Posted by: Sailing Camelot | June 29, 2012

June 21st – Casa Orquidea – Playa San Josecito – Costa Rica

Our time in Costa Rica is coming to an end, but before we go there’s one last excursion I absolutely want to take.

Not far from Golfito, and accessible only by water, is another natural marvel: Casa Orquidea, fruit of the vision, efforts and dedication of Ron and Trudy MacAllister .

Yes, we feel very Welcome, here!

Their love affair with this piece of land started in the early 1970’s, when they bought a former cacao plantation and turned it into a botanical marvel where more than a hundred different orchids grow, along with ornamental palms, fruit trees, medicinal plants, spices, and a lot more colorful and exotic stuff that I don’t even know.

Intriguing approach to Casa Orquidea

Oh my, how inviting!

A path that beckons you to follow…

In a hurry I hop off the Panga that took us here, eager to go behind the wall of Coconut Palm Trees hiding Casa Orquidea.

Catching the first glimpse of a winding gravel path, I can’t help thinking that this is exactly how I imagine the Garden of Eden to be like.

Garden of Eden? I think so!!!

There are 8 of us visitors here, all fellow cruisers: Cindi and Adam from Bravo, Marie and Steve from Saben, Sue and Gary from Shellback, plus Tom and I.

Trudy comes to meet and welcome us: she’s going to be heading the tour and illustrate as much as she can about everything that surround us.

As she talks, giving a brief history of how this place came to be, I can’t help noticing how the garden resounds with birdsong. The Scarlet Macaws flying overhead and screeching as they go are a big distraction, so I pretty much missed most of the story.

Curious Macaw flying Recon Mission

Checking us out from up close

As usual, I’m enthralled by nature and am already itching to go explore. Soon enough the tour begins, and true to my habit I’m way behind everyone, wandering around noticing colors, snapping pictures, smelling sweet perfumes, lost in my own version of Paradise.  More than once Tom has to forcibly drag me along… But he also understands my passion and has the patience of a saint, so I am occasionally left alone in my dream world.

I can just sit there and contemplate…

I manage to recover a modicum of focus when we step into a Coconut Grove. I LOVE coconuts! There’s no better taste than coconut pulp, for me…

Holy Coconuts! A mountain of them!!!

Trudy demonstrates her dexterity with a Machete and gracefully but effectively opens up a coconut, encouraging us to take a bite.

I never knew there was something in there…

Tom, knowing my penchant for coconut, goes and forages for me! He cracks open two coconuts, passing them along to drink the refreshing water inside. I’ll be taking them home later on, oh joy!

Tom foraging for me… I love his intent expression!

He’s a good guy, he likes to share.

Throughout the tour we all get to taste, touch, smell and rub on our skin a whole variety of leaves, fruits and flowers.

Peppercorn, Au Naturel

Underneath the peel is the little nut we use for pepper


The most surprising is a bush whose leaves, when crushed, taste exactly the same as garlic! But then I’m introduced to this strange flower –we’ll call it the “Shampoo Plant”.


I never learned the name of this one, so it’s Shampoo Plant to me!

Squeezing gently, a thick, soapy fluid – a sort of aromatic gel oozes out in my hand. It smells really good, and it’s perfect for washing your hands! It can also be used as a 2 in 1 shampoo/conditioner.

Loaded with good-smelling, cleansing stuff!

All the ladies in our group are liberally applying this fragrant liquid to their hair (me included)… I wonder: could I bottle this? I certainly can’t be the only one who thought of that!

But then we get to taste a slice of the tangy Star Fruit, and I’m distracted again….

Star Fruit grows in clusters

It’ll make your lips pucker, but it’ll take your thirst away

Oh, look at the Pine Cone Ginger, and the Scorpion Orchid, and the Heliconias, and Strelitzias…

My favorite: The Scorpion Orchid

This fruit is called Mangostine. Peeled, it reveals a white clove resembling garlic. But the taste is heavenly sweet.

Not only in Hawaii… Plumeria!

The Bat Orchid. Such delicate nuances of purple, spectacular,

On and on and on it goes, until I’m introduced to the Ylang Ylang flower! 

Star Struck by the Ylang Ylang

Understated in its quiet beauty, it reminds me a bit of a Sea Star…

It does look like a Sea Star!

But oh, there’s nothing understated about its intense perfume!

