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Our toddler takes a closer look at a red-eyed tree frog in Costa Rica's La Paz Waterfall Gardens and Nature Park

I’d heard good things about the La Paz Waterfall Gardens in central Costa Rica, but they actually fell short of what I found when visiting in person. Yes, there are waterfalls. Sure, there are animals to visit here, too. Yet this 70-acre nature park, which includes 40 acres of protected cloud forest and rainforest, provides visitors with 2.2 miles of hiking trails and viewing platforms throughout the protected land—all remarkably built without cutting into a single tree or vine system.

One of five waterfalls at La Paz Waterfall Gardens and Nature Park in Costa Rica

Just one of five waterfalls you’ll hike past on your way down to Rio La Paz.

While the rainforest hike along five water falls at the end of your visit is spectacular (with a shuttle ride back up that you will be glad to take!), what your children are likely to remember best about La Paz Waterfall Gardens Nature Park are the animals found here.

A blue morpho butterfly in the butterfly house at La Paz Waterfall Gardens, Costa Rica

Hope to see a blue morpho butterfly? You’ll find plenty here!

La Paz Waterfall Gardens is home to a fantastic butterfly observatory (mariposarium) with over 20 species of butterflies in all of their life stages, a large aviary with Costa Rica’s most colorful birds including scarlet macaws and tucans, a ranarium filled with fantastical frogs including the red-eyed tree frog, a serpentarium with 30 kinds of snakes including the golden eyelash viper, and a hummingbird garden where you might spot up to 26 species feeding.

A yellow eyelash viper at Costa Rica's La Paz Waterfall Gardens.

A yellow eyelash viper as viewed through some very (this mom hopes) thick glass.

If you think that sounds exciting, just wait till you visit the jungle cats, which include the elusive margay and ocelot, among others found in Costa Rica and Central America. We were so mesmerized by the full-size jaguars that we couldn’t tear ourselves away as they tore into their meals—talk about a dinner show!

Jaguar eating dinner at the La Paz Waterfall Garden Nature Park, Costa Rica

A jaguar digs in to his dinner just a few feet from us.

Not to be outdone, there are many monkeys to entertain as well, including white-faced capuchins, spider monkeys, and marmosets. Did I mention the orchid garden? The Casita de la Paz with milk cows and ox cart rides for the family?

When you consider how much there is to see in addition to the lovely hike along five waterfalls and the La Paz River at the end of your visit, you can see how you will want to plan a full day’s visit to this worthy attraction.

Some of the many attractions you'll want to see on your visit to La Paz Waterfall Gardens in Costa Rica

As you can see, you’ll have a lot of ground to cover. Wear comfortable shoes and plan for a full day!

Tips for visitors with a baby or young toddler: Be sure to bring a baby carrier or backpack child carrier to tote your baby or young toddler down the canyon waterfall trail while keeping your hands free for steep stair railings and your camera. If you bring a stroller for visiting the animals and other attractions, you’ll want to check it above before your hike, or walk it out to your car and reenter before pursuing the waterfall trail.

Tips for all visitors: Bring rain-proof jackets and extra layers as it can be cool and moist–as you might expect in a cloud and rainforest! Stave off hunger at multiple on-site restaurants and find souvenirs in the gift shop. I also recommend bringing along the DEET-free mosquito repellent wipes I recommend here.

For more information about the La Paz Waterfall Gardens and the world-famous Peace Lodge located within its grounds, visit www.waterfallgardens.com. To see its location on the map, click here.

Follow these links for more help planning travel to Costa Rica with young children:

Costa Rica - Alajuela (San Jose), Review of Buena Vista Hotel

Costa Rica - Alajuela (San Jose), Review of Hotel Villa Dolce

Costa Rica - Alajuela, Tips for Visiting Zoo Ave with kids

Costa Rica - 5 ways to ease your arrival in Costa Rica with kids

Costa Rica - Traveler beware: Car seat laws in Costa Rica are stricter than in the U.S.

Costa Rica - Visiting Arenal Hanging Bridges with a Baby, Toddler or Little Kid

Costa Rica - A visit to Doka Coffee Estate, Alajuela

Costa Rica - Tips for traveling by ferry from Puntarenas to Nicoya Peninsula

Costa Rica - Nicoya Peninsula: 5 Best with Children Under 5

Costa Rica - Review of Blue Batik villa, Playa Hermosa (Santa Teresa), Costa Rica

Costa Rica - Review of Casa Vista family vacation rental on the Nicoya Peninsula

Costa Rica - Dinner with our Private Chef in Costa Rica

Costa Rica - 5 things I wish I’d known before moving my kids to Costa Rica

Costa Rica – Photo Fave: View from (the toilet at) Casa Vista

Costa Rica – Photo Fave: Sunset at Playa Hermosa

Costa Rica – Photo Fave: DIY beach hut, Playa Hermosa

Costa Rica - Photo Fave: Travels with Grandma – Reaching new heights in Costa Rica

Costa Rica - Photo Fave: Arenal Hanging Bridges with Toddler

See my Costa Rica with Little Kids board on Pinterest!

In like a lion, out like a lamb – our March of the animals continues all month! Keep watching for more animal experiences here, and click here to see them all.

Safe journeys,

Shelly Rivoli
Author of the award-winning Travels with Baby and Take-Along Travels with Baby
Curious about this content? See my editorial content disclosure.
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7 Responses to A visit to Costa Rica’s La Paz Waterfall Gardens Nature Park and Wildlife Refuge

  1. Have you been to Aviarios del Caribe and Buttercup Center? I went there with my nieces and they loved it! There’s a sloth rescue center, and the girls really loved the sloths, they’re too cute!

  2. love this – such colors, and what an experience!

  3. Ann says:

    Looks like a lot of fun and great tips about the strollers. I’m slightly obsessed with waterfalls so I can’t wait to bring my kids one day.

  4. Elena says:

    Costa Rica is on the short list of my travel wish list….everything about it looks incredible. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Travelogged says:

    Great photos — I know my son would love Costa Rica!

  6. Wow , The picture of the jaguar is amazing. I love it.

    La Paz Waterfall are Ones of the most beautiful areas of Costa Rica. A few years ago in 2009 was affected by a severe earthquake almost destuye all the natural beauties of the area. After this, the place to be recovered, and this type of articles helps us to promote one of the most beautiful areas of Costa Rica.

  7. I recently visited that place and it might not be the biggest waterfalls but the feeling of calm and harmony withe environment and the journey trough all those trails withe family made it the best trip ever. I love Costa Rica

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