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Cool Places – Orosi, A World Away, So Close

Cool Places – Orosi, A World Away, So Close

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Just an hour and a half outside the busy capital of San Jose sits the small town of Orosi, Costa Rica. Though not far, Orosi may as well be a world away – not only San Jose’s urban bustle but also from the heat and tourists of Costa Rica’s coastal and volcano destinations. There’s lots to do here, which is why you should go now, before Orosi becomes more of a popular attraction than the semi-hidden treasure it is now.

To drive there, follow the signs from San Jose to Cartago to Paraiso and finally, to Orosi. As you leave the city behind, highways are replaced by (barely) two-lane roads weaving up and down the mountains, along the beautiful Orosi Valley. It’s worth taking the time to stop for a photo or two at one of the designated scenic overlooks on the way from Cartago to Orosi.

Taking a bus from San Jose to Orosi via Cartago is an easy and cheap alternative. Buses run frequently every day from 8 am to 5 pm. In San Jose, board the bus to Cartago at Avenida 10 and Calle 5. Orosi-bound buses leave from Cartago’s Avenida 1 and Calle 6 stop.

Once you’ve arrived in Orosi, time slows down. Orosi is a place to relax and take a deep breath of fresh mountain air, not to rush from one tourist attraction to the next. On a clear morning, you can see the Irazu volcano in the distance, and in any direction you will find coffee plants growing on the mountainside. With only one main street lined with a few pulperias and local sodas, Orosi offers a glimpse into a Costa Rica often lost in the trappings of tourism.

For a perfect day spent in Orosi, start with coffee and a pastry at Panaderia Suiza. The treats are tasty, the owner patient and kind. And she’ll be the first to help if she sees you looking lost or unsure. If you’d prefer to skip morning pastries, La Uchuva makes delicious smoothies from natural ingredients.

From there, stop by the Otiac Tourism Center to pick up trail guides. Going for a walk or hike is the best way to experience the Orosi Valley, and Otiac has compiled the best routes, ranging from easy and short routes to full-day hikes.

Be sure to get back in time to stop by Iglesia de San Jose de Orosi, the oldest church still in use in Costa Rica, as well as the adjoining museum. Although all the museum literature is written in Spanish, the artifacts themselves are interesting enough to warrant a visit.

The Orosi Valley offers the perfect climate for growing coffee, and some of Costa Rica’s best coffee is produced in this region. Cafe Cristina, a small, family-owned organic coffee plantation, offers daily tours in English that can be set up through Otiac the day before.

If you have a car and an extra day, there are many sites just outside Orosi that deserve a visit. The Ruinas de Ujarras are just 15 kilometers from Orosi center and include the oldest church in Orosi. The Cachi Dam is only minutes away as well. Animal-lovers should bike or drive to Tapanti National Park. It’s smaller than other popular parks in Costa Rica but is home to many animal species and many hiking trails are available.

Want to learn some Spanish? Orosi is the place to do it, with Montana Linda offering the cheapest classes in all of Costa Rica and the small town making cultural immersion easy, even without a homestay.

Accommodation options in Orosi are few but range from $9 hostel dorms to 3-star eco hotels outside the town.

If you’re looking for a quiet mountain getaway on your trip to Costa Rica or want an alternative to spending the night in Alajuela or San Jose before a flight, Orosi is the place.

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