- Activities: Bird & wildlife watching, freshwater fishing, shopping, hotsprings
- Landscape: Rainforest, mountains
- Summary: Includes the towns of Ujarras and Orosi; known for its colonial church, beautiful countryside and scenic lake views
- Caters to: Families, independent travelers, nature lovers
- Attractions: Tapanti National Park
- Quick Facts: 55-79°F ; 37 miles from San Jose; 5 miles south of Cartago ; Up to 4,300 feet above sea level
Orosi Valley Snapshot
Squares of coffee and squash farms, hotsprings and flames of the forest trees blossoming with bright orange flowers are among the sights in the Orosi Valley. Less than two hours from San Jose, the valley’s two towns, Ujarras and Orosi, are on opposite sides of Lake Cachi surrounded by scenic mountain views.read more close
Legend says a fisherman once saw the Virgin Mary's likeness hidden in a tree trunk at the small town of Ujarras. To honor the Virgin, Spanish missionaries built a church more than 300 years ago. Today, 4 exterior walls of limestone masonry shelter a simple stone cross, adorning the altar of the Ruins of Ujarras. Home to many species of birds, the picturesque settlement resides in a small park, where avocadoes grow and it is common to see farmer's satchels full of the popular fruit. Across from the ruins is a small swimming pool, popular with local families, open in the dry season; a great place to cool off when the Ujarras' weather gets warm.
Visitors often drive over the Cachi dam—a great place to take in the scenic views—and continue to La Casona de Cafetal, a coffee farm and popular lunch destination.
Bus: Take the bus from Cartago to Cachi via Paraiso, about 3.7 miles past Ujarras; ask the driver to stop at the fork to Ujarras (across from Restaurante Tipico Ujarras). From there, it is a half-mile to the ruins.
Car: Take Hwy 224 south from Cartago, follow the signs to Paraiso and Cachi.
Spaniards came to the valley attracted by its abundant water supply, hot springs and stunning waterfalls. It is one of the few well-preserved colonial areas in Costa Rica, surviving numerous earthquakes throughout the years.
The Colonial Orosi Church, built in 1735, is Costa Rica's oldest church that is still in operation. Made from adobe and tile nearly 300 years ago (recently restored), the church has a religious art museum housing paintings, silver, furniture and ancient artifacts. It is open Tuesday through Friday from 1pm to 5pm, and weekends from 9am to 5pm. Next door is the Museo Sanfriscano, a museum featuring religious relics, furniture and art from the 1700's.
Orosi's small-town charm is perhaps, best enjoyed through leisurely strolls visiting local cafes, enjoying picnics at the park and chatting with the friendly locals. To learn more about the coffee industry, go on the Beneficio Orlich Coffee Tour, an hour-long tour of the coffee farm and processing plant. Afterwards, soak or swim in the thermal waters of local hotsprings.
Nearby Day Trips
Tapanti National Park
Home to a variety of orchids, including three miniature orchids and their only known habitat, Tapanti National Park is a sanctuary of flora and fauna. With more the 260 species of fowl, birdwatchers can scour the skies for sparrow hawks, goldfinches, doves, hummingbirds, parrots and falcons. Other popular activities include trout fishing and hiking.
Costa Rica's old capitol, Cartago is home to the most famous cathedral in the country, The Our Lady of the Angels Basilica. A merger of contemporary and colonial architecture, the town's lively city center is based around the ruins of what was once the largest church in Costa Rica. Outside the city are lush, green fields, shade-grown coffee plants and the fourth tallest point in Costa Rica, the Irazu Volcano.
Six miles south of Orosi, there's a trout farm where visitors can fish at any of its three lakes. For hikers and bird watchers there are three different trails and morning/teatime guided birding tours available. There's also an onsite restaurant. Tel. 2228-6630
Bus: It's about a 40-minute ride from Cartago to Orosi. Buses leave every 30 minutes daily.
Car: From Cartago take the Paraiso road, turn right and drive down the steep hill to the village.
Taxi: Call a taxi at Restaurante Coto. Fare to Orosi runs $10, to the nearby Tapanti National Park about $15.