So here we are back in Costa Rica fifteen years after our first trip. We spent the first couple days in Alajuela waiting to meet up with some other family members. In the meantime, we visited a couple of attractions in the town of La Garita which is just about 10-15km west of the airport and Alajuela proper.
Why La Garita? Why not. For one thing there's a former farm there (first picture above) that has over time evolved into an orchid farm which is open to the public. Well, sort of open. We arrived early-ish one morning and had to wait around until a worker showed up and then he had to call someone to come unlock the door for us but we did eventually get in and visit the farm.
Once inside, there are nicely landscaped grounds with several orchid growing houses, a bird rescue center, pond area and a fun little bamboo tunnel at the back of the property.
The orchid gardens was our first clue that prices have changed a bit since our last visit. If you're not Costa Rican, attraction prices throughout the country are fairly high. A few things were closer to outrageously high. The orchid garden is not one of those, we'll leave it at just "fairly high".
It's very nicely maintained though and this is a great place to stop if you have a half-day before a flight out or a half-day after a morning flight in. It's a lot more fun than standing in line for customs at the airport too (which you've probably done by now if you made it this far). This is beehive ginger, our official favorite plant in Costa Rica. It does not look real but we assure you it is in fact real and does actually grow wild like this.
You can see a variety of native wildlife at the orchid gardens including lizards and birds. It's also probably about 5 degrees Celsius cooler here than it is in Alajuela or San Jose.
Not far from the orchid gardens is the center of La Garita. There's not a whole lot to see here but there are a couple of restaurants and an ice cream / sorbet place.
Also in La Garita is Zoo Ave which is one of the larger wildlife centers in Costa Rica. They have great displays on pretty much everything that lives in the country. Here's a map of well, most of the zoo. It's worth getting used to taking pictures of all the maps in Costa Rica because you are rarely going to get one of your own. Most places tell you it's more ecologically friendly not to print individual maps. They are right, although given the prolific guide industry in Costa Rica there may be other reasons too.
The zoo also has nicely maintained shady trails through the exhibits. We actually saw wild capuchin monkeys here as well as the caged ones. We did take pictures of the animals but well, it's a zoo and as it turns out we saw quite a lot of these species in the wild during the rest of our trip in Costa Rica, so we'll save the wildlife pictures for the actual wild life.
These things. We are not sure exactly what they are or what the technical term for them is but we call them tree squids and you should too. Look at them, if that's not a tree squid, I don't know what would be.