La Paz Waterfall Gardens, Costa Rica
Once everyone was back on the bus we began our journey to La Paz Waterfall Gardens. It was back up in the clouds. As if that were not enough, it was raining too. So when we got off the bus we had to make a quick dash to the building. As we entered the building we were each given a wrist band to show we had paid the entry fee.
That first building we were in was a gift store. They were doing a brisk business in rain ponchos. We did not need one because I had brought an umbrella for us to use. A brochure I picked up in the building touts the following:
“Nowhere else on earth can guests feed toucans and humming birds by hand, release newly hatched butterflies into their first flight, look straight into the eyes of a jaguar, or observe the brilliant colors of a red eyed leaf frog from just inches away”.
Looking closer at the brochure I could see we were in for a two and one-half hour, 1.3 kilometer walk through the rain forest. With just a couple of exceptions the entire walk would be downhill.
Our tour began by walking down to the bird aviary. I have been in several aviaries. I must say this is the largest. There were numerous species in the aviary; however, the stars of the aviary were definitely the toucans. For those that wanted a photo, one of the guides would coax the bird onto a shoulder or arm for the perfect shot. Luckily Leslie opted to “host” one of the birds.
Leaving the aviary we shortly arrived at the butterfly enclosure. We had gone to a butterfly farm when we stopped at St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The enclosure at La Paz was significantly better and more entertaining than the one in St. Thomas. First of all it was easily four times the size. That meant there were literally hundreds of butterflies. Second, the layout of the enclosure helped make the experience much more interesting. Since it was built on the side of a hill the topography lent to the interest. Lastly, there was an area where there were dozens of cocoons; several of those had butterflies emerging.
We made our way through the rain and drizzle to the orchid display area. The orchid is the national flower of Costa Rica. I have never seen so many orchids in one place. Eddie told us there are hundreds of varieties in his country.
We continued on to the jungle cats area. I must say my least favorite part of our visit was the various animal cages such as the monkeys, sloths, and the jungle cats. It did look like the animals were well cared for, but I just thought the cages were too small and cramped.
Finally it was time for lunch. We were starving after all of the physical activity. The Colibries Restaurant is roughly in the middle of the various exhibits. The architecture of the restaurant gives the feel of eating amongst the large trees and waterfalls of the rain forest. It is a buffet style restaurant. The food was much better than the touristy fare we were expecting. We had quite a selection including pizza, bean dip and tortilla chips, fresh tomatoes, pork ribs (BBQ), and of course red wine.
After the good and relaxing lunch we started for the first of five waterfalls. It was a beautiful stroll down several stone stairs. It had stopped raining while we ate lunch, so the walking was a little easier. We finally made it to a bridge from which one could look upstream toward Templo Falls. We continued along, stopping to admire Magia Blanca, Encantada, Escondida, and lastly La Paz Falls.
Our final stop was the gift shop at the shuttle bus pick-up point. While we were on the bench waiting for our bus we were surprised by a raccoon that appeared near the bench. It just sat quietly and watched everyone.
When the bus arrived we all piled on, glad to be sitting. The road at this point is about half paved and half dirt. That is thanks to the last major earthquake in the area. I believe Eddie said that earthquake happened on June 9, 2009. He went on to say the very bus in which we were riding had ended up at the bottom of the ravine. Just before the earthquake hit, the driver that day had dropped off the passengers where we had been let off earlier in the day. On his way down to the shuttle bus stop (from which we had just departed) the earthquake struck. The bus went off the road and rolled numerous times, coming to rest at the bottom of the ravine. Apparently the driver was not badly hurt.
Eddie continued to pepper us with tidbits on our way back to San Jose. One I got a kick out of was his reference to speed bumps as “sleeping police”.
At the hotel we went directly to our room to relax for a while.