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Old Natural History Visitors – Las Cruces and Wilson Botanical Garden

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General information

The Robert and Catherine Wilson Botanical Garden has a rich, internationally recognized, collection of tropical plants from around the world. Over 1000 genera in more than 200 plant families form the unique collection that is an integral part of the Las Cruces Biological Station. Aroids, bromeliads, ferns, gingers, heliconias, marantas, and palms are all well represented on the 12-hectare (30-acre) site.

The Garden was established by Robert and Catherine Wilson, who were former owners of the Fantastic Gardens tropical nursery in Miami, Florida. They emigrated to southern Costa Rica in 1962 and established the botanical garden on what were abandoned coffee plantations and land previously cleared for cattle pasture and subsistence farming. Roberto Burle Marx, a famous Brazilian landscape architect and friend of the Wilsons, assisted with the initial design of the grounds.

Robert Wilson’s skills as a gifted gardener resulted in the rapid establishment of many plants, with a particular emphasis on palms and bromeliads. Stanley Smith, an English industrialist who settled in Australia, and a devotee of tropical plants, became the Wilson Botanical Garden’s most significant patron. His support began in 1967, and to this day a horticultural trust in his name continues to be a key benefactor to the Garden.

In 1973 Las Cruces was purchased by the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS), a nonprofit consortium of universities and research institutions from the US, Costa Rica, Peru, Mexico, South Africa, and Australia. The Organization operates three biological field stations in Costa Rica (Las Cruces; La Selva; Palo Verde) as part of its mission to provide leadership in education, research, and the responsible use of natural resources in the tropics.

The Wilson Botanical Garden is located at 1,200 m (3,900 ft) above sea level along a spur of the Fila Cruces coastal range, and is about 300 km southeast of the capital San José in Coto Brus County. The prevailing temperatures at Las Cruces are pleasant and range from 21° – 27° C (70° – 80° F) during the day and 15° – 21° C (low 60° F) at night. The dry season runs from January to April, and mean annual rainfall is ~4,000 mm (157 inches).

The Garden and adjacent forest (365 ha total) also have an impressive diversity of native plants (2000 species). Over 410 species of birds have been censused around Las Cruces, as well as 800 species of butterflies, more than 100 species of mammals (of which over 50 are bats), and a high diversity of reptiles and amphibians.

The Wilson Botanical Garden is part of “La Amistad Biosphere Reserve” that encompasses 472,000 hectares of park-land and buffer zones centered in the southern Talamanca mountain range, in Costa Rica’s south pacific.

Meet hundreds of bromeliads and orchids; dozens of philodendrons and other aroids of all sizes; scores of heliconias, plus giant bamboo and more than 650 species of palms.

Facilities

  • Enjoy the lodge-style rooms, furnished with bamboo and wood, private bathroom and a private deck overlooking the lush gardens, perfect for bird and animal observation.
  • Dine is family style, where students and researchers mix with tourists in a spacious, friendly setting.
  • Gift shop, get a precious hand made item from our indigenous or a great gift for you or your love ones. Your purchase helps us conserve this unique place.
  • Laundry service
  • Free WiFi and parking
  • Library

Day visitors can have lunch at the garden, but lunch must be reserved at Reception by 10am, or previously reserved to Reservations Department, contact visit.ots@tropicalstudies.org

Things to take

Prescription medicines as needed, good walking shoes, hot weather clothes, insect repellent, umbrella or rain jacket, flashlight, binoculars, sun screen, film and camera extra batteries, plastic bags to keep film/paper dry. Most of these items are also found on our gift shop.

Caution

If you are hypersensitive to insects, bees or wasps, always carry a sting kit with you. Please walk only on marked trails, and remain watchful for snakes, bees, and wasps. If you encounter a snake, back away slowly and allow the snake to move away of its own accord. Notify a staff member immediately in the event of an emergency.

Climate

At approximately 1,200 meters elevation (3,900 feet), the prevailing temperatures range from 21° – 27° C (70° – 80° F) during the day and 15° – 21° C (low 60° F) at night. The dry season runs from January to April. The rainy season begins in May and lasts until November. The annual rainfall is approximately 4,000 mm or 157 inches.

