Orosi was our first stop in Costa Rica and someplace that will always be very dear to my heart. It's the place that made me realize what a special country Costa Rica is.
Orosi is a small town in the Cartago province of Costa Rica, about an hour south of San Jose. With a small population of only 4,600 it's a town that can easily be overlooked but it is truly a hidden gem. Orosi is located in a valley surrounded by lush rainforests, volcanoes and coffee plantations. Although it was one of the first towns in Costa Rica to be settled by the Spanish in the sixteenth century, it is one of the last to be developed for tourism making it a perfect place to experience the "real" Costa Rica.
"How did you even hear about Orosi?" you may ask. To be honest, our decision to come to Costa Rica at all was pretty last minute. We were actually planning to spend a couple months in Croatia, but due to timing and visa issues ended up changing our minds. My neighbor in California is originally from Orosi. All of her stories of her town made it sound so amazing that we decided we had to visit! Luckily for us, the rest of her family still lives there and they so graciously helped us out with transport, took us on day trips and even made us dinner. We were so grateful for their hospitality!
|Oldest still functioning church in Costa Rica|
First off, let me say that eating out in Costa Rica is NOT inexpensive! Before leaving I had a number of friends from California tell me how cheap Costa Rica was. In my opinion, this is very untrue. At most places in Costa Rica expect to spend a minimum of $8 for a meal that will fill you up. Spending about half of my time over the past couple of years in South Africa has definitely changed my perspective of what is cheap and what isn't. That being said, we tried to make most of our meals in the casita we were staying at, but were able to try a small selection of Orosi's restaurantes.
A restaurant serving pretty typical Costa Rican cuisine. It was our first experience with a Costa Rican casado (literally meaning "married", it's a dish built around a meat of your choice with a variety of sides usually including rice, beans, plantain and salad) and we were not disappointed. It's located right across from the soccer field so it's a great place for people watching and taking in the vibe of the town.
|Typical Costa Rican Casado|
|The soccer field seems to be a very important component in Costa Rican towns|
This is a small restaurant good for if you want something simple and relatively expensive to eat. The staff is very friendly and will make you feel very welcome.
Sodas are local family-run restaurants that serve typical Costa Rican cuisine. These are usually the best bang for your buck if you want something that will fill you up but still be easy on the wallet.
Orosi Lodge Coffee Shop
We ate breakfast here a few times during our stay at Orosi Lodge. Both of the breakfast choices (continental or American) are delicious, come with plenty of bread and homemade jam, and will give you plenty of energy for whatever you have planned for the day. Their homemade cakes are also delicious and made from family recipes.
The pizzeria in town (located next to the bank) is a great place to eat when you feel like you need a break from rice and beans. It's a family run joint and they will truly make you feel like you are part of their family.
What to do:
This is the part where I'm afraid I actually don't have too much advice from personal experience and will have to include some of the things that I wanted to do while we were there. I ended up getting some sort of flu while I was in Orosi which left me pretty much bedridden for a few days. That combined with the fact that traveling to Costa Rica and getting settled had already taken us out of work for a few days left us with little time to explore Orosi (which is okay because it gives us an excuse to come back!)
Volcan Irazu is an active volcano (the last erruption was in 1994) near Cartago, a short drive from Orosi. At 11,260 feet it's the highest active volcano in Costa Rica. On clear days you are supposed to be able to see both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans; although we did not get to experience this as such days are very rare.
Ruins of Ujarras
The Ruins of Ujarras is the site of Costa Rica's oldest church which was built between 1575 and 1580. The ruins are surrounded by a beautiful garden that would make a nice spot for a picnic in good weather (it was raining when we got there).
Learn some Spanish
Unlike the coastal regions of Costa Rica, English is far and few between in the Central Valley. Many people come to Orosi to take Spanish lessons as it's a great place to completely immerse yourself in the language. I recommend Morpho Spanish School, let them know that Melissa sent you there!
Tapanti National Park
Tapanti is one of the rainiest parks in Costa Rica and covers 12,500 acres. The forest is home to 45 species of mammals and there are many hiking trails (most that take about 1-2 hours) to go on. Sadly we did not have time to visit this time and will have to wait until we are able to return.
The hills around Orosi are covered with coffee plantations, many of which offer tours. We also did not to experience this this time around.
Wander the surrounding hills
One of the simplest, but most enjoyable things you can do in Orosi is to just wander the surrounding hills. It will give you an appreciation for all the plants and wildlife in the area and a sense for how day to day life for the Ticos in the area is.
My neighbor's cousin (who owns the pizza place) took us on an all day hike to her finca (piece of rural or agricultural land like a farm) in the hills with amazing views of the valley. She made us breakfast, took us on a lovely tour of the area, showed us many wild berries and fruits that are safe to eat, and even made us a full lunch! Ticos are some of the friendliest people I have met and will do everything they can to make you feel at home.
|Wild Moras (Berries)|
We stayed at Orosi Lodge during our nine nights in Orosi. It's a colonial style hotel that is within walking distance to everything you will need while in town. There are several double and triple rooms located in the main house as well as a chalet and casita (where we stayed) which are separate units that both have full kitchens.
|View from the hotel|
The bottom line: If you are looking for a place where you can experience authentic Costa Rica, look no further than Orosi. Unlike the more popular places in Costa Rica where you are treated like a tourist, in Orosi you will almost feel like a celebrity. Come here and you won't be disappointed!