Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica

Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica

Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica
8:00 AM - 3:00 PM
8:00 AM - 3:00 PM
8:00 AM - 3:00 PM
8:00 AM - 3:00 PM
8:00 AM - 3:00 PM
8:00 AM - 3:00 PM
8:00 AM - 3:00 PM
Two types of tours to see sloths and learn about their diminishing rainforest habitat. Sorry, no direct contact with sloths, for their well-being and yours. "Buttercup Tour" requires no advance reservation; just arrive about 20 minutes before the top of the hour (8AM–2PM) to register. Duration about 2 hours. "Insider's Tour" is given twice daily and requires advance booking. This tour includes everything in the Buttercup Tour plus "behind-the-scenes" visits to the NICU, Slothpital, climbing area and more. Admission/donations collected directly support the sloths – their rescue, rehabilitation, wellness, research, housing and enrichments. Thank you for supporting the sloths with your tour!
Duration: 2-3 hours
Meets animal welfare guidelines
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4.5 of 5 bubbles951 reviews
Very good

Sabine D
2 contributions
1.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2024 • Couples
We visited the slot sanctuary in Selvatura parc and paid 44usd p/p. The whole tour lasted 20minutes. This is a rip off. They keep 11 slots….who live there…. nice project but I.d rather speent my money in the zoo
Written 24 June 2024
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Oldsmar, FL49 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2022
This place is the reason we came to Costa Rica. Was 100% worth the trip. We were lucky enough to meet the founder while we were on the tour. Very sweet humble lady. Tour was extremely informative. We did the Insider Tour. It's wonderful what they do for the sloths. HIGHLY RECOMMEND!
Written 16 June 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Hartford, CT4 contributions
2.0 of 5 bubbles
. The sloths themselves absolutely did not disappoint. The adults and babies are lovely creatures, and getting to hold and play with the babies is something I will always remember. I only wish I could hang out with sloths every day! Unfortunately, a lot else about Aviarios was quite disappointing. When we arrived, the owners were nowhere to be found, and we were told they would be gone for the first week of our stay. When they did return, they made no effort to meet us, talk to us, or mention even in the least that they appreciated us being there. We paid a lot of money to stay there, and I could have slept and eaten in Cahuita for much cheaper. I understand that the money goes towards helping the sloths, which is great, but the owners should understand that this is still a lot of money for some people, and should show some sort of appreciation for the help.

On our last day at the sanctuary, we were called into the office and told that our credit cards hadn't gone through for the Interbus ride back to the airport- this despite the fact that we booked the bus trip two weeks ago. We were baffled about this-we have never had a problem with our cards before, and we were suspicious that it was some sort of scam.

Luis had paid in cash in order to hold the reservation, and sent us out immediately to pay him back. Money is a big deal here-they will take your money as soon as you arrive, and will come to the house until they get it. We were driven to an ATM by a grandson, which was nice of him, but the ATM was out of money. Cahuita was about a 7-8 minute drive away, so we figured we could just drive there. Because you know, when you volunteer your time and money to help an organization, I don't think it's asking too much to get a quick ride into town. Luis called on the cellphone and asked to speak to me. He asked what was going on, and I told him the ATM didn't work, and that we didn't know what we should do next. He then, out of the blue, started SCREAMING at me. "Well you better take a taxi to Cahuita then! We are not driving you! THIS IS YOUR PROBLEM! THIS IS NOT MY PROBLEM!-he repeated this a few times". I was actually speechless. The idea that someone could scream at another adult like that is insulting enough. The fact that I was working for free for this person, helping keep his business running with no compensation, made it that much worse. I still can't believe that my friends and I were treated in this manner. We eventually found a way to get the money and dropped it off, but after that we could not bear to be at the sanctuary a moment longer. Had we not been leaving the next day, we would simply have left. No one wants to stick around somewhere and be treated like that.

