Thursday was a fine day, and under the guidance of our new Costa Rican friends (Colorado ex-pats) Juliana and Jerame, David (No Clouds Tomorrow) and Joy (Enjoy Life Adventures) ventured out to visit the La Paz Waterfall & Gardens Nature Park. La Paz is situated in a luscious, forested gorge on the eastern escarpment of the famous Poa’s Volcano.

Spot on 8.30 am Juliana and Jerame were parked outside the gates of our little community where we are housesitting for five weeks. Many of the properties in Costa Rica, especially those on what would be considered a more major road, are gated. Often behind these gates, there will be a half dozen residences, homes that may all be from one family or a combination of Tico’s (Costa Ricans), family members, or foreigners (expats). This is the exact makeup of our little neighborhood.

Jerame has volunteered to drive, which was greatly appreciated as it gave me the opportunity to look out of the car windows like a tourist, out wider than the narrow, potholed ribbon of tar I usually have to study hard to avoid losing the car in a ditch or pushing a cyclist into a gutter. This time of year it rains guaranteed, every day, some days more than others (a lot more) so it is very green at the moment. The countryside is a carpet of green grass, green bushes, green trees, green coffee plantations, banana trees, and strawberry plants.

It was about a 1-hour drive from San Isidro to the park. There is a secure car park where your car is watched over whilst you go to the park. While we didn’t visit it, I wanted to let you know that at the gardens, there is also the award-winning ‘Peace Lodge’, which was voted ‘The Most Romantic Hotel in Costa Rica’ by Honeymoon Hotspots International. It looks a lot like it could well be the perfect intimate getaway in a unique nature experience.

Now this park is probably one of the more expensive experiences you’ll encounter in Costa Rica. It’s well worth it though, no complaints.
It was about $100 AUD / $60 US dollars for the entry. For another $16 USD, you could attend a buffet lunch as well however we had settled for a local restaurant after our visit this time. Why is it costly? They have a lot of property to maintain, and many caretakers look after the animals and parks. It’s an environment where you must always be improving as the climate, the rain, and the environment will beat you back if you don’t stay on top of it. That said, they appear to be doing a great job of things. You can find tickets and information here.

What did we see?

The Aviary.
We were very excited to find out that they had some Toucans here, Until now we had only seen them wild and from many meters away so had had no good look at a toucan in the 5 weeks we had been here. This is a bird watcher’s paradise. You will see some of the most exciting and colorful birds of Costa Rica, without binoculars! The Aviary is a refuge for wild birds that have been either captured illegally by hunters and confiscated by the government or donated by their owners. Many of these birds lack the basic skills to survive in the wild on their own. The Toucan enclosure was great with at least 8 birds. They would fly about, sometimes inches over your head. We were assured that they won’t collide with you which was reassuring given the size of their beaks. We had the opportunity to have a group photo with a Toucan perched in front of us.

The Butterfly enclosure.
Who doesn’t like Butterflies? I wager, not many people.
Approximately 90% of the butterfly species in Central America exist in Costa Rica, nearly 66% of neo-tropical butterflies, and about 18% of all butterfly species of the world. The Butterfly Observatory is the largest enclosed structure of its kind in Central America and is a spacious habitat and breeding ground for over 25 species of butterflies from Costa Rica. I loved that there were many feeding stations that attracted various butterflies to them so you could see them up close and take a photo or ten. The highlight for me was having a big Blue Morpho (Morpho peleides) land on me and stay for about 5 minutes. The other highlight was watching some of the chrysalis moving with butterflies about to emerge.

Spider Monkeys and White Faced Monkeys were the next encounter where we heard that all of the monkeys were donated to La Paz by the MINAE, the Costa Rican Ministry of Wildlife and were confiscated from people who held them illegally. In many cases the animals were abused and in near death condition when they received them. The carers at La Paz have rehabilitated them and combined them into sociable groups where they have become families. Near by we also had the opportunity to see Sloths, up close as in only a metre of so above our heads. Fascinating creatures for sure and a first for me to see one, whether in the wild or in captivity.

Humming birds
There was a whole section of the park dedicated to Humming Birds.
There were many different species feeding on the plants, flower and feeders placed around this area. I fell on love with Humming Birds at our House sit on Arrow Lake, 45 min south of Nakusp.
Here though, there were many different species buzzing and humming about. Little ones, bigger ones, straight beaks, curved beaks, green, blue, brown and all the shades in between.

What wildlife park would be complete with out snakes? La Paz was certainly not the exception and has quite a good collection of snakes on display. Joy from Enjoy Life Adventures suggested the space reminded her of the first Harry Potter movie where the Boa Constrictor escapes after the glass disappears from the front of its Vivarium, to which I agreed as I was thinking just the same.

Jungle Cats
Whilst many of the smaller cats, who tend to be nocturnal were have a sleep, we could still see them in their lodgings. There was a cougar moving about which was exciting but the Jaguars were all pretty docile and snoozing a lot.

The Waterfalls (Cascadas)
The waterfalls are a highlight. You should allow at least 1.5 hours to explore this part of the park.
Being pretty much in a gorge, be prepared to do some walking, mostly down, but there are also some sections of stairs going up, mostly at the end as you head out to the gift shop and shuttle bus. At the bottom where you exit the gorge, there is a gift shop and a shuttle bus available to take you back to the top of the park to where your car is parked.
There are 5 falls to see. From the top, they are Templo, Magia Blanca, Encantada, Escondida, and La Paz. There are views points the top and bottom of the falls which makes for a great experience. We went in mid-October and they were really pumping. The trails down and around the waterfalls are really well done, well maintained, and safe.

At the Gift Shop
Our experience at the gift shop was great and the young lady looking after the store should be congratulated for her efforts both in keeping customers happy balanced with her need to make sales which she did with great aplomb. We picked up some treats to take home to Australia when we departed Costa Rica in about a week.