The La Paz Waterfall Gardens in Costa Rica Belong on Your Bucket List

National Parks Insider Guides
by Ashley Welton Mar 19, 2018

Some things go into the “do not try this at home” folder. Hucking yourself off a 100+ foot waterfall is usually one of them — unless you’re a professional and have permission from the area owners like Robert Wall and his friends in the below video.

La Paz Waterfall Gardens & Animal Sanctuary is a privately owned ecological attraction just north of San Jose in a town called Vara Blanca, which is located on the northeastern side of Volcan Poas — one of Costa Rica’s five active volcanoes. As the number-one most visited eco-attraction in Costa Rica, the La Paz Waterfall Gardens has some of the best hiking in the central highlands, a few of Costa Rica’s most famous waterfalls, a cloud forest and rainforest, and an animal sanctuary with over 100 species; so, plenty to do besides throwing yourself off a cliff into the water.

The La Paz Waterfall Gardens has been privately owned and open since 2000, and they’ve continued to improve and add more exhibits over the years. There are over 3.5 km of walking trails, and part of the gardens’ primary mission is to protect the natural environment of the area and educate visitors about it. Tours are mainly self-guided, and you’ll find loads of interesting exhibits along the way. Check out the Butterfly Observatory, or spot animals like big cats, butterflies, toucans, hummingbirds, monkeys, snakes, and other reptiles.

The park consists of 70 acres total, but the previous owner deforested 30 of them. The other 40 acres are pristine cloud and rainforest, and the owners are in the process of reforesting the unoccupied pastureland. The remaining forest is protected under the Private Animal Sanctuary Status.

While admission is a little steep at $44 per adult (for tourists, $28 for locals), the experience of the place and the mission of the owners warrant it. They aim to support the local economy and 95% of their employees come from within a 12-mile radius of the park. Previously, the economy of these communities relied on ranching and agriculture — both industries that decimated the native forests of Costa Rica.

How to get there

The La Paz Waterfall Gardens are about 1.5-hour drive north of San Jose. The GPS coordinates are Latitude N Longitude W. You can find detailed directions from lots of locations here.

What to consider

  • Hours are 8 AM-5 PM and you should plan at least 2-3 hours for your visit. Don’t start your visit later than 3 PM.
  • Bring rain gear because, even if it’s not raining (which it likely will), you’ll get wet because the waterfall viewing platforms are close to the falls.
  • Bring good walking shoes for the muddy trails and hundreds of stairs. The place isn’t suited for people with limited mobility.
  • The park ranges in elevation from 4,200 feet to 5,200 feet.
  • Expect to see animals in cages. Although it’s a sanctuary, they’re not free roaming.
  • Check out “titicupon;” it’s like Groupon for Costa Rica and sometimes has deals for the park.

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