Paradise Found

By Susan Mahr

Most of the group chose to travel to Costa Rica a day ahead of time (for those whose flights would arrive late in the evening) so we had a day to relax and enjoy the extensive gardens behind the hotel or explore the city. Kari, Dwight, and Mary Kay arrived in midafternoon, while Susan, Cindy, Judy, John and Lila got in about 10pm, while Ian and Val were last to show up that night about 11:30pm. It wasn’t that cold when we left Wisconsin, but it was still nice to emerge from the terminal into mild conditions. There had been a few showers in the city that day, but we were lucky and it was mostly sunny on our free day before the welcome dinner.

Rainbow over the gardens behind Hotel Bougainvillea.

Rainbow over the gardens behind Hotel Bougainvillea.

One of the best parts of this tour is starting at Hotel Bougainvillea, where everyone enjoys wandering through the delightful gardens. The extensive landscaping here, using a wide variety of tropical plants, is a great way to jumpstart the introduction to exotic plants. Set on 10 acres, it’s easy to get lost wandering the trails amid the lush vegetation. They have more than 50 species of bromeliads, lots of orchids growing in the trees, and plenty of flowering shrubs. Renovations have removed the near-monoculture of bougainvillea in the front, with small, new plantings that have yet to fill in. Many people chose to explore the museums, see the beautiful national theater building, and wander the plazas and pedestrian malls downtown for part of the day, since it was so windy, making it difficult to photograph the blooming flowers, colorful butterflies, and lush tropical foliage of the beautifully landscaped gardens. It was mostly sunny over the garden, but with ominous clouds over other parts of the valley and a little mist in the air at times – which produced a spectacular rainbow late in the day.

The rest of the group came in later in the day, with David S. and Sherry getting to the hotel in late afternoon, but David M. and Jeffery not arriving until well after the welcome dinner was over. Our wonderful guide Gustavo was supposed to be at the dinner, but got stuck in terrible traffic and never made it. We all headed off to our rooms around 8:30, with the promise of many exciting adventures and learning experiences to come.

Experience the gardens vicariously:

Views in the garden near one pond (L), bougainvillea in bloom (LC), giant elephant ears (RC), and another pond (R).

Views in the garden near one pond (L), bougainvillea in bloom (LC), giant elephant ears (RC), and another pond (R).

Flowers of Allamanda cathartica (L), Epidendrum orchid (LC), anthurium (RC), and colorful leaves of Cordyline fruticosa.

Flowers of Allamanda cathartica (L), Epidendrum denticulatum orchid (LC), Spathiphyllum (RC), and colorful leaves of Cordyline fruticosa.

Gomphocarpus physocarpus in the garden (L), inflated seed pods (LC), milkweed bugs on seed pod (RC) and seed pod opening to release seeds (R).

Gomphocarpus physocarpus in the garden (L), inflated seed pods (LC), milkweed bugs on seed pod (RC) and seed pod opening to release seeds (R).

Flowers of ornamental purslane (L), a cultivated crinum (C), and Amazon lily, Eucharis grandiflora (R).

Flowers of ornamental purslane (L), a cultivated crinum (C), and Amazon lily, Eucharis grandiflora(R).

Flowering trees: Red erythrina (L), and Tabebuia ochracea (C and R).

Flowering trees: Red erythrina (L), and Tabebuia ochracea (C and R).

Flowers of golden plume, Schaueria flavicoma (L) and Phaius sp., a terrestrial orchid (C), and a skipper (Saliana sp.) feeding on a yellow flower (R).

Flowers of golden plume, Schaueria flavicoma (L) and Phaius sp., a terrestrial orchid (C), and a skipper (Saliana sp.) feeding on a yellow flower (R).

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