Bijagua Ranas: Hidden Sloth Island in a Small Town.   Early last November while I was exploring a mangrove forest, my guide told me about a place where he had seen more sloths in one small area than anywhere else he had ever visited in Costa Rica. Coming from someone who has been a nature guide his entire adult life, this bold statement sparked my curiosity. During my nine years living in Guanacaste, I had only seen a sloth on two occasions —  each time when I was far from home and far from the actual sloth. So two weeks after the guide shared his insight, a friend and I set off on a day mission to find this sloth haven.

Bijagua Ranas is a privately owned property in the town of Bijagua, just north between the provinces of Alajuela and Guanacaste. It is also the gateway town to Rio Celeste and Tenorio National Park. The family finca is bordered on both sides by a river, which makes it seem like a little island. Guided tours through a groomed looped trail and a beautiful garden provide an extraordinary opportunity to see both two-toed and three-toed sloths, along with a delightful variety of other native flora and fauna.

The sloths are not
fed or handled, but simply thriving in the treetops
all around the property.


The sloths at Bijagua Ranas are not fed or handled, but simply thriving in the treetops all around the property. During our leisurely hour-long walk, I counted 15 sloths. For the most part, they were spaced at distances apart from one another. However, I came across one giant tree on the very edge of the property where three sloths were napping up in the canopy. This protected cluster of forest appears to be not only abundant with the trees that sloths like to eat from but also free from the threat of further human development, habitat destruction, motorized traffic and street dogs.

After my very slothy experience, I thought to myself, they really should have named this enchanted place Bijagua Perezosos, since you definitely see more sloths than frogs (ranas in Spanish)! However, Bijagua Ranas is also home to blue morpho butterflies, rainbow-colored hummingbirds, red-eyed tree frogs, bats and a colorful assortment of other birds and insects. From the observation tower overlooking the lush property, and with the help of binoculars or a long-lens camera, you can play a serious game of “I Spy.”

While Rio Celeste and Tenorio National Park may steal attention, Bijagua Ranas should not be missed. You will surely see more sloths and other tree dwellers here than you will hiking to the Rio Celeste waterfall!