'Plants and Gardens of Costa Rica'

What makes this trip special?

Gardens of the Central Valley

Gardens of the Central Valley

Costa Rica's Central Valley

Many notable gardens lie within Costa Rica's rural Central Valley: the popular Else Kientzler Garden, the beautiful forest garden reserve at Nectandra, and the Ark Herb Farm which boasts one of the largest collections of herbs, flowers and ornamental plants in Central America. There's also the spectacular La Paz Waterfall Gardens nearby which is well worth a visit.

Picturesque verdant valley

Picturesque verdant valley

Orosi Valley

The Orosi valley is a peaceful, pretty place shielded by steep sided mountains dotted with small communities, coffee plantations, rivers and waterfalls. Here the ruins of the country's oldest church, Ujarras, can be found.

Quiet "Garden of Eden" cloud forest

Quiet "Garden of Eden" cloud forest

San Gerardo de Dota & Los Quetzales NP

Tranquil forested valley alive with trout-filled streams close to the highest pass in Costa Rica. Experience 'paramos' habitat above the tree line and keep your eyes peeled - this is the most reliable place in the country to spot the Resplendent quetzal

Remote haven for birds, butterflies and plants

Remote haven for birds, butterflies and plants

Las Cruces Research Station and Wilson Botanical Garden

A little visited, off the beaten track corner of Costa Rica where over 400 species of birds, 800 species of butterflies, 100 species of mammals and a high diversity of reptiles, amphibians and plantlife have been recorded. An excellent locetion for birders, plantsmen and butterfly enthusiasts

Wonderful eco-lodge in private botanical reserve

Wonderful eco-lodge in private botanical reserve

Macaw Lodge

A family owned and run genuine eco-lodge set within a 264 acre private forest reserve and tropical botanical garden high in the hills above the Carara area. Fabulous for birdwatchers, nature enthusiasts or those keen to relax in a peaceful natural setting

Itinerary map for Costa Rica 'Plants and Gardens of Costa Rica' holiday


  • Day      Overnight
  • 1 San José
  • 2 San José
  • 3 San José
  • 4 Cachi
  • 5 Cachi
  • 6 San Gerardo de Dota
  • 7 San Gerardo de Dota
  • 8 OTS Los Cruces
  • 9 OTS Los Cruces
  • 10 OTS Los Cruces
  • 11 Macaw Lodge
  • 12 Macaw Lodge
  • 13 Macaw Lodge
  • For the detail of each day click the ‘Day-by-day’ tab above.

Day-by-day itinerary for 'Plants and Gardens of Costa Rica'


The Central Valley

You are met at San José’s airport and taken to your hotel in the Central Valley outside the city, with over 10 acres of flower-filled gardens and a swimming pool. You stay here for 3 nights.


A day to relax and enjoy the hotel’s gardens planted with a great variety of lilies, heliconias, palms, ornamental trees, bromeliads and orchids. Very popular with butterflies and birds.


Three notable gardens lie within easy drives of your hotel. The popular Else Kientzler Garden has wide array of tropical plants set in large gardens in formal and landscaped styles. The beautiful forest garden reserve of Nectandra shows the natural richness of the cloud forest. Ark Herb Farm, primarily a nursery, boasts one of the largest collections of herbs, flowers and ornamental plants in Central America. You could choose to visit one or two of them, or the spectacular La Paz Waterfall Gardens, or Poás Volcano.


The Orosí Valley

Leaving the Central Valley you travel to the area below the impressive Turrialba volcano to call at CATIE, a world centre for research for tropical agriculture, especially coffee, with spacious gardens busy with birds (including toucans) butterflies and lizards. You continue to the Orosí valley, a tranquil, pretty place flanked by steep-sided mountains dotted with villages, coffee fincas, tumbling rivers and waterfalls. You stay 2 nights outside the small town of Cachi at a small hotel in verdant gardens.


