Gifford Arboretum Golden Anniversary Tour of Gardens of Costa Rica

9-18 May, 1997; Limited to 20 Participants.
Itinerary Plan

Day 1 (May 9) (Las Orquideas Inn)

Depart Miami in the evening. Arrive San Jose, Costa Rica at the Juan Santamaria International Airport located five minutes from the town of Alajuela.

Welcome to Costa Rica! The first two nights will be in nearby Las Orquideas Inn, " a charming inn in a lovely garden setting. Eighteen ample rooms have arched windows that let in lots of light, fresh flowers (orchids of course) and private baths..... Mere is a pretty swimming pool and paths to walk on and admire the tropical plants on this 5-acre estate. ..A marvelous breakfast is included. You will have to share it in the company of the free-flying toucans who have made Las Orquideas their home." (Sheck 1996, p. 89)

Day 2 (May 10) (Las Orquideas Inn)

Morning trip on the highway that cuts through Braulio Carrillo National Park to the Rain Forest Aerial Tram (about 3.5 mi after the bridge over the Hondura and Sucio rivers).

"Bringing ski-lift technology to the rainforest, the tram passes through ... the hanging gardens of Central America, the forest canopy where it is believed that two-thirds off all the species in the forest live. As you move slowly along the 1.6-mi, 90-minute round trip, with brief pauses... you wilt see the plants whose flowers you find when walking on trails [below], and perhaps monkeys or anteaters or some of the more than 300 species of birds in this area. The highest part of the ride is 100 feet above the ground. There are also small trails at each end of the ride." (Scheck 1996, p. 130). Lunch at the open-air restaurant is planned.

Afternoon trip to the Museo Nacional in San Jose.

An introduction to Costa Rica's history and culture in a beautiful nineteenth century building located on a hill. It was converted from a military fortress. "An exhibit on modem history joins pre-Columbian art, natural history and religious art. The Plaza de la Democracia next door, dedicated in 1989, commemorates one hundred years of democracy in Costa Rica." ( Scheck 1996, p. 65)

Evening out: "Bienvenido a Costa Rica" Banquet at the La Bijahua Restaurant

(named for a beautiful wild Calathea and known for its Costa Rican nouvelle cuisine)

"... 'I want to use traditional Costa Rican vegetables, fruits, meats and seafood to create something different and exciting,' explained Dona Isabel Campabadal, owner, chef and author of three cookbooks. The result is Bijahua, a restaurant of great charm and elegance and a showcase where wonderful new ways of preparing and presenting traditional ingredients are demonstrated. [For example,] the seabass stuffed with hearts of palm and red bell pepper sauce.. [or].. prime Costa Rican beef tenderloin served with a choice of beet, mustard and olive or red bell pepper and cashew sauce. [Desserts include] macadamia and caramel tart. [or].. the passion-fruit soufflé with strawberry sauce..." - Phil McNab, 1996, Costa Rica's Best Guide 17:52,55.

Day 3 (11 May) (Turriaftico)

Morning trip to the Private Garden of dona Ileana de Teheran in Curridabat, San Jose.

A rare opportunity to visit a private garden of a key member of the Costa Rican horticultural community.

Afternoon journey across the Continental Divide towards Turrialba with a stop at Lankester- Botanical Garden.

About 2.5 ml from Cartago, the 26-acre garden was "..bought in 1973 by the North American Society of Orchideology and the Stanley Smith Foundation of England. [The garden which especially features epiphytes,] was donated to the University of Costa Rica. ... there are more than 800 species of orchids Trails lead over brooks, under arbors, to greenhouses, though a breathtaking display of flowers and trees, that attract more than 100 species of birds." (Scheck 1996, P. 99)

Evening arrive Turrialtico.

About 7 mi from Turrialba, the Turrialtico is a rustic, but comfortable hotel in the mountains overlooking Turrialba. It has 12 rooms with private baths that are above the lodge's "locally popular restaurant [featuring excellent native dishes]; the restaurant has a dynamite view of the valley. Pleasant rooms, brightened by Guatemalan bedspreads, open onto a common space with two appealing sitting areas." (Scheck 1996, p. 103-104)

Day 4 (12 May) (Albergue Rio Savegre, Finca Chacon)

Morning excursion to CA TIE (Centro Agronomico Tropical de Investigacion y Ensenanza).

This agricultural education, extension and research center focuses on studies of "cacao, coffee, plantains, spices, fruit trees and peach palm (Pejibaye), [as well as] livestock and dairy production. Some 1,200 students from 34 nations hold master's degrees from its graduate studies programs." We will choose from these options "the forest walk, bird observation, agroforestry systems, arboretum, plant collection, seed bank or the lake.." (Scheck 1996, p. 103).

