Disclaimer: This article may contain affiliate links. Clicking on them may earn Costa Rica Vibes a commission, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support!

La Paz Waterfall Gardens & Peace Lodge: Guide to Visiting

The La Paz Waterfall Gardens and Peace Lodge is home to a series of beautiful waterfalls, a wildlife rescue center, a top-notch jungle resort, and more. This amazing place is located less than an hour away from the San Jose International Airport in Costa Rica.

We live somewhat close to this waterfall and have visited several times. It’s always a fun day trip to bring visitors to.

We created this guide so you can find out all the important La Paz Waterfall Gardens info to plan your perfect trip and to help you decide if a visit here is right for you.

What Is the La Paz Waterfall Gardens?

La Paz Waterfall Gardens & Peace Lodge: Guide to Visiting

The first time we visited, we thought that the La Paz Waterfall Gardens was going to just consist of some trails with views of the waterfall. In actuality, it is so much more than that. 

  • This place has multiple exhibits of rescued animals that are native to Costa Rica. These animals include jaguars, pumas, tropical birds, snakes, insects, frogs, a variety of monkeys and more!
  • There are over 2 miles (3.5 kilometers) of walking trails. Some of these trails have a waterfall view and some are just nice jungle trails.
  • You can also learn a bit about Costa Rican history and culture here in their exhibit of a typical native home.
  • If you want, you can also spend a few nights here and stay at their luxurious Peace Lodge. We will give you more info on the Peace Lodge further into this article.

Important Info About the La Paz Waterfall Gardens

la paz waterfall gardens

Hours of Operation

The park is open year-round from 8:00am until 5:00pm.

Admission Cost

In 2024 the cost of admission is:

$52.00 + taxes for adults and $36.00 + taxes for children ages 3 to 12.

If you are a Costa Rican resident the entrance fee is $32.00 + taxes for adults and $23.00 + taxes for children.

When visiting, you also have the option of having a buffet lunch at their restaurant. The lunch costs $14 + taxes for adults and $8 + taxes for children.

Pro Tip: For whatever reason, it is cheaper to pre-book your tickets via Viator rather than directly through the La Paz Waterfall website. Through the La Paz website, you have to pay added taxes. Through Viator you do not. We have tested this and the tickets through Viator are provided directly by the park and are valid. If you would like to add lunch to your experience you can do that once at La Paz.

Directions to La Paz

la paz waterfall gardens entrance

This is the perfect day trip from the airport area!

If you will have your own transportation you can easily drive here on your own.

From the San Jose International Airport, it will take about one hour to get to the La Paz Waterfall Gardens.

The start of this drive involves driving through downtown Alajuela. Traffic can get a bit backed up here, especially during rush hour.

After getting through the city the drive becomes much more beautiful. The roads are all paved and decently maintained. Some of the roads can be a bit curvy, but the views of the Central Valley will make it all worth it.

If you just input “La Paz Waterfall Gardens” into Waze or Google Maps and you will have no trouble finding it.

If you plan on renting a car in Costa Rica. check out our 10% discount with our favorite company, Adobe. 

↪FIND OUT HOW TO GET UP TO 10% OFF YOUR CAR RENTAL IN COSTA RICA!

Parking

There is a large parking lot right next to the main entrance. There will be employees working to direct you to a spot. 

Although there is a parking attendant it is best to not leave anything of value in your car. 

It’s better to be safe than sorry!

What to Wear

Sneakers, Long pants, a t-shirt, and a sun-protecting hat in breathable fabrics.

Even if it is warm in San Jose or the town of Alajuela it can be a bit cooler up here. This park is located in the Central Highlands. It is also not unusual for it to be raining here.

I suggest wearing pants and bringing a long sleeve shirt or light sweater just in case.

What to Bring

Check out our Full Costa Rica National Park Packing List on Amazon for everything you need!

Facilities

la paz waterfall gardens entrance

All of the building here are beautiful. The picture above is of the entryway where you can purchase your tickets.

There are bathrooms located throughout the park, multiple restaurants, and gift shops.

Amount of Time You Need

We usually spend about four hours here (if we don’t get lunch on the property), but you could easily spend a full day at the park.

Best Time to Visit

It tends to always be a bit rainy and gray in this area because it is at a high elevation. 

However, the best time to visit is during the dry season from the end of December until late April. You will have the highest chance of dry and sunny weather during that time. 

