Guide to Costa Rica's Sloth Sanctuary

Come visit!
Come visit! | © Michelle Callahan/Flickr
Jenn Parker

Founders Judy Avey-Arroyo and Luis Arroyo originally purchased the 320 acre (129 hectare) lowland rainforest reserve to operate birding tours on the Estrella River. In 1991, when a devastating 7.7 earthquake completely changed the river’s course, the couple closed their bird tour business and decided to build a small hotel on the land instead. A year later, some neighborhood girls asked them to look after an orphaned baby sloth; as animal lovers, they agreed and the sanctuary was born.

Human impact

Judy and Luis, along with what seemed like every other Costa Rican animal sanctuary, reserve, or zoo, didn’t really know how to care for a sloth. But by observing the wild population in their area and using a combination of common sense and maternal instinct, they raised Buttercup—now 24 years old and the adorable face of the Sloth Sanctuary. Unfortunately, due to deforestation, loss of habitat, power lines, dog attacks, and fast cars, the sanctuary has taken in a continuous stream of abandoned or injured sloths since 1992. The Costa Rican rainforest is disappearing at an alarming rate and with habitats being destroyed for human development, sloths are frequently left in dangerous and often life-threatening situations.

Sloths don’t belong in the concrete jungle

Welcome to the Sloth Sanctuary

Sweet faces

Buttercup Tour

The Buttercup Tour is not available on Mondays. The tour is offered every hour, on the hour, from 8am to 2pm and your ticket purchase directly aids the Sloth Sanctuary. The tour gives guests an introduction to this amazing forest creature. You will learn about sloth behavior, diet, physiology, and habitat. There is also a canoe ride, which takes you through the sloth’s natural habitat, and of course, during the hour-long tour you will encounter the sanctuary’s residents.

All grown up

Insider’s Tour

The Insider’s Tour includes the Buttercup Tour and a canoe ride, but then leads to a behind-the-scenes tour. Sloth lovers, this is the tour you must take. There are two Insider’s Tours offered a day. Following the Buttercup Tour, you will visit the clinic where injured sloths are recovering, and then see the neonatal intensive care unit where the tiniest, most adorable sloths are kept. Here baby sloths are incubated because they are so small and fragile. Following this heart-melting experience, you will see the jungle gym, where sloths have an opportunity to socialize and exercise. This four-hour tour is a sloth lover’s dream!

Cutest babies of all!

Mission statement

The tours are a great way to educate people about the sloth trials and tribulations, and how human actions are affecting them and the other animals living in habitats impacted by heavy human footprints. The tours also help to keep the sanctuary afloat, since its operating costs and essential supplies all require funding.

The true mission of the Sloth Sanctuary, however, is to rescue and rehabilitate sloths in need, study, conduct research, and understand sloth behavior; and to promote environmental conservation and awareness among the general public, especially related to sloths and the rainforest. People generally only care about things they know and love. Interacting with these incredibly cute and special animals will surely make you care about them. Spread the sloth love!

Safe and sound

Help from abroad

If you are looking for a way to help the sloths at the Sloth Sanctuary, the sanctuary has a program where you can “adopt” a rescued sloth. Your donation of US$80 (UK£63), which can be paid all at once or in installments, will directly benefit the nutrition, wellness, care, and research of not just one, but all the sanctuary’s sloths. You will receive a personalized adoption certificate, a plush sloth toy, four new sloth rescue stories, and a collectable photo magnet. There is also the Earth Day project, which aims to reforest the area. For US$140 (UK£109), an almond tree—the sloths favorite food—will be planted in your honor, and you’ll be able to personalize a plaque to place upon it.

Help one, help all
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article