When you plan your trip to Costa Rica you will likely come across the name La Paz Waterfall Gardens. This is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country and it is only about an hour from the San Jose airport.
After over three years of living in Costa Rica, we decided it was time to finally see what the hype was all about. We had always avoided visiting because the entry fee is not cheap, but sometimes you just have to splurge!
We created this guide so you can find out all the important La Paz Waterfall Gardens info and to help you decide if a visit here is right for you.
What Is the La Paz Waterfall Gardens?
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 animals which are native to Costa Rica. These animals include jaguars, pumas, tropical birds, snakes, insects, frogs, a variety of monkeys and more!
There are over 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 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
The park is open year round from 8:00am until 5:00pm.
$45 + taxes for adults and $29 +taxes for children ages 2 to 12.
If you are a Costa Rican resident the entrance fee is $26 +taxes for adults and $17 + taxes for children.
When visiting, you also have the option of having a buffet lunch at their restaurant. The lunch costs $14 for adults and $8 for children.
We did not opt to have lunch, but I will admit that it looked pretty freaking tasty!
If you would like to pre-book your tickets you can do so here.
This is the perfect day trip from the airport area! From the San Jose Airport, it will take about exactly 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 drive can be a bit curvy, but the views will make it all worth it.
If you just input “La Paz Waterfall Gardens” into your GPS 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.
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 hat.
It tends to be a bit cool up here. Even if it is warm in San Jose or the town of Alajuela it can be a bit cooler up here. I suggest wearing pants and bringing a long sleeve shirt or light sweater just in case.
What to Bring
A rain jacket, your camera, a full water bottle, bug spray, and sunscreen
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 spent about four hours here, 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. 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 weather during that time.
However, 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 do visit during the rainy season it is best to try and visit in the morning. You will have the highest chance of dry weather then.
Where to Stay Nearby
We, of course, staying at the Peace Lodge, but here are some other nearby options…..
The La Paz Waterfall Gardens Experience
After purchasing your tickets you will be given a map of the park.
The first thing we stopped at was the trout lake. We thought that this was the pool for hotel guests, so we didn’t bother to stop.
I have since learned (we clearly don’t read maps well because it is specifically stated on the map they give you) that you can use a fly fishing rod or spin cast rod to fish trout out of the lake. They will then cook the fish up for you any way you would like. You can actually also swim in the lake if you’d like.
Our next stop was to explore the Rio La Paz Trail (in yellow on the map). These trails are unpaved and less maintained than the rest of the park. We enjoyed the short walk on these trails because there was nobody else around and the path was lined with tons of unique jungle plants.
We then headed to all the animal exhibits. We had read mixed reviews online about the animal habitats. Some people said that the habitats were not adequate in size for the animals living in them.
We did come across this sign though. ↓ It seems that all the animals were rescued and that La Paz is actually helping this wildlife.
There are multiple animal exhibits for guests to walk through. Some were in buildings and some were outdoor cages. I was impressed that the park has multiple employees at each exhibit answering questions and telling guests about the animals.
After visiting the animals we came across the “casita” (pictured below). In front of the casita was a bull with the traditional Costa Rica oxcart. There was an employee here teaching children about the oxcart tradition.
Guests can also go in the traditional casita. When we visited there was an employee dressed up in traditional clothing making traditional cheese. She was happy to explain some Costa Rican history and was giving out samples of the cheese.
After visiting the casita we headed towards the waterfalls. Just be warned that there are a lot of stairs to get to some of the falls and the staircases are a bit narrow. We were there on a particularly full day so we had to constantly move over to let other people pass.
There are multiple falls that you can view. I will admit, they were pretty amazing!
When you finish viewing the falls you will end at a point with a bar and gift shop. From here you can get a bus back to the main entrance. The bus seemed to run about every 10 minutes and the drive back took about five minutes. It is included in your entry fee.
The Peace Lodge
The Peace Lodge is located on the La Paz Waterfall Gardens property. 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. All guests also have access to the Peace Lodge pool (which looks so amazing).
One of the best things about the Peace Lodge is that guests have access to the La Paz Waterfall Gardens before and after opening hours.
There are also six restaurants for guests to enjoy throughout the property which offer a variety of cuisines at different price points.
For prices and availability check out the Peace Lodge booking site.
La Paz Waterfall Gardens Weddings
Yes, you can even get married at the La Paz Waterfall Garden. They offer multiple wedding packages depending on the number of guests you have attending.
You can have the ceremony at the waterfall platform, in the butterfly observatory, at the beautiful trout lake, or in their Colibries restaurant. La Paz Waterfall Gardens has a wedding coordinator on staff to help you organize everything.
You can find out more about having your destination wedding at La Paz here.
Also, if you are interested in having your destination wedding in Costa Rica, we have a complete guide to the planning process.
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.
– If you’d like to experience a bit of the La Paz Waterfall experience for free you can head to the street below the falls. From here you can view the bottom La Paz waterfall.
You will know you are in the correct spot by the tons of cars lined up along the road. There are also typically street vendors selling snacks.
You can walk behind this waterfall, but I wouldn’t suggest trying it. It gets really slippery.
And? Is it Worth Visiting?
Thomas and I had a long talk on the drive home about our experience and if it was worth the entry fee. We eventually decided that, yes, La Paz Waterfall Gardens is worth a visit for your Costa Rica vacation.
We liked that this place is very family friendly. Most of the trails are paved, there are tons of animals to look at, there is a restaurant on site, and you can learn a bit about the Costa Rican culture as well.
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 actually in the wild. However, if you are only visiting Costa Rica for a week or two you just won’t have time to see it all. La Paz Waterfall Gardens is a bit of a condensed version of this. Here you can see it all within one day.
Plus, we were super impressed with how well everything is maintained. I don’t think we have ever seen that level of maintenance anywhere in Costa Rica.
If you are staying in the San Jose area and will not have your own transportation we suggest a combo tour. This is a great way to experience a lot of fun things in one fun-filled day.
Here are three tours we suggest.
What to Do After Your Visit
There is so much to do in this area! So, we will just list all of your options.
– From the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, it is only a short drive to Poás Volcano. We have a complete guide to the volcano so you can plan your trip there.
– There are several coffee plantations on your drive back towards Alajuela. We suggest either stopping at Doka Estates for a coffee tour or Hacienda Alsacia (owned by Starbucks) either for a tour or to just enjoy a coffee at the nicest Starbucks you’ve ever seen.
– You will pass several stands selling strawberries and cheese along your drive. The strawberries 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.
– We always stop at a trucha on our way home. A trucha is a small lake that is stocked with trout. An employee will give you a hand line with some bate on the end. You can then cast until you catch a fish.
You can either bring your fish with you to cook up yourself if you are staying at a house, or you can enjoy a tasty lunch at the trucha.
They will cook up your fish for you with some tasty sides like salad, rice, and beans. Usually, it costs about $10 for this meal depending on the size of your fish. It’s a fun local experience that most travelers never experience.
We always stop at a trucha called Restaurante Las Luvias because it is located on the drive back towards Alajuela/ San Jose.
And, that is all for this guide! 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. Also, if you visit the La Paz Waterfall Gardens we would love to hear about your experience.
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