In addition to this, the descriptions of volunteer work on the website are inaccurate. We had no interaction with visitors, led no tours, did nothing in the gift shop etc. We cleaned poo out of cages, sorted and washed berro leaves for hours, peeled and sliced rotten carrots, and dished out the sloth's food. I completely understand that this is necessary work, and that it's for the benefit of the sloths, but the volunteer description does not match up. Also, don't bother bringing rubber boots-we were laughed at by our volunteer coordinator for being silly enough to bring boots (the website will say you should bring them). Lastly, be prepared for the fact that the sloths are in cages. The adult sloths spend their lives in a cement cage, usually all alone, and never get to come out. They do not see sky, or trees, or grass. I felt like crying much of the time when I was around the adults, because I just can't stand to see animals looking sad and being trapped in cages. I had thought somehow that they would be in a nice, green enclosure, with trees and nature and a natural setting. Most of the 100+ sloths will not be released, and will live out their lives in captivity. I hope that the researchers currently at Aviarios will be able to change this, but I have no idea if anything will ever be done.

Basically, I came here wanting more than anything to love it. I loved the sloths, and was thrilled at the chance to walk around with the babies. The owners, however, did not care about the volunteers, and were downright rude and aggressive in the case of Luis. We were not appreciated, and no one at the sanctuary was willing to help us out if we needed it. The sloths' situation makes me very sad, and I wish I had known in advance that they were in small cages. Because of the way we were treated, I would not recommend volunteering at Aviarios.
(volunteer at Aviarios for 2 weeks)
Written 18 September 2010
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

London3 contributions
2.0 of 5 bubbles
First the good points: The sloths are really sweet and the volunteers I met at this place were wonderful. They PAID $30 / day to work hard for nothing, uncomplaining, and were dedicated, friendly and helpful. Unfortunately, in my experience here, the bad far outweighed the good. Here is what I observed and experienced.

- The owners of the sloth sanctuary - Luis and Judy – were nowhere to be found. I volunteered my time, paid $30 / day, and worked hard for the duration of my stay. They were apparently on vacation but neglected to mention in earlier correspondence that they would not be there for most of my stay. While they apparently returned during my stay, they did not bother to come and introduce themselves or better yet, thank me for my time and hard work. They did make sure they got my money though.

- Volunteers are basically dropped off after a 4 hour drive (and if you don’t speak Spanish, good luck) tossed a key and told to show up for work at 6:00 in the morning (and don’t be late) At one point I attempted to get some help making an interbus reservation. They were not only unhelpful, but were actually quite rude. This is YOUR problem, not mine. We had no access to telephones or computers. It's difficult making a reservation without a phone. I realize that things don't run the same way in Costa Rica. How about some help?

- When you arrive the only thing that matters is paying UP FRONT IMMEDIATELY in cash. That’s probably because a lot of people would turn around and leave if they had the option. It occurred to me that these guys are making a lot of money off their volunteers, and most likely pay the local Costa Ricans a very small amount of money.

- The work is quite hard, but you wouldn’t mind if someone thanked you or showed some kind of appreciation. After all, everyone I met there had sacrificed their vacation time to help out at this ‘sanctuary’.

- It’s not a sanctuary. It’s a zoo. The sloths are in small cages (volunteers clean them out and feed them and chop vegetables and sweep and sort leaves and it’s pretty dirty hard work in very hot temperatures) . They are mostly curled up in corners looking sad and depressed. I was somehow under the impression, prior to arriving there, that these animals were being taken care of in order to release them back into the wild. My personal feeling was that most of them would have been better off had they not been rescued. What kind of life do these sloths have? This is a zoo – not a sanctuary. The poor sloths have no access to nature or trees or the jungle surrounding them. They’re stuck in cages for the rest of their lives.

- My overall impression was that this is mostly a money making venture for the people running it and that they really didn’t care much about whether the volunteers were happy or taken care of. How about a little information about what to do in case of an emergency? Where’s the nearest town? How do we get there? Where can we buy food? What should we do if we get bitten by a snake ? Where can we go after work to swim? For entertainment? The website they have is very misleading. Their job description for volunteers includes: guiding tours, lending a hand to veterinarians and specialists and researchers, maintaining the jungle trails, assisting in the gift shop, administrative / information technology assistance???? Special projects - a rewarding and happy volunteer experience etc. This description is completely inaccurate. You will be cleaning cages, chopping vegetables and doing manual labour (only). The website also states that you will receive breakfast, lunch and dinner. Lunch is the only meal provided (there are eggs in the fridge for breakfast – make your own) and dinner is leftovers from lunch – you prepare yourself if there are leftovers. If not, you’re out of luck.

