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 kilometres of hiking trails through the lush tropical rainforest. You will need at least 2 hours to explore everything in the park which is then on a pretty fast pace. 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. 

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 waterfallgardens.com. 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 trusted to the care of La Paz by the Costa Rican Wildlife Ministry.

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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 on 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.  

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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 maybe 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.

How to get to La Paz waterfall garden

Centrally located on less than a one hour drive north from 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 country side along green pastures, mountain views and local farmers. The entrance of the nature park is directly located next to the road where you can park and find the entrance to the ticket office.

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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 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 advice to arrive as early ass 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 mesmerising clouds 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 nature, you can check out 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, trout lake, hummingbird garden, frog & snake exhibit and several species of monkeys. 

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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, but only the last waterfall called La Paz you can only see from the road. The 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
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  • Templo

    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. 

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  • Magia Blanca

    Next waterfall you will encounter when tracking back up along the same stairs is Magia Blanca. This 37 meters high (120ft) 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.

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

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  • Encantada

    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.  

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  • Escondida

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

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  • La Paz waterfall can only be seen from the road down below. This 34 meters high (110ft) waterfall is the last one of the gardens. 
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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 waterfallgardens.com. 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, hummingbird garden, monkeys, sloths, snakes, frogs and jungle cats, including puma’s and jaguars! 

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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 the 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 some of the shots we made here! 

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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 Puma’s, Jaguars and Ocelots from up close which was an impressive experience! We had our 100-400mm lens with us so we could capture some beautiful shots of them. 

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Snakes

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. 

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Frogs

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, but at the frog exhibit 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 colourful butterflies that you can observe from up close. 

Birds

The bird enclosure gives you the possibility to get a close view from 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.

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Monkeys and sloths 

The monkeys and two-toed sloths at La Paz waterfall garden are all rescued and confiscated animals who 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.