The All-In-One Eco Park
La Paz Waterfall Gardens – Costa Rica
Combine hiking trails, cloud forest, waterfalls and native wildlife into one convenient attraction and what you end up with is the La Paz Waterfall Gardens – the most visited eco park in Costa Rica. There are numerous wildlife and nature parks in the country but La Paz stands apart from the rest – it’s well developed, easy to get to, and it has a huge diversity of wildlife surrounded by incredible cloud forest. You can take your chances hunting for creatures in the wild but if your time is limited or you’re not all that adventurous this is a satisfying compromise. La Paz makes for a great day trip for people of all ages with well built trails.
Home to more than 100 species of wildlife, the animals are the real star attractions of the park. There are large enclosures where you can interact with birds, butterflies and frogs. Other exhibits allow viewing of monkeys, big cats and snakes. You can also enjoy the park with good conscious as none of the animals here were captured in the wild.
Feeling energetic? The 2+ miles of nature trails will keep you busy through the day. Winding through the cloud forest and bordering a creek 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 before ending at a gift shop. A 5 minute shuttle ride returns you to the park entrance. If you find your stomach craving to be fed there’s a tasty lunch buffet that has a variety of dishes including both local and international flavors.
Step back in time at the Casita de La Paz (Pictured above), 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.
Birds & Butterflies
After entering the park the first stop is a large aviary filled with exotic birds including macaws, toucans and tanagers. Some birds fly freely throughout the aviary and others have separate sections. Walk over to the toucan exhibit where friendly staff will direct the toucans to hop on your arm or shoulder for a picture.
Exit the aviary and head directly into the 2-story butterfly observatory where over 4,000 of them float through the air at any given time. There’s more than 25 species of butterflies here including the famous blue morphos and giant owls.
A small outdoor hummingbird garden lined with numerous feeders is beside the butterfly observatory. If you’re patient enough to have a seat you’ll catch all kinds of bright and beautiful hummingbirds on the feeders and on blooming flowers nearby.
Wondrous Frogs at the Ranarium
A ranarium filled with frogs is my favorite part of the park. Different from any normal zoos or frog exhibits you’ve probably seen the frogs have been let loose in large rooms with stone walls and plants leaving you to walk around and find them! Without glass cages it’s a perfect place to see the hop around and take photos.
One room was filled with sleeping red-eyed tree frogs, I got lucky and one was already awake and posing for photos. The next room was filled with several species of poison dart frogs. The dart frogs are active during the day and notoriously jumpy which made photographing them a fun challenge.
Deadly Snakes at the Serpentarium
Despite hunting all over Costa Rica’s wild forests and parks for snakes there were many species I was never able to find. Luckily La Paz has a serpentarium with 30 different snakes for viewing. After chatting with a staff member about the different snakes he could see that I and another visitor were very interested and offered to open the cage with a juvenile boa and give us the opportunity to hold it!
Some of the snake species at the serpentarium include:
- Boas – rainbow, annulated
- Vinesnakes – brown, short, green
- Pit vipers – jumping, eyelash, palm, hog nosed
- Coral snake
- Neotropical Rattlesnake
They also have the largest Fer de lance in captivity with a recorded length of over 7 feet!
Similar to other zoos big cats here are held behind large enclosures with plexiglass. They have jaguars, pumas and ocelots among other smaller native cat species. For the most part they’re all sleeping or laying around like big cats do during the day. If you want to catch them in action show up in time for the afternoon feeding show.
After I’d had the opportunity to check out all the wildlife the park had to offer I gorgehttp://www.escapingabroad.com/blog/wp-admin/admin.php?page=mailchimp-for-wp-formsd myself on several plates of buffet food. Now stuffed like a pig I spent the remainder of the afternoon on the trails taking a leisurely pace. After a few minutes it felt as if I was right out in the middle of the wilderness with nothing but nature surrounding me. At one viewpoint I gazed out at the peaks and valleys covered in white fog and it looked a lot like the Monteverde cloud forest. Amazingly they built the trails without chopping down a single tree.