Sunday, July 7, 2013

La Paz Waterfall Gardens

In the rainforest, on a mountain side, down towards some magnificent waterfalls, on the side of an ancient (but active) volcano named Poa, in the central highlands of Costa Rica, on the eastern slope of the Central American mountain ridge, facing the Caribbean, but still miles and miles from the coast, there is a small wonderful place called La Paz Waterfall Gardens. There is a small hotel at this place too,  the Peace Lodge, looking out over the deep valley and the rainforest tree tops.   This is obviously a place designed to pull in ecotourists, but I loved the small scale, down to earth, and simplicity of this place.  I could easily spend a few days here and be happy!

We arrived by bus at the top of the mountain side, where the Peace Lodge is, and started our slow walk on well-maintained steps and paths down towards the aviary and butterfly houses, restaurant, and waterfalls. This is also a wildlife refuge, where animals that have been illegally captured or held as pets can live out their lives, if they can't be released into the wild again.  

La Paz Waterfall Gardens
This is the view from the Peace Lodge, and you can see the aviary to the lower left. The purple flowers are bougainvilleas, with gingers in the foreground and tree ferns lower down.  A short time after we arrived it started to rain, which is very appropriate for the rainy season in a rain forest, and I was very grateful for bringing both a rain jacket AND an umbrella.  Lots of photos could be taken without a wet camera...

wild ginger
This wild ginger has a funny name, Ker-Gawler (Hedychium gardnerianum). It is not from Costa Rica but an import from Himalayas.

in the aviary - a duck
Inside the giant aviary tent where birds flew free and were nearly tame.

Hello. I am a toucan.

The butterfly house will get its own blog post :)  After checking out the birds, the monkeys, the butterflies, and then passed by the hummingbird feeders in rain (which didn't stop the hummingbirds from visiting the feeders), it was time for lunch. (I bypassed the snake house, I don't care much for those cold blooded animals.) Buffet lunch of traditional Costa Rican food, and it was the best food I have ever had in Costa Rica.  Rice and beans (of course), tortillas, curry beef, chicken in Costa Rican BBQ sauce (not overly sweet), salsa, vegetables, salad, pork chili, mmmm, fresh fruit, and lots of other good stuff... no food in Costa Rica is spicy, but it is tasty!  I forgot to take a photo of the food, sorry!

very fast hummingbirds (sorry about the bad quality, it was dark and rainy)
This place has 24 hummingbird species, the most of any place in the world.  They come right up to you if you stand still by the feeders.  Flying jewels, that is what they are!

view from the restaurant
The view from the restaurant.  I loved it!

epiphytic abundance in the trees
The trees were full of epiphytes. True rainforest style, indeed! It rained too, a lot.

jaguar legsThe 'Big Cat' house was kind of sad.  They can't let these animals out in the wild, but they seem so lonely.  Here are the back feet of the jaguar, which was much lower and stronger than I expected.  I wonder if you hear the cats at night if you stay at the Peace Lodge...

Do you see the ozelot?  It is incredibly quick! Check out the paws!
The ozelot was not a lot bigger than our biggest house cat, but incredibly quick.  No way you could get a good photo of it.  But the paws are in focus, kind of! :)

rain forest in the rain
And then, after passing the frog house, the farmer's house (and tasting fresh cheese), we hiked down towards the waterfalls into the rainforest... in the rain, of course.

the largest waterfall, 120 feet (37 meters) (photoshopped)
The 120 feet (37 meter tall) waterfall, one of at least 4 waterfalls along the trail.  OK, OK, this is a little photoshopped in the colors because the low light in the rain made it an imperfect photo to begin with... please forgive me.

rain forest in the rain
The rainforest in the rain... looking out over the valley.  I really, really want to come back here. And that time, I want to sit and look at hummingbirds for hours. They are truly amazing.

More photos from this place here.

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