Visit Lankester Botanical Gardens, laid out in areas of heliconia, bromeliads, palm, ferns, cacti and dramatic stands of bamboo. Its greenhouses hold 800 orchid species that mostly bloom between February and May.


San Gerardo de Dota

A moderate drive up and over the mountains brings you into the enchanting valley of San Gerardo de Dota deep in the cloud forest. You stay two nights at a lodge at the valley’s end.


Exploring the cloud forests of Los Quetzales NP you walk beneath branches laden with orchids, bromeliads, ferns and moss. Look for the Resplendent Quetzal that gives the park its name.


OTS Las Cruces and Wilson Botanical Garden

Today you travel south, passing through the paramó landscape of Cerro de la Muerte, and stopping to visit Los Cusingos Bird Sanctuary before you arrive at the village of San Vito and the Wilson Botanical Garden, run by the Organisation for Tropical Studies’ Las Cruces research station, close to the Panama border. Although little visited, this is a good area for plantsmen, birders and butterfly enthusiasts. Stay 3 nights at Las Cruces Lodge, a simple lodge that suits the visiting scientists and student groups.


A guided walk through the Wilson garden. Dating from the early 1960s, the 30 acre site has extensive paths through plantings of gingers, lilies, heliconias, bromeliads, agaves and bamboo. The star of the show is a collection of over 700 palms–one of the world’s largest. Over 400 species of birds have been recorded around Las Cruces, 800 species of butterflies, over 100 species of mammals, and a high diversity of reptiles and amphibians.

DAY 10

A free day to revisit Wilson Botanical Garden or perhaps explore the area, e.g. Finca Cántaros, a private nature reserve and craft shop, or La Amistad NP, one of Costa Rica’s largest and most remote national parks

DAY 11


Today you travel up to the central Pacific coast, a longish drive. You pass Manuel Antonio NP and take a narrow road into the mountains of Carara to stay 3 nights at Macaw Lodge a family-run ecolodge in beautiful gardens. Stops, if time allows, could include the ‘Pacific Rainforest Aerial Tram’ near Jacó to ride through the forest canopy by cable car.

DAY 12

Two days free at Macaw Lodge. Its 264 acres include 8km of trails and a 12 acre garden with over 500 species of ornamental, medicinal and edible plants, around natural ponds and tumbling streams. There are orchards and cacao plantations, and demonstrations of hydroponics, aquaponics and vermiculture. Guided birding, night walks and chocolate tours are available.

DAY 13

Second free day based at Macaw Lodge.

DAY 14

On your way to the airport you might visit the ‘La Garita’ nursery in Alajuela before your international flight home.

Guide prices for 'Plants and Gardens of Costa Rica'

options based on all year low season mid season high season peak season other season
Mid-range hotels, selfdrive (Tucson) 2 people sharing £2,565 £2,905
Mid-range hotels, local bilingual guide/driver basis 2 people sharing £4,915 £5,290
Prices are per person and include:
  • all travel in Costa Rica
  • all accommodation
  • meals as indicated (B = breakfast, L = lunch, D = dinner)
Prices do not include:
  • international flights
  • travel insurance
  • airport and departure taxes
  • items of a personal nature such as drinks, tips, laundry, etc
  • any optional excursions you may buy locally

Customer reviews for 'Plants and Gardens of Costa Rica'

Recent reviews are shown here from holidays based on this initial design. In each case the itinerary may have been modified (a little or a lot) to suit the individual traveller.


Seasonal information for 'Plants and Gardens of Costa Rica'

Along this route in January

Day Location Max °C Monthly rainfall
1 San José 24°C rainfall 28mm
2 San José 24°C rainfall 28mm
3 San José 24°C rainfall 28mm
4 Cachi 23°C rainfall 160mm
5 Cachi 23°C rainfall 160mm
6 San Gerardo de Dota 16°C rainfall 85mm
7 San Gerardo de Dota 16°C rainfall 85mm
8 OTS Los Cruces 26°C rainfall 41mm
9 OTS Los Cruces 26°C rainfall 41mm
10 OTS Los Cruces 26°C rainfall 41mm
11 Macaw Lodge 31°C rainfall 11mm
12 Macaw Lodge 31°C rainfall 11mm
13 Macaw Lodge 31°C rainfall 11mm

Typical weather for January


Max °C figures are the average daily maximum temperatures for the month. Rainfall is the average precipitation for the month.

