The Flowers and Orchids of Costa Rica

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Costa Rica has an astonishing number of plants, and people are drawn from all over the world to see the beautiful flowers that grow here.  Of special interest to many are the numerous varieties of orchids.  In fact, Costa Rica has over Thirteen Hundred species of orchids.  Below, (thanks to contributor Paul Mitchell), is some more information on these marvelous plants!

If you are an orchid fancier in the States or elsewhere than the tropics you are in for a fabulous treat once you get to Costa Rica.

In Costa Rica there are various options for seeing / studying orchids. Those that come to mind are, in nature, in botanical gardens, and in the regional orchid shows, specifically at the National Orchid Exposition.

Rica in the wild is just as the rainy season is starting up with the first scant rains. Many of the orchids in nature are triggered into their blooming cycle at that time. There are more than 1300 recognized species of orchids in Costa Rica. Some are small, some large, many are quite showy. Many have amazing scents or perfumes, along with a few that smell truly unpleasant. Bring your nose along. You will be intrigued at the variety of odors the various orchid species can emit.

You may be able to arrange a knowledgeable guide to take you into natural habitats to see some of the native orchid species in bloom. Costa Rica’s strong conservation laws and efforts at replenishing native orchid species in the wild preclude taking any orchids from the wild –except by making photo records of them in situ to carry away with you inside your camera.

You can also visit one of the amazing botanical gardens in the country like Lankester Botanical Gardens just east of the old capital, Cartago. Or the Wilson Botanical Gardens in the south east part of the country near San Vito de Java. Each one is worth a day trip and requires three or more hours to explore properly.

There is also a garden in Palmares that is dedicated to nothing other than the national flower, Cattleya skinneri, pictured above and known locally as the ‘guaria morada.’ This small garden is well worth a visit during the blooming season for once inside you will find yourself in a sea of electric lavender-purple blooms as far as you can look in whatever direction you choose to glance. It is truly spectacular. Ask the locals for directions once you get to town or call the garden beforehand to ask. It is called the Jardin de Guarias Cocaleca. Their number in Palmares is 452-0091

The National Orchid Exposition is admittedly the crown jewel of orchid shows in Costa Rica. Presented in March of each year in San José, it brings together blooming orchids from the best growers all over the country. It is a riot of colors, extraordinary shapes, and exotic perfumes. It is at this show you can see many varieties of the national orchid (mentioned above) ranging in color from whites thru pinks to that glorious intense lavender-purple colored form. There is a competition for the best of each color form and for the best overall in the show. There are always some remarkably handsome specimens of this much revered species on display in this big show.

If you cannot be in Costa Rica for the National Orchid Exposition, there are smaller regional shows staged in different parts of the country. There is about one show per month and if you watch the newspapers there will be an announcement of where a particular show is taking place. In any event, bring along your camera and plan on taking lots of pictures. Orchids make fine photographic subjects.

If you are really lucky you may get an invitation to visit a private orchid collection. There are a number of stupendous collections of orchids held privately. A visit to one of these collections is not to be missed, so if you are invited to see one don’t pass it up.
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Currencies Converter Costa Rica Colon (CRC) Vs. United States Dollar (USD)

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United States Dollar to Costa Rica Colon Calculated using an exchange rate of 511.3300 correct on October 18, 2011

$1.00      ₡511
$5.00      ₡2,557
$10.00      ₡5,113
$50.00      ₡25,566
$100.00      ₡51,133
$250.00      ₡127,832
$500.00      ₡255,665
$1,000.00      ₡511,330
$5,000.00      ₡2,556,650
$10,000.00      ₡5,113,300


Costa Rica Colon to United States Dollar Calculated using an exchange rate of 0.0020 correct on October 18, 2011


₡500      $1.00
₡1,000      $2.00
₡5,000      $10.00
₡10,000      $20.00
₡25,000      $50.00
₡50,000      $100.00
₡100,000      $200.00
₡500,000      $1,000.00
₡750,000      $1,500.00
₡1,000,000      $2,000.00

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Top 10 Things To Do In San Jose, Costa Rica

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San Jose, Costa Rica has a wide variety of attractions, from butterflys to bullfights. Read on for information about the top ten…

You’ve flown into San Juantamaria Airport (SJO) in Alajuela and take a taxi or bus into San Jose to your hotel.  Once you’re ready to venture from your hotel room, here are a few suggestions:

