One of the best luxury mountain lodges anywhere in the world!
– review of the lodge and it’s private nature park and animal sanctuary.
There is only a handful of Resorts around the world so mesmerizing that at first glance you’re stunned, unable to speak and convey the unimaginable scene before you, the Peace Lodge is at the top of this list.
You make your way along one of the most beautifully scenic roads in all of Costa Rica curving along the mountains with so many awe-inspiring lookouts you’ll want to stop again and again. As you get higher up in elevation you reach the Cloud Forest and actually pass through the clouds, which roll in and out revealing the gorgeous thick green Rainforest and plummeting waterfalls along the mountain. We even stopped to view a white-nosed Coati (locally known as a Pizote) digging for food by the road.
Just before entering the Peace Lodge you are greeted by the most popular and photographed waterfall in all of Costa Rica, La Paz Waterfall. This 110-ft waterfall was so captivating that you felt like a kid again just teaming with excitement and joy etched all over your face. We parked at the Peace Lodge’s reception office and were amazed that somewhere so naturally aesthetically pleasing was less than one hour away from the San Jose Airport and its crazy crowded roads.
Yep, this was the Costa Rica we had only dreamed about. Most grandiose hotels, lodges and resorts might have everything, but they contrast mightily with their surroundings and from the outside they end up being an eyesore that subtracts from the beauty around them. The Peace Lodge and Waterfall Gardens manages, with absolute precision, to become a part of the Rainforest and Cloud Forest perfectly, complementing each other and instead of taking away from their surroundings, the Peace Lodge stays natural and non-invasive. With only a handful of luxurious guest rooms on the mountaintop, there’s nothing to restrict the best views of the Cloud and Rainforest along with the towering and active Poás Volcano, only 20 minutes away. Also, by keeping room numbers minimal and spread out there is a romantic ambiance that you will find nowhere else as the sounds of silence are only broken up by the relaxing noises of rushing waterfalls nearby and the songs of birds passing by.
Checking in, we were greeted by concierge Jose who treated us like valued friends and took care of everything making our stay even more enjoyable. Jose gave us delicious welcome drinks with tropical fruits and sugarcane liquor. With a map of the grounds, he detailed the schedule for a tour of the gardens and promptly made us a dinner reservation. Then we were off to check out our room. We stayed in the Heliconius Erato, a standard room with two double beds. The room was far from standard however, with all its wooden and stone accents and openness masterfully blended with the Rainforest. The room came equipped with a river stone fireplace that you could set on a timer and enjoy on a beautiful two-person wooden rocker, a stone shower that poured out as a waterfall with stone frog knobs and a matching tub. There was a colorful stained glass window too that framed one of its walls. The bathroom also had an ornate light fixture that mimicked the rainforest canopy’s tree branches with a dimmer switch. The beautiful bathroom also featured an exclusive line of all natural aromatherapy bath products with Ylang Ylang infused shampoo and a Papaya Tangerine body wash that smelled so good it almost seemed edible!
As impressive as the interior of our room was, the highlight had to be the balcony. Our immense balcony had a hanging hammock and a giant stone Jacuzzi which we turned into a bubble bath with some body wash and enjoyed our views of the rainforest in complete privacy, well other than the beautiful hummingbirds that would come and eat from our feeder on the balcony. This was an absolute paradise and because of its singular location, the Peace Lodge could never be duplicated.
We ate upstairs at the Vista Poas Restaurant. You could come fairly casual, but after tasting the food, it is clear that this is a fine dining establishment. Our servers Daniel and Byron were top-tier professionals that explained the specials and answered all of our questions with clarity. We were treated to an elegant appetizer and a bread tray with a delicious cream cheese based spread that we devoured. We also shared a French Onion Soup, which came out in a huge covered bread bowl. The cheese they used was so rich and the broth was not overpowering. For our entrees I got these gigantic smoky spare ribs with a sweet papaya barbecue sauce alongside some creamy mashed potatoes and my wife got the Rainbow Trout Napoleon with the fish plucked straight from their Trout Lake at the Peace Lodge. It was so good with the coconut milk rice and was seasoned flawlessly.
Some people choose the full experience and actually fish at the spring fed fresh water Trout Lake and eat what they catch, then enjoy some drinks at the Big Trout Bar and relax in one of their jacuzzis with the most splendid views. We went the next day to the Peace Lodge’s Tortillas Restaurant for a gourmet breakfast buffet. Nothing is better in the morning than starting it out with some locally roasted coffee. Our servers were right there to fill up our mugs. Along with the coffee and juices was a station where you could make your own personalized tropical fruit smoothies.
We toasted some of their homemade artisan breads and had them make us an omelet with only the ingredients that we chose. They also offered to make pancakes and French toast as well. We sat outside to enjoy the panoramic view of the cloud forest, the Poás Volcano, and La Paz Waterfall Gardens as the most beautiful and colorful birds came to watch us and beg for a scrap or two.