Species list

If yoy want to know more about the species list that you can to find on the Research Station please click here.

Location

Zone: San Vito de Coto Brus, Puntarenas, Costa Rica.
Distance from San José: 287 km; 4.5 hours driving. Near the Panamanian border on Costa Rica’s coastal range (8° 47′ N, 82° 57′ W).
Getting there: Las Cruces Biological Station is located in the Pacific highlands of southern Costa Rica, 287 kilometers (178 miles) southeast of the capital city of San José. The drive by car from San José takes a minimum of 4.5 hours (without stopping). From Downtown San Jose, go east toward San Pedro and find the Interamerican Highway South (Route N° 2). Stay on this highway, passing Cerro de la Muerte, San Isidro, and Buenos Aires from where you must drive some 25 kilometers more to find Paso Real, the entrance to the Coto Brus Valley. Take a sharp left turn at the Paso Real sign, cross the bridge at río Térraba; San Vito is 46 kilometers ahead. Once in San Vito, take the fork in front of the city’s park; Las Cruces is some 6 kilometers south of San Vito. Look for the Wilson Garden/Las Cruces Biological Station.
Phones: San José Tel. + (506) 2524-0607 (ext. 1340), Fax. + (506) 2524-0608. Las Cruces Tel. + (506) 27734004, Fax. + (506) 2766-6535
Waze: Press here to load Waze

Image gallery


Request Reservation

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Guided walks through Costa Rica’s premier garden. Discover the richest botanical collection in Central America and learn about the flora and fauna of a mid-elevation forest at this leading research station in southern Costa Rica.. Visitors can arrange a guided walk with a resident biologist/naturalist guide who would lead the visitor through well-maintained, gently sloping trails, enchanting grounds filled with the richness of tropical colors and scents.

Regular Tour

A two hours guided natural history walk is offered from Monday to Saturday, twice a day at 7:30 am and 1:30 pm. The Garden is open year-round from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Private Tours

Early Birding Tour

Las Cruces is a favorite spot for birders. Here you should be able to see the Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, Silver-throated Tanager, Violaceous Trogon, Blue-headed parrot, Violet Sabrewing, and if especially lucky (!) the Turquoise Cotinga. We offer guided walks from 5:30 am for two hours. You must to book in advance.

Night Tour

Night walks can be scheduled after dinner starting at 7:00 pm for two hours. Is centered around the garden area. Anytime of the year is good for night walks, but is best if there is no rain and there is a new moon. Prior reservation is also required.

Workshops

Do not forget to consult for our workshops on different topics, created especially for groups and with the quality that characterizes us.

Garden Rules

To maintain Garden grounds, allow other visitors to also enjoy their visit, and for your safety, we ask that you follow these simple rules:

    • Wear closed toed shoes when walking around in the garden and/or forest.
    • Do not collect insects, plants, seeds, flowers, or fruits.
    • Leave plant labels where they have been placed.
    • Do not handle snakes. Although uncommon, poisonous snakes (vipers and a coral snake) are occasionally found in the garden.
    • Remain on designated trails and out of areas that are marked private.
    • Please do not smoke in any building and do not leave cigarette butts in the garden.
    • Shirt and shoes are required inside buildings. Please do not enter with muddy shoes or boots.
    • Overnight guests should always carry a flashlight.

Short Research Project supporting Las Cruces Station work

  • Flowering and pollination monitoring
  • Plant distribution in the Wilson Botanical Garden
  • Exotic plants distribution in the native forest
  • Native plant distribution at the forest restoration project
  • Insects from the forest restoration project (field and lab activity)

Custom-design itineraries

A new and exciting way of adventure… seek the thrill of exploring Costa Rica’s tropical rainforest with one of the world’s leading institutions in education and research of tropical science, the Organization for Tropical Studies.

