Please welcome travel reporter Joy M. for a series of post on her and her husband’s recent trip to Costa Rica. Their travels took place in May 2015 and they appear to have enjoyed every minute of it! They happily agreed to share their experiences with us. Please enjoy.

B&BOur first two nights in Costa Rica we stayed at Alegria Bed and Breakfast in a little town less than ten minutes away from the airport called Alajuela. The proprietor is a southern gentleman from Tennessee named George who has lived in Costa Rica almost ten years. George is a wonderful host who cooks outstanding breakfasts and was very helpful with directions and area knowledge. The house is beautifully refurbished (by George), very comfortably furnished, and very well cleaned and maintained, with plenty of places to hang out and chat, read, or watch a Costa Rican football (soccer) game. We also stayed here the night before we left for the airport the next morning. George called a taxi for us and even made us a hot breakfast to go with an egg, cheese, and pepper toasted sandwich, banana bread, and fruit!

Alegria would be a great place for families with well-behaved children (he does not have infant or toddler furniture), couples, groups of friends, or individual travelers. It is very reasonably priced and located quite near the airport but in a quiet neighborhood. It is also a convenient distance from many points of interest so is great for day trips and sightseeing, with wonderful southern hospitality to come back to. I could not recommend Alegria–and George–more highly.

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On one of our days in country, we drove out to La Paz Waterfall Gardens & Peace Lodge. The trip out was an adventure itself as Costa Rican roads are not consistently maintained, often narrow and winding, and the rules of the road are mostly suggestions, especially the farther from the city you get. The drive takes you up into the mountains that surround San Jose, past coffee plantations, small towns, and dairy farms with lush grass (the cows were imported from Wisconsin!).

waterfall1

The park is amazing! Definitely five stars for beautifully maintained, built, and staffed. It is not just about waterfalls but also includes an impressive array of wildlife exhibits featuring animals native to Costa Rica. It includes an aviary, butterfly pavilion; hummingbird garden; wildcat, snake, and monkey exhibits; and a frog house. There is also an amazing amount of exotic plants including an orchid display. One of the nice things about their wildlife exhibits is that all of their animals were rescued illegal pets or other captive programs.

The Aviary is a giant enclosure with smaller enclosures and large cages inside it. Birds fly around freely in the huge enclosure: relatives of a wild turkey, small colorful birds, and ducks. The toucan enclosure was awesome! The interpreter there to explain about toucans was very friendly and let you hold the birds on your hand or arm or sit on your shoulder! So fun! A lot of small brightly colored birds of several types were in the other large enclosure. The large cages mostly housed several types of parrots including some huge red macaws!

toucan

The Butterfly pavilion is HUGE!!!! There were thousands of butterflies fluttering around, some as big as your hand. Fruit was laid out for them to eat and blossoming flowers, vines, and shrubs spilled from every direction. There were so many butterflies we had to watch where we stepped and they often landed on us, especially those who were wearing bright colors. There were also chrysalises that the butterflies were emerging from and you could watch them unfold their wings.

butterfly

The hummingbird garden was also amazing! They have so many varieties. We probably saw at least six to eight different types, maybe more because it was a little hard to tell when they were zipping around. The garden is out in the open and they are completely wild but come in droves!

monkey

The monkeys were eating their breakfast. The big cats get fed in the afternoon (about 3:30) so you might want to bring a lunch or go find lunch then come back to see the cats fed. The exhibits include pumas, ocelots, Margay – or tree ocelot and a rather large jaguar who came from a zoo where he was born in Nicaragua. Their female jaguar (who was a rescued illegal pet) also just had three babies, the first jaguars bred in captivity in Costa Rica. The snake exhibit had a wonderful guide who explained the different types of snake especially the very venomous ones. Costa Rica has a lot of venomous snakes of varying degrees and some that are just interesting: vine snakes which look exactly like vines!

The living history casito (farm house) had live animals, traditional furnishings, and visitors can taste traditional sugar tea, cornbread pudding with coconut (sort of like a custard almost), and traditional Costa Rican cheese—all delicious!

The five waterfalls the garden is named after are spectacular but require the ability to climb a LOT of stairs. However the paths and stairs are very well maintained and there are lots of railings. I would not recommend this part of the garden for very small children or people who do not do well with stairs.

The thing I particularly liked about going to La Paz at the beginning of our trip was that it gave one a very good idea of what to keep an eye out for (both for beauty and safety) when we were traveling around. I was surprised at how many animals, birds, insects, and plants we saw “in the wild” that we first saw here.

Tips: Start early!!! The gardens are in a cloud forest (a type of rain forest) that is very wet. Bring raincoats and umbrellas. The day started out clear but by about 10 a light mist was falling. Around 12:30 it became a steady, strong downpour (drenched us to the skin in about 5 minutes with jackets on). But by about 2:30 or 3, it was lightening up.

$40 for adults and $24 for children 3-12 (as of May 2015)
http://www.waterfallgardens.com