Rescue at a Sloth's Pace

Words by Emily Booth

Just a short 30-minute drive away from the hustle and bustle of San José, Costa Rica, lies a magical experience for everyone. Abounding with exotic birds, monkeys, porcupines, sloths, and more, the Toucan Rescue Ranch is a special place where visitors can observe and learn about injured and sick wildlife as they are nursed back to health. This private wildlife rescue facility is a U.S. non-profit and Costa Rican foundation that offers a personal and educational experience for the whole family. Complete with a preschool for baby sloths and a four-person bungalow for overnight stays, the facility is one of the most unique attractions in the Central Valley region, and allows visitors to support an incredible mission while traveling.

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Founded in 2004 by Leslie Howle and Jorge Murillo, the original mission of the Toucan Rescue Ranch was simply to rescue, rehabilitate, and release, but as word spread about their work, demand for their services quickly grew. Lacking any government funding and using solely their personal income to fuel the operation, Leslie and Jorge decided something had to change if they wanted to extend their reach. In 2010, they decided to open the property to the public, forever shaping the future of the Toucan Rescue Ranch. They now rely on a combination of donations, adoptions, volunteer programs, and corporate sponsorships—all of which have allowed them to expand and improve both the property and the operation. While their business model has evolved and their popularity has risen, Leslie and Jorge's motto is still the same: Rescue, Rehabilitate, Love, and Liberate.

Today the ranch offers something for every kind of traveler. The Classic Ranch Walk is the perfect option for those on a day trip, as well as for those with kids in tow. You’ll see macaws, owls, spider monkeys, and more, while learning about the importance of conservation and what it takes to run the Toucan Rescue Ranch. And for those looking to take the cuteness up a few notches, the Slothies and Coffees tour is for you. Yes—it quite literally involves drinking coffee with sloths. For those wishing to stay a little longer, opt for the two-night Ranch Experience. These stays include your own private bungalow, a traditional Costa Rican breakfast, and a visit to the site where the rehabilitated animals are released, aptly named, The Liberation Site.

No matter what experience you choose at the Toucan Rescue Ranch, you are sure to leave with a fuller heart—and perhaps a sudden desire to adopt a sloth. This past winter, our Health and Wellness Editor, Shelly Brown, visited with her family who were all overcome by the love and compassion that poured into the Ranch. They left with stories that will last a lifetime, as well as the wonderful feeling of knowing they had contributed to a good cause while traveling abroad. That’s the magic of a visit to the Toucan Rescue Ranch. It’s not just another site to see—it’s so much more. It’s a chance to give back; an opportunity to reconnect with compassion.