For a fabulous view over the valley, call in at Mirador Orosi (tel. 506/2574-4688, 8am-4:30pm daily, free), two kilometers (1.2 miles) south of Paraíso. This park has lawns, topiary, and picnic tables.
If you’re traveling to or from Turrialba, take the dramatically scenic road that links Ujarrás with the main highway about two kilometers (1.2 miles) east of Cervantes; this roller coaster snakes through boulder-strewn countryside farmed with chayote. Awesome!
The village of Orosi, eight kilometers (5 miles) south of Paraíso, is the center of the coffee-growing region. Its main claim to fame is its charming Iglesia San José de Orosi, built by the Franciscans in 1735 of solid adobe with a rustic timbered roof, terra-cotta tiled floor, and gilt altar. The restored church, adorned with gilt icons, has withstood earth tremors with barely a mark for almost three centuries. The church adjoins a small religious art museum (tel. 506/2533-3051, 1pm-5pm Tues.-Fri., 9am-5pm Sat.-Sun., $0.75) displaying furniture, religious statuary, paintings, and silver. Photography is not allowed.
Balnearios Termales Orosi (tel. 506/2533-2156, 7:30am-4pm Wed.-Mon., $2), two blocks west of the plaza, has 30°C (86°F) thermal mineral pools; it’s clean and well run. Another hot springs, Balnearios Los Patios (tel. 506/2533-3009, 8am-4pm Tues.-Sun., $2.50), about one kilometer (0.6 miles) south of Orosi at Río Macho, has simpler pools but packs in the locals on weekends. Across the road, the Beneficio Orlich (tel. 506/2533-3535, fax 506/2533-3735, 9am-noon and 1:30pm-4pm Mon.-Fri.) offers one-hour tours (by appointment, $5 pp) of the coffee-processing plant. Afternoon is best.
Vivero Anita (tel. 506/2533-3307, 8:30am-5pm daily, $1), next to Orosi Lodge, raises orchids and welcomes visitors.
South of town, the road divides at Río Macho: The main road crosses the river (a small toll is collected on Sun.) and turns north to continue around the lake’s southern shore via the village of Cachí. A side road continues south nine kilometers (5.5 miles) to Parque Nacional Tapantí via the Río Grande valley, where just west of Purisil, four kilometers (2.5 miles) southeast of Orosi, a dirt road clambers uphill two kilometers (1.2 miles) to Monte Sky Mountain Retreat (tel. 506/2228-0010, 8am-5pm daily, $10), a 56-hectare (138-acre) private cloud-forest reserve with trails and waterfalls, and camping ($10 per tent) with shared cold-water baths. It’s great for bird-watching. A 4WD vehicle is recommended for the rocky uphill clamber; you have to hike in from an unguarded parking lot, so don’t leave any valuables in your car.
For insights into sustainable agriculture, call in or volunteer at Finca La Flor de Paraíso (tel. 506/5234-8003), near Paraíso. Its 10 hectares (25 acres) include botanical and medicinal gardens, regenerated forest, and animals husbandry (goats, chickens, horses).
Around Lago Cachí
Lago Cachí (Lake Cachí) was created when the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad built the Cachí dam across the Río Reventazón to supply San José with hydroelectric power.
On the southern shore, just east of Cachí village, Casa del Soñador (Dreamer’s House, tel. 506/2577-1186 and 506/8955-7779, 9am-6pm daily, free) is the unusual home of brothers Hermes and Miguel Quesada, who carry on their father Macedonio’s tradition of carving crude figurines from coffee-plant roots; the carvings are offered for sale. The house—with carved figures leaning over the windows—is made entirely of rough-cut wood. Check out the Last Supper on one of the walls.
Ujarrás, on the north shore of the lake, seven kilometers (4.5 miles) southeast of Paraíso, is the site of Las Ruinas de Ujarrás (8am-4:30pm daily, free), the ruins of a church, Nuestra Señora de la Limpia Concepción, built out of limestone between 1681 and 1693 to honor the Virgen del Rescate de Ujarrás. The church owes its existence to an imagined miracle. In 1666 the pirate Henry Morgan led a raiding party into the Valle de Turrialba to sack the highland cities. They were routed after the defenders prayed at Ujarrás. The ruins are set in a walled garden. Thousands of pilgrims from Paraíso flock here each Easter Sunday to honor the imagined intercession of the Virgin Mary in the pirate attack.
Sports and Recreation
Orosi Lodge (tel./fax 506/2533-3578) offers excursions and rents mountain bikes ($3 per hour, $10 per day) and canoes ($30 per day, including transportation to the lake). Montaña Linda (tel. 506/2533-3640) also rents bikes ($4 per day).
Santos Tours (tel. 506/8855-9386) has a highlands fruit tour and bio-coffee adventure, among others. You can fish for trout at Montaña Trucha de Cachí (tel. 506/2577-1457), 1.5 kilometers (1 mile) south of Highway 224, near the village of Cachí.
The Adventure Lodge (tel. 506/2533-1195), on the south side of the lake, specializes in multiday adventure packages, combining sightseeing with mountain biking and hiking. And Aventuras Orosi Rafting (tel. 506/2533-4400) guarantees you white-water thrills. You can book through Orosi Tourist Info & Art Café (OTIA, tel. 506/2533-3640, firstname.lastname@example.org) in the village center.
Information and Services
Sara and Toine Verkuijlen’s Orosi Tourist Info & Art Café (tel. 506/2533-3640, email@example.com) is a good resource. It has a Spanish-language school (OTIAC).
A medical clinic (tel. 506/2374-8225 or 506/2552-0851) is 50 meters (165 feet) northeast of the soccer field. The police station is on the northwest corner of the soccer field.
Orosi Lodge (tel./fax 506/2533-3578, 7am-7pm daily) offers Internet access.
Getting There and Around
Buses (tel. 506/2533-1916) depart Cartago for Orosi ($0.65) from Calle 4, Avenida 1, every 30 minutes 5:30am-10:35pm Monday-Saturday, less frequently on Sunday. Return buses depart from the soccer field in Orosi. Buses do not complete a circuit of Lago Cachí; you’ll have to backtrack to Paraíso to visit Ujarrás and the Cachí dam by public bus. Buses depart Cartago for Cachí via Ujarrás from one block east and one block south of Las Ruinas.
Taxis El Rescate (tel. 506/2574-4442) is in Paraíso. Jeep taxis (tel. 506/2533-3087 or 506/8378-0357) await customers on the north side of the soccer field in Orosi. A tour around the lake will cost about $20.
Excerpted from the Ninth Edition of Moon Costa Rica.