The plant’s botanical name is Cananga Odorata, a fast-growing tree of the custard-apple  family that reaches up to 40 feet and beyond. Its clusters of dark seeds are a favorite food item among birds.

Not just a pretty flower, but a food supplier as well!

The essential oil derived from the flowers is extensively used in aromatherapy.

Most notably, Ylang Ylang is the base of the world-famous Chanel # 5 perfume. I succumb to this flower’s spell, just like every other lady around me. We are all frantically rubbing the flowers on our wrists and behind our ears… Despite the heat and humidity and profuse sweating, we all smell heavenly for the rest of the day.

There we go, chasing butterfies again!

Must be rush hour at the flower pod…

Can’t see the forest for the palms!

Between the fruits, the flowers, the birds, the butterflies, a very intriguing cat, the giant palms… I feel like I have the Attention Deficit Disorder!

This guy is pretty clear on what he’s aiming for…

Happy Hour at the Scarlet Macaw Pub!

Hopefully you’re not Drinking and Fying, buddy!

Maybe a whole week would be needed to properly absorb it all… But we only have a little over two hours, so it’s a very intense experience: no time to dwell or day-dream! I can do that later…

Seeds under the purple petals of the Banana Tree flower, monkeys’ favorite snack.

I wish I knew what this luminous beauty is… it’s everywhere!

I end up shooting exactly 543 pictures in this Paradise.

Pineapples! Easier to photograph than a Toucan for sure…

I am also actively stalking an elusive and fast-moving Toucan.

 It is imperative that I get a picture of this fidgety bird, it’s on my Bucket List for Costa Rica and by Golly I’m going to get one…

But with patience and a powerful zoom lens…

I finally get my wish!

Caught during his lunch break.

The tour is over; we are left to our own devices by Trudy, who graciously encourages us to stay as long as we like. Tom is beside me, a satisfied grin on his face. He’s clearly enjoying himself, too… I’m still chasing the Toucan, but I think I lost him.

Then Tom quietly says “let me borrow your camera for a second, will you”.  As I hand it over to him I see a blur out of the corner of my eye: it’s “my” Toucan flying away!

Before I can even say “there he is!” Tom hands me back the camera with a smug grin. “There” he says “Done. Here’s your Toucan picture. How about chasing some lunch now?”

I gape at him, unsure at what just happened. Feverishly, I browse the last few pictures on my digital camera screen. After all my shots, there’s only one: Tom’s shot.

A PERFECT picture of “my” Toucan leaving the tree and flying away in the blue sky. The image I have been chasing for most of the morning.

The prize picture: “my” Toucan, photographed by One-Shot-Tom.

I’m speechless. Totally speechless, more than a little frustrated and mighty pissed… It’s amazing what envy can do to you.

Looking at him with narrow eyes, I manage to find enough voice to hiss a bitter “thank you” between my teeth.

He laughs his infectious laugh and says “Well, you wanted the bird’s picture and I gave you the bird’s picture. I’m hungry, let’s go!”

Smug husband enjoying the shade

It takes me the whole 40 minutes ride back to Golfito to finally let go of the envy and appreciate that, hungry or not, my husband would give me the world if I asked for it.

I got my picture. I didn’t shoot it, but I got what I wanted and he gave it to me. Now that I’m thinking about it, it makes it all the more precious…

Regardless, tomorrow I’m going to burn all the books on photography I’ve been pointlessly reading.

The last Orchid… Adios, Casa Orquidea!

So this is it, our last Hurrah.

We’re planning on leaving Costa Rica in about a week. The next few days will be spent gathering supplies, submitting paperwork and getting ready to resume life at sea after six blissful weeks of being happily moored in one of the most enticing spots on Earth.

We’ll be the last ones to leave: our friends are all leaving in the next couple of days, some going to Ecuador, some to the Galapagos, some –like us- headed to Panama.

If you’re still hungry for images of Casa Orquidea, follow this link : a much more talented guy gathered a whole lot of gorgeous pictures (with explanations and information!) on what can be found here.

Also, YouTube abounds with videos that will give you the whole tour of the garden. Just search for Casa Orquidea Costa Rica.

Trust me, it will feel just as if you were here, too…



  1. Wow Those are beautiful photos. Don’t give up. I’m sorry we missed “the garden of Eden. Good sailing and we look forward to you catching up.

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