1. Zoo Avenue

Zoo Avenue is a sanctuary for injured animals on one hand and a bird-lover’s paradise on the other. See colorful macaws, toucans and others from Costa Rica and around the world, mysterious owls, hungry raptors. There are also deer and monkeys and a good-sized crocodile. Time out: 2 hours

2. La Basilica de Nuestra Senora de los Angeles

Though destroyed in 1926 by an earthquake and rebuilt after, the basilica is still a very popular attraction. When Christianity came to Costa Rica, there were many devotees to the goddesses. Because of this, the Virgin Mary became very popular. The legend states that the statue of the virgin appeared miraculously on the site. Even if you aren’t religious, this is a beautiful church

3. Art

The art of Costa Rica is preserved in several popular museums.

First is the Museo de Arte Costarricense – known as el MAC – is home to the national collection of art which includes over 2,500 pieces. Sculptures, woodcarvings, and paintings can be seen here, as well as traveling exhibits from around the world. Then there’s the Galeria Ocelote. The Galeria was created to promote Latin American handcrafts. Shown here are textile designs, sculptures and ceramics among other things.

4. Butterflies

Costa Rica is home to an abundance of magnificent butterflies. Two gardens in San Jose will let you get up close and personal with these kaleidoscopic creatures. At the Spirogyra Butterfly Garden, you can learn about the natural history of Costa Rica and see the living relationship between the butterflies and their surroundings. See also beautiful plants and hummingbirds. Stop by the gift shop for lunch, all things butterfly and fabulous coffee. Open 8 to 4.

At the Butterfly Farm, just south of Alajuala, you can walk through an enclosed garden while the butterflies flutter about. You’ll see up to 80 different types of butterflies as well as see the various phases of the butterfly’s life, from egg to caterpiller to cocoon. The cocoons themselves are displayed in the shimmering colors and movement that helps keep them safe from predators. Daily bus tours leave from many San Jose hotels and is included in the admission. 2 hour guided tour.

In addition to these two, there is also the La Paz Waterfall Gardens. This is an attraction that offers not only a huge butterfly garden (claimed to be the largest in the world) but takes you into the rain forest alongside the La Paz River to see orchids and hummingbirds and a series of waterfalls that are nothing short of breathtaking. La Paz may be a bit pricey, but it’s worth every peso. There’s a remarkable hotel here as well. Plan at least 2 to 4 hours to see it all.

5. Café Britt Farm

Coffee Break time? How about a trip to the coffee farm? Café Britt is one of the top coffees in Costa Rica and the company has an interesting tour at the farm 20 minutes outside of San Jose. From the plant to the roaster to the can, see all phases of production. And, of course, a trip to the coffee farm wouldn’t be complete without a taste. Differing qualities of coffee are there for you to try and there’s a gift shop and restaurant as well.

6. Lankester Gardens

Costa Rica boasts over 1000 varieties of orchids and there are over 800 here at Lankester Gardens in Cartago (30 to 40 minutes from San Jose by bus.) The gardens are administered by the University of Costa Rica and the goal is to preserve the local flora. Walk their well tended trails from sunlight to the shadow of the forest, seeing orchids in bloom everywhere. Give yourself up to three hours for this and don’t miss the gift shop.

7. Bull fighting

If you can call it that. Ticos play at bullfighting. Las Corridas a la Tica is a popular sport. No traditional blood and guts killing of the bull here, though. Ticos prefer to just tease el toro. It’s rather an enclosed running of the bulls as up to 150 toreadors improvisados ( improvised bullfighters) scramble to stay out of the bulls way. If the bullfighters are feeling particularly brave, they’ll slap the bull’s behind on it’s way by.

8. Volcan Arenal

Not technically in San Jose, but worth a day trip to see the one of the most amazing volcanoes in Central America. The night view is breathtaking as Arenal throws fireworks into the air.

9. Soccer

The soccer season runs from September to June and Ticos – native Costa Rican – are serious fans. Costa Rican soccer is as good as any in Central America and their national team has gone to the World Cup more than once. Games are usually on Sunday at 11:00 a.m. and tickets range from $2 to $15. Better to pay more and get reserved seating in the shade.

The local team is Saprissa (affectionately called El Monstruo, or “The Monster”).