Hotels for 'Plants and Gardens of Costa Rica'

Days 1 - 3



Average rating 4.8 (297 ratings)

Hotel Bougainvillea is a very nice 3-4 star hotel set among ten acres of lush flower filled gardens and surrounded by coffee plantations and citrus orchards. Situated in Heredia it provides a quiet first/last night hideaway just 15 minutes from the international airport and from downtown San José. Bedrooms are rather bland, but spacious with two double beds, a sitting area and the full range of facilities. Most of the rooms have free wi-fi internet access. Every room has a balcony offering marvelous views of the mountains on one side and the San José skyline on the other. There is a light and pleasant dining room, a large inviting swimming pool and 2 tennis courts. This is a good option for gardeners, birdwatchers and those who prefer to stay out of the city centre.  It is not ideal if you intend travelling around Costa Rica by shuttle bus transfers.

Day 5

Quelitales Hotel


Hotel Quelitales is a small boutique hotel set at 1,370m in extensive verdant grounds just outside the rural mountain town of Cachi.   

Each of the hotel's 9 rooms and suites have queen or king-sized beds with memory foam mattresses and 100% cotton bedding, private bathrooms with showers, coffee machines, mini-bar, private terraces or balconies with garden of mountain views. Suites have additional screened outdoor showers. No TVs in rooms.

Owner Jose, a Cachi native, is an acclaimed chef who runs the hotel's highly regarded 'Casa Jose' restaurant, using fresh local organic produce to create Costa Rican/international fusion cuisine with an innovative twist. Specialities include local trout and tilapia.

The 12 acre property comprises landscaped gardens and primary forest - there is a 3.5km onsite trail, waterfall with natural pools.

A comfortable base from which to explore nearby sites such as Tapanti National Park, the Ujarras ruins, and Lankester Botanical Gardens

Quelitales Hotel
Days 6 - 7

Trogon Lodge

San Gerardo de Dota

Average rating 4.7 (18 ratings)

A family farm in the mountains at 7000 ft, a fresh water river also runs through the property. Guest accommodations include 10 rustic cabins, each one with 2 private bedrooms, private bathroom, hot water and heating. Home-cooked meals are served in a family style restaurant.  Optional Quetzal spotting tours and horse riding are available in this enchanted valley.

Trogon Lodge
Days 8 - 10

Las Cruces (Wilson Botanical Garden)

nr San Vito

Average rating 4.8 (4 ratings)

Twelve guestrooms have private baths (hot-water showers) and balconies that overlook the beautiful grounds of the Wilson Garden. Meals are served family style at set hours (6:30 a.m., 12 noon, 6 p.m.) in a light-filled dining room that also has an outdoor terrace and views of the Talamanca Mountains. Food is plentiful, vegetarian offerings are always available, and box lunches can be arranged. Drinking water is from a mountain spring and is safe. Same-day laundry service is available ($8 per load, washed, dried, and folded). The lodge does not serve alcohol.

Las Cruces (Wilson Botanical Garden)
Days 11 - 13

Macaw Lodge


Average rating 4.4 (8 ratings)

Macaw Lodge is a beautifully designed eco-lodge set high in the hills above Costa Rica's Pacific coast. The timber-built main lodge looks over a beautiful lake amid an extensive tropical botanic garden, within a large 264 acre private forest reserve. Attractive cabins have been carefully placed around the gardens, and there is a yoga platform in a very striking and peaceful setting among stands of giant bamboo. There is a small cacao plantation for the lodge's hand-made chocolate, and a series of organic kitchen gardens that provide many of the ingredients for the lodge's 'farm to table' menu.


Macaw Lodge