Red orquids in Vara Blanca
Red orquids in Vara Blanca

There are many beautiful things in Costa Rica, and the orchid flowers are no exception. Costa Rica’s amazing rainforests are the perfect environment for these colorful flowers, and they are a big draw for tourists. There are over 1,300 discovered species of orchids growing in Costa Rica, and they range in size and color. Many of the species are show-offs, with astonishing scents and color variations. Believe it or not, there are even some that smell bad! You wouldn’t think that something so beautiful could be unpleasant, but it’s true. Probably the most amazing thing to remember, though, is that there are likely many more undiscovered orchid species that are still out there in the Costa Rica landscape.

If you are an orchid-­lover, you’ll be in for a treat in Costa Rica. The tropic conditions allow for an abundance of these fabulous flowers, and you might find yourself returning home with a camera full of just orchid pictures!

Costa Rica national flower, Guaria Morada
Costa Rica national flower, Guaria Morada

The National Costa Rica Flower

The orchid flowers are so well ­known and respected in Costa Rica that the La Guaria Morada species is the official national flower of the country. The designation of the national flower took place 75 years ago, in the summer of 1939. The exquisite flower is a wonderful representation of the spirit of Costa Rica, including its culture and its people. The flower is known for its elegant purple hue, has a mild scent, and is said to shimmer like a diamond. Its official blooming season is from January – April. The flower is seen most on the Pacific coast, and it can be seen growing on trees. The flower is also said to bring fortune and luck, and meant to be a beacon for a future that is yet to be fulfilled.

Amazing red and yellow orchid
Amazing red and yellow orchid

When to See Orchids in Costa Rica

Orchids have a blooming season, so it is best to time your trip against that to maximize your orchid sightings in Costa Rica. If you are hoping to catch these lovely flowers in the wild, then you should plan your trip for right in the beginning of the rainy season, which triggers the blooming cycle for the orchids. Costa Rica is a country that takes conservation and preservation seriously, so don’t plan on picking any of these flowers. You’ll have to settle for taking photos of these beauties.

Orchid at CATIE Tropical Agriculture Center in Turrialba
Orchid at CATIE Tropical Agriculture Center in Turrialba

Where to See Orchids in Costa Rica

You can see orchids in the wild in Costa Rica. There are many knowledgeable guides that frequent the rainforests and can take you into the orchids’ natural habitat to see it in bloom. If you want a more educational experience, or if you are hoping to see the most species, then you can head to one of the botanical orchid gardens in Costa Rica. At a garden, visitors will be given a tour of the grounds, and will receive information and education about orchids themselves, and about how the garden operates. Some gardens also supply visitors with a magnifying glass so they can get the closest look at the wonderful flowers. Tours can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 60 minutes, and are often available in English.

The Monteverde Orchid Garden is home to almost 500 species of Costa Rican orchids. The species are neatly organized, so that visitors can easily locate any species. The garden is divided into three outdoor sections, and those that visit will be treated to an array of gorgeous flowers, as well as an education about how each species differs, and what the species’ face as threats. The garden is divided by flower size. One section houses the smallest, or miniature, orchids, including Platystele jungermannioids.

Another section houses larger species, including Encyclea and Maxillaria. The final section is home to hybrid species; those that have been cross­ pollinated in labs. Since the garden includes both natural and scientifically ­created orchids, visitors are able to learn about each type of flower, and identify the differences between the features that occur in nature and the features that are created by scientists.

The Lankester Botanical Gardens, near Cartago, are home to almost one thousand species of orchids. They display the flowers at eye level so they are easy to see, and since there are so many species, it is highly likely that you will be able to see some in bloom. The area that surrounds the gardens is also home to many animals and birds, which are all attracted to the protected area.

Orange orchid on Paraiso
Orange orchid on Paraiso

National Orchid Exposition

If you visit Costa Rica in March, try to head to San Jose to go to the National Orchid Exposition. The exposition is a collection of colorfully shaped, exotic smelling blooming orchids. The Costa Rica national flower is a feature of this great show as well. The exposition is also a competition for the best color and form in an orchid, so if you attend you are sure to see some amazing, and prize­-winning, orchids.

Amazing wild brown orchid in Lankester Gardens
Amazing wild brown orchid in Lankester Gardens