10. The sun has set and it’s time to party. Is there anything to do in San Jose at night?

Absolutely! Let’s face it, where there are tourists and college students – there is NIGHTLIFE! If you want to find out what’s going on while you’re there, where the local ex-pats are hanging out, pick up a copy of Tico Times and have a ball.

Gambling is legal in Costa Rica, so there is a wide variety of places to rid yourself of that pesky extra money. Play slots, poker, blackjack, roulette. Shoot craps. It’s all there for you.

There are discos, dance clubs, and bars aplenty in San Jose. Many of these will draw you to the dance floor with an intoxicating salsa beat. El Pueblo, an entertainment complex in the style of old Spain, offers a smorgasbord of places to try.

Just south of the University is a 2-block stretch called La Calle de Amargure (Street of Bitterness). While the name doesn’t sound inviting, it’s a haven for the suburbanites and college kids. Bars and cafes mixed with shops and bookstores. At night, the place hops.

Feeling a little more artsy than hanging with the wild bunch? Cool. San Jose has a great selection of theater and performing arts. Burlesque, modern dance, theater, symphony, and concerts all vie for your attention. Every March, the country hosts El Festival Nacional de las Artes and each night you will have an amazing selection of things to choose from.

Before you head out, though, a word to the wise. Because downtown San Jose is very compact, you can get pretty much anywhere you want to go on foot. Often, that’s the fastest way to get around. But street crime is a bit of a problem so be careful. Hang on to your purse – better yet, get a fanny pack. Don’t flash your jewelry or camera around. Better to be safe than sorry.

With its wonderful climate, rich growing jungles that are home to abundant color, both in plants and animals, and age-old culture, Costa Rica, particularly San Jose, is a great getaway.

Please Look at our upcoming tours page to take an amazing Costa Rica adventure with us

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Top Ten Most Popular Things to do in Costa Rica

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There are more things to do in Costa Rica than you’ll likely have days for. These are the most popular.

Canopy tours
Whether it’s a zip-line thrill ride, gondola, or naturalist educational trip through the treetops, canopy tours have exploded in popularity in the past decade.

Coffee tours
Before it was overtaken by tourism, coffee was the driving force of Costa Rica‘s economy. A tour of a coffee farm and processing facility is a great way to satisfy your curiosity about the source of your morning cuppa and get an introduction to Tico history and culture.

Surfing & Windsurfing
Costa Rica breaks are world renowned, and rightly so. Inland, Lake Arenal has constantly balmy water (66 to 71 °F, 19-21 °C), average wind speeds of 24 mph (40 kph), and an exquisite setting for windsurfers. Rental equipment and lessons for both types of board sport are available.

Volcano Watching
Arenal is the premier destination with its lava flows, fire belching, and rolling smoking boulders, but Poás and Irazú have their attractions as well.

Nature Cruise
The canals of Tortuguero, wetlands of Caño Negro, and mangroves of the Damas estuary adjacent to Manuel Antonio are the most popular places to sit back relax and let the boatman be your guide to bird and wildlife spotting.

As you might suspect in a country covered in rain forest that rises from one ocean to 12,000 feet and drops back to sea level in the space of 70 miles, whitewater abounds in Costa Rica. Trips cater to all ability levels and interests.

Sunning, swimming, surfing, sailing, scuba, snorkeling, and that’s just the S’s. Beach lovers might think that Christopher Columbus had them in mind when he dubbed this (or did he?) the land of the “Rich Coast”.

Nature Walk
This catchall category covers everything from a walk on a paved path to multi-night treks up the bed of a river to prime jaguar country. Most visitors to Costa Rica spend at least some time hiking through the rain and cloud forests or along the beaches.

Hot Springs
There are hundreds of hotsprings in this volcanic land and a couple of them have spawned spas. If you want to relax your tired muscles (or have a masseur relax them for you) hit the natural pools, then spend a night at Tabacón resort.

Rainforests, mountains, and canyons add up to countless waterfalls and you can enjoy anything from walk up viewing platforms a few yards from a restaurant to strenuous hikes into secluded skinny-dipping pools.

Bird Watching
Everyone becomes an amateur birder as soon as they land in Costa Rica. You can’t help but notice the remarkable colors, calls and plumage, and you’ll find plenty of serious bird watchers and qualified guides to fill you in on the habits and natural history of the species you see.
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