Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Heavenly Place: My Visit to La Paz Waterfall Garden in Costa Rica.

In January of 2010 I was fortunate enough to visit The La Paz Waterfall Gardens and Peace Lodge in Central Costa Rica.  I cannot begin to describe the incredible beauty of this place other that to say I had to pinch myself to see if I were awake or dreaming.  I think when God created this place he did it just to show those fortunate enough to visit what a little corner of heaven looks like.  Since the blazing summer heat is preventing me from doing any gardening projects, I thought I would share a little of my knowledge of this gorgeous place and maybe even entice a few people into visiting.
The trail to the falls is shrouded by clouds.

The La Paz Waterfall Garden is perched on the side of Poas Volcano between two of Costa Rica’s National Parks, Poas Volcano National Park and Braulio Carrillo National Park in Heredia Province. It is about a 30-40 minute drive heading north from Juan Santamaria International Airport.  The park’s close proximity to San Jose makes it a convenient way to sample the beauty of the Costa Rican cloud forest during the day and still be able to enjoy the city nightlife.

To get there, take The Pan Am Highway (1) East from the airport for about 1 mile and turn left onto highway 3 which is easy to find because it leads into the area where all of the airport hotels are located. Continue on through the city of Alajuela for about a mile until reaching the Boomba Le Tropicana Hotel and restaurant. Turn right here and go 3 blocks and turn left onto Calle 9 Anastasio Alfaro which is still highway 3 by the way.  Stay on the street for 9 blocks and then turn right onto Avenida 7 which will become highway 125 and is the most direct and scenic way to go to the park. At this point you have passed through the most difficult and confusing point of the trip (Costa Rica’s roads are not very well marked and there is rarely a direct route anywhere). From here the road climbs and winds its way into the highlands and passes through many quaint and sleepy little villages.  Just take your time and enjoy the culture and the scenery.  There are often roadside markets and stands selling fresh fruit, vegetables, and other locally produced goods.  I especially recommend the local cheeses which resemble cream cheese and are great with toast and jelly for breakfast. As the road continues on the villages yield to open fields and eventually the cloud forested highlands on the flank of Poas. After about 30 kilometers, there will be a T in the road, and at the time I was there, there was a produce store selling fresh fruits and vegetables. Turn right at the T, the park is about 5 kilometers further on. I will warn you at this point, the scenery will take your breath away.  Imagine every thing you have every heard about a tropical Garden of Eden and multiply it by 100 and you will have La Paz Waterfall Gardens. It’s green, it’s foggy, it’s misty, it’s cool, it’s heavenly; it’s well worth the price of admission.

Me checking out the local transportation.

Speaking of admission, as with most attractions in Costa Rica there are two sets of prices, one for foreigners and one for Nationals; guess who pays more  haha.  Don’t worry though; the price is well worth it.  Anyhow, here are the prices for foreigners: 
Adults are $36.00, children 3-12 are $21.00, children under 3 are free. I recommend getting there when the park opens around 10am and taking advantage of their fantastic buffet which is only $13.00 for adults and $7.00 for children. The buffet features many Costa Rican dishes as well as a few American items such as pizza and French fries.  There are plenty of tropical fruits and even soft serve ice cream when I was there.  After a morning of hiking around the falls you will be sure to work up an appetite which the buffet will be sure to satisfy.
The river La Paz, below the falls.

There, with all that out of the way lets talk about the falls themselves.  The La Paz Waterfall Garden is built around a series of five waterfalls.  From top to bottom they are, Templo, Magia Blanca, Encantada, Escondida, and La Paz.  To allow visitors to get up close and personal with the falls, the proprietors have built a series of stairs and catwalks.  Visitors can get so close to the falls that they will get wet. In fact you can actually get under Magia Blanca making for a great photo opportunity, just be sure your photographer is not under the falls or you may not have a camera anymore.   I recommend putting cameras and other electronic devices in Ziploc bags because there is about a 99% chance you will get wet. When I was there, I was only able to visit Templo and Magia Blanca because the catwalks to the other falls were not yet repaired from the 6.1 earthquake that happened here in 2006.  I am told it is once again possible to visit all the falls and that the damage has been repaired however if anyone has information to the contrary please comment. I have to say that the falls are absolutely magnificent and truly worth seeing.
Me getting soaked by Templo Falls.


Magia Blanca Falls

Catwalks make for easy access to the falls.

The falls, however, are not the only worthwhile attraction in the park. There are also fantastic displays of wildlife, insects, and plant life on exhibit at the gardens.  There is a butterfly garden with over 25 species of butterflies, a jungle cat exhibit, a reptile garden, an aviary, a monkey sanctuary, and even a trout lake. I was really entertained by one of the monkeys who seemed to really enjoy playing with his food. I spent most of the day at the park and still didn’t get enough.

A Whiteface Monkey Enjoys Playing With His Food!

A Rare Tree Frog in The Reptile Garden.

Here Kitty Kitty

If you are planning a trip to Costa Rica, I highly recommend the La Paz Waterfall Garden.  Even better, spend the night there at the peace lodge.  I will never forget the mystical time spent there and hope someday to return.  The La Paz Waterfall Garden was truly money well spent and a memory that will last a lifetime.  For more information on La Paz Waterfall Garden, visit their very informative website.

Until the next time ~Happy Gardening

For More Information on Visiting Costa Rica, I recommend:
 Frommer's Costa Rica 2013 (Frommer's Color Complete)

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