I felt so bad for the sloths. I really do hope someone will do some research at this place and decide whether or not it's a good idea to keep large animals in cages indefinitely. What's the point of rescuing them to give them this quality of life?
Written 19 September 2010
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Edinburgh, UK190 contributions
1.0 of 5 bubbles
Jan 2016 • Friends
As an animal lover I gutted to have contributed to the running of this sloth prison. I so wish I had read the reviews properly before going. Not only that, my friend and I paid $250 to do the insiders' tour and another $100 plus to stay the night. Sorry sloths.
On arrival we were shown the sloth Buttercup who is kept confined to a small space by the eating area, where everyone can attract her attention and stick cameras in her face all day. On the tour we came across more and more sloths in confined spaces. They are never allowed out. The cocky guide bluffed over answering questions and claimed they don't need a lot of space. Sloths climb up trees, they need more space than is given. Throughout the tour sloths were woken up for the benefit of tourists, including those in the nursery.
You can tell that other visitors are not happy either. Go and see sloths in the wild. There are loads in Costa Rica. Walk five minutes down the road and you'll see them happy. I attach some photos to show the conditions.
Written 24 January 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Bram V
Leuven, Belgium3 contributions
1.0 of 5 bubbles
Oct 2014 • Business
This is a tour focused on tourists keen on seeing (baby) sloths up close. Although the organisation does release adult sloths back to the wild, the overall business principle is clearly to make a lot of money. They keep a lot of baby sloths (which cannot be released into the wild). This is a choice that does not benefit wild sloth populations but is good for tourist revenues (tourists want to see babies).
At 25 US dollars the price is very high and for this price you get very little. The guided walk was ok and would be ok if priced at around 10 dollars. However, you have to pay 25 dollars and have to take a canoe tour as well.
We are four biologists that visited this center and all of us were disappointed by the poor answers provided by the guides in response to our critical questions about research, management and conservation. We were unimpressed about the scientific research performed there, based on what the guide told us.
The canoe ride was suitable for children. There was nothing to see, it was slow and dull. There were about five common bird species to see. The information provided in the Rough guide and the Lonely Planet is misleading (> 300 bird species, monkeys, cayman). Perhaps a tourist that stays in a five star resort would be impressed by seeing 'wild' bananas, 'wild' ginger and cacao trees pointed out by the guide. The five birds we saw were not even pointed out by the guide. We recommend anyone coming to Costa Rica to visit any of the hundred good nature reserves in Costa Rica, nearly all of which have excellent knowledgeable guides, spectacular scenery and better wildlife watching opportunities. And none charge as much as the sloth sanctuary. Sloths are everywhere in Costa Rica. Just look into the trees.
Overall, this is a place to avoid. Donate your money to other conservation initiatives. I recommend the managers reconsider their business plan: rehabilitate more adults and stop making tons of money by showing babies to ignorant tourists.. Focus should be on conservation and research.

Yours sincerely,

Prof. Dr. Bram Vanschoenwinkel, Dr. Hendrik Trekels, University of Brussels, Belgium
Drs. Aurora Geerts, KULeuven, Belgium
Written 12 October 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

15 contributions
1.0 of 5 bubbles
Sept 2015
I was really exited to visit the sloth sanctuary as I am a conservationist and a mammal keeper. I really love sloths and thought I'd be going and doing my bit for the rehabilitation, caring and re releasing of abandoned sloths/baby sloths. I was wrong! Please don't waste your money, it's not going towards the sloths but into the owners pockets.

First off we were told to wait in a dining area with the 'star of the sanctuary' Buttercup. Buttercup was in a hanging basket looking cute. She had a few bits of leaves pegged to her basket and only the small basket to climb on. We were told we could take photos. I took one but just felt a bit uneasy as she was stuck there like a circus freak.

The 'tour' then started. We were sent off on a boat down a shallow river. It was pretty and the guide did a good job. He pointed out a few plants and birds. I couldn't help but feel it was rather pointless and just a way to waste the first hour of the 'tour'. It was all a bit bizarre and unnecessary. I even saw a dead baby sloth on the side of the river- I pointed it out to the guide who just nodded. I thought a place like that would be inclined to do post mortem of deceased sloths? They say they do other studies so why not?

