La Paz Waterfall Gardens should feature in the itinerary of anyone visiting Costa Rica. This stunning wildlife sanctuary, which is located on the slopes of Poás Volcano in the midst of a beautiful forest, gives you the opportunity to watch jaguars playing, feed butterflies, provide a perch for a toucan and stand behind a 120 ft (36.4 m) waterfall. All the animals you will see have been rescued, often from people keeping them as pets illegally, and as they cannot now be released safely into the wild, La Paz provides them with a comfortable and authentic home right in the middle of their natural habitat. Come to La Paz and see some of Costa Rica’s most impressive waterfalls and animals all in the same place!
Touch a toucan
When leaving the reception, the first place you will come across will be the aviary. Here the birds are free to fly above your head or wander at your feet, allowing you to truly become close to Costa Rican nature. Keep your eyes peeled as you walk around and you’ll be able to spot a wide variety of native birds, from the owls that will stare down at you silently to the parrots that will definitely let you know they are there! The aviary also offers a unique experience: the chance to let a toucan land on your arm. The toucans are free to fly and are not forced to do anything, however, if you remain still and offer the food the trainers give you they will happily flutter down and eat from your palm. These birds are beautifully colourful, very intelligent and a real symbol of Costa Rica, so the chance to hold one is a very special experience.
Feel butterflies and hummingbirds fly past
After the aviary you will enter the butterfly house, where you will find yourself surrounded by tiny colorful wings! You will be able to see a wide range of butterflies, with many different colours, patterns and sizes. Get up close and watch them unfurl their long tongues to eat some fruit, and don’t miss the wall of cocoons where caterpillars are growing into butterflies before your very eyes. If you’re lucky and stay very still, a butterfly may just decide you are worth landing on, but if you would rather speed up the process, a top tip is to dip your finger into the orange halves that have been left out and offer it to a butterfly – with a bit of luck they won’t be able to resist flying straight to you! Then when you leave the butterfly house, make sure not to rush ahead as another amazing animal is waiting for you. This section is where the food is left for the hummingbirds, who are not kept in enclosures but cannot resist the sugared water on offer! Hummingbirds are incredibly small, fast and colourful, and La Paz gives you the opportunity to get right up close to them and watch as they flit about and drink from fake (and real!) flowers. The speed at which they will fly past your head will leave you speechless!
Watch the jungle cats
If you follow the track you will find other animal exhibits including monkeys and snakes, before you then reach the restaurant. After stopping for a bite of lunch, you can then carry on to the next set of exhibits: the jungle cats. These beautiful animals are incredible to watch, but it is a lot safer to see them in a sanctuary like this than stumbling upon one in the wild! La Paz provides a home for pumas, jaguars and ocelots, and you will be able to see their natural behaviour, whether they are snuggled up together, play fighting or possibly sleeping through the day! Despite their size, there are not really that many differences between them and our domestic cats – except that a pet cat would not survive for long in a rainforest!
Wander through a cloud forest
After seeing the jungle cats you will be close to the waterfalls, and you could choose to walk straight through the forest to find them. However, if you have the time and the energy, why not loop round and follow the well marked trails to a higher up part of the river? 2 miles (3.5 km) of path are available, although there are many routes so you can choose for yourself how much you feel like taking on, perfect for anyone with young children. While it is easy to get distracted by all the wonderful wildlife, don’t forget La Paz is situated in a beautiful cloud forest; it is literally at the level of the clouds and is well worth exploring. Stop and take a second to look around you at the trees, and see if you can spot any bugs or birds going about their daily lives!
Finally, La Paz boasts a collection of five waterfalls, all leading on from each other along the same stretch of river. Don’t miss the Escondida waterfall, which has this name because ‘escondida’ means hidden in Spanish! Each waterfall is beautiful in its own way: some provide amazing clearings where you can climb rocks and take photos to impress your friends, while others have paths leading right up behind them, allowing you to literally stand behind a waterfall. You won’t be able to believe how much water is passing over your head, nor the sound of the water plunging into the pool below. Anyone who is looking for beauty and tranquility will be in heaven here.
Animals, waterfalls and more
La Paz has so much to offer; so much natural forest, so many waterfalls and so many amazing animals. It is included on many tours leaving from San Jose and can also be reached by car – it even has its own hotel! While it is not recommended for anyone who struggles walking on uneven ground or up stairs, as the walk back to the reception at the end is a little challenging, anyone who is prepared for a bit of a hike will find themselves well rewarded. If you would like to see some of Costa Rica’s natural beauty while also witnessing its wildlife, then look no further than La Paz.
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