The dry season also is the most popular time to visit. The property is pretty big so it doesn’t tend to feel congested with people, but you will have more space to yourself during the rainy season (mid-April until late December). 

If you visit during the rainy season it is best to try and visit in the morning. You will have the highest chance of dry weather.

The La Paz Waterfall Gardens Natura Park Experience

la paz waterfall map

After entering the park you will be given a map of the property. You can then explore the park on your own as a self-guided tour.

The different things to do here include:

The Waterfalls

Inside of the park, you can visit 5 different waterfalls. These are all connected by a paved waterfall trail and a series of steps. The five falls are called; Templo, Encantada, Magia Blanca, Escondida, and La Paz. 

Be warned that there are a lot of stairs to get to some of the falls and the staircases are a bit narrow. We have visited on very full days in which we had to constantly move over to let other people pass. 

There are wide viewing platforms where you can stop to get impressive photos and just admire the views.

We suggest planning this for the end of your visit. After the final waterfall, you will end up at the gift shop. From here there is a shuttle bus that will take you back to the main entrance. 

See the Jungle Cats Exhibit

la paz animals

At the jungle cat enclosures you can see big cats such as jaguars, margays, ocelots, and pumas. These cats were all rescued after being injured or being exposed to humans for too long.

Visit the Butterfly Observatory

Walk through this large enclosed structure and see over 25 different kinds of butterflies. Here you can also learn about the life cycle of butterflies and see them from egg to larva to pupa or Chrysalis to adult butterfly.

I really like this butterfly garden and think it is done a way that is very educational yet fun. 

Visit the Aviary

At the aviary, you can see a wide variety of native species of birds. These birds had been either captured illegally by hunters or kept previously as house pets. 

Visit the Sloth Sanctuary

The sloth sanctuary here is home to three female, two-toed sloths. These ladies were rescued after injury or after being kept as pets. 

Visit Casita de la Paz 

costa rica ox cart

The casita resembles a traditional Costa Rican farmhouse from 100 years ago. This is a great spot to learn some history and culture.

Usually, in front of the casita, there is a bull with the traditional Costa Rica oxcart as well as an employee here teaching people about the oxcart tradition. 

You can also go into the traditional casita.

Usually, there is an employee dressed up in traditional clothing making traditional cheese inside. They are happy to explain some Costa Rican history and give out samples of the cheese.

Check Out the Hummingbird Garden

At the hummingbird garden you might see up to 26 different species of hummingbirds buzzing around. 

See the Monkeys

At the monkey habitat you can see black-handed spider monkeys and white-faced capuchin monkeys that were previously held as pets illegally. 

Pre-purchase Your La Paz Waterfall Garden Tickets

Visit the Serpentarium

Here you can see 30 native snakes including several ones that are deadly. I’m not going to lie, this exhibit freaks me out. I’m terrified of snakes and here the give a little more info than I need in my life about deadly snake bites that occur each year in the country. 

Stop at the Ranarium (frog habitat)

You can walk through this large frog enclosure and see each frog up close. It’s a great spot to take close-up pictures of the various critters. 

Check out the Trout Lake

The trout lake is stocked with rainbow trout. Here you can go fishing with fly fishing and spin casters available.

There is a nice restaurant and bar located next to the lake where they are happy to cook up your catch if you choose. 

Explore the Hiking Trails

The Rio La Paz Trail and Fern Trail offer a more lush tropical rainforest experience. These trails aren’t very popular, but I think they are great for getting away from the touristy stuff and actually embracing the nature.

Dining at La Paz Waterfall Gardens

la paz waterfall gardens restaurant

If you opt to add the lunch package on to your experience you will eat at the open air Colibries restaurant.

This meal is served as a delicious buffet lunch which includes selections of traditional Costa Rican dishes, a full salad bar, pizza, bread, fries, fresh fruits, rice pudding and unlimited juice, coffee and tea.

There are 5 other restaurants and bars located on the property. These are mostly used by Peace Lodge guests.

These are:

  • Vista Poas Restaurant: An intimate fine-dining restaurant. Open only for dinner. Reservations are required.
  • Las Tucas Bar: A great place for a cocktail. Open from 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm.
  • Tortillas Restaurant: Open for breakfast and lunch. Serves a variety of local dishes.
  • Big Trout Bar: This place has a nice view of the trout lake. You can have your fresh catch cooked up here, enjoy a drink, enjoy a sandwich, and more.

