Monthly Archives: July 2012

Aviarios Sloth Sanctuary: Slow is Beautiful

As the girlfriend of an admitted sloth obsessive, the Aviarios Sloth Sanctuary, on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, was a non-negotiable visit. While it may not have otherwise topped my list, my visit here has been the most unique event of my Costa Rican trip so far.

Happiest camper of all time

A Mecca for lovers of these adorably slow creatures, the sanctuary is home to around 150 sloths of both the two and three-toed variety. Experts conduct a two-hour tour (leaving on the hour between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m.) filled with all of the sloth knowledge you would ever need to know, and then some. Everything is extremely interesting and the tour includes a canoe ride in a river running through the sanctuary, but it’s the actual face-to-face sloth time that makes the $25 dollar cost seem much more worthwhile.

Happy sloth stare

Throughout the tour we met around 10 different sloths (including babies) and got to see them up close and personal.  While you can’t hold the sloths for their own safety, seeing their surprisingly human faces up-close was absolutely amazing. Each sloth’s unique personality shines through when you meet them personally.  The most personable of all of the sloths is the grand dame of the Sanctuary, Buttercup.  This friendly lady is the sanctuary’s founding sloth, as it began with three young girls dropping her off at Judy, the sloth whisperer’s, door.  Judy nursed her back to health and has since done the same with hundreds of injured or sick sloths. Now Buttercup makes you feel welcome from the hanging basket where she holds court as soon as you step into the room.

Buttercup, the Grand Dame of the Sanctuary

The sanctuary is about 15 minutes north of Cahuita or 45 minutes north of the popular destination of Puerto Viejo (which I would highly recommend.)  From either destination, just hop on the hourly bus that heads north on Highway 36 until you reach the sloth crossing signs.  The ticket costs less than $2 each way.

Buttercup checking out her surroundings

The Sloth Sanctuary should not be missed by any sloth fans. However, if you are just casually interested, note between travel time and waiting for the tour to begin you may be in for close to five hours from Puerto Viejo.  But for anyone who wants a guaranteed sloth sighting, especially a close-up encounter, this place is a must-see.  If anyone needs inspiration, check out these Animal Planet “Too Cute” clips, filmed on-site.

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Costa Rica So Far: The Good, The Bad and The Beautiful

A bold monkey in Manuel Antonio

Ok, so I’ve been here in Costa Rica for two weeks thus far.  After extensive time in San Jose during the week broken up by weekends in two diverse, yet equally beautiful places (the beach at Manuel Antonio and the rainforest/volcano landscape in La Fortuna), I feel adequately informed to share my findings, both on the pro and con side.

The Good

  • The People: Costa Ricans, or Ticos, as they call themselves are wonderfully good natured and hospitable. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard anyone laugh as often or as heartily as my host mother, and that seems to be the trend amongst all Ticos.  Their generous hearts and big smiles, as well as their eagerness to show you this amazing country they call home, makes it easy to see why so many people fall in love with Costa Rica
  • The Food: The most common meal here, called a casado, consists of hefty portions of rice, beans, a tortilla, salad, some form of meat (either beef, chicken or fish), and my favorite, fried plantains. These delicious platters are extremely cheap (around $6 generally) at Costa Rican cafes called sodas, which can be found around every corner.  Seafood of all sorts is obviously exceptional here and the huge variety of fresh fruit is unbeatable.
  • Ease of  Transport: Although I am stuck in class all day Monday-Friday, CR’s unbelievable inexpensive transportation, combined with the compact size of the diverse country makes getting the most out of the weekends so easy.  Buses leave to desirable locations several times a day, beginning in the very early morning, which accommodates head starts on the day.  Three or four hour bus rides can take you to diverse parts of the country including the beach, rainforests or volcanos for well under $10, making short trips sensible and affordable for everyone.
  • The Colors: Of course CR’s landscape showcases an array of colors, but so does everything else here.  Fences, walls and buildings are generally painted vibrant hues and even in a hazy city, the pops of color raise your mood.  The festive paint jobs all over reinforce the laid back vibe you already feel here.

The Bad

  • San Jose’s Pollution and Trash: For a country as green and environmentally friendly as rainforest-covered Costa Rica, the state of San Jose will be a surprise to most.  Lack of trash receptacles around the city leaves most streets littered with garbage.  Also the air is thick here as is the traffic, and suffocating exhaust clouds as you walk down the sidewalk are not uncommon.  San Jose is definitely worth seeing and has a lot to offer for students etc., but if your goal is ecotourism, a day should be more than sufficient.
  • No Addresses!?: The rest of the world may follow the number, street, city formula, but Costa Ricans seem not to want or need them.  Locations are described instead by a distance from an intersection of two roads or from one of the many Catholic churches throughout the city.  While this may be more than sufficient for one familiar with the city, visitors should be aware and make sure they have a detailed description of where they want to go.
  • Cab Scams: Especially in San Jose, but throughout all of C.R. you must be careful of what cab you get into.  Only cabs with triangular yellow stickers on the front and top as well as a lighted taxi sign on top are official.  Take only these cabs unless you wish to pay obnoxiously inflated prices.  Other cab drivers will be waiting at bus stops and try to convince you to ride with them. Unless they have the appropriate cars and reset the meter to the standard 585 colones start point, do NOT go with them. It may be necessary to walk a little ways away from the tourist trapped bus arrivals.

And of course, The Beautiful

Arenal loomsAll of the stereotypical things you’ve heard about Costa Rica are all true.  The landscapes and wildlife here are so diverse and easy to access.  The country is smothered in green foliage, splattered with brightly colored flowers and accented with white-sand beaches and perfect blue-green ocean.  I’ve seen more new sorts of wildlife here in the past two weeks than the last six years of my life combined.  Sloths, monkeys, lizards and exotic birds are all likely to show their quirky faces to you at one point or another during your visit.  The waterfalls and volcanos will not disappoint. In fact, Arenal may provide the most perfect prototype of a volcano on earth with its smoking top and misty, forested sides. And of course, anywhere you want to zip, bungee, canyon, raft or ride, Costa Rica will make it possible with the friendliest guides you could imagine. Even with its reputation as an ecotourism jackpot, Costa Rica will probably still exceed your expectations.

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