A quick and easy day trip from Costa Rica’s capitol city of San Jose is to the Botanical Gardens at CATIE (the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center) in Turrialba.
Just an hour and a half from the Central Valley, you’ll be in a tropical plantation paradise.
Nature lovers, get your cameras ready! Stroll down paths beneath the shade of Costa Rica’s national Guanacaste tree, and under 100-year-old Ceiba trees while you learn their importance in the country’s history and folklore. Delight in viewing giant bromeliads, delicate miniature orchids, bright bougainvilleas and heliconias, gingers and other fabulous ornamental plants. Smell the heady aroma of the Asian ylangylang tree, its scent used in perfumes around the world. Get to know the Brazilian grape tree, whose fruit is used in jams and sweets, and the Kepel apple from Asia whose taste is reminiscent of sweet condensed milk.
CATIE is an international research and graduate educational institution focusing on the agricultural sciences and natural resources. It was originally founded in 1942 and became the institution it is today in 1973. It works with international institutions and organizations from Mexico to South America.
CATIE has accomplished great results to note, including creating and maintaining a forest seed bank since 1967, developing new alternatives for managing watershed systems, techniques for diversified management of forests and natural resource reserves, conservation methods, community management of natural resources, and improved production systems for small and medium scale farmers. With a permanent and temporary staff of nearly 500 and an average yearly budget of some US$20 million, CATIE occupies an important niche in Latin America.
The Botanical Gardens (Jardin Botanico) are open daily from 7 am to 4 pm. (506) 2556-2700.
A fantastic way to see the gardens and surrounding fruit plantations is by bicycle! Explornatura in Turrialba offers just such a Tropical Biking Tour.