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yellow bromeliad
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Wilson Botanical Garden

Wilson Botanical Garden

Quick Facts

  • Location : Las Cruces Biological Station, San Vito de Coto Brus
  • Altitude : 4,000 feet above sea level
  • Area : 30 acres
  • Hours : 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m
  • Telephone : 2524-0607
  • Entrance Fee : $22 adults, $12 children

Wilson Botanical Garden is one of the world's most famous botanical gardens and tropical birding hotspots. It is home to more than 2,000 plant species (including 650 palms), 400 native and migratory birds, 800 butterfly species, and 100 mammal species. Created in 1962 by Robert and Catherine Wilson along with Roberto Burle Marx, a noted Brazilian landscape architect, the gardens focused on bromeliad and palm cultivation.

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In 1973, the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) purchased the garden and incorporated it into their Las Cruces Biological Station, one of three OTS reserves in Costa Rica. The garden spans 30 acres, and the adjacent forest in Las Cruces adds an additional 657 acres to explore. Both facilities are part of the 1,166,337-acre La Amistad National Park, an international cooperation between Costa Rica and Panama.

Resident biologists double as naturalist guides, and give informative tours through the gardens. In addition to standard walks, garden tours may be customized to a group's interests. There are three self-guided tours available – Natural History, Trees, and Palms – and the accompanying booklets are available at the gift shop. The Palms tour is highly recommended, as Wilson Botanical Garden is home to the second-largest collection of palm species in the world.

Guided tours range from 20-minute walks to three-hour hikes to the Java River through secondary forest. Private morning birdwatching tours and night hikes are available by reservation only. The OTS also offers several workshops per year, including their renowned "Bird Watching 101," which offers a spectacular introduction to rainforest birds and several endangered species that live within the reserve.

Facilities:

Wilson Botanical Garden has a gift shop for the purchase of self-guided tour materials, plant guides, souvenir t-shirts, and souvenirs. Additionally, Las Cruces Biological Station has private cabins for overnight stays. An onsite restaurant serves family-style meals with vegetarian options, and the kitchen packs boxed lunches upon request.

Weather:

Wilson Botanical Garden is located high in the mountains, and temperatures average 70º- 80º F during the day and in the low 60's at night. The green season (May-November) is very wet, averaging 157 inches of rainfall per year. Comfortable clothing and hiking shoes are recommended year-round.

Getting There:

By Car: From San Jose, take the Interamerican Highway south over the Cerro de la Muerte, through San Isidro del General and into Buenos Aires. Approximately 15 miles past Buenos Aires, you will drive into Paso Real, the entrance to the Coto Brus Valley. At the Paso Real sign, turn left and cross the bridge over the Terraba River. Drive 29 miles into San Vito. At the San Vito central park, take the fork and follow signs to Las Cruces Biological Station/Wilson Botanical Garden, which is about three miles farther.

By Air: The closest airport is in Golfito. From there, a taxi can be hired to travel 1.5 hours to the garden and biological station.

Wilson Botanical Garden in Pictures