Afternoon travel to Albergue Rio Savegre, Cabinas Chacon.

Located between Cartago and San Isidro del General in the Talamancas mountains, this is the cloud forest site (6,890 ft) where "they don't talk about `if' you see a quetzal, they say `when.' Cabinas Chacon has 15 comfortable, simply furnished cabins, all with private baths. There is a spacious restaurant ... the food is good and plentiful, and fresh trout does appear on the menu. A lovely, bright lounge has lots of glass looking out on the river and to a dazzling display of hummingbirds who come to the feeders. Fire blazes in the fireplace. [The farm still has a small dairy, and extensive apple orchards.] A walk along a country road affords a look at flowering trees and the rushing river alongside. About half of the farm is primary forest. [Several marked trails provide options for forest hikes ranging from 1/2 mi, to 2.5 mi, to 5-mi to a long hike to the Cerro de La Muerte, which can also be reached by car.] (Scheck 1996, p.344-345).

Day 5 (13 May) (Albergue Rio Savegre, Finca Chacon)

Exploration of the Cloud Forest and Farm at Finca Chacon (described above) and trip to Cerro de La Muerte (Paramo vegetation). This type of vegetation is found on the highest mountains within tropical latitudes only. "This is the northernmost true paramo in the hemisphere, with [unique associations of plants] like those found in Andean climes. At this top-of-the-world vantage point (the highest point of the road is 10,938 feet), when conditions are right, it is possible to see both coasts."

Day 6 (14 May) (OTS Las Cruces Station at San Vito/Robert and Catherine Wilson Botanical Garden)

Morning departure for our featured destination in the southern Pacific highlands of Costa Rica near the Panamanian border. Pass through paramo vegetation, through forests with red bromeliads and tree ferns, descending into the General Valley, through San Isidro del General. Continue south through ranch country and then into pineapple plantations and beyond past El Brujo. Lunch stop along the way. Just before the Interamerican Highway crosses the Rio Grande de Terraba, turn off to San Vito. Follow the road which was the Indian route from Paso Real to Panama

Late afternoon arrival and dinner at the OTS Las Cruces Biological Station/Wilson Botanical Garden. Founded by Robert and Catherine Wilson in 1962, the 25-acre garden was later turned over to the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS). OTS uses it as a field station for its graduate-level courses in tropical biology, tropical plant systematics and agroecology. OTS is a consortium of North American and Central American universities and research institutions.

"Having risen from the ashes of a devastating fire that destroyed the lodge, library and laboratories in November 1994, Las Cruces now offers 12 double rooms with private baths. The lightfilled rooms have hardwood floors and a glass wall onto a balcony with garden and mountain views ... Each is named for a flower. You are practically guaranteed to see fiery-billed aracaris from your balcony." (Scheck 1996, p. 356). The dining hall serves delicious breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Box lunches available.

Day 7 (15 May) (OTS Las Cruces Station at San Vito/Robert and Catherine Wilson Botanical Garden)

Roberto Burle-Marx, world-renowned Brazilian landscape designer, was involved in planning the garden. "This garden contains an internationally known collection of tropical plants. Eighty per cent of the tropical and subtropical genera of palms are grown here --- the second largest collection in the world -- and many can be seen on the delightful Tree Fern Trail. [Other trails] include the Heliconia Loop Trail, Bromeliad Walk, Fern Gully (Costa Rica has 800 species of ferns), Maranta Trail, Bamboo Walk, the Natural History Loop, and the Hummingbird Garden. When you have had your fill of planted gardens, takeoff on trails that touch the 580-acre natural forest reserve. The Garden and forest reserve contain about 3,000 native species of plants, 4,000 exotic species, more than 326 species of birds, 80 species of mammals, 71 species of reptiles and amphibians and more than 3,000 kinds of moths and butterflies." (Scheck 1996, p. 356).

Day 8 (16 May) (OTS Las Cruces Station at San Vito/Robert and Catherine Wilson Botanical Garden)

Exploration of the Wilson Botanical Garden. Optional excursions to coffee plantations and/or to La Amistad National Park, Talamanca Mountains.

Day 9 (1 7 May) (Las Orquideas Inn)

Travel by land back to San Jose. Stop for Lunch enroute (Box Lunch provided by Las Cruces).

Evening out. "Adios Amigos" Dinner.

Day 10 (I 8 May) Depart midday for Miami

Breakfast at Las Orquideas and departure to Airport.

Travel information from: Scheck, Ree Straiige, 1996. Costa Rica : A natural destination. John Muir Publications, Santa Fe, New Mexico. 398 pages.