The University of Costa Rica runs the exceptional Lankester Gardens, which were started as a private garden by British orchid enthusiast Charles Lankester in 1917, but was turned over to the university for public administration in 1973. Orchids are the big draw at this tranquil 11-hectare spot, with more than 1000 at their showiest from March to May.
There is also a Japanese garden, as well as areas full of bromeliads, palms, heliconias and other tropical plants. This is one of the few places where foreigners can legally purchase orchids to take home. Guided tours in English and Spanish can be arranged with prior reservation. The garden is wheelchair-accessible. Find it about 5km west of Paraíso on the road to Cartago; look for a blue sign with an image of an orchid.