Meet the Sloths on Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast


This travel article by Shannon Farley appeared in The Costa Rica Star. Follow the link below for the original report.

Their cute, lovable, masked furry faces seem to smile beatifically, and are fast reaching celebrity-status in Costa Rica. In a country full of exotic wildlife, sloths are one of the most well-known animals, and one of themost asked about by visiting tourists.

A great way to see these extraordinary and fascinating animals up close is at the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica. Located just south of Limon Costa Rica, in the small town of Penhurst on the Caribbean Coast, the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica rescues, protects and rehabilitates sloths, besides studying and researching the extraordinary mammals. The Sloth Sanctuary was featured on the popular TV show Animal Planet’s “Meet the Sloths.”

The Sloth Sanctuary is a fun and easy recommended half-day tourwhen visiting Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast. From Puerto Viejo, the Sloth Sanctuary is 35 km north. They are open to the public Tuesday through Sunday (closed Monday) starting at 8:00 a.m. The “Buttercup Tours” begin every hour on the hour, and the last tour is at 2:00 p.m.

The favorite tour is named after Buttercup, the sloth that changed the lives of Sanctuary owners Judy Avey-Arroyo and Luis Arroyo forever. The couple – Judy originally from Alaska and Luis from Costa Rica – bought land on the then very-wild and remote Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica in the early 1970s. They had their 320 acres along the Estrella River, 30km south of the port city of Limón, officially declared a “Privately-owned Biological Reserve” in 1975. They built a small home and intended to enjoy nature.

The devastating 1991 Limon 7.6 earthquake changed everything. The couple rebuilt their home and added a small hotel. As the story goes on their website, “They never intended on devoting their lives to the elusive and threatened (sloths). Then, they met Buttercup. Shortly after the inauguration of the hotel, three young neighbor girls brought them a wee surprise – an orphaned three-fingered baby sloth.”

They ended up raising Buttercup themselves; then local residents started bringing them orphaned or injured sloths, and by 1997, the Arroyos gave in and became an authorized sloth rescue center. Today, the 21-year-old Buttercup, a sweet-faced three-fingered sloth, greets visitors to the sanctuary from her perch in a wicker hanging basket-chair.

Since Buttercup, the Arroyos have rescued over 500 ofCosta Rica’s two species of sloths: the Three-fingered sloth (Bradypus variegatus) and Two-fingered sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni). Of those, 149 are permanent residents at the sanctuary, some are infants in incubators, and more than 100 sloths of both species have been rehabilitated and returned to the wild. Sloths are frequently referred to as “three-toed” or “two-toed”, but all sloths have three toes on their hind legs; the difference is found in the number of fingers on their front legs.

What’s the difference between the two types of sloths besides their fingers? The Three-fingered sloth is the most well-known with its dark gray-brown face, white forehead, raccoon-like bands on its eyes, and seemingly blissful expression; this sloth is slightly smaller than its cousin and eats only leaves. The Two-fingered sloth is larger, more active, and eats leaves, buds, flowers and fruit. Its appearance is quite different, being champagne to dark brown in color with a light brown or blond face and brown eye rings; their hairless muzzle-like snout is longer and wider than the Three-fingered sloth, but it doesn’t have a small tail like the other sloth. Sloths can live 30 years or more.

The Tour
On the highly-recommended two-hour Buttercup Tour, you will learn about sloths and meet some of the resident adult sloths and see the babies. It includes a one-hour, guided small boat ride through the bayous of the Estrella River Delta where you may see wild sloths, monkeys and other rainforest wildlife.

Caribbean Coast, Costa Rica Hotels
One of the finest upscale hotels by the beautiful Caribbean beach town of Puerto Viejo is Hotel Le Caméléon. The hotel is located across from the beautiful golden sand beach of Playa Cocles with its own private beach club. Hotel Le Caméléon can arrange tours to the Sloth Sanctuary, and other activities in the Caribbean region.

For the original report go to

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