Regular Season

(from December 15, 2018 to April 30, 2019 and June 1 to August 31, 2019)

Standard Room – Full Board

Single occupancy $105
Double occupancy $180
Additional person $67
5-12 years old children $38
Notes: Rates per night in US Dollars, taxes included. Includes: Lodging, full board and one regular guided walk per stay for two hours at 7:30 am or 1:30 pm (except on Sunday). The guided walk must be coordinated with reservations or front desk at check in time. Meals schedule: Breakfast from 6:30 am to 7:30 am, Lunch from 12:00 Pm to 1:00 pm, Dinner from 6:00 to 7:00 pm. CHECK IN: 3:00 pm, CHECK OUT: 12:30 pm

 

Standard Room – Breakfast only

Single occupancy $72
Double occupancy $124
Additional person $46
5-12 years old children $26
Notes: Rates per night in US Dollars, taxes included. Includes: Lodging, breakfast and one regular guided walk per stay for two hours at 7:30 am or 1:30 pm (except on Sunday). The guided walk must be coordinated with reservations or front desk at check in time. Breakfast from 6:30 am to 7:30 am. CHECK IN: 3:00 pm, CHECK OUT: 12:30 pm

 


Green Season

(valid for May, September, October, November, Dec 1 to 14, 2019)

Standard Room – Full Board

Single occupancy $90
Double occupancy $125
Additional person $50
5-12 years old children $32
Notes: Rates per night in US Dollars, taxes included. Includes: Lodging, full board and one regular guided walk per stay for two hours at 7:30 am or 1:30 pm (except on Sunday). The guided walk must be coordinated with reservations or front desk at check in time. Meals schedule: Breakfast from 6:30 am to 7:30 am, Lunch from 12:00 Pm to 1:00 pm, Dinner from 6:00 to 7:00 pm. CHECK IN: 3:00 pm, CHECK OUT: 12:30 pm

 

Standard Room – Breakfast only

Single occupancy $60
Double occupancy $75
Additional person $45
5-12 years old children $22
Notes: Rates per night in US Dollars, taxes included. Includes: Lodging, breakfast and one regular guided walk per stay for two hours at 7:30 am or 1:30 pm (except on Sunday). The guided walk must be coordinated with reservations or front desk at check in time. Breakfast from 6:30 am to 7:30 am. CHECK IN: 3:00 pm, CHECK OUT: 12:30 pm

 


Guided walks

(from December 15, 2018 to December 14, 2019)

Regular Short Walk (2 hrs) $30
Regular Short Walk Children $20
Regular Long Walk (4 hrs) $40
Regular Long Walk Children $35
Notes: Rates per person in US Dollars from 1 to 10 pax. Please take into consideration that the time of the walk might change according to weather. Available hours at 7:30 am and 1:30 pm (you must be there 15 minutes before to check in). Walk led by bilingual naturalist. Specific topic walk through Wilson Botanical Garden.

 

Private Short Walk 1 pax $60
Private Short Walk 2-10 pax $45
Private Long Walk 1 pax $70
Private Long Walk 2-10 pax $55
Notes: Rates per person in US Dollars. Please take into consideration that the time of the walk might change according to weather. Always according with availability. The regular tours rate Children apply also for Private Tours.

 

Early Birding Tour 1 pax $80
Early Birding Children 5-12 years old $30
Early Birding 2-10 pax $48
Notes: Avifauna of the garden at 5:30 am for two hours. Rates per person in US Dollars. Always according with availability must be coordinated with reservations or front desk (before 5:00 pm).

 

Nocturnal Wildlife Walk 1 pax $80
Nocturnal Wildlife Walk 2-10 pax $48
Nocturnal Wildlife Walk Children 5-12 years old $30
Notes: A night tour to watch the Research Station wildlife at 7:00 pm for two hours. Rates per person in US Dollars. Always according with availability must be coordinated with reservations or front desk (before 5:00 pm). Remember to bring your own flashlights.

Request Reservation

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

At Las Cruces we train graduates, undergraduates, and non-biology professionals in a broad range of courses; we facilitate scientific research, with particular emphasis on the fields of conservation biology and restoration ecology; and we provide educational outreach to kids and adults in the surrounding communities.

