Mix pathways in a magnificent cloud forest, waterfalls and local wildlife into one suitable attraction and this cocktail will be, no other than La Paz Waterfalls Garden – a most astonishing eco park in Costa Rica.
In Costa Rica you find many eco parks and several rescue centers, but in terms of tourism La Paz stands in a different set. It is easy to get to, located on a visited area (Poas Volcano) and has a great amount of wildlife for visitors to see, touch and enjoy. For those who want to have it all in one dish, or if by any chances you don’t have much time or are not an adventurous person, La Paz Waterfall Garden is a great answer.
It has a bit for everyone and trails that were well built without having to cut one single tree.
With more than 100 species, the animals are at the first part of the visit a great attraction of the park. Under huge greenhouses you can actually interact with birds, butterflies and frogs.
As you pass the entrance of the park and officially start the visit the first stop is a large aviary filled with striking birds including macaws, toucans, honey creepers, and brilliantly colored tanagers. Some birds fly freely through the aviary and others have separate spaces. For instance as you walk through the toucan exhibit friendly staff will guide the toucans to step on your arm or shoulder for a picture.
As you leave the aviary, head directly into the 2-story butterfly garden where over 4,000 colorful butterflies float through the air at any given time. More than 25 species of butterflies here including the toxic heliconia butterflies, the popular fairy-like blue morphos and giant owl caligos.
They fly to you and get to your arms and clothes, attracted by your scents. At the end of this area you will see the pupae and the cocoons and how butterflies come out of them slowly and carefully.
As you come out of this area you will pass through another sector of spider and white faced monkeys and enter into one of the favorites of the park: The outdoors Hummingbird feeding area. With numerous feeders you may be able to catch in pictures, all sorts of bright hummingbirds buzzing around you. From the big (For a hummingbird) Purple Sabre Wing to the miniature Volcano Hummingbird they are a magnificent sight to clasp as a memory for a lifetime.
Other areas allow viewing of different types of monkeys, five out of the six species of endangered Central American Cats and snakes. The center that previously housed these animals lost funding and had to close. The MINAE (the Costa Rican Ministry of the Environment) did not have the resources to care for the 35 felines so they were placed under the care of La Paz Waterfall Gardens. The cats were either very old, injured, or had been exposed to humans for too long to be released back into the wild. So, your conscious is fine…. None of these animals were captured in the wild or are able to come back to it.
In this area you can also find the frog pond where you actually walk through the pond looking for the tiny and super colored frogs and of course the serpentarium, where you see the deadly (And the not as deadly) snakes in their terrariums.
After this, you step back in time at the Casita de La Paz, a reproduction farmhouse modeled after those from 100 years ago. For historical authenticity it was built only with tools and materials from that time period.
There you can take a picture with the typical ox carts and the gorgeous and patient oxen.
And now! The reason to come! The real stars of this fantastic park! Two miles of nature trails that can keep you busy through the day. Meandering through the cloud forest and bordering a stream the trails offer beautiful scenery and the chance to spot non captive wildlife. If you venture down the waterfall trail you’ll be treated to 5 different waterfalls in the middle of a gorgeous nature setting. The moderate walk can turn into strenuous in a couple of sections, when having to climb several stairs, however it is absolutely worth it.
A 5 minute shuttle ride returns you to the park entrance.
The restaurant awaits for you with a huge variety of different types of meals, from typically Costa Rican to pizzas and hot dogs. However, as a tour guide my recco is to eat first… That way, you don’t feel the pressure of coming back to the center and you can actually enjoy everything as much as you want.
My Opinion as a Guide and as a Visitor:
As a naturalist tour guide I am not really fond of theme parks…. I like the wild things, I like to hunt for the picture and venture through the mud… But sometimes you simply don’t have the time or your body cannot take the pressure. I find that now, after almost thirty years in the business, my body does not answer to me the way it used to, and this is where places like La Paz area a great answer as it allows me to see a lot without having to take strenuous hikes.
Plus as a photographer… This place is heavenly! So many chances to take everything! There is a picture in every little corner… from the flower gardens to the magnificent butterflies, passing by the elusive frogs and ending with the sleeping cats. Without having to say too much about the breathtaking waterfalls in the middle of the dark green rainforests.
So! My recommendation is go! Visit it! Take the time to enjoy everything! It is absolutely worth it!
By Olga Sáenz Carbonell for Camino Travel