La Paz Waterfall Gardens

A dear friend at work told me about La Paz Waterfall Gardens before we left town. Costa Rica is her most favorite place to visit when she is traveling. She tries to go at least once a year to a yoga retreat. I asked her some places to visit before I left and she and her husband highly recommended La Paz. As a result, I was very interested in seeing this place.

Bean and I awoke when the birds started singing outside and discovered it was only about 5 A.M., so we just relaxed in the bed and talked. After getting dressed and having our breakfast, we waited for our tour guide to come and pick us up. Of course Bean took that opportunity to talk to the other guests in the guesthouse. She let them know where she was from and where she was going. Just by being herself, she brightened the morning of many weary travelers.

When the driver from Expeditions Tropical came to pick us up, Bean was thrilled at the thought of riding in a mini bus. I expected to pick up many other people, but found out that we were joining a tour that started earlier that morning. Using a combination of Spanglish to communicate, my driver and I talked about the view as he drove. He explained about the use of ferns to cover the strawberries in the fields and the export of ferns for floral arrangements. It was quite fascinating.

Bean and I were able to explore the tourist stand while waiting for our tour to catch up. The main items for sale were Volcanic Strawberries, which was Costa Rican grown strawberries covered with condensed milk and melted chocolate. It was a hit!

Once the tour caught up, we continued on to La Paz Waterfall Gardens. We met 4 other individuals with whom Bean immediately became acquainted. I, like Bean, find that travel is immensely more pleasant when you share activities with nice people.

Before we arrived at La Paz, our guide explained again that it was in the rain forest, with waterfalls and native animals. We were really excited. I was totally expecting something wild and scenic. I envisioned walking under great big trees with the rain occasionally falling on me. That was pretty much what we were told to expect.

Upon arrival, I was completely disappointed. It looked like nothing but a glorified resort. Our guides took us into the gift shop so that we could buy rain jackets or other items if needed and also to let us know about how the tour was going to be conducted, breaks and meeting points. He then led us outside. The view was nice, but it really seemed to be an upscale zoo.

As we went from the small bird houses to the larger bird houses, the guides explained to us that all of the animals at La Paz were no longer able to live in the wild. I was thinking, “Of course they can’t, they have lived here too long.” They then went on to explain that these animals were either found or rescued. I was starting to like this place.

We stopped by the butterfly room where butterflies in all stages of life were just a touch away. I loved it for Bean. I get so excited when she has the opportunity for hands on learning. I reminded her of the book The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. The butterflies here were exactly like the one in the book. I liked La Paz a little more.

We were treated to a full buffet lunch with both Costa Rican and America style food. It was all you could eat. I was happy to get a plate of gallo pinto and chicken and fruit. Bean was o.k. with that, but she was determined to have the ice cream for dessert. Our guides let us know we had a lot of walking to do in the afternoon and the best thing to do was not to eat too much. I am glad they told me, because I was very happy with lunch. I would have enjoyed another helping if I could.

Finally, after lunch, I saw the one thing that made me fall in love with La Paz Waterfall Gardens. There was a great big plaque in one of the rooms we toured. When my brothers and I were children, my mom used to read everything when we happened to be in museums. I am certainly turning into my mom! I read that La Paz was begun by a gentleman in order to stop the destruction of the rain forest in the area of Costa Rica. It was a nature preserve as well for animals that were rescued and could no longer live in the wild. It has brought jobs and some economic stability to the area. After reading that, I felt positively thrilled that we came…and we hadn’t even made it to the waterfalls yet.

There are actually three waterfalls and a million steps to climb up and down to see all of them. I was ready. Bean was not. We went down, down, down to the first waterfall and it was lovely. It was loud and roaring, an excellent spot for pictures, just everything that a waterfall should be. Bean really liked it, but when we heard of how many more steps were needed, she opted out.

Bean happily went to the next viewing spot with another new “friend”. We were sprinkled with the mist from the falls and the rainforest. I didn’t want to carry Bean on my back, and she didn’t want to keep climbing stairs, so we called it a day and went to the lounge.

The lounge was lovely; just as lovely as everything else turned out to be. I truly feel that the tour was worth every penny and the Gardens are doing an excellent service to the tourism industry and for the country of Costa Rica. I will definitely go back again. Who knows, maybe we will do an overnight there one day?

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