Cats and falls

I’m fascinated by big cats and leery of small ones and have been ever since I saw an old B&W movie about a woman with a house full of cats. Her kids knocked her off to inherit her millions and her cats sought revenge by picking them off one by one. I’ve never been able to sit comfortably in a room with a cat since and take good care never to speak ill of them within earshot. But the big cats, those I like.

A day trip from San José sits La Paz Waterfall Gardens and Animal Refuge. It bills itself as the…

…#1 most visited privately owned ecological attraction in Costa Rica featuring the best hiking near San José, the most famous waterfalls in Costa Rica, animal sanctuary with over 100 species of animals, and an environmental education program.

The animals there have been rescued. The jaguars, for instance, were found during a police raid on a drug dealer’s house. He’d been keeping them as pets. It’s illegal to keep wild animals as pets in Costa Rica and every so often, the police go on a rampage. The animals they find are taken to La Paz where they’re looked after. They’ve lost their instinct and so can’t be rehabilitated into the wilds. They do the usual animal things and have kids, born behind bars, but with acres of room and plenty of variety. They look happy. And they’re beautiful.

For the Americans among us, the bigger attraction was wildlife celebrity, Jack Hanna, who was there along with his camera crew. Me? I never even noticed the palaver.

As we descended to the falls, a light mist hung over the place. The skies were grey and rain threatened. The nearby Poás volcano has been active since April 12 and so is closed to the public. The grayness was suggestive of volcanic ash but that was probably my imagination. The dense vegetation is quite spectacular and I had little trouble taking a machete-wielding flight of fancy through the rain forest. And there is a rain forest, but there’s also a cloud forest – which explains the mist. Something new on me.

A cloud forest, also called a fog forest, is a generally tropical or subtropical, evergreen, montane, moist forest characterized by a persistent, frequent or seasonal low-level cloud cover, usually at the canopy level, formally described in the International Cloud Atlas (2017) as silvagenitus.

There are five falls in all. And while they’re pretty spectacular, Bridal Veil falls in Valdez still gets my vote as the top falls I’ve seen to date.

Of the 120+ people working in La Paz, 95% of them come from towns within a 12-mile radius. It’s only been open since 2000 but takes its mission seriously.

…to preserve and protect the natural environment of the area for the education, entertainment, and enjoyment of all ages of people.

Entrance fee is $42. The **** buffet lunch is another $14. A taxi there from San José would be in the region of $60 so your best bang for your buck is to arrange a tour from your hotel which will take in breakfast and a tour of Doka Coffee Plantation, too, with pick-up and drop-off to your hotel. It’s well worth it.