Churacas' natural thermal hot springs, one of many beautiful sights in Orosi Valley — Photo courtesy of Churacas Hotsprings Estates
It's hard to visit the Orosi Valley without falling in love; with its peaceful atmosphere, rolling green hills and majestic mountain views, this river valley is what Costa Rican dreams are made of.
Although it was one of the first areas of the country to be settled, it is one of the last to be developed. Just an hour from the capital city of San Jose, this oasis of a town has managed to escape the trappings of tourism and stay true to la pura vida ("the pure life").
View of the Orosi Valley — Photo courtesy of Fred Hsu
The Irazu Volcano is the largest active volcano in Costa Rica, and the best time to visit is early in the morning, when the view is the best and you can walk the perimeter to peer into the massive crater that contains a beautiful blue green lagoon.
View into the Irazu Volcano — Photo courtesy of The LEAF Project
Take a drive along "The Loop," the scenic road that winds through a landscape of the Orosi Valley's rolling green hills, terraced coffee plantations and pastoral villages. The road starts out heading south about 8 kilometers southeast of Cartago in Paraíso, and you can continue south into the Tapanti National Park, one of Costa Rica's wildest places and home to a multitude of exotic species, or you can retrace The Loop through Paraíso via Ujarrás.
Orosi is home to the oldest Catholic church still being used in Costa Rica, the Iglesia de San Jose de Orosi, which was built in 1743. The church has a classic Spanish-colonial facade and bell tower, with an antique wooden altar inside and ancient paintings of the Stations of the Cross and the Virgin of Guadalupe. Adjacent to the church is a small museum with an impressive collection of furniture and artifacts immaculately preserved from the Franciscan monastery that was here originally.
Church of Orosi — Photo courtesy of Jeziret S. Gonzalez Gallardo
For coffee lovers, the Orosi Valley is where you'll discover the heart of Costa Rica's gourmet beans. Terraced plantations line the road and frame the village, and many of the residents of Orosi are connected to the coffee industry in some way.
Finca Cristina is one farm that offers three-hour tours for only $10 per person, and you're likely to see an astounding number of beautiful flowers and birds along the way. But if you are traveling in a group, you may want to consider booking a day at Churacas Hotsprings Estate, where the coffee plantation tour is topped off with a dip in their thermal hot springs.
Picking coffee beans — Photo courtesy of Sandra Cohen-Rose and Colin Rose