La Paz Waterfall Gardens - Crowded and fake
We wanted to make the best of our last day in Costa Rica, but had to stay in the Poas Volcano / Alajuela area. A very friendly clerc at our hotel recommended that we go to La Paz: waterfalls, hummingbird garden, butterfly garden, orchids house... Yes, it was all that, but it seemed so fake and upthight after all we saw during our trip. The waterfalls were surrounded by gates and warning signs, the hummingbird garden was crowed, hot, smelly and we got bit by all kind of bugs feeding on the sweet treats of the birds, the orchids weren't in flowers... And each and every inch of the path were crowded with tourist... we often had to wait in lines. And it was very expensive: 21$ each.
6km from the international airport in Alajuela, near the Poas volcano.
Unique Suggestions: I guess it's a good place if you don't get to spend some time up north around La Fortuna, Santa Elena or Monteverde or if you have mobility problem (the path are paved and very safe, you wont have to walk too much and a shuttle will take you back to the entrance at the end).
If you really have to go, try to make the best of it. Go early or late during the day so it wont be too crowded. Step aside for a few minutes to let a group pass. Spend some times in the restaurant drinking (free) coffee. When you stay quiet and everything calm down, hummingbirds and numerous other birds will come to eat around you in the feeders. We really enjoyed that! We even saw a Violet Sabrewing hunting small bugs.
Maybe because we had some practise before, but our best hummingbird and butterfly pictures were taken there... ! See the travelogues in my alajuela page.
Fun Alternatives: In Santa Elena and in Monteverde, at the end of the path of the park, there's a little hummingbird garden. We saw there much more species and had the time to wait and capture beautiful pictures as it was less crowded.
In Fortuna, try the Danaus reserve. Much smaller, much friendlier and much cheaper. And you get to help the kids as it is a educational center. Butterfly and colorfull birds feeding on banana too, but also different wildlife.
The Rio Fortuna Waterfall was by far more impressive than those presented here (more than twice as high). Less crowded again, more wildlife (we saw our first toucan there!) and cheaper.
About anything you'll do and anywhere you'll go in the Monteverde and Fortuna area will be the same or better as this, less crowded, cheaper and create a more "real" experience...
This is the name of a Tour organiser in the san Jose/Alajuela area. They'll sell you local tours like Grecia, Sarchi, Poas or Irazu volcano, or longer expeditions in Tortuguero, Arenal volcano or tarcoles river. We found them in our hotel, almost as a "no name" tour. We bought an Irazu tour, the small one not including the Lancaster Gardens and Orosi Valley. We thought that 36$ per person was a fair price, considering we were staying in Alajuela, far enough from the volcano to ruined us in cab fare.
They picked us up near our hotel at 7h in the morning. Then we started the milk run in the traffic of san Jose, picking 5 or 6 more couples in different hotels and the guide, without regards for time, organisation or common sense. We were on the volcano at 11h and could only stay about 30 minutes before heading back down. Very dispointing after all that wait!
But it wasn't all. We got to wait almost an hour in Cartago for a minivan to pick us up and drive us back to the hotel (as the other couples were going on the big tour with of the gardens and valley). In the end, a regular taxi came by and drove us. It was 13h when we got back in Allajuela. For a 30 minutes walk on the volcano...
Fun Alternatives: Of course, this Tourist Trap Tip dosen't mean you shouldn't go to the Irazu volcano. By all mean go, it's breath taking. But don't go with Expeditiones Tropicales. Take a cab, a bus, rent a shuttle, rent a car, but don't get in an Expeditiones Tropicales minivan...
The clerck at your hotel could book them for you so be sure to know witch company is going to provide the tour you bought at your hotel.
- National/State Park
- Budget Travel