The aim of this work was to describe the importance and the main challenges for the use, management and conservation of the Vanilla genus in Costa Rica. Topics covered in this study were: taxonomy in the country and worldwide, data collection and new estimates of wild relatives, the economic, ecological and social importance, the gene pool of the Costa Rican species, the crop situation worldwide (harvested area, production, yield, major producers), causes that reduce the productive potential of the species, culture methods, the vulnerability of Vanilla planifolia to extinction, and the genetic potential in the country with respect to the concentration of vanillin. The comprehensive conservation strategy proposed in this paper aims to perpetuate vanilla plant genetic resources in gene banks through a formal system of seed production, for further use for breeding, research and commercial production. Through sustainable use, those species will be protected in Costa Rica. The natural or legal persons who use such materials must generate monetary or non-monetary benefits from the use of resources through a fair and equitable system to the suppliers. Agro-ecological conditions of Costa Rica as well as the genetic material of both wild and cultivated vanilla opens the possibility of developing production models based on organic agriculture.
Keywords: Vanilla planifolia, Vanilla wild relatives, vanillin content, Vanilla commercial species.