Wilson Botanical Garden

The Wilson Botanical Garden was founded in 1963 on 10 hectares of land by Robert and Catherine Wilson, a couple from Miami. They are also buried here. The property is more than simply a botanical garden, and allows visitors to experience the tropical rain forest firsthand in a comfortable and pleasant way. The garden contains an amazing 1,000 plants from 200 families, which visitors can examine without overexerting themselves as they stroll through the garden and explore its wooded paths.

The grounds are surrounded by 145 hectares of virgin forest, which, like the garden itself, have been part of the biosphere preserve of La Amistad since 1983.

Hobby botanists can have a field day exploring this tropical paradise along 10 kilometers of paths with self explanatory names like Fern Way, Orchid Path, Bromeliad Way, Bamboo Path and Heliconia Circle Path. The garden possesses the world’s most extensive collection of palms, and epiphytes as tall as a man. There are bromeliads, agavas and various kinds of lillies.

Picnic benches provide a welcome break and a chance to rest your feet before starting off again. Most of the paths require half an hour from start to finish. The path along the river, however, takes about three hours.

Many animals can be spotted from the paths: butterflies and hummingbirds, pacas, anteaters, opossums, kinkajous, porcupines, armadillos, sloths, tayras, monkeys and bats. There are around 315 types of birds in the garden, as well. Since its founding, the Wilson Garden has served as an intensive zoological and botanical research facility and a training center where scientists can continue their education.

The best time to visit is during the dry season from January to April. The area where the garden is located gets an average of 4,000 mm of rain during the wet season. There is little danger of freezing here; the temperature throughout the year remains an average 26°C.

Anyone wishing to remain for longer periods can do so. The garden has about 50 beds for visitors.

Continuing to Golfito

From the Wilson Botanical Garden the road continues straight south via Aguas Buenas until it rejoins the Panamerican Highway. Ciudad Neily, a pretty and friendly little town, is at the intersection. It is in the valley of the Coto Colorado, just 50 meters above sea level, which guarantees it a hot moist climate, ideal for cultivating bananas and African oil palms. From here it is 17 kilometers to Panama. Paso Canoas is the most important border crossing between Costa Rica and Panama. The town is hardly what you could call attractive, but the stands and shops along its main street attract thousands of bargain-hunters every day into this free-trade zone. The dutyfree goods – clothing, shoes, perfume, food and luxury items – are especially interesting to the Costa Ricans and Panamanians who live near the border. On weekends, however, people come from as far as San Jose to shop at Paso Canoas, though the merchandise does little to tempt international tourists.

Services include a gas station and numerous street money changers. Travelers continuing to Panama should change their remaining colones or spend them, because they are not worth very much in Panama.

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