Then time for the tour of the two rooms. The tour guide took us to meet some of the sloths. I could go into a lot of detail about how much unnecessary drivel he spoke about but it would be too much to write down. His delivery was rather cocky and he spoke very condescendingly to a group of 6 adults.

He showed us some baby sloths in small cages and tried to justify it with "we tried giving them more room but they don't use it- they don't move much". What a load of rubbish! Even if they don't move that much their surroundings should mimic the natural ones they come from as much as possible. Let them decide how much they want to move. They belong in trees! Not under blankets in tiny cages!! He also effectively said that the infants will never be re released! ! This due to them lacking knowledge passed down to them by their mothers. I can't tell you how angry this makes me! Surely a quality of life assessment should be done here? I'm not convinced it's rescuing if they are subjected to that sort of life.

I could go on. But all in all I was really upset by the experience and wish I hadn't given this 'sanctuary' my money. The jaguar centre is 45 minutes away and does a MUCH better job and have a very successful re release program for sloths and various other animals they rescue. Go and do a tour there instead- you won't be disappointed!
Written 20 September 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Wroclaw, Poland247 contributions
1.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2013 • Couples
I’m always hesitant about writing a negative review, but in this case I feel like I owe it to the animals!

My boyfriend and I visited the Sloth Sanctuary in mid July while saying at the Caribbean coast. It was the only truly bad experience we had in all 4 weeks we spent in beautiful Costa Rica. This place has nothing to do with being a ‘sanctuary.’ It’s probably due to the fact that it’s no longer run by the founder (an American women called Judy) but is now in the hands of her family – mostly grandchildren, who give the ‘tour’ to the tourists. It’s a very cynical place that keeps animals for business purposes under the guise of ‘helping’ them. It’s really sad and hypocritical. In fact, they don’t even pretend that they set many sloths free anymore. I realize that reintroducing them into the wild is an extremely difficult process and it takes time, care, and patience, but this is no excuse. Isn’t this the reason the place was created in the first place? Even the sloths that were brought there as infants and are completely healthy will most likely always be kept as prisoners. They are confined to small cages (not much larger than regular pet carriers) where they get overheated, overfed, and can’t even see the sky, and it is simply heartbreaking. They are also given cooked food to eat, which they could never find in the wild (no cooked veggies grow on any trees that I’ve seen) so they wouldn’t be able to fend for themselves and know what leaves to eat. The grandson who gave us the ‘tour’ told me that their sloth are send back to the wild only if they can ‘prove’ that they are ready for it. But how can they prove anything if they are never even given a chance?

I don’t think that it’s intentional cruelty. I think it’s a complete lack of care. It’s a business, like I said earlier. The animals don’t have a voice and can’t complain. They just lay around and are used as props and donation causes. And the family has a secure job.

The sanctuary is not what it supposedly once was. They sold out to big tour companies and tv, and they no longer give a damn. What they do is not sincere and it serves a U.S. family not the sloths. Please stay away and don’t contribute to this ‘cause!’ And if you can’t stop yourself from going ask as many questions as possible. They need to realize that people can see through what they’re doing.

What’s more, the regular tour itself is a pure joke. During the first HOUR you enter only two areas with about 5 cages each (1/2 hour per one area). First you go inside a room, then move on to an outside area. Each time the ‘guide’ will say a couple of obvious things, declare that sloths are not lazy blah blah and let’s invent a new name for them (speaking to a group consisting of adults only – not 5 year olds…) and make some rather unfunny jokes (he’s so cocky and has got nothing to back it up with!). Then there will be periods of awkward silence. He’ll open some cages. You can take pictures looking inside. Then the hour will hopefully be up and that’s all the sloths you’ll see. Now it’s time for a boat ride on a neighboring canal. The canal is pretty, but nothing special, and it has nothing to do with watching sloths. It’s the slowest boat ride you’ll ever take – but they need to fill an hour somehow. It will take place in silence or with barely any commentary. We didn’t see any animals except for a couple of bats and a spider when the driver stuck the canoe under a branch accidently. It was boring and frustrating. But they have to justify the ticket prices and take 2 hours of your life...

