The Peace Lodge in the La Paz Waterfall Gardens Nature Park, offers a comprehensive, if slightly Disney-fied, introduction to the flora and fauna of Costa Rica and to one of the country’s most ambitious luxury lodges.

The Peace Lodge, which opened in 2005 in the midst of the Nature Park, has the stated goal of being the most luxurious property in Costa Rica. In addition to the usual high-end suspects like plush bedding, in-room spa treatments and smiling staff, The Peace Lodge does boast uncommon niceties like fresh flowers, lots of space (the smallest rooms are 650 square feet) and two river-fed swimming pools plus smart touches like a rope pull near the hammock on your private patio so you can keep your swing going and a de-humidifier to keep the rainforest climate at bay.

All 16 rooms and one villa are named after a species of butterfly. Thankfully, they also put your name by the door since I found it impossible to remember the convoluted Latin name of my room’s butterfly namesake. In addition to the biology lesson, all rooms come with a gas fire in a massive river stone fireplace (necessary at 5,200 feet), a big patio with a small stone Jacuzzi, a refrigerator, a coffee maker (with Costa Rican coffee, of course), Wi-Fi, hardwood floors, painted sinks, a second tub in the bathroom and  a “waterfall” shower. This sounds like a sexy and clever amenity. Sadly, the reality is more like taking a shower under a running hose so I chose to engage the traditional shower head instead.

The overall effect of The Peace Lodge is polished, rustic and romantic—like a ski resort with snow covered slopes substituted with rainforest covered ranges. If you’re not on your honeymoon, rooms do adjoin to accommodate families.

The Peace Lodge, a member of Small Distinctive Hotels of Costa Rica, claims to be an ecological property but, for me, there are just too many non-essential reasons to flip a switch—from the gas fireplace to the private Jacuzzis to the de-humidifiers that I loved so much—for the hotel to feel legitimately green.  And then there’s that high volume waterfall shower, the tons of concrete used in construction of the lodge and park facilities and the fact that they use a full-size school bus to shuttle visitors from the end of one of the trails back to the lodge.

At check in, Peace Lodge guests are given a chic little cord and carved wood bracelet to wear instead of an awful plastic bracelet. This is your proof of residency which gets you free entry to the La Paz Waterfall Gardens Nature Park (non guests who visit for the day pay a $35 entrance fee). Being a bracelet-wearing hotel guest has other benefits as well. When a man working in the aviary, which is full of toucans and birds of prey and colorful tiny species, noticed my Peace Lodge bracelet he offered to guide me around the huge enclosure and took special care explaining the beautiful birds currently housed there.

The La Paz Waterfall Gardens Nature Park opened in 2000 on 70 acres. Forty acres are still covered in rainforest and cloud forest while 30 acres had been previously cleared for cattle. Years of slow and steady planning and building have resulted in an astounding range of facilities at this attraction which is located about an hour from San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. A 2.5 mile network of trails has been finished in rough concrete making them non-slip and passable to all but the very mobility impaired. These trails allow visitors to pass by the property’s five waterfalls including the 120 foot high La Paz Waterfall. It’s beautiful, but by no means the most spectacular waterfall in Costa Rica.

Much more noteworthy are the animals you can see at La Paz Waterfall Gardens Nature Park. The bright and airy butterfly enclosure has the best signage and information I’ve ever seen in an attraction like this. It’s also home to a pair of three-toed sloths. The petite but frog-filled ranaria is an easy place to spot normally elusive red-eyed tree frogs, black and green poison dart frogs and blue jean frogs whose red and blue coloring make them appear to be wearing dungarees.

The normally serene aviary springs to live during daily scheduled feeding times when the toucans make a racket as they jostle for bits of fruit. The owners claim to have invented the hand-held contraption which visitors use to feed the hummingbirds. They also claim that their open-air hummingbird garden attract 26 species of hummingbirds “the most in Costa Rica and quite possibly the world.”

A playground-like monkey enclosure is home to about a dozen monkeys from two different species. The big cat enclosures are roomy and varied and they house ocelots, margays, pumas and jaguars. A brand new cat environment is currently under construction.

One more plus for guests of The Peace Lodge? You can leave your room and wander freely around the park at any hour of the day or night including early morning and early evening hours when the cats and monkeys are most active and visible.

Rates from: $295 double occupancy

The Peace Lodge at La Paz Waterfall Gardens Nature Park
Vera Blanca, Costa Rica
(from US) 954-727-3997

Our review of this lodge was originally published by iTraveliShop

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