The La Paz Waterfall Gardens Nature Park is a beautiful privately owned ecological attraction near San Jose featuring some of the most famous waterfalls in Costa Rica, the largest animal sanctuary in Costa Rica and 3.5 kilometers of hiking trails through the lush tropical rainforest. You will need at least 2 hours to explore everything in the park, but the longer you have, the better. So if you want to take your time to enjoy all the waterfalls and see the wildlife such as jaguars, pumas, sloths, monkeys, snakes, frogs in the sanctuary, then try to spend at least half a day here. Find in this blog post everything you need to know about the La Paz waterfall garden in Vara Blanca, Alajuela. 

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About La Paz Waterfall Gardens Nature Park

As the name implies, La Paz Waterfall Gardens has a series of beautiful waterfalls scattered through lush cloud forest. But that isn’t the only highlight of the nature park. The La Paz Gardens have the largest animal sanctuary of Costa Rica which can give you a unique up-close view of many different Costa Rican animals. Important to note is that ‘none of the animals that you will see in this Wildlife Refuge have been taken from their natural habitat’ as stated on the website of This is because traditional zoos are outlawed in Costa Rica. That means that all the animals at La Paz Waterfall Gardens have either been confiscated as illegal pets, or they were injured and unable to return to the wild. The animals were then entrusted to the care of La Paz by the Costa Rican Wildlife Ministry.


Awesome tours to La Paz Waterfall Gardens

If you want to explore the La Paz waterfall gardens on a day trip then there are a few great tours to book. You can combine a visit to some of the other interesting spots nearby the gardens so you’ll have a packed day of exploring some of the best sights in Costa Rica. Because of the popularity of this area it is likely that tours sell out quickly. So don’t wait with booking, choose your favorite tours here and secure your booking! All of these tours include air-conditioned transport with hotel pick up and drop off, certified guides and sometimes also lunch and the entrance fees. You can reserve now and pay later, with cancellation up to 24 hours in advance to receive a full refund.

How big are the La Paz waterfall gardens

Stretched out over 70 acres (28 hectares) in total, the La Paz waterfall gardens are nestled on the back slopes of Poas volcano. 40 acres (16 hectares) of this is cloud forest and rainforest. Because the park is situated at an altitude of 5,200 feet to 4,200 feet, it can get chilly when the clouds roll in. So bring a rain jacket to make sure you won’t get cold while exploring around.  


The Peace Lodge Costa Rica, accommodation in La Paz waterfall gardens

If you’re looking for a base to explore not only the La Paz waterfall gardens but also the nearby Poas volcano and Catarata del Toro, then you can book a night at the boutique hotel the Peace Lodge.

This luxury resort is located in La Paz waterfall gardens and has 18 rooms with mountain and rainforest views. The big advantage of staying at the Peace Lodge Costa Rica is that you will have the entire park to yourself before 8 AM and after 5 PM which are the optimal hours for observing the animals. Book your stay here before rooms sell out.

How to get to La Paz Waterfall Garden

Centrally located less than a one-hour drive north of San Jose airport, the La Paz waterfall garden can be the first destination during your Costa Rica vacation. But the eco-park could also be a great day trip from the Central Valley region. San Jose is 46 km away, Heredia 35 km and Alajuela 32 km. La Paz Waterfall Gardens nature park is easy to find on Google Maps and the road is well maintained. It is a scenic drive through the countryside along green pastures, mountain views and local farmers. The entrance to the nature park is directly located next to the road where you can park and find the entrance to the ticket office.

Book your rental car here to have all the freedom to explore Costa Rica.


Entrance fee and opening times La Paz Waterfall Gardens

The opening times for La Paz Waterfall Garden are daily from 8 AM to 5 PM. There is no need to make a reservation before arriving. 

The entrance fee for La Paz Waterfall Gardens is quite expensive in our opinion. However, the park is huge and you can explore it for many hours. 

Entrance fee for tourists: Adults $48 + tax, 03 – 12 years $32 + tax. 

