This splendid nature and wildlife park (tel. 506/2482-2720, www.waterfallgardens.com , 8 a.m.–5:30 p.m. daily, $35 adults, $26 students, $20 children; $45 Behind the Scenes Animal Encounters Tour; $65 adults, $55 children guided tour includes transportation from/to San José), at Montaña Azul, about four kilometers north of Vara Blanca, features trails through a soaring hangar-size aviary with separate climate-controlled butterfly cage.
There’s also a hummingbird garden, a serpentarium (snakes), a marvelous walk-in ranarium (frogs), a monkey exhibit, plus a trout lake and orchid houses. The highlight is the vast walk-in aviary, with everything from macaws and toucans to guans (don’t wear earrings, which the macaws like to swoop down and seize).
A Jungle Cat Exhibit is worth the price of admission alone and offers a rare chance to see ocelots, margays, jaguarundis, puma, and even jaguars. (All have been placed here by MINAE—the ministry for environment and energy—because they were old or injured, or had been exposed to humans too long to be released back into the wild.)
The various exhibits are accessed by concrete trails that eventually lead steeply along the river to four waterfalls. Standing on the viewing platform at the Templo Fall, you’re pummeled by spray blasted from the base of the fall. Continuing downriver, a metal staircase that clings to the cliffside descends to the Magía Blanca (the largest cascade), Encantada, and the La Paz falls—a pencil-thin roadside fall that attracts Ticos en masse on weekends. It’s a daunting climb back, but shuttles back to the hotel are offered from the roadside trail exit.
The Casita de la Paz re-creates a traditional farmhouse. The restaurant has a superb buffet plus marvelous views. Bird-watching tours are offered. Last admission is 4 p.m. The entrance fee includes a huge buffet lunch.