Chasing Rainbows, Finding Sloths: How to Spot Sloths in Costa Rica

Chasing Rainbows, Finding Sloths: How to Spot Sloths in Costa Rica
Photo by Jack Charles / Unsplash

Because we're gay and everything is a DIY

When my wife and I visited Costa Rica, we knew one of the highlights of the trip would be the wildlife. Costa Rica has many national parks and a large amount of preserved land, which is the habitat of much of the diverse flora and fauna of the country. While Costa Rica's sloths make their home in forests across the country, all of the sloths we saw were at Manuel Antonio National Park.

My post on Manuel Antonio National Park goes into more detail about the animals you can see in the park, including several types of monkeys, iguanas, and sloths, of course!

Before you even enter Manuel Antonio National Park, you are sure to have been offered multiple guided tours, which claim to provide the best viewing opportunities for sloths and other animals in the park. If taking a tour is your preferred method of tourism, you'll have no problem finding a guide to take you around the park. If you like to do things on your own or don't want to spend the money on a tour but still want to spot sloths while you are in Costa Rica, it is definitely possible!

We were at the park for two days, and were only able to see sloths on the second day; the first day was unfortunately cut short because of all-day torrential rain. We still walked around the park and enjoyed the plants, but sloths and other animals are going to be in hiding during the rain.

The second day after the rain was perfect for sloth spotting; all of the sloths were out in the open air drying themselves off after getting soaked the previous day, so as we discovered, the day after a rainstorm is the perfect time to see them!

What to Look Out For to Spot a Sloth in Costa Rica?

Sloths are fond of a particular type of tree which grows tall and spindly and has fan shaped leaves at the top of the tree. These trees are quite distinctive among the other trees of Costa Rica, so you should have no problem picking them out in the forest. Sloths will hang out (literally) near the tops of these trees, so look out for them hanging from the branches of larger trees.

Top 5 Tips for Spotting Sloths in Manuel Antonio National Park

  1. Look for sloths in the trees pictured above. They are most likely to be hanging out in these trees, so save time by looking for the right tree first!
  2. Look near the tops of the trees. Sloths spend most of their time in the canopy of the trees.
  3. Even if you aren't on a tour, you will see many tours around - take advantage of this and look where they are looking!
  4. Look for sloths on sunny days, if its raining they will be in hiding and not visible.
  5. We found many of the sloths in trees around the beach and lower areas. Even though the park has some hiking trails that bring you up to the ridges, spend most of your efforts looking at trees on lower ground.

Will I Get Better Pictures of Sloths on a Tour?

When we were gathered around a tree looking at some sloths, we started chatting with another woman who had paid for a tour and who shared some images that she took through the telescopic lens. In my opinion, the image quality was only slightly better than that of my Iphone 14 Pro Max, which has a pretty good zoom quality. See for yourself!

Interested in more information about planning a trip to Costa Rica? Check out Discover Costa Rica: A 10-Day LGBTQ+ Friendly Adventure Itinerary