Three Unique Costa Rica Experiences

Cailin O Neil October 7, 2013 6

When traveling through Costa Rica for two weeks last year, one of the things that I was most surprised about was how many uniquely Costa Rican experiences I was able to have. Aside from all of the common Volcano trekking, waterfall repelling and surfing experiences that you may generally hear about in Costa Rica there were also several things that I got to experience that made my adventure even better. Here are some of the unique things I got to experience that you should also take into consideration on your trip to Costa Rica.

Visiting the Sloth Sanctuary

A face only a mother could love. Photo courtesy of Scott Thorne.

A face only a mother could love. Photo courtesy of Scott Thorne.

Before my trip I knew little about Sloths aside from the fact that they were funny looking and tend to move really slowly. I had no idea that I was about to fall in love with them. Located just outside of the small town of Limon on the Northeast part of the country along the Caribbean Sea not to far from Panama is the Sloth Sanctuary. Officially started in 1997 the owners accidentally came into running the Sloth Sanctuary after they took in one injured Sloth named Buttercup. After Buttercup word got around and people kept bringing them more Sloths to look after and now they have the only Sloth Sanctuary in the country where they care for two and three fingered Sloths.

Today they offer daily tours of the Sanctuary, a small bed and breakfast, and small boat and bird watching tours on their property. They have many Sloths and are always receiving more. They have several staff along with a veterinarian and researcher who all hope to be able to help all of the Sloths and eventually get them reintegrated back into nature when the time is right. They also have a Sloth nursery for the baby sloths they receive and they are literally the cutest things you have ever seen. There aren’t many places in the world where you can get this close to a sloth and if you are lucky you might even get the chance to hold one of these adorable creatures.

Visiting a Local Village

A local indigenous village where some of the Bribri people live.

A local indigenous village where some of the Bribri people live.

I was visiting Costa Rica during the rainy season, which literally dampened some of our plans however it didn’t stop us from hopping in a dugout canoe for a one-hour trip up a river. With Panama on our left and Costa Rica on our right we eventually arrived at a local indigenous village where some of the Bribri people live. Even though it was pouring rain and I had mud up to my knees they happily showed us around their small village and took us into their home where we were fed and learned how to make pure chocolate from the cacao seed.

Meeting them and learning about their culture and how they lived was definitely a unique Costa Rican experience that I wasn’t expecting to have. That was also quite possibly the best chocolate of my life.

Touring a Vanilla Farm

Drying vanilla beans.

Drying vanilla beans.

Costa Rica is farmed for many things from bananas and sugar cane to Palm Oil, it is also the perfect climate for Cacao (which makes chocolate) along with being a great place to grow cinnamon and vanilla. At the Villa Vanilla Spice farm I took a tour where I learned more about vanilla and cinnamon then I knew was possible. I learned how the vanilla bean grows and is hand pollinated to how it is dried and extracts and other things are made from it. I also surprisingly learned that often when we think we are eating cinnamon it is actually a cheaper version from the same genus known as cassia. We have been duped all of our lives! Also I learned that cinnamon itself is a layer of the tree found between the bark and the wood and there is a slight precision for removing it correctly. Please note a lesson I learned, cinnamon, when it is fresh off the tree burns in taste, if offered a piece just take a small bite.

Have you ever traveled through Costa Rica? What kind of experiences did you encounter?


  1. Francesca Paola Colombo October 7, 2013 at 2:13 pm - Reply

    That’s the trip of my life! I really hope to do it one day!

    • cailin October 15, 2013 at 2:12 pm - Reply

      It was such an awesome experience! I hope you get to visit! :)

  2. Emma October 7, 2013 at 9:20 pm - Reply

    That sloth is very cute! Maybe even cuter than the baby pandas I saw in Chengdu. If I ever make it to Costa Rica the sloth sanctuary will definitely be top of my list.

    • cailin October 15, 2013 at 2:12 pm - Reply

      Thanks Emma!! I am dying to see Pandas in China! That would be soooo cool! :)

  3. Katie Harrell January 27, 2015 at 9:21 pm - Reply

    I’d love to know how you got to your indigenous village! I really want that experience!

    • Daniel Sendecki January 28, 2015 at 11:41 am - Reply

      Hi Katie — if you’re interested in visiting indigenous villages, you should check out ‘Trek Hidden Costa Rica‘. On this tour, you’ll trek into the heart of the jungle to live with three families in a remote village.

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