If you really want to see sloths actually getting rehabilitated and get up close with with all sorts of Costa Rican wildlife, from monkeys, coatis and kinkajous to wild cats, snakes and much, much more you should head a little further south to a wonderful place called Jaguar Rescue Center, located between Puerto Viejo and Punta Uva. There you will find people who truly care and prioritize animals. They do all that they can to help them heel and set them free at the end of the process. You witness as they get exercised. It’s not a zoo (unlike the Sloth ‘Sanctuary’) and no one capable of surviving on their own is permanently kept in cages. They also organize free tours for inner city kids and do a lot of good work in the community.

If this doesn’t speak to you then why don’t you compare the prices? The Sloth Sanctuary tour is $25 pp for a group visit and a private visit (or a ‘Special Insider’s Tour’) is $150 (!). By contrast, Jaguar Rescue Center charges $15 pp for a regular group visit (one group consists of about 15 people max.) and $50 pp per private visit with your own guide (one of the volunteers) at your convenience.

In a nutshell, if you want to take a great canal tour surrounded by tons of wildlife – go to Tortuguero, and if you want to see some happy sloths – go to Jaguar Rescue Center.

I will certainly never go to the Sloth Sanctuary again and I sincerely hope you won’t either!
Written 16 October 2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Berkeley, California35 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
A friend and I volunteered here for two weeks this summer (2010). There are definite positives and negatives about the experience. Off the bat, the biggest positives are the sloths. They are very funny animals that are a lot of fun to work with. After a little bit you definitely get to know their different personalities and it doesn't take long to get attached to them, or find a couple that are your favorites (or a couple that like you).

The other really cool part were the other volunteers we met. Although it was...interesting being the only fella in the group, that was a small price to pay. Other than gender there was a lot of variety in the different people and they were are really cool.

The downside is really Aviarios itself. Both the management style and the operation of the place are kind of messed up and can get really frustrating after a few days.

The first problem is the way they treat the volunteers. They don't stand by their own commitment to provide adequate meals and it was a constant struggle getting them to supply us with the adequate food or other sundries. Like, every day we were having to ask for more stuff. Even then they never met their commitment to provide prepared meals. We simply had to use the (not enough) left over lunches or fend for ourselves.

Then there's the really unprofessional attitude at the sanctuary. There's a lot of baby talk and anthropomorphizing of the sloths. It's run and managed by former tourists/B&B owners and not trained animal scientists. There's also a total resignation to the fact that all of the nearly 100 sloths will spend their lives in their cages. And even with that fact there is no effort to socialize the sloths or put them in large, natural habitats, even if enclosed. Instead, most of them are one or two to a cage which are very small.

Even the (self-produced) video they show on the tour has facts they tell you afterward are incorrect.

Bottom line is that the place is more of a Sloth farm than a sanctuary. The success of such a place should be how FEW animals they have, not how many they have.

On the other hand, we really did have a lot of fun and good memories. As I look back through pictures the overwhelming feelings are good, so you have to weigh it for yourself. My main recommendation would be not to commit to very long, even if you plan to stay a long time. You should build an out for yourself if that irritation, especially the poor volunteer attention/care, really gets to you.
Written 16 September 2010
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Arnhem, The Netherlands37 contributions
1.0 of 5 bubbles
Mar 2014 • Family
I can't believe all the positive reviews here. I understand that people are enthousiastic to see the sloths up close, as they are mostly seen high up in a tree. But that's where they belong, people, not in a small, bare cage. Not woken up to be shown to people. Not to be touched by human hands. I was annoyed by the ignorance of eager people to get as close to the sloths as they could, because they wanted to take pictures with them. Or throwing camera flash in their faces just for a better picture, even after being warned not to use flash and to keep a distance.

I regret going, regret spending money here, regret not having read the reviews here before I went here, reviews that confirmed the uneasy feeling I had all throughout this so-called tour. There was no explanation of how this rescue centre actually worked, no talking about rehablitation or sloths being put back into the wild. This was a touristy circus, a way to make easy money from ignorant people wanting "cool" pictures from these "cute", yet defenseless creatures. They are not pets, they are wildlife and in the wild is where they should be. If that's no longer possible, for whatever reason, they should live in an enclosure simulating the wild, giving them space and an environment in which they can escape the snapping camera's of stupid people. Look around, there are so many places in the world that can show you what a true rescue centre looks like and where true love and respect for the animals is shown. This is nothing like that.
Written 11 April 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (2024) - Tripadvisor

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