We traveled three hours to La Paz from San Jose. The road was rather rugged, and we were inches away from the cliffside, but Mario had the van under control along the jagged turns. La Paz is definitely not a place to miss in Costa Rica. It has a beautiful waterfall hike, and serves as a rescue for some unique, native animals, including several jungle cats (pumas, ocelots, jaguars), a variety of birds (hummingbirds, toucans, macaws), frogs, snakes, sloths, monkeys, and a butterfly house. The view from the climb to the waterfall was breathtaking.
I would have to say that my favorite feature was probably the bird house. It was there that they had toucans housed among native plants and trees. Tourists were given pellets, fruit, and enrichment to entice toucans to approach us. I could feel the weight and significance of the toucan as it hopped on my arm and gripped my sleeve. It stared at me with one eye and tilted its beak toward my hand. I suddenly became distinctly aware of how powerful and potentially dangerous this bird was. It gently nudged my palm as it picked up the small pellet in my hand, and my fear dissipated. That urgent alertness was revisited when another toucan defecated above my friend, Elba. She ducked and ran, but…not fast enough. We called the hair treatment, “Toucan Pro V – Mango Essence.” The Macaw house was also rather striking. These intelligent birds, doused in color, would perch on the side of the cage and examine us. Ultimately, they were as much spectators as we were.
We visited the butterfly house where Blue Morphos, Monarchs, and Giant Owl Butterflies were feeding on orange slices and flying around us. Several of the jungle cats lay resting in their enclosure, and the hummingbirds swarmed between us and the feeders, suckling the sugary nectar. We ventured on, taking a long hike to several waterfalls.
After visiting La Paz, we had lunch at a little restaurant on one of the side roads and ordered casada (chicken with white rice, beans, and crema – a rich cream). We warmed our bellies with a traditional drink of Costa Rica, called “guaro” or “cacique” which is a rough translation for “chief.” Guaro (which is not readily available in the US), is a distilled spirit made from sugarcane juice, has a high alcohol content, and is clear in color. It is strong in flavor, but has a slightly sweet finish. Used similarly to rum, cacique, is typically mixed with fruit juice or soda. Several of us were fooled into drinking it alone, and learned the meaning of “aguardienty,” which means “burning water” – a fairly accurate description, in my humble opinion. Guaro was once considered the “moonshine” or “chicha” of Central America and remains a patriotic element of Costa Rican popular culture. Soon after dinner, we stopped off at a local market and bought some Costa Rican candy and pastries – Que rico!
For more information about La Paz Water Gardens & Wildlife.
(Trip continued on Day 3)
NOTE: All blog posts, articles, and photographs are the intellectual and creative property of Melissa J. Koziol. Thank you for reading!