If your family will be flying in to our out of Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO), there are a few good reasons to plan on spending two or three nights in the small city of Alajuela, where the airport is located (nope, it’s not actually in San Jose). If you’ll be visiting Costa Rica with young kids, Zoo Ave should definitely be on that list.
At Zoo Ave, your family will get to glimpse Costa Rica’s best-loved animals, including macaws, marmosets, iguanas, a margay, an ocelot, marmosets, a cayman, white-faced capuchin monkeys and many others. If you’re lucky and he makes his appearance, you may also get to see a resplendent quetzal. Some “rescues” from other parts of the world have found homes here as well.
What immediately strikes visitors upon entering is the sight of so many beautiful macaws—in scarlet, blue and green—who are not caged or tethered at all. I especially appreciated how the animals’ accommodations throughout the refuge are made to be as natural as possible, and even where screened fencing exists, it is around real living trees rooted into the ground.
Better yet, the refuge blends in so well to Costa Rica’s natural environment that you shouldn’t be surprised to see animals that are still wild hanging out at Zoo Avenue as well, especially if you arrive early in the morning before the crowds. For example, we watched a wild toucan come calling on a caged friend of another species, and a free-range iguana ramble across the lawn. And the best part of our early morning arrival? Watching a tapir make his way across the lawn into the jungle greenery – get there as close to opening time as you can!
Visitors with babies and toddlers will appreciate the smooth walkways leading everywhere you’ll go, making it one of the few tourist destinations in Costa Rica where you can actually push a stroller the entire way (or a rented wagon – see tips below). Zoo Ave. is also a great place to let your energetic toddler roam free, stretching his legs, as you explore together.
Practical tips for your visit:
– Zoo Ave is open 8:45 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. every day (even on Easter!)
– Arrive early to enjoy the best birdsong, wildlife sightings, and coolest temperatures
– Plan at least 2 hours for your visit to Zoo Ave
– A diaper changing table is available in the restroom by the entrance
– Snacks, ice cream, and beverages are available and for very good prices
See more photos from our visit to Zoo Ave on the Travels with Baby facebook page. For more help planning your vacation in Costa Rica with kids, see all of the related posts and pages here.
Author of the award-winning Travels with Baby guidebooks
All content of this blog (c) Shelly Rivoli 2007 – 2011