Tuesday, October 21, 2014

La Paz Waterfall & Gardens {Costa Rica}

When thinking of Costa Rica it is easy to think of green and lush spaces, volcanoes, wildlife such as toucans, butterflies and frogs as well as waterfalls created by nature. All this and more is what makes Costa Rica a preferred destination in Central America. It's as if you are somehow connected to paradise and you never want to leave paradise.

Just a few minutes East of the Poas Volcano is the La Paz Waterfall and Gardens, a wildlife refuge and nature park that also has a boutique lodge for guests to enjoy a magical stay. We are lucky to have visited the La Paz Waterfall and Gardens twice, both times we have been in for a treat. Getting up close and personal with toucans, butterflies, hummingbirds and frogs.

This is one of the places I mentioned in my 11 fun things to do with kids in Costa Rica list and it's for obvious reasons I've included La Paz in the list. It's a one stop to make sure you see most of the wildlife you have in your Costa Rica list plus see gorgeous waterfalls and enjoy a fun filled day learning about Costa Rica and how Costa Ricans are working hard to preserve their natural green scenery and wildlife. They have rescued 

The park has roughly over 100 species of animals, there is a hiking trail to see the 5 different waterfalls in addition they have a delicious buffet style restaurant overlooking the hummingbird garden and another restaurant overlooking the man made trout lake with waterfall at the top of the mountain. 

What will I see? 

You will most likely also see the Morphos Butterfly, don't let the dark brown on the back of its wings fool you, when it flies away you will see the blue hues of its wings. 

Birds are everywhere! Our favorite was the hummingbird garden in which we suggest you sit or stand still and enjoy the birds flying around you left to right. 

The Frog exhibit is also magnificent! They have blue jeans frog, due to its blue legs. The colorful red eye leaf frog and the green and black poison dart frog. You are not allowed to touch the blue jeans and the green and black poison dart frog for obvious reasons {they're poisonous}, but you can ask the exhibit ranger if you may hold the red eye leaf frog in your hands and he will help you. 

The last time we visited was my birthday and I had been wishing I could hold a red eye leaf frog, my wish was granted. Shortly after the frog with on my hand and we took this picture it jumped onto my daughter's face which completely caught her by surprise and of course she began jumping and waving her hands after a few seconds the frog jumped off her face onto a leaf, that is when I captured the picture above on the left. 

The toucan exhibit is one of a kind, you will see the always colorful keel billed toucan and you will be allowed to hold or have it placed on your shoulder. I took advantage and pet mine to make him feel even more comfortable. You can also feed the toucans. On exhibit there is also the chestnut-mandibled toucan which has a dark brown beak. 

There's also a jungle cat exhibit, in this exhibit we were able to see the very majestic jaguar. Which kept posing for us and walking around following my kids around the exhibit. They also have an ocelot that is very playful. 

Ever wondered what a typical Costa Rican home looked like before electricity? La Paz Waterfall and Gardens has a traditional casita in which you will be able to try traditional snacks and drinks and be able to sit and enjoy the peacefulness of being away from it all. In front of the casita you will see the traditional ox-cart. Lovely isn't it?

Straight across from the casita you will see a hiking trail that leads to the 5 waterfalls, the highest one being 120 feet tall. There are several look out points from which you will be able to feel sprinkles of water on your face. This is what the trail looks like on the way to the waterfalls.

The prize at the end of the trail, roughly a 20 minute walk from the Casita to the main waterfall. 

At the end of the Waterfalls trail you walk up steps to reach a gift shop and the bus stop, the bus is included with your admission and they will drive you back up to the main entrance to the park/parking lot. 

There are monkeys and there is a snake exhibit too. You will learn about the deadliest and most poisonous snakes that Costa Rica has and believe when I say they're all there. 

What should I know before I visit?

When you visit we suggest you take comfortable walking shoes since you will walk a lot, both up and downhill. We also suggest you take your rain gear be it an umbrella or light jacket since you will be outdoors walking in the rain and cloud forest, dressing in layers is a great way to ensure you are comfortable in weather changes. Strollers can be used, but honestly we don't recommend you use one since you walk up and down and floors are a bit moist making it slippery at times. 

There is private parking with a security guard, please drive carefully since you are up in the mountains it is likely you will see wildlife crossing the road such as the stick bug my husband saw a few yards away. 

What is the admission cost and what about restaurants? 

