One of the most enjoyable and relaxing day trips from San Jose Costa Rica is a trip to the Lankester Botanical Gardens.

Also known as the Jardin Botanico Lankester and the Charles H. Lankester Botanical Garden, the Lankester Botanical Gardens are located just outside the city of Cartago (once the nation’s capital), near San Jose. They are operated by the University of Costa Rica as a major research center, particularly for the research of orchids in the Caribbean and Central America. Their mission is to promote conservation, sustainable use, and enjoyment with scientific research, horticulture, and environmental education.

A Short History of Lankester Gardens

Englishman Charles H. Lankester moved to Costa Rica in 1910 to work for the Sarapiqui Coffee Estates Company, and though initially intrigued most by the region’s birds and butterflies, he began collecting orchids on his arrival. He eventually bought a coffee farm (Las Concavas) with a large lagoon that was home to migratory birds. From 1917, he created a haven (El Silvestre) near the lagoon which he filled with orchids and other tropical local plants. After Charles’ death in 1969, the farm was sold by Lankester’s daughter in 1973 to the University of Costa Rica on the condition it be preserved as a botanical garden.

Lankester Gardens Today

The garden is home to more than three thousand species of plants, primarily orchids and bromeliads. It covers eleven hectares (twenty-three acres) in area. Its collection of orchids is world-renowned and they can be seen at eye level. With so many species, blooms occur all year, however, the most magnificent time to visit Lankester Gardens is in the early spring, between February and April when the majority of the fifteen thousand orchid specimens are blooming.

Other significant collections at Lankester Gardens include cacti and other succulents from the tropical dry forests of Guanacaste as well as some that thrive in the treetops. There are also bromeliads, palms, conifers, bamboos, birds of paradise, gingers, and heliconias. The gardens are surrounded by tropical rainforest which is home to insects, animals, butterflies, and more than one hundred species of birds, especially hummingbirds.

The gardens are accessible, with a wheelchair pathway, educational materials, and a small gift store.

Costa Rica Volcanoes offers a wide array of day trips from San Jose Costa Rica and Lankester Gardens is a scheduled stop on our Irazu Volcano Tour. To make a booking or to learn more, please contact us today – we look forward to welcoming you to Costa Rica!