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See Costa Ricas dramatic beauty from the mirador de Orosi !!
I have been overcome by the beauty and richness of our life together, those early mornings setting out, those evenings gleaming with rivers and lakes below us, still holding the last light. ~ War Within and Without, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, 1906-2001Once you zigzag through the town of Paraíso, you’ll be only a short distance from the green, dramatically beautiful Orosí Valley. The best way to appreciate it is to stop at the Mirador de Orosí public park, just outside of town. Climb the steps or wander the path but get to the hilltop knob that offers a breathtaking vista of Orosí.
Its steep valley walls are dark green with coffee bushes and shade trees and the Río Orosí, which feeds the larger Río Reventazón, meanders along its flat floor. Once you turn the corner after the Mirador, it’s all downhill – steeply downhill – from there. Notice the odd-shaped white building among the coffee bushes on your left on the way down – it was once the summer home of actor Michael Landon.
The peaceful little village of Orosí, founded in 1561 by Franciscan monks, boasts several minor attractions, a couple of warm, spring-fed swim clubs, balnearios, as well as a colonial church.
The Iglesia de San José de Orosí sits on the far side of the soccer field in the middle of town, at the bottom of a steep coffee-covered hillside. It is Costa Rica’s oldest church in continuous use, built in 1735 to replace one that had fallen into ruin when villagers abandoned the town for 36 years after a plague decimated the population. It is styled like an adobe church you might find in Taos, New Mexico. The original large wooden roof, terra cotta floor and heavy wood pews have survived.
The interior period paintings are by Mexican artist Miguel Cabrera. Next door in the former Franciscan cloister is the Religious Art Museum, which was founded in 1980. It contains religious artifacts, paintings and a restored monk’s cell. It’s open 9-5 pm, closed Mondays, US $1.
Just south of town is Balneario Los Patios, one of two major swim clubs in town, fed by warm (10°C/50°F) springs heated by the Turrialba Volcano. Our favorite is Balneario Termal, up a side street next to the B&B Orosí Lodge ( look for signs on the right ). Each club offers a restaurant and several swimming pools, changing rooms, showers, basketball courts and picnic areas. We often made it here as a day-trip or an impromptu overnight from San José during weekdays. On weekends and school holidays the swim clubs get very crowded.
On your way in, just before the Mirador, you pass the pine tree-wooded driveway to Sanchiri Lodge (a short distance south of the Orosí Mirador Park, 506/533-3210, www.sanchiri.com ), a very appealing cabina hotel with an inexpensive restaurant overlooking the town and the valley. In fact, if you look back from town you’ll see the name painted on their roof atop the hillside. The lodge has been in the same family for five generations.
Their dining room serves good typical Costa Rican food at very reasonable prices. Plus, there’s a wonderful view. Individual cabins come with hot water and balconies – very good for a stay. Take local tours with Aventuras Turísticas Orosí ( 506/573-3030).
Good accommodations in town start and end with the Orosí Lodge ( next to the balneario, 506/533-3578, o www.orosilodge.com), a charming B&B that features new rooms with verandas and a pleasing café and snack bar. It’s sandwiched between a plant nursery and the pool, and backs up to the mountainside. This wonderful little gem, originally built as a vacation home by a Canadian couple from Québec, is super clean and friendly.
If you’re on a slim budget, a second choice could be Montaña Linda ( 506/533-3640 ), a rudimentary backpackers’ youth hostel that also offers conversational language courses ( the cheapest we’ve found ). They’ll arrange a homestay with a Tico family for increased immersion, the key to learning more quickly. Another low-cost place to stay, 500 meters / 1,645 feet north of the church, is Las Torrejas ( 506/533-3534).
Two km/1.25 miles east of town ( there’s just one road that goes in and out ) is a turn for a partially paved road ( not so good in the rainy season ) to Tapantí, a 6,000-acre reserve that has recently been joined with the Macizo de la Muerte Park to create the Tapantí-Macizo de la Muerte National Park.
There’s a cloud forest entrance on the Inter-American Highway, south of Cartago, but you may like the adventuresome “back way,” along the river past the Río Macha Electrical Plant. The park has hiking trails and gets a significant amount of precipitation each year, even for Costa Rica, resulting in an impressive biodiversity.
A good place to stay while investigating the many trails is Kirí Lodge ( 506/284- 2024 ) near the park entrance. Five km / three miles short of Tapantí you’ll pass Purisil Park ( 506/228-6630, www.purisilpark.org), a trout farm. Here, you can fish in either of its three lakes or wander along the three hiking trails. Call in advance for an early morning or teatime guided birding tour. Restaurant on site. Purisil comes from an indigenous word meaning “clear water.”
The nearby picturesque town of the same name was once the coffee plantation of former President, Rafael Angel Calderón.
As you leave Orosí village and follow the main road over the single lane, steel suspension bridge, you’ll come to the Restaurante Río in Palomo, a large, well-known restaurant with rustic décor and good fresh fish. If you continue on this road, it is the long way to Lake Cachí.
On the way ( be patient) is the rustic art studio known as Casa del Sonador, Dreamer’s House ( 506/533-3297 ). There, woodcarving brothers Miguel and Hermes Queseda carry on the art tradition of their father, Macedenio. Born in 1926 near Cartago, Macedenio was one of six children of a poor farmer.
The family never had enough money to buy toys for their children so the boy carved his own. Eventually he became Professor of Art at the U of Costa Rica. Macedenio began teaching his sons his craft when they were very young and their current work is reminiscent of his well-known primitivista style. Using only scrap coffee roots and woods gleaned from the countryside and rivers, they create wonderful images of people in their beloved country – all without the use of stains, varnishes or sealants.
We feel very lucky to be here, Hermes told us. It’s a very special place. Find their rustic art studio on the right, just before a small bridge and stop sign. If you’re traveling on to Cachí you can see the sculpture “La Familia Cafetelera,” which stands outside La Casona del Cafetal Restaurant ( a tasty eatery that also offers tours through their coffee fields ). A tall, detailed carving of a mother and father working with their children, the sculpture is the creation of José Luís Sojo, a local sculptor who studied with Macedenio. His pieces range in size from a few inches up to seven feet high.
This trip can be made into a giant loop by going around Lake Cachí and heading back to Cartago through Paraíso and Ujarrás – or clockwise from Ujarrás to Cachí to Orosí and back.
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