The Robert and Catherine Wilson Botanical Garden has a rich, internationally recognized collection of tropical plants from around the world. Over 1,000 genera in more than 200 plant families form the unique collection that is an integral part of the Las Cruces Research Station. There are hundreds of bromeliads and orchids; dozens of philodendrons and other aroids of all sizes; scores of heliconias; plus ferns, gingers, marantas, giant bamboo and close 500 species of palms 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 immigrated 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 international universities and research institutions. The Wilson Botanical Garden is located at 1,200 m (3,900 ft) above sea level along a spur of the Fila Cruces of the coastal range, and it is about 300 km southeast of the capital San José in Coto Brus County.
The garden and adjacent forest (365 ha total – 900 acres) also have an impressive diversity of native plants (2,000 species). Over 425 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 60 are bats), and there is 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.
- 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.
- Dining is family style, where students and researchers mix with tourists in a spacious, friendly setting.
- There is a gift shop on site. Get a precious handmade item from an indigenous community from the area for yourself or for your loved ones. Your purchase helps us conserve this unique place.
- Other amenities include onsite library, laundry service, free Wi-Fi, and free parking.
Day visitors can have lunch at the garden, but lunch must be reserved when making your reservations or at the front desk by 10:00 am.
Things to take
You should bring all necessary prescription medicines, lightweight and fast drying hiking boots, hot weather clothes, insect repellent, umbrella or rain jacket, flashlight, binoculars, sunscreen, camera and film, extra batteries, and plastic bags to keep film/paper dry. Most of these items are also found on our gift shop.
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 on its own. Notify a staff member immediately in the event of an emergency.
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.
If you want to know more about the species list that you can to find at the research station please click here.
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 Research 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. 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 Research Station.
Phones: San José Office Tel. + (506) 2524-0607 (ext. 1340), Fax. + (506) 2524-0608
Las Cruces Reception Tel. + (506) 27734004, Fax. + (506) 2773-4109
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