Heliconia Island

sights / Parks & gardens

Heliconia Island information

self-guided/guided tours US$10/18
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This self-proclaimed ‘oasis of serenity’ is arguably the most beautiful garden in all of Costa Rica. Heliconia Island is a masterpiece of landscape architecture that was started in 1992 by New York City-native Tim Ryan, a former professor of art and design. Today, this 2.3-hectare island overlooking the Rio Puerto Viejo is owned by Dutch couple Henk and Carolien, and is home to more than 80 varieties of heliconias, tropical flowers, plants and trees. The grounds are a refuge for 228 species of birds (hummingbirds are the sole pollinators of heliconias). There are also resident howler monkeys, river otters, sloths, and a few friendly dogs that will greet you upon arrival.

Henk and Carolien will guide you through the property, showing off a number of memorable plants including the Madagascar traveling palm, rare hybrids of heliconia found only on the island, and the Phenakospermum guyannense (Phenomenal sperm), a unique flowering plant native to Guyana. They also own swatches of secondary forest on either side of the garden, which offers a wild forest buffer and attracts wildlife. The admission fee is waived for overnight guests who stay in immaculate raised cabins (s/d US$77/89) with stone floors, hot-water showers and breezy balconies.

Heliconia Island is about 5km north of Horquetas, and there are signs along the highway pointing to the entrance. When you arrive at the entrance, park your car, walk across the metal bridge and turn left on the island to reach the gardens.