Day Tours with Transportation

If you are staying in the San Jose area and will not have a rental car you can still visit La Paz Waterfall Gardems by booking a day tour with transportation included.

We have two suggestions for this. 

COMBO TOUR Coffee, Poas Volcano and La Paz Waterfall Gardens

⭐️ RATING: 5/5 Stars on Viator | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  13 hours | ✅ Book it!

This fun day tour includes:

  • Transportation from the San Jose area
  • Breakfast and lunch
  • A coffee tour at Doka Estates
  • A visit to Poas Volcano National Park
  • A visit to La Paz Waterfall Gardens

This is a full day tour. It is a bit pricey, but I think it is worth it when you consider that transportation, an experienced guide, all entry fees, plus breakfast and lunch are included. 

Check Availability and Book this Tour

Day Trip from San Jose to Wildlife Refuge La Paz Waterfall Gardens

⭐️ RATING: 4.5/5 Stars on Viator | ⏳ TOUR LENGTH:  7 hours | ✅ Book it!

This tour is for those of you who want more time exploring La Paz and don’t want a full day experience. 

This tour includes:

  • Transportation to and from your San Jose area hotel
  • Lunch
  • A guided hike of La Paz Waterfall Gardens

In my opinion, this is the best option if you only want to go to La Paz. But, for about $30 more per person, I think the combo tour above is a better deal and gives you a more fulfilling day.

Check Availability and Book this La Paz Tour

The Peace Lodge

La Paz Waterfall Gardens & Peace Lodge: Guide to Visiting

The Peace Lodge is a beautiful eco-lodge located on the La Paz Waterfall Gardens property. 

I would describe this place as cozy, natural, and luxurious. The resort is intimate with only 18 rooms and has a very clean jungle cabin type of feel. 

La Paz Waterfall Gardens & Peace Lodge: Guide to Visiting

Each room in this hotel has a Jacuzzi tub, a fireplace, a waterfall shower, and a large balcony with rocking chairs so you can enjoy the jungle views. 

One of the best things about the Peace Lodge is that guests have access to the La Paz Waterfall Gardens throughout the day as well as before and after opening hours.

You can also enjoy all six restaurants throughout the property which offer a variety of cuisines at different price points.

La Paz Waterfall Gardens & Peace Lodge: Guide to Visiting

We suggest Vista Poas Restaurant for a nice dinner and the Big Trout Bar for lunch.

One thing to note, no meals (not even breakfast) are included in the room rate

Check Availability and Book Your Stay at the Peace Lodge

La Paz Waterfall Gardens Controversy

la paz animals

I have heard a lot of controversy surrounding the size of the enclosures that the wildlife are kept in as well as the validity of La Paz being a wildlife rescue facility and not a straight-up zoo. 

I think that deciding if you feel comfortable visiting and supporting a place like La Paz is something you really can only choose for yourself. 

I agree with the idea that the enclosures are smaller than I feel they should be. 

La Paz Waterfall Gardens states on its website that they are the largest animal sanctuary in Costa Rica and that all animals living on the property have been rescued due to injury, being previously kept as pets, etc. 

None of the animals have been taken from their natural habitat.

So, in actuality, they are giving a home to wildlife that is unable to be re-released into the wild due to a variety of circumstances.

Visit La Paz Waterfall for FREE

la paz waterfall view

If you only want to see one of the waterfalls, you can skip the entry fee and drive straight to the lowest fall.

There is a pull-off area for cars and you can walk very close to the water.

Just be careful, it can be very slippery and no fences are blocking off this area. 

Here is the spot on Google Maps

Our Tips for Visiting La Paz Waterfall Gardens

  • Get here early in the day before the crowds. You also have the best chance of good weather in the morning.
  • There are a lot of stairs involved when viewing the waterfalls. Just take it slow. You have to remember that you are at a high elevation which your body isn’t used to. You will likely get out of breath quickly.

Is it Worth Visiting?

I thought for a long time about how to answer this question. I’ve decided that, yes, it is worth visiting during your Costa Rica vacation depending on your travel style. 

  • I think if you are traveling as a family with children, this place is great. La Paz is designed to be very family-friendly.
  • If you want to take up-close photos of wildlife, this is a good spot for it. 
  • If you are only in Costa Rica for a short period of time this can be a good place to see wildlife, a waterfall, and learn about the culture all in one day. 

