A Sloth and Bird Tour in La Fortuna

The rainforests in and around La Fortuna are a great place to see wildlife, especially sloths. With the help of a good guide, you can sometimes see multiple sloths during a hike. While sloth sightings should never be guaranteed (more on this below), guides know where to look and have scopes to help point them out. During a walk, you’ll usually see lots of other wildlife too. In this post, we’ll share our experience taking a sloth and bird tour in La Fortuna.

Sloth Bird Tour Arenal

Location and Background

La Fortuna/Arenal is one of Costa Rica’s most popular destinations. Even with all the visitors, though, it still has a ton of wildlife living in its vast jungle. In the downtown alone, you can hear parakeets squawking in the park and see iguanas basking on rooftops.

Sloth tours and sloth trails near La Fortuna have become very popular in recent years. Unfortunately, sometimes these tours or the properties they go through are not always reputable (think capturing sloths to put them on display).

Before taking our tour, we made sure that we would be going on an ethical sloth tour. Having worked with this tour company through our travel agency for almost a decade, we felt reassured by their very serious take on the situation.

Starting the Sloth and Bird Tour

Our tour started at the operator’s office in downtown La Fortuna just after breakfast. Here, we jumped into a van with another family and our naturalist guide, David.

After some introductions, David told us that we would be visiting a nearby nature reserve to search for sloths, birds, reptiles, and anything else we could find.

After about 20 minutes in the van, we arrived at the Mariolas Trail (Sendero Las Mariolas).

The Mariolas Trail

Hopping out of the van, our small group followed David to the entrance.

This private reserve is on the outskirts of La Fortuna. Once a dairy farm, the property has been allowed to regenerate since 2018. In just that short time, the jungle has started to take over once again.

Tour to see sloths La Fortuna
Our small group heading down the trail

First Sightings

Just steps onto the trail, David began to point out interesting plants and flowers. Some beautiful heliconia flowers were attracting butterflies. He also showed us cacao (chocolate) trees that had strange looking fruits. Next, we walked through a small organic garden where herbs, fruits, and local vegetables were growing.

On the other side, back on the trail, we had our first cool bird sighting. It was a Crested Guan, a sort of wild turkey that lives up in the trees. This one was perched in the shade, assuming we didn’t see it.

Crested Guan La Fortuna
A Crested Guan trying to hide in a tree

Seeking Out Sloths

Leading us into a clearing, David scanned the nearby trees. He said that a few days ago, he had seen a sloth in this area.

We learned that sloths often stay in the same general place, feeding and sleeping in their favorite trees before moving to another spot. They are very territorial.   

David had just about given up when he suddenly got excited. Setting up his scope, he explained that the sloth was high in the branches behind another tree. Our group all looked up but couldn’t locate it.

Taking turns looking through his powerful scope, we all finally caught a glimpse of the furry sloth and its smiling face. This was a three-toed sloth, one of the two types found in Costa Rica.  

David even took some photos for us with our phones through the scope.

Three Toed Sloth Mariola trail
A three-toed sloth through the scope

Spotting a Toucan

Just down the trail a large bird flew overhead and landed on a branch. It was a Yellow-necked Toucan. The sizable bird was tilting its long beak from side to side, checking its surroundings. Soon it began calling with a high-pitched squeak.

Toucan Arenal
A Yellow-necked toucan

David set up his scope again so that everyone could take a closer look. Then, he told us a bit about how these toucans are actually quite fierce. They will even raid the nests of other birds to eat their eggs, he said.

Viewing sloth through scope
Our son checking out the toucan through the scope

Other Interesting Birds

As David led us around the trails to a pond, we got a glimpse of some more exotic birds.

There was a family of Boat-billed Herons sleeping in a tree over the water. David explained that these nocturnal birds have big eyes that allow them to hunt fish, frogs, and other creatures at night. 

Below in the marsh, a Northern Jacana was busily moving around the shallow water. And darting through the trees above were a Scarlet-rumped Tanager, Grayish Saltator, and Buff-throated Saltator.

Wading bird Mariolas Trail
A Northern Jacana feeding in the pond

Two-toed Sloths

On the other side of the property, we cut through a different trail. Here, we came across another tour group looking at a sloth. When it was our turn, David set up his scope again. But to our surprise, it was not just one, but two sloths!

David explained that normally you will not see two sloths this close to each other, but these were a mother and baby. They were Costa Rica’s other type, the two-toed sloth.

We learned that the baby two-toed sloth will stay with its mother for more than a year. Since they were not in the same tree, David said the baby was probably starting the weaning process. It would soon be off on its own.

Baby sloth in tree sloth and bird tour
This little furball is a baby sloth

Other Wildlife

While walking the easy trails of the Mariolas property, we were lucky to see lots of other cool wildlife.

Some highlights were a family of bats sleeping under a banana leaf, a prehistoric-looking lizard called an emerald basilisk, and some tiny blue-jean poison dart frogs. David gave us interesting facts and information about each one.

Poison dart frog La Fortuna
A close up of a blue jean poison dart frog (harmless to humans)


Back in the van, David offered us cold waters and told us that we’d stop by the company’s farm for a snack. There, we all sipped drinks and ate empanadas filled with homemade cheese and fresh fruits while talking about the awesome wildlife we had seen. It was the perfect ending for our tour.     

Empanada La Finquita La Fortuna
Delicious empanada snack

Planning a Sloth and Bird Tour

Booking a Tour

If you’d like to experience a sloth and bird tour for yourself, please use the link below to make a booking. We will make arrangements with the same company we used. They have certified naturalist guides that really do care about the animals and environment. Booking through us costs the same and helps support our website. Once you request a booking, we’ll get back to you by email. You won’t pay until your reservation is confirmed.


Tour Cost

Group Tour (15 people maximum): $69 per person adults; $47 per person children ages 4-11. Rates plus 13% tax.

Private Tour (only your family/group): $95 per person adults; $56 per person children ages 4-11. Rates plus 13% tax. Children under 4 are free.


7:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.


3.5-4 hours door to door (approximate)


Bilingual, certified naturalist guide with spotting scope, round-trip transportation from your hotel or vacation rental, drinks, snack, and entrance fee.

Naturalist Guide La Fortuna
Our guide teaching us about native fruits and vegetables

Minimum Age

The minimum age is 4.

If you are traveling with children under 4, we recommend a private tour with only your family.

Trail Conditions and Accessibility

The Mariolas Trail is not handicap accessible but is flat and well maintained.

This is a short hike (about 1.25 miles) so a good option for families or anyone looking for an easy hike to see wildlife.

Have a question about taking a sloth and bird tour in La Fortuna? Leave a comment below.

Looking for more activities that involve sloths? Check out these posts:

Toucan Rescue Ranch: Wildlife and Sloth Tour – This animal rescue and rehabilitation center near San Jose is a great way to see animals like sloths up close.

The Wildlife of Manuel Antonio National Park – Another hotspot for sloths is Manuel Antonio National Park. Check out this post for more info.

Jaguar Rescue Center Wildlife Tour in Puerto Viejo – Located on the Caribbean coast, this non-profit helps many animals but especially sloths that unfortunately get injured by power lines, dogs, etc.


  1. Do you think that more animals might be seen in the early morning or is the afternoon just as good? We will be in La Fortuna in February and will happily sign up through your site.

    1. Hi Rosalind, The morning is usually better for wildlife viewing in general but mid to late afternoon can be a good time too. We’d be happy to help with the booking for you. We don’t have tour rates yet for next year so just check back in a month or two.

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