Entrance fee for locals and residents: Adults $28 + tax, 03 – 12 years $19 + tax. 

Best time to visit La Paz Waterfall garden

The La Paz waterfall gardens are open year-round. The rainy season in this area runs from April/May until November/December with September being the wettest month. However, if you’re visiting Costa Rica in the rainy season, it should not stop you from visiting the waterfall gardens.

The charm of the rainforest is its moody, mystical vibe when a cloud passes through. We even shot the best photos when a misty, low cloud entered the rainforest. We visited early March and had a little shower. But there are enough shelters throughout the hiking trails where you can wait until it stops raining. However, its best to bring a light rain jacket because temperatures can drop during some rain. 

Regarding the best time of the day to visit the La Paz waterfall garden we always advise to arrive as early as possible. This gives you the highest chance of avoiding the crowds as most tourists arrive after breakfast time, which is mostly around 10 – 11 AM. When we arrived at 8 AM we only saw one other family walking around. 

What to expect at La Paz Waterfall Garden

Hiking through the lush rainforest of La Paz waterfall gardens is a wonderful experience for young and old. The trails lead you through the mesmerizing cloud forest, along the flowing white rivers with 5 spectacular waterfalls which you can admire from several viewing platforms. You can easily navigate through the park by yourself. The hiking trails are clearly signed and well-maintained paved paths.

If you’ve explored the beautiful hiking trails and waterfalls, you can continue to the animal sanctuary with over 100 species of animals. The different exhibits are scattered throughout the park and include jungle cats such as Pumas, Jaguars and Ocelots, a butterfly observatory, orchid garden, sloths, a trout lake, a hummingbird garden, frog & snake exhibit and several species of monkeys. 


The different waterfalls at La Paz Waterfall Garden

The waterfalls along the La Paz River are absolutely amazing and some of the best waterfalls in Costa Rica to visit. Along the hiking trails of La Paz waterfall garden, you can see 4 different waterfalls. In total the park contains 5 waterfalls which you can see along the hiking trails. However, the last waterfall, called La Paz, is only visible from the road. The other waterfalls you will see in La Paz Waterfall Garden are;

  • Magia Blanca which is 37 meters high (120ft) 
  • Templo which is 26 meters high (85ft)
  • Encantada which is 20 meters high (65ft) 
  • Escondida which is only 5 meters (15ft) 
  • La Paz which is 34 meters high (110ft) and which you can spot from the road below

Templo Waterfall

This is the first waterfall you will see which is 26 meters high (85ft) and surrounded by jungle vines. You will need to go down the winding stairs to get to the viewing platform from where you will have an incredible view of the water plunging down into the river below. When you walk towards the next waterfall, you will find a way down to the river from where you can see Templo waterfall from the river level. Here you really feel immersed in the jungle with lush foliage around you and the La Paz river making its way to the next waterfall. 


Magia Blanca Waterfall

The next waterfall you will encounter when tracking back up along the same stairs is Magia Blanca. This 37-meter-high (120-foot) waterfall pours perfectly down in a straight form and has a viewing platform up close to the river. From here you can admire the waterfall from up close.


But if you walk the stairs back up, there is another amazing viewpoint with the lower viewing platform in the frame. We think this is a great photo spot and no surprise that this waterfall is even being advertised as a wedding venue!


Encantada Waterfall

Encantada is the waterfall that comes after Magia Blanca and is 20 meters high (65ft). Stairs leading down to this viewing platform can be slippery, so be careful. From the viewing platform you can see Encantada waterfall from up close and on your right side you can see La Paz waterfall from the top. You can only see La Paz waterfall from the road, so that’s a must-stop when you continue your journey. 


Escondida Waterfall

The smallest waterfall in the park with a height of only 5 meters (15ft) is Escondida. You also can’t see this waterfall very well as it’s a bit tucked away in a canyon behind Encantada waterfall. 

La Paz waterfall can only be seen from the road down below. This 34-meter-high (110ft) waterfall is the last one of the gardens. 