Please ask at Reception for further information on how to support Las Cruces, our education programs, and conservation projects including the land campaign. Your donation is essential to continuing the botanical heritage begun by the Wilsons, and maintain a strong research and education center at Las Cruces. In return, you will receive the bi-annual Las Cruces AMIGOS newsletter.

Donations are accepted at any OTS office in Costa Rica or can be sent directly to our main office in North America. All donations are fully tax-deductible in the United States, Canada, and Costa Rica.

Blue Flag

The Blue Flag Program was born in response to strengthening public health and tourism, currently has nine categories and is an interagency program, administered by various public sector institutions and some private organizations.

The Blue Flag program substantially improves the use of resources efficiently doing the work of each agency involved, which is reflected in:

    • Saving resources
    • Less pollution
    • Implementation of best environmental practices
    • Changes in the attitude of people

As an organization OTS participated since 2009 in two categories:

    • Protected Natural Areas
    • Actions to Address Climate Change-Mitigation

In which we obtained 5 and 2 stars respectively, this program is coordinated by resident biologist Rodolfo Quiroz together with the Environmental Sustainability Committee of the station.

For more information contact to Rodolfo Quirós

Certification for Sustainable Tourism

The Certification for Sustainable Tourism Program – CST – is a product of the Costa Rican Tourism Board (ICT). The CST was designed to differentiate businesses of the tourism sector, based on the degree to which they comply with a sustainable model of natural, cultural and social resource management.

CST is regulated by the Costa Rican National Accreditation Commission and consists of a scale of 5 “levels” of sustainable tourism achievement.

In the year 2011 the JBW and EBLC obtained the first levels of tourist sustainability. With this we marked the beginning of recognition for our efforts for the tourism and environmental sustainability that we initiated 50 years ago.

Between the actions taken are:

Water saving

    • Collect rainwater for reuse in toilets and laundry
    • Gray water oxidation pond project
    • Check for leakage and replace damage pipes
    • Monthly control of water consumption through the various gauges in station buildings
    • Education and training to save resources and lower consumption for visitors and workers using murals, workshops and other activities

Saving Energy

    • Use of renewable energy, particularly solar energy, cabin heaters project.
    • Education and training for saving resources and lowering consumption provided to visitors and workers with murals, signage and workshops inviting contribution to energy saving.
    • Monthly control of energy usage by measuring the different buildings at the station which monitor consumption and make the necessary adjustments.

Waste managment

    • There is a storage facility for solid waste recycling
    • Project-based composting kitchen scraps, fruit, vegetables, medicinal plants and yard waste. Bio-enzymes, bocashi and vermin culture compost are produced.
    • Monitoring and control of daily weight of all waste produced

Environmental Education Program

Within the five districts of the Coto Brus County, this program works with schools, colleges and public and private institutions. This program is directed by Ariadna Sánchez who has 6 years of experience working together with communities to develop successful projects such as:

    • Eco-Suitcase: a program for elementary school students that includes a practical guide for educators and all the associated materials for developing class activities found within the Eco-Suitcase. This project received support from the National Bank and HB Fuller who helped make it happen with their generous cooperation. • Eco-Cultural Festival: held annually in June in order to raise awareness surrounding communities about the importance of conservation while given the opportunity to see our facilities, services, projects and conservation activities . This community festival also provides a space for artistic expression such as theater, dance, local crafts and sale of environmentally friendly products.
    • Eco-Cup: This is a sport activity that began in 2012 to promote the sport and also to educate the community about the importance of conservation through exhibits by various public institutions and NGOs.

To learn more about environmental education projects contact to Emilce Ramírez

Our goal is to be a Sustainable Biological Station where our actions do not impact negatively on the environment, but to support the conservation, research and reduced utilization of resources.

OTS´s commercial activities are handled by ESINTRO, S.A.
For information and reservations: visit.ots@tropicalstudies.org
Costa Rica (506) 2524-0607 (ext. 1340) | Fax (506) 2524-0608
United States (919) 684 5774 | Fax (919) 684 5661