Adults     $38.00 USD 
Children  $22.00 USD (3 - 12 years old)

Buffet Lunch is an additional $13.00 USD per adult and $7.00 USD per children, it is a good restaurant with a delicious basil based salad dressing and several options to eat. 

If you are a resident of Costa Rica your admission is $22.00 USD per adult and $13.00 USD per child. Make sure you have your proof of residency ready to show, as they will ask for it at the ticket desk. 

One final tip, bring your camera and battery fully charged as I'm sure you will take many pictures. This is the place to get up close with wildlife that you wouldn't be able to hold in the outdoors. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Valle Sol Restaurant {Costa Rica}

Date nights are pretty rare for us, specially since moving to Costa Rica they don't happen often. That's why when we find a little time -even if it's only an hour, we make it a point to go out. A few weeks ago we had the time to enjoy a nice breakfast just the two of us at a local restaurant, we've driven past it many many times however we never made it to dining there. That is until we found time for ourselves one morning and took advantage of us not having breakfast, the restaurant is called Valle Sol and they serve Mexican food too. In fact on a random Friday I was shopping at the grocery store across the street from them and could hear live mariachi singing and playing typical Mexican music.

On a cloudy, rainy morning we parked on site and walked over to select our table. The restaurant is mostly covered by a roof, but for the most part it is outdoors. There is only one wall and the rest is just fresh air. 

Reading over the menu I noticed they had a juice bar fully stocked with produce, I ordered a papaya, pineapple and orange juice. It was delicious, they only added ice and the papaya gave it a creamy texture. My husband ordered a freshly made orange juice. He said it was delicious and you could taste that no sugar was added which made it even tastier.

For breakfast I opted for the chorizo sandwich, it was good, although I was honestly expecting real Mexican chorizo something that is challenging to find here in Costa Rica. They used a sausage that in Costa Rica is called chorizo and it is called Mexican because it contains jalapeños. Still it was good.

My husband ordered green chilaquiles. The chilaquiles were delicious, the sauce was made from scratch and the tortilla chips were the right size. 

The ambience at Valle Sol is very laid back, while enjoying our breakfast we saw groups of cyclists stopping by to recharge and enjoy freshly made juices and breakfast. It is also perfect for group meetings, we got to see a group of ladies having a business meeting. The staff is quick and courteous, they do a great job at refiling your water without you asking, coming by to ask if you need anything at just the right time. 

Pricing is average, for our complete breakfast we paid the equivalent to $15.00 USD. Which is ok considering the amount of chilaquiles that were served and the freshly made juices. 

After this visit, I'm sure we will soon return to enjoy more chilaquiles.

Valle Sol is located in the city of Santa Ana in the province of San Jose, across the street from Mas X Menos grocery store. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Costa Rica's International Book Fair

Book Fair's are the best, you can learn about new up and coming authors or new published books. You can meet face to face with editors and publishing companies. You can find items that are exclusive to the fair. 

A few weeks ago Costa Rica hosted their annual International Book Fair, each year they chose a special guest country; last year it was Mexico, this year it was the United States. We were very excited to go and find new books to read. We love reading and through the years our family has managed to collect our favorites allowing us to have a small library at home. The Annual Book Fair in Costa Rica was held at the building known as the "old Customs" in the downtown area of San Jose. 

Here is a collection of photos of what we saw at the 2014 International Book Fair:

There was a section designed specially for kids to be able to play, lounge, draw or get their face painted:

One of the exhibitors that caught our attention the most was "The Smallest Book!", it had books the size of my preschooler's hand! This one was about jokes. 

Pricing for books are discounted up to 20%, something many took advantage of. We had just gotten many new books while visiting back home and were mostly there to see what the book fair here offers and to see if we found a new book in German for my kids. Unfortunately we didn't find any German books, but we did see books in Portuguese, French and even Japanese. We also learned about other book stores in Costa Rica and publishing companies here. 

The building behind the "old Customs" one is called "Casa del Cuño" which means house of the seal, there local artisans had their designs on display. I was lucky to meet my favorite designers Priscilla Aguirre from Hola Lola which I've mentioned before on Stroller Adventures. 

I also met one of the founders and designers behind one of my new favorite brands: Puercospin, I love their sailor designs. I first discovered them while shopping at Espacio in Escazu and now I am following them on all their social media, I look forward to featuring them in the future. 

Cotidiano is the creation of Daniela, she has recently launched her handmade shop; however I'm already a fan of hers. I particularly love her coffee mug designs and bookmarks!