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Paraíso, a small town seven kilometers east of Cartago on Highway 10, is gateway to the Orosi-Cachí Valley, to the southeast. At last visit, the Museo Histórico Religioso de Ujarrás, dedicated to the region’s religious history, was closed pending construction of a new Santuario de la Virgen de Ujarrás church, in dramatic contemporary style, on the main square; the museum will be housed in the church.
Linda Mayher and Ernesto Carman run Finca Cristina (tel./fax 506/2574-6426 or 800/355-8826, www.cafecristina.com), a 12-hectare environmentally sound organic coffee farm about six kilometers east of Paraíso, at Birrisito de Paraíso. They welcome visitors by appointment only for fascinating educational tours ($10 adults, $5 children) that give a total immersion in understanding the ecology of an organic coffee farm. Bring insect repellent.
The sign on the highway is easy to miss; look for a white arch, then take the next dirt road to the east and go 500 meters to the unsigned red gate.
Jardín Botánico Lankester
Covering 10.7 hectares of exuberant forest and gardens, Lankester Botanical Garden (tel. 506/2552-3247, www.jbl.ucr.ac.cr, 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. daily, $7.50 adults, $5.50 students and children), one kilometer west of Paraíso, is one of the most valuable botanical centers in the Americas, with about 1,000 native and exotic orchid species (Feb.–Apr. is best), plus bromeliads, heliconias, bamboo, cacti, and palms. A Japanese garden and a fern garden were completed in 2009. You can pre-book guided tours.
The garden was conceived by an Englishman, Charles Lankester West, who arrived in Costa Rica in 1898 and established the garden in 1917 as an adjunct to his coffee plantation. After his death, the garden was donated to the University of Costa Rica in 1973.
Getting to Paraíso
Buses (tel. 506/2574-6127) depart Cartago for Paraíso from the southeast side of Las Ruinas on Avenida 1 every 10 minutes 5 a.m.–11 p.m. daily ($0.30). Get off at the Camp Ayala electricity installation and walk approximately 600 meters to the south.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition