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  • Writer's pictureDave Jackson

Sloth watching trail la Fortuna, Costa Rica (Arenal)

When it comes to visiting Costa Rica, 99/100 people’s driving force for visiting is to see and experience the beautiful fauna and flora. There are many places throughout Costa Rica where you can see sloths and toucans, in this post, we will cover the best place to do a sloth-watching trail in La Fortuna, Costa Rica, which will give you almost guaranteed sightings of sloths and toucans in La Fortuna/Arenal.


A beautiful sloth we saw on the Mariolas Trail, Costa Rica
A beautiful sloth we saw on the Mariolas Trail, Costa Rica
 

Table of Contents


 

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What is the Mariolas Trail?


The Mariolas trail is a family run business; 5 years ago the area was used for a dairy farm until Grandpa & Grandma of the family decided to take a risk by moving the cattle and re-wilding the land. The trail has only been open 7 months and you can see the family are all extremely keen to welcome visitors to their little slice of jungle paradise, sharing the knowledge and wildlife of their land. They call Grandpa eagle eye as he can spot wildlife a mile off.


The area is only small, the trail through it is about 1.6km (1 mile). The animals are completely wild, no fences exist, but having created a lush, safe environment they are happy to stay.


You can visit the Mariolas Trail website for more information.

How much does it cost to visit Mariolas Trail?


A guided tour during the daytime is C$17,280/$32.

A night tour is C$21,600/$40.


What's included:

  • A 1.5 hour guided tour along the 1.5km trail.

  • Lots of fun facts and information about the plants and wildlife found in the are and across Cost Rica

  • The guide will have a tripod monocular to enable you to get a closer look at the animals. He may even take some photos on your phone with it too so you have some wonderful pictures to remember your time here.

  • Tortilla making class with the Grandma of the family which are then enjoyed with some pre-prepared fillings. Along with freshly squeezed sugar cane juice.


It is not possible to enter the Mariolas Trail unguided.


What time can you visit Mariolas Trail?


The answer to that depends on what you want to see. The two-toed sloth is nocturnal but the three-toed sloth is diurnal. If you wish to see an abundance of birds, daytime is for you and if you wish to see snakes, insects and anteaters take a night tour.


Our guide used a fabulous analogy to describe how the jungle is different day and night. He said at about 5pm in the afternoon it is like someone comes along and re-lays the dining room table. They clear off everything there, the cutlery and chilli sauce bottle, and relay it with different items, salt & pepper and maybe candles. It is the same table but now it seems completely different. What a fabulous way to describe it!


Tours run at;

8:30 am

11:00 am

2:00 pm

6:00 pm


so you could even do a day-time and a night-time tour if you have the money to.


Keel-billed Toucan we saw on the Mariolas Trail, La Fortune
Keel-billed Toucan we saw on the Mariolas Trail, La Fortune

How to book

Simply whatsapp (+506-6235 3697) them to check availability and book onto a tour. We found they were very responsive.


How to get to the Mariolas Trail


The Mariolas Trail is on the outskirts of La Fortuna. If you are staying in downtown La Fortuna, the entrance is a 12-minute walk from the main square. If you are driving, there is free parking on site.


Tip: If you arrive by car a little early, you can get a sneaky sighting before you start your guided walk. We were shown two sloths in the trees by the carpark!


Should you take a guided walk to see sloths and toucans?


There are walks you can do in the area where you can walk unguided and there is a chance you will see sloths, toucans and many other animals. However, taking a guided walk you are pretty much guaranteed to see more, as the guides are well trained at spotting even the sneakiest of animals and they know the trail so they get used to the sort of area the animals are likely to be. It is also interesting to learn more about the wildlife and nature you see.


Mariolas Trail only offers the option to walk their trails guided. If a guided walk is for you, they are the cheapest in the area!


What animals can you see when you visit the Mariolas Trail?


The animals are wild on the Mariolas Trail, it’s not a zoo so no sightings can be guaranteed. However, the animals listed below you will have a good chance of seeing.

Sloths

Toucan

Hummingbirds

Iguanas

Basilisk, don’t worry you can look it in the eyes. It’s a lizard not a legendary beast in the depths of Hogwarts.

Poisonous tree frogs

Anteaters

Lots of other colourful song birds


Our experience on the Mariolas Trail


We chose the 11 am trail, having had many early mornings on the run up it seemed like a perfect opportunity to have a bit of a lie-in!


Upon arrival, we were welcomed by the whole family with open arms. After receiving a small briefing about how the tour works we were on our way. Within a few minutes, we had our first sightings of sloths in Costa Rica. Our guide was very knowledgeable telling us all about the local flora and fauna and our tour was fascinating. We were very excited to see poisonous tree frogs, they are so tiny I certain we wouldn't have found them on our own.


We don't normally opt for a guide and have been reasonably lucky with our wildlife spotting so far on our travels, however, it was really great to take advantage of a local person's knowledge and learn more about the wildlife we have been seeing. It was also wonderful to use the monoculars to get a good close look at the sloths and iguanas high up in the trees.


Delicious filled tortillas and fresh sugarcane & pineapple juice
Delicious filled tortillas and fresh sugarcane & pineapple juice

What to wear/take with you on a sloth-watching trail la Fortuna

  • Closed-toe shoes - The trail is man-made and flat so whilst flipflops or sandals would be fine, closed-toe shoes are recommended as you are still in the jungle after all and there are a lot of bugs. Closed-toe shoes are an absolute essential for the night walk for danger of insects and snakes.

  • Insect repellent - There are lots of nibbly things in Costa Rica, especially in the jungle. You need to make sure your repellent has a high level of deet!

  • Sun cream - There is dappled shade from the trees but still a good idea to factor up.

  • Binoculars - If you do have your own, definitely bring them but don't worry if not, the guide will have a tripod binocular.

  • Camera - if you have one (we only had phones as our camera died the day before we set off & managed, but we could have got some much better shots with a decent one!)

  • Water bottle - we always carry a water bottle, especially in hot, humid climates like this.


 Two different species of poisonous frog we saw on the Mariolas Trail, La Fortuna
Two different species of poisonous frog we saw on the Mariolas Trail, La Fortuna

Costa Rican animal fun facts - Did you know?


1. The national mammal of Costa Rica is the sloth (an easy one to start with).


2. The National bird of Costa Rica is the clay-coloured thrush (previously known as the clay-coloured robin)!


I like to think that the powers that be had a bit of a tantrum and threw out all the toys from their pram. “Belize has the toucan, Guatemala has the quetzal, Nicaragua has the Motmot & Jamaica has the hummingbird….. Screw it we might as well have that dowdy bird”


With all the beautiful birds they have in Costa Rica, it’s kind of like the UK picking the feral pigeon.


3. A sloth is a whole ecosystem!

When you spot a sloth you may think its fur has a slight green tinge to it. The truth is that the sloths have algae, fungi, moths, and insects all living in their fur! The sloth provides a nice home and this ecosystem helps with their camouflage, win-win!


4. Toucans May be pretty but they’re not nice!

Toucans may well be extremely striking and amazing to watch, however, they are not friendly birds. They are known to attack their own & raid other birds' nests to eat their young.


5. Sloths sleep a lot!

Sloths can sleep anywhere up to 20 hours a day. Apart from koalas, they sleep the most of any animal.


6 . Toucans have a big mouths!



A toucan's beak (or bill) accounts for half of its length!


7. There are loads of sloths in Costa Rica!

Costa Rica has a huge population of sloths. It’s estimated at about 5 million, which is about 1 sloth for every person or 3 sloths per acre!


8. Two-toed sloths and three-toed sloths have the wrong name!

Both two-toed sloths and three-toed sloths have three toes on their hind limb. The true difference is on their forelimb, with the two-toed having two fingers and the three-toed, having three fingers. They should actually be called the two-fingered sloth and the three-fingered sloth!




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