Toucan in Zoo, Costa Rica

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About 10km west of Alajuela is this well-designed animal park with more than 115 species of bird on colorful, squawking display. The tranquil 14-hectare setting is also home to all four species of Costa Rican monkey, reptiles, wild cats and other animals, many of which have been rescued and rehabilitated. Though technically a zoo, it is also an important animal-breeding center that aims to reintroduce native animals into the wild; admission fees fund wildlife rescue, rehabilitation, release and conservation programs.

Most animals are in enclosures, but iguanas and peacocks roam free in the park. Kids will enjoy feeding the animals at the mini-farm, which has miniature pigs, donkeys and horses. The park's restaurant, Kivu, serves buffet food ($US11), à la carte dishes such as grilled sea bass and penne bolognese, plus salads and sandwiches.