If you have an interest in botany, the entire lot of herbs, shrubs, trees, fruits and roots, at The Ark you will find a magical place that will surprise even the most professional enthusiast of this fascinating world.
Located in Santa Bárbara de Heredia, this 8-hectare garden has the largest collection in Costa Rica, including native and exotic species from the world of botany.
The Ark offers an impressive view of the Central Valley, from the (in what direction?) views of the hills of Carara to the (directional views of) the mountains of Escazú and Carpintera. An abundance of birds and brightly colored butterflies also fascinate Ark visitors.
The species are planned and distributed in sections or terraces. In total, The Ark has over 1600 species. One of the most fascinating terraces, for example, is the section of shamanic or hallucinogenic plants. This section displays plants sourced for drugs and also for ceremonial use, such as Coca and Peyote, and plants used for Ayahuasca, Cannabis, and the famous Queen of Night.
Another terrace of interest is the culinary terrace. In this section, all of the herbs, fruits and roots present are used in the culinary arts. The variety is so great that even famous chefs come to The Ark to learn about ingredients.
Something else that always surprises and fascinates tourists, is the chance to chew on different leaves and taste the nuances, a delicious tantalizing explosion of flavor. Most often the responses note sweetness “Wow, so sweet (= Stevia Leaf), or maybe … “Wow, this tastes like Clove with Sage” = (Hundreds of varieties of herbs and leaves ). Another specimen that surprises people is Lemon Caviar. This fruit is full of small lemon-flavored balls, but does not belong to citrus fruits and grows in a region of Asia. This is an opportunity to understand through taste how different species, no matter how far they are taxonomically, share the same chemicals. Another interesting experiment is to learn about the difference between the taste of Lemon and Lime, which in reality are very different, but with this live experiment, the difference is clearly marked.
The other terraces include collections of palm trees, bromeliads and orchids. One of the plants that attract the most attention in this section is one of the varieties of Aloe, the Giant Aloe, which has an impressive size of up to 2 meters in height.
The garden intermingles the terraces or sections with parts of the forest, where there are interesting varieties of trees, some of them in danger of extinction. All sections are intelligently interconnected by well-maintained trails.
How to visit
Entrance only: $ 10 per person
For those wanting to visit the garden, there is the possibility of paying the entrance fee only. The garden is quite well labeled, so you can do a self-guided visit and read about each species. For this self-guided visit, some knowledge of botany helps, but it is not necessary.
Guided tour: $ 45 – Groups less than 10 people
The guided tour lasts approximately 2 hours, but can be easily extended to 3 hours, depending on the number of visitors’ inquiries.
How to arrive and how to book?
Getting to The Ark is quite simple. It can be found on Google Maps and Waze under “The Ark Herb Farm.” It is recommended to make a reservation in advance, especially in the case of the guided tour, where a reservation is required minimum the day before. To visit without a guide, no reservation is required, but it is recommended to announce the arrival. The site has secure private parking. Another way to visit is by taking a taxi or Uber from the Hotel, which would take approximately 35-40 min.
All photos taken from arkherbfarm.com