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. The guided walks last approximately 2 hours. The Garden is open year-round from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Booklets for self-guided tours (Natural History, Trees, Palms) of the garden can be purchased at the Gift Shop. A few of the garden collections are described below and their location is indicated on the adjacent map.
Natural History Tour
Seventeen numbered stations take you on an easy loop trail around the gardens. The self-guided tour will introduce you to the ecology of some of the major plant groups found in the garden. (2 hours)
This tour leads you on a loop trail that introduces you to 33 tree species. Some are native to Costa Rica; many others have been brought from all over the world. The tour will explain some of the methods and characteristics used to identify tree species in the field. You will also learn some of the important economic and cultural uses of many of these plants. (2 – 3 hours)
The Wilson Botanical Garden houses the second largest collection of palms in the world. This tour introduces you to 50 species, although many other specimens are planted throughout the garden. Take your time to stroll around the grounds and appreciate the incredible diversity of this majestic family of plants. Many specimens have identifying labels. (2 hours)
Over 180 species of Anthurium are found in Costa Rica and Panama. Many of the diverse leaf shapes and growth forms of this large Aroid genus are represented in our collection. Anthuriums should be flowering at any given time of the year, showing their characteristic ‘stalked’ inflorescence of tiny flowers known as a spadix. The trail starts on Tree Fern Hill. (30 minutes)
The second largest family of plants in the world (with over 20,000 species) is represented in the garden along a trail near the Wilson house and in the orchid greenhouse (by appointment), but specimens can be found attached to trees all over the garden. A number of specimens are labeled and if you are lucky, you may find one flowering! (20 minutes)
This section of the garden houses an impressive collection of bamboo of all sizes. Bamboo belongs to the grass family and is found all over the world. On a windy day some of the larger species in the garden sound like gigantic wind chimes. (20 minutes)
The short and long loop trails traverse two beautiful creeks and allow you to explore the secondary forest that surrounds the Wilson Botanical Garden. This area had been completely cleared when the Wilson first started the Garden in the early 1960s. The forest has recovered over the last 40 years, and you will see many native plants growing in their natural habitat. Note that both trails have steep sections. (Short loop 20 minutes; long loop 45 minutes)
The Rio Java & Primary Forest Trails
Access is restricted to overnight guests only. The trail takes you through a picturesque section of secondary forest, crossing a number of small creeks along the way. It is a well-maintained trail but only people in good physical condition should hike it. Bamboo walking sticks and rubber boots are available upon request. Remember that it gets dark by 6pm! (2 – 3 hours)
Several trails into the primary forest and the Melissa restoration plots are accessible from the Rio Java trail. These trails have steep sections and are only for experienced hikers. Please ask for information and a map at Reception before going to the primary forest.
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.
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 walks from 5:30 – 7:30 am or 7:30 – 9:30 am. Advance reservation is required.
Night walks can be scheduled after dinner (start around 7:00 – 7:30 pm). The night walk lasts approximately 2 hours, and 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.
Do not forget to consult for our workshops on different topics, created especially for groups and with the quality that characterizes us.
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)
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.