San José, Costa Rica - From palm-fringed beaches to tropical rainforests and wildlife-rich national parks, Costa Rica is home to all creatures great and small.
Slow and Steady
Emblazoned on the country's currency, sloths are synonymous with this Central American nation. For a close-up look at these languorous creatures, head to the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica (00 506 2750 0775; slothsanctuary.com) on the Caribbean coast. It houses injured, orphaned and abandoned sloths and runs guided canoe trips through their natural habitat. Tours from US$30 (R360).
Expedia (expedia.co.uk) has packages that include flights and accommodation at the Coral Hills Bungalows in Cahuita - a short drive from the sanctuary - from £799pp in May.
In a Flap
Keen birders can head to the remote Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge. Skirting the Nicaraguan border, the forested wetland hosts migratory birds, including the glossy ibis, black-necked stilt, northern shoveller and wood stork, as well as hummingbirds. The best vantage point is from a cruise along the refuge's dark olive waters - a trip that features on Hayes and Jarvis' (01293 762404; hayesandjarvis.co.uk) four-day Arenal Volcano and Monteverde Cloud Forest itinerary.
Surveying the forest canopy by the light of the moon is likely to be a highlight of a holiday to Costa Rica. Since 80 percent of the animals that inhabit Monteverde's Cloud Forest Reserve are nocturnal, a night walk allows you to observe everything from tarantulas and red-eyed tree frogs to armadillos and porcupines.
Audley Travel (01993 838 665; audleytravel.com) includes a night tour of Monteverde on its Simply Costa Rica tour.
Whale of a Time
The waters off the southerly Osa Peninsula, on the Pacific coast, are said to harbour the country's highest numbers of whales. Sightings of pilot whales, humpbacks, orcas and dolphins are common for most of the year, apart from April to June - so if spotting cetaceans is your aim, save your trip for later in the year.
An excursion to the Osa crops up on Journey Latin America's Costa Rica Wildlife Discovery itinerary (020 3582 1758; journeylatin america.co.uk).
Costa Rica is peppered with smoking and mist-cloaked volcanoes, whose fertile slopes bristle with flora and fauna. Rincón de la Vieja, in the north-west, is one of the most active, home to coatis, tapirs, monkeys and even pumas and jaguars.
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A hike through the lush vegetation is the best way to get to grips with the four-legged residents - an activity that features on KE Adventures' (01768 773966; keadventure.com) 15-day Costa Rica Walks and Wildlife tour.The Independent