Blue morpho Costa Rica

Today we had the awesome experience of visiting both Poás volcano (the one we smell from our house), and the La Paz waterfall gardens, where we got to hold toucans, blue morpho butterflies, and red-eye tree frogs, take a ride in a painted ox cart, eat old fashioned Costa Rican treats, and see lots of other animals. What an incredible day! If you ever have a chance to come to Costa Rica, make sure not to pass up La Paz Waterfall Gardens.

At Poas volcano

We took the sister missionaries with us, since they had never been to these places before. Actually, we were only planning on going to Poás, but while there, we ran into Denny who runs B&B Grecia (in small towns, you often run into friends). He told us that La Paz was quite close, and he was heading up there soon as well, so we decided to check it out after the volcano. We’re sure glad we did!

The volcano was a beautiful site. It’s good to finally see inside the volcano that we’ve been living on for the past two months. (Our house is built on the side of it.) I think I liked it better than Irazú. You can see the lake more easily, it’s larger, and the hike to it is prettier. It’s also not as cold – no need for long pants or a jacket when visiting Poás. There is another lake you can walk to, but we decided to skip it this trip. The Poás visitor’s center also had some interesting exhibits.

La Paz Waterfall Gardens

La Paz was the center of a fairly large earthquake (6.1) in January 2009, and you can still see some of its damaging effects on the drive to the gardens. There were some houses that had been destroyed, and the roads are still being rebuilt – but they are perfectly drivable and paved. It’s a beautiful drive, too, through green fields, rolling hills, and views of the distant valley below.

The La Paz Waterfall Gardens is extremely well kept-up. This place is definitely built for tourists. The bathrooms are about the coolest I’ve ever seen, too, with sink faucets that look like water cascading down a miniature mountain. And the knob to turn it on? A rock with a frog on it. Very Cool.

The views all around La Paz are spectacular. They also have 5 waterfalls and a fresh trout pond you can hike to. We didn’t take the time to do that today, but I’m sure we’ll be back to see them another day. They’ve got a great restaurant (a few actually), where we had a nice lunch buffet. Emily even lost a tooth at dinner in the rice pudding! Yes, soft rice pudding.

Jen holding a toucan

The highlight of the visit was definitely the chance to hold and pet various animals. My favorite bird, the toucan. My favorite butterfly, the blue morpho. And my favorite frog, the red-eye tree frog. It just doesn’t get much cooler than this! The frog was pretty quick, so my pictures are blurry and so-so, but you can kind of see him move in the video below.

They had several different kinds of toucans, and you get to be right there with them, with no cage in between you. Their beaks aren’t especially strong, and many people even have them as pets here. Beautiful, beautiful birds. Near the toucan exhibit, they had scarlet macaws, parrots, and a giant aviary where you could spot several different kind of birds. There’s also a place where they have dozens of hummingbird feeders set up, and these birds are not shy! They come within inches of you, and there are more species of hummingbirds here (24) than anywhere in the world.

Marie holding butterflies

The butterfly house was incredible. When you walk in, you see dozens of blue morpho butterflies flitting about high and low, some resting on plants or walls, and others eating from the food dishes of mashed fresh fruit. They seem happy to jump onto your finger (or your clothes) and walk around with you. There’s also a place where you can see the butterfly eggs, caterpillars, cocoons, and butterflies in every stage of their existence. I learned they usually live for about 3-4 weeks as butterflies. And their entire life span from egg to death is about 4 months.

Besides these, they also had monkeys, jungle cats, a sloth, a serpentarium, an orchid garden, an old-fashioned Costa Rican house, painted ox cart (with live oxen) that you can ride in, and of course the waterfalls. They also have a lodge if you want to stay the night. Incredible place. I’m so glad we went.

Here are some pictures and videos from the trip.

Brandon is a location independent entrepreneur, musician, worldschooling father, and the principal author of this blog. He's all about reaching his potential and enjoying life to the fullest in each moment.


  1. Hi Brandon,

    How awesome – and what a wonderful adventure for your family! :) One of my favorite computer games growing up was called the “Amazon Trail”. The very animals you all interacted with today were ones I loved taking pictures of in the game (for extra points). Macaws and Blue Morphos – amazing, beautiful reminders of God’s creation.

  2. What a great day it has been! It was so fun to spend it seeing and doing such fun things with our family and the missionaries. Not to mention Denny and his friend Sandra, as a way awesome added bonus. HUGE thank you to Denny for letting us know about La Paz, so we didn’t miss out on our perfect opportunity today. :)

    I never knew we could hold butterflies, and I thought it was really amazing to see the whole lifespan from egg to butterfly played out right before our very eyes. Very fun to hold the toucan as well. Those tree frogs are BEAUTIFUL animals! I absolutely loved the Puma and the Jaguar also. I especially enjoyed how active the Puma was during our visit. Cute little (big) kitty. :)

  3. I want to go!!!! Those both look like such cool destinations… Marie is just beaming with those butterflies on her fingers. What a wonderful day.

    The pitcher plant flowers are very cool – did you know they are carnivorous?

  4. Oh where to begin…what a great day trip. The animals and butterflies so beautiful, so fun to see the girls with the birds and butterflies. Nice of you to take the sister missionaries. I’m sure they were happy to go with you and experience so many interesting things.

  5. Oh wow. That looks amazing. All of it. I love how the butterfly was hanging out in Marie’s hair. She looked a bit frightened. Kennedy and I had a good laugh. What a great experience for all of you. The tree frogs are absolutely adorable. Kennedy has a stuffed animal tree frog named Flip that is their classroom ‘pet’, so she was really excited to see this video. How fun!!

  6. Wendy McLachlan Says: April 11, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    Everything looks so beautiful. The flowers, animals, and butterflys are almost as beautiful as all the people! What a great way to spend the day – I thoroughly enjoy reading about all your adventures.

  7. Hey Brandon!
    These pics are wonderful!!! I miss you guys!

  8. A beautiful blog and what a great way to track and share your experiences. The pictures and videos are wonderful – so full of life! I’m sure the kids will appreciate the archive when they grow older as they will be able to look back on certain adventures that meant a lot to them.

  9. […] already written about from previous visits. Check out my posts on Monteverde Cloud Forest and Poás Volcano and La Paz Waterfall Gardens. This time, however, we actually saw the howler monkeys at Monteverde (not just heard them like […]

  10. Hi Brandon,

    I wrote to you a few hours ago about your building an online business portion of your blog. Now I have had the opportunity to “lurk” a little more. Every indication I get (from growing up in Utah to taking the sister missionaries to La Paz) tells me that you are Mormon. If so, halleluja! So am I! As a matter of fact, I have tried for the past two weeks to find the meetinghouse in Grecia (which would be my assigned ward). I suppose you go there and could help me find a landmark. I hope you are still in Costa Rica. My mom and I would love to meet your family.
    We came to CR with the hope of doing a little “member missionary” work of our own and already my landlady says she wants to come to Church with us.
    Anyway, please email me directly at if you can give me some decent directions to the Church.

    All the best,

    Melaney Phillips

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