’s important to note that this adoption is typically a form of support for the organization’s conservation efforts and does not mean you will physically own or house a sloth.

It’s a way to contribute to the care and protection of sloths in their natural habitats or rescue and rehabilitation centers.


Sloths are undoubtedly one of the most iconic and endearing creatures you can encounter in Costa Rica.

Their leisurely pace, unique adaptations, and the captivating history surrounding them make these creatures a must-see when exploring the country’s stunning biodiversity. 

With ongoing efforts to protect their natural habitat, visitors can experience the magic of sloths while contributing to their conservation.

So, the next time you find yourself in Costa Rica, don’t forget to look up, because you might just spot a sloth hanging around, living life at its own pace.

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Wildlife Costa Rica - 15 Fun Facts About Sloths

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Last Updated on December 13, 2023

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