CATIE Tropical Agriculture Center
Last Updated: Jun 15, 2015
Founded in 1940, the Center for Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education (CATIE) is one of the world's most important centers for tropical agricultural research. CATIE's grounds host thousands of plant species from around the world, including several varieties of cacao, plantains, palms and thousands of kinds of coffee.
Location : Turrialba
Area : 2,500 acres
Hours : 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily
Telephone : 2556-2700
Entrance Fee : $6.00
Visitors are welcome to tour CATIE's grounds, which include a picturesque and educational botanical garden. Here, guests are invited to view more than 4,400 genetic samples of 280 different plants as part of the Finca Cabiria experimental farm. The plant species are collected from around the globe, including Tanzania, Brazil, Mexico, Ethiopia and Kenya. Tropical fruit taste testing is a perennial favorite with first-time visitors, and most leave CATIE having sampled several new and exciting fruits.
CATIE offers three basic tour packages. The first is a two-hour jaunt through the botanical garden, where birds serenade from above and tropical trees and plants rise up all around. From tiny orchids to towering Guanacaste trees, this tour is an ideal introduction to tropical plant life. CATIE's second tour lasts approximately three hours and, in addition to the botanical garden tour, includes a trip to the center's extensive collections. Visitors will see more than 95 species of exotic trees and plants from around the world, spread over almost 25 acres. In addition, guests will learn about the CATIE-developed process for producing a more eco-friendly heart of palm.
The third tour lasts four hours, and includes the botanical garden tour, collections tour and also a tour of the CATIE campus, including its small lake. Of the more than 850 bird species that live freely at CATIE, 200 make their home on or around the lake, providing excellent opportunities for birdwatching. In addition to CATIE's extensive botanical garden and scenic grounds, the center is home to one of the world's foremost agriculture education programs.
The institute offers Masters and Doctoral programs on its Turrialba campus, welcoming professors from Latin America, North America and Europe and producing some of the best researchers and developers in ecological agriculture, agroforestry, environmental economics and forestry. Together, CATIE's students and professors help forge new paths in agro-development, such as creating disease-resistant fruits or breeding animals for climat. The gardens are best seen with local guides who provide great info about the plants and fruits found along trails: $15-$25 for guided tours.
CATIE is located about 1 mile south of Turrialba. Direct buses from San Jose to Turrialba run every hour until 8 p.m. weekdays or 7 p.m. on weekends. The trip takes about two hours, and costs $2 each way. Visitors can make reservations by calling in advance.