Vara Blanca, Costa Rica: Unique Cloud Forest Experience
Vara Blanca is a cloud forest that is closest to San Jose in Costa Rica. There are two main cloud forests in Costa Rica. The other one is Monteverde, which is much more popular as far as there are a lot more activities to do. However, if you only have a short period of time, and you’re closer to San Jose, and even if you’re just going to Manuel Antonio, I really recommend going to check out Vara Blanca. Besides being a cloud forest, which is so unique, it is such a different experience than the rest of what Costa Rica really looks like. Very different from the rainforest because it is a little bit further up, at a higher altitude. Today we’re going to be talking about the cloud forest of Vara Blanca in Costa Rica.
Vara Blanca, Costa Rica
The ecosystem and the flora are really different. It’s also a little bit chillier. Not cold, but certainly chillier. You definitely will need a sweater in the afternoons and evenings. And the coolest thing about it, why it’s called the cloud forest, is because there are constantly clouds rolling through.
You’re always in and out of the fog. And yes, there’s going to be mist and even maybe rain, but it passes, and that’s a normal thing, and that’s what makes it such a unique experience. Personally, I think it’s one of the cooler forests or ecosystems that you could visit because it’s not every place that actually has one of these.
How to get to Vara Blanca?
When you do visit Vara Blanca, the best way to get there is by car, you can take a taxi or a shuttle. It’s approximately an hour from the international airport, about an hour and a half from San Jose itself to 2 hours if you’re coming from Manuel Antonio. So the main thing to see other than the actual cloud forest is Poas volcano is located in that area, and Poas volcano is right in the very heart of the cloud forest.
If you visit it, you could definitely do it in one day. And visiting Poas, you have to get there early enough. It’s kind of tricky because of the clouds. You need to really like, and hope that it passes through, or you don’t see a cloud because you want to be able to look into the crater.
That’s the cool thing about Poas volcano that you look into the crater versus that it is a conical-style volcano. Another really popular activity to do in that area. And you could easily do both Poas volcano and this particular activity in one day, and that is La Paz Waterfalls and Gardens.
La Paz Waterfalls
So what is that? There is an incredibly popular hotel, a very high-end hotel called the Peace Lodge. Peace Lodge owns La Paz Waterfalls and Gardens, which you could do as a day trip on your own.
It is located right in the very heart of the cloud forest. So you’re constantly inside this beautiful ecosystem. And they have really done a beautiful job with their gardens. And it’s also a rescue center for jaguars, monkeys, and sloths, they have an aviary, and they have a butterfly garden. You could also see an ox, which is a very Costa Rican animal, and they still use them to this day.
Where to Eat?
There are restaurants where you could also have lunch in or dinner if you want. The gardens themselves are open from nine to five. But the coolest part about the gardens is you can walk to this unbelievable waterfall. It’s probably one of the most impressive waterfalls in all of Costa Rica by far. And if you don’t go to the actual Peace Gardens, you can actually drive past the waterfall, and it’s actually on the way to the volcano.
So if you don’t want to go to the actual gardens, that’s understandable. I think it’s like $50 for the day entry fee. You could just check out the waterfall and which is free off of the road. You could even park your car, or if you’re in a shuttle or a bus, they usually stop for a few minutes for you to take pictures as well. So it’s a really cool experience to check out.
I have an entire podcast about Peace Lodge if you want to stay at the Peace Lodge and the waterfall gardens a lot more, so make sure to go and check that out if you do want to stay there. But when you are in Vara Blanca, the two main real attractions are Poas Volcano and the La Paz waterfalls and gardens.
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