With bellies full and satisfied, it was time to tackle the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, which is the #1 Most Visited Privately-Owned Ecological Attraction in Costa Rica.
We started with their Aviary, which was one of the biggest and best ones I’ve seen anywhere. Every turn downward or upward was something new to behold as colorful Tanagers and Motmots zoomed all around us through the trees. We were amazed by the large Black Guan with its deep colored face as it roamed freely only feet from us. All over the walking rails and in the water was some cute Black Bellied Whistling Ducks. What really made this Aviary shine, however, was their Toucan exhibit. Being able to get up close and personal with them and even feed these iconic birds from your hand was beyond riveting. Not only were the birds everywhere, but you also got to see two adorable Two Toed Sloths (that we found out had come from the Sloth Sanctuary that we visited in Limon).
Next, we entered their Butterfly Garden. Represented here was over 4,000 butterflies from 25 different species, which fluttered around like the fluorescent blue Morpho Peleides and ate on the fruit pieces left along the trails. They had a really neat laboratory, which showcased all the larva and pupa stages of the butterfly and by their steadfast efforts and cares they have changed the survival rate of a butterfly reaching adulthood from 5% to 55%. That’s a remarkable sustainability that the Peace Lodge employs on all its nature and wildlife.
Their Monkey Pass was split into two separate exhibits. One had the cute and playful White-throated Capuchin, which were as interested in us as we were in them and the other side had some Black-handed Spider Monkeys, which swung around gracefully by their powerful tails.
Just in front of the Monkey Pass was the Hummingbird Garden with 27 different hummingbird species from Costa Rica. There were feeders and flowers all over and the hummingbirds must’ve loved them, because they came in droves. You almost got whiplash looking this way and that so quickly. You were also given the chance to feed them with these special handheld flowers. They would fly so close to just your face that you could feel the wind from their wings. The Violet Sabrewing was my favorite and buzzed past me many times.
We made a quick stop through their Serpentarium and it’s 30 different snake species. Their Pitvipers were so scary and menacing that I could barely look at them, but I was amazed by their Vinesnakes. The Brown Vinesnake was perfectly camouflaged to look like a tree branch and the Green Vinesnake stood out like a neon billboard.
Leaving the Sepentarium we went to their Jungle Cats. First; we saw two Ocelots cuddling with each other in a tight ball, then two big Pumas perched high up on their rocky enclosure. Afterward, we saw a huge 200lb Jaguar staring intently at u that seemed to follow our movements and assess if we were a threat. Finally, we saw an adorable Margay, which only can be found living in trees. His markings were amazing.
The last of the animal enclosures was the Ranarium or Frog Exhibit. This is an open range exhibit so you can really get the best pictures without worrying about the reflection from the glass. Since they are nocturnal, many of the frogs were sleeping and hidden to the eye. However, we had John, a Frog Expert, who woke a couple of them up and gave us the opportunity to take the most incredible pictures that we wouldn’t have been able to get on our own. We put a stunning Red-eyed Leaf Frog on a flower for some of the best color shots I’ve ever taken. We also saw a Blue Jeans Poisonous Dart Frog and a Green Black Poisonous Dart Frog.
We left the amphibians behind and wandered into an old historical farmhouse called Casita de la Paz. There was traditional equipment and furnishings all over and a barn with cows that you could pet and even milk them. We were treated to some authentic samplings of sweet and hot sugarcane juice, some fresh made cheese and a cube of creamy Costa Rican bread pudding.
All of these places together made up the La Paz Waterfall Gardens and its star attraction is the five waterfalls all connected by a short trail with remarkable viewpoints. The first waterfall was Upper Templo Falls. Being right on the side of it you were ensnared by the raw power of it. Next, was my favorite waterfall, Magia Blanca. They set up many viewpoints to take in this giant, but none were more tremendous than the one that took you literally behind the falls and over the side looking down 120ft. At the bottom you can see Magia Blanca pouring into Encantada and Escondida Falls. Seeing the three waterfalls together framed in the thick rainforest will steal your breath away! It’s so awe-inspiring that it almost doesn’t seem real, but it most certainly is. At the bottom is the most popular and photographed waterfall La Paz, which is also accessible from the road coming in. We took the shuttle bus back to top and concluded our time in the La Paz Waterfall Gardens as well as our stay at the Peace Lodge. The best of Costa Rica was right here in one place. The waterfalls, the mountains, the birds and animals, the Cloud and Rainforest, the amazing restaurants, the most courteous and kind staff I’ve experienced anywhere, this is a place that will define your vacation and time at Costa Rica. The Peace Lodge is a place where dreams become reality and the memories that you make here will last forever.