If you hire your own rental car when you come to Costa Rica, visiting the Orosi Valley is a picturesque and fascinating day trip from San José. Not only will you see some of the country’s oldest architectural sights, but also some of its most beautiful natural ones too. Just over 20 miles out of the city, the freeway takes you to your first stop, Cartago, Costa Rica’s first capital.
Costa Rica’s First Capital
Its striking Cathedral dating back to 1639 is a place of pilgrimage and millions of people make the arduous journey there on foot from all over the country at the beginning of every August. Its sacred black Madonna, La Negrita, draws people all year round, and it is a great place to break up your journey and see the most important religious monument in the country.
Unbeatable Views of the Valley
Out of Cartago you don’t have to drive far before you reach the beautiful valley of Orosi, with the River Reventazon carving its way through the valley floor. One of the area’s best views can be found at the Sanchiri Hotel and Restaurant. Start your day with a traditional breakfast, ‘gallo pinto’, as you look down across the sweeping hills as birds of prey circle the skies above. Then on to Costa Rica’s oldest church in constant use, the picture postcard Iglesia de San José de Orosi. With its beautifully manicured gardens and simple interior, it has character and charm that make it extremely special, and worth visiting. The Orosi Valley is full of historical, cultural, and natural wonders that give you an insight in to the real Costa Rica.
Trails at Tapanti National Park
After passing through small, colorful towns, rickety bridges over the snaking river, and hills covered in coffee plantations, you eventually reach the Tapanti National Park. Covering several thousand hectares of rainforest and protected wildlife zones, many endangered animal species can be found here. Tapirs, wildcats, and white-faced monkeys are some of the most sought after viewings here. A steep track leads you past a variety of short hiking trails and up to the spectacular waterfall viewpoint. The trails vary from clambering over huge tree roots in the hills through the jungle, to walking on flat paths to the side of the fast-flowing river. Well-equipped with restrooms, barbeque stands, and a small restaurant, this is a great place to see the area’s lush vegetation and natural surroundings.
The Fish Doesn’t Get Any Fresher!
Once you have explored the National Park and its many trails, you can head back to the road that passes around the outside of the vast Cachi Lake. Covered in lily pads, the water is not used for sailing or swimming, but the birds and animals it attracts make it very scenic indeed. Along the road are numerous local eateries, including the fabulous Montaña de la Trucha, where you catch your own trout before eating it served fresh with patacones! After lunch you can make your way to the impressive Cachi Dam, where the wobbly bridge may have your nerves on edge as you look down in to this deep canyon. Then stop at one of the many handcrafted souvenir stalls on your way to your final visit; the Ujarras Church ruins National Monument. Located in one of the most attractive parts of this whole area, where Spanish colonialists built the Ujarras Church in the 17th Century, the tranquil gardens and crumbling walls, make for a romantic and tranquil spot. It is the perfect end to a day full of variety, adventure and natural wonders; typical of any Costa Rica Vacation.