The wildlife refuge at La Paz Waterfall garden

The animal exhibits are a great way to see wildlife up close that would normally be very hard to see in real life. As said before, ‘none of the animals that you will see in this Wildlife Refuge have been taken from their natural habitat’ as stated on the website of All of the animals at La Paz Waterfall Gardens have either been confiscated as illegal pets, or they were injured and unable to return to the wild. 

It is a self-guided tour along the animal exhibits, but there is plenty of staff around that can tell you everything about the animals. Besides that, there are also lots of information boards around. 

The Wildlife refuge is split into different sections per type of wildlife. There are sections for exotic birds, a butterfly observatory, a hummingbird garden, monkeys, sloths, snakes, frogs and jungle cats, including pumas and jaguars! 


Hummingbird garden

The hummingbird section is close to the reception with feeders and flowers that attract them. Here you can see many different species of hummingbirds. They are beautiful and so interesting to observe for some time. We made over 100 pictures of these tiny little birds to catch the exact moment of them flying. Below are some of the shots we made here! 


Jungle cats 

The jungle cats at La Paz Waterfall Garden are all confiscated from people holding them illegally as pets. It was for us the first time to see Pumas, Jaguars and Ocelots from up close. It was an impressive experience for sure! We had our 100-400mm lens with us so we could capture some beautiful shots of them. 



There is a large variety of venomous and non-venomous snakes to see. Some of them are the fer-de lance, the deadliest snake in Costa Rica, and a huge boa constrictor. 



Costa Rica is famous for some very special spacious frogs. But the chances of seeing them in real life are very slim. The reason is that many frogs are active at night and live deep in the jungle. There are night jungle tours if you really want to see wild frogs in nature. At the frog exhibit though, you can easily see some beauties in the trees. The most famous one of the red-eyed tree frog, but you can also see the tiger-legged tree frog, green and black poison-dart frog and some more. 

Butterly observatory 

The butterfly observatory is a huge indoor botanical garden with lots of different species such as the Blue Morpho, Great Owl, Monarch, and Malachite. In the hatchery, you can learn about the lifecycle from egg, to caterpillar, cocoon, and finally adult. An interesting visit with many beautiful colorful butterflies that you can observe up close. 


The bird enclosure gives you the possibility to get a close view of many beautiful birds and ducks. You can walk right through their section where you can spot several types of Toucans, green parrots, Scarlet Macaw Parrots, Whistling Ducks, and even a grey hawk. Outside you will find the hummingbird area.


Monkeys and sloths 

The monkeys and two-toed sloths at La Paz waterfall garden are all rescued and confiscated animals. They now live a carefree life here. You can see the black-handed spider monkey and white capuchin monkey in the monkey pass at La Paz.

More Costa Rica travel inspiration

I hope you enjoyed this blog post about the La Paz waterfall gardens in Costa Rica. And that it will help you to visit this beautiful eco park.

For more travel inspiration about Costa Rica, have a look at our other Costa Rica travel guides.

20 best Costa Rica hikes – The Ultimate Guide

14 best beaches in Costa Rica – The Ultimate Guide

12 best Costa Rica waterfalls – The Complete Guide

El Tigre waterfalls Costa Rica – The Complete Guide

Best things to do in Puerto Viejo – The Complete Guide

Playa Cocles in Puerto Viejo – The Complete Guide

Catarata del Toro – The Complete Guide

Arenal volcano hike – The Complete Guide

Rio Celeste waterfall & Tenorio National Park

Playa Conchal Guanacaste – The Complete Guide

La Fortuna waterfall – The Complete Guide

Irazu volcano – Everything you need to know

Cahuita National Park along the Caribbean coast

BriBri waterfalls near Puerto Viejo – The Complete Guide

Manuel Antonio National Park – The Complete Guide

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One Comment

  1. Marjoleine says:

    Hi Ilse, wow and again wow ! The La Paz waterfall gardens Nature Park looks beautiful ! We love your pictures of the animals, especially the hummingbirds and the wild ‘cats’.

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