Don’t Forget to Pre-purchase Your La Paz Waterfall Garden Tickets

  • If you are more into adventure or natural experiences, this is not the place for you. It is a bit too commercialized and curated. 
  • If you are a budget traveler, this place is not for you. The admission fee is high. 
  • If you are concerned about wildlife being kept in habitats that are small in size, this might not be the place for you. 

There are plenty of other amazing waterfalls in Costa Rica that you can visit for a lot cheaper as well as plenty of places to see wildlife in the wild

I must say, we are also always super impressed with how well everything is maintained here. I don’t think we have ever seen that level of cleanliness and keeping things updated anywhere else in Costa Rica. It really is a beautiful place.

Nearby Hotels

We, of course, suggest staying at the Peace Lodge, but it is a high-end accommodation option. 

Here are some other nearby options at lower price points. 

  • Los Gallitos Eco Lodge: Rustic budget-friendly cabins. There is a pool. Located about 25 minutes north of La Paz. 
  • Poas Volcano Lodge: They have a variety of rooms here. Some are basic and semi-rustic, but some are absolutely beautiful. This hotel is in a great location making it easy to get to La Paz, the nearby coffee farms, and Poas Volcano. 
  • Hortensias Chalets Vara Blanca: They offer chalets that can sleep up to 3 guests. The views here of the Central Valley are excellent. 
  • Villa Calas: I suggest staying in their Junior Suites. They are very nice and have a balcony. Breakfast is included in your booking. 
  • Altura Hotele: A really beautiful hotel. They also offer glamping in domes. This is a bit further from La Paz. It will take about 25 minutes to drive here.

What to Do After Your Visit

There is so much to do in this area! Here are some of the best options….

Visit Poas Volcano

poas volcano

From the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, it is only a short drive to Poás Volcano. We actually suggest going to Poas before La Paz. The volcano is often most clear in the mornings. 

We have a complete guide to the volcano so you can plan your trip there.

Visit a Coffee Farm

starbucks alajuela

There are several coffee farms on your drive back towards Alajuela. 

We suggest arranging your tour at Doka Estates or Hacienda Alsacia.

Doka Estates is a local company. I like their tour a lot. They explain the farming process and it’s very thorough.

Hacienda Alsacia is owned by Starbucks. It is the only Starbucks farm in the world. You can arrange a tour here or just show up to enjoy a drink and some food at their beautiful open air shop. 

Buy Strawberries and Cheese

palmito

You will likely pass several stands selling strawberries and cheese along your drive. The strawberries in this region are amazing! 

Thomas is addicted to the cheese (called palmito). It’s basically like string cheese but in a big ball. 

If you’d like to try some local goodness, we definitely suggest stopping at one of these stands.

Conclusion: La Paz Waterfall Gardens and Peace Lodge

And, that is all for this guide! Hopefully, you now have a good overview on planning your visit to La Paz Waterfall Gardens and Peace Lodge.

Let us know if you have any questions about visiting La Pa Waterfall Gardens in the comment section below. We are always happy to help you out.

You Might Also Like:

Costa Rica Travel Details: What You Need to Know

🚗 Should I rent a car in Costa Rica?

Having a rental car will give you the most flexibility when traveling in Costa Rica. This will also allow you to take fun day trips on your own.

🏄🏽 How can I book things to do?

We find that Viator tends to have the most comprehensive selection of activities with secure booking and good cancellation policies.

🍍 I’m overwhelmed with planning. Can you help?

Of course! I suggest joining our Facebook group for specific questions and head to our Start Here Page to get started planning.

✈️ What is the best way to book a flight?

Usually, we have the best luck finding great prices with Skyscanner. Check for flights to both San Jose Airport (SJO) and Liberia Airport (LIR).

🛏️ What is the best way to book my Costa Rica hotels?

We highly suggest Booking.com for hotel bookings and typically use VRBO for Costa Rica vacation rentals.

🗣️What is the main language in Costa Rica?

The main language in Costa Rica is Spanish. Most people working in tourism speak at least some English.

💰 What is the currency in Costa Rica?

The currency used in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican colón (CRC). However, the US dollar is widely accepted in most tourist areas

📞 What is the best way to stay connected?

An eSIM from Airalo is the easiest way to get 4G data while traveling in Costa Rica.

🌴 Is Costa Rica safe?

Generally, Costa Rica is considered safe for tourists. However, like any travel destination, it’s best to use caution and be aware of your surroundings.

🛂 Do you need a passport to go to Costa Rica?

Yes, Costa Rica is its own country. You will need a passport to visit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *