The area surrounding Golfito features other attractions. Halfway between Golfito and Playa Cativo, 10 kilometers northwest of the town and reachable only by boat, is a private botanical garden called Casa Orquidea.
Planted several years ago by a family named MacAllister, it soon grew beyond their first modest plans. They started out by planting fruit trees intended originally to supply the family’s own needs, but the orchard soon developed into a real park. It now contains more than 100 different kinds of orchids and other decorative exotic flowers, tropical fruit trees, bromeliads, palms and ferns that attract many tropical birds. Paths through the jungle and guided tours permit visitors to smell the heady tropical fragrances and touch some of the exotic plants, the Casa Orquidea is certainly a worthwhile day trip for anyone staying nearby.
The small evergreen orchid trees stemming from a family of legumes (leguminosae) immediately attract attention at the Casa Orquidea. Orchid trees are found throughout the world and come in more than 300 varieties. A few examples found here include the Bauhinia blakeana (the purple blossoms of which are the national flower of Hong Kong), the Bauhinia monandra, whose red flowers striped with yellow suddenly turn pink after one day, and the Bauhinia purpurea, whose large purple flowers have light-colored veins.
The Costa Rican’s use these orchid trees not only as decorative plants, but as a source of wood and food as well. Even its bark is used to extract fiber. The Indians had long ago discovered that the leaves of one kind of orchid tree had medicinal properties and could be used for healing.