☺︎This story can be lived as a real experience(more)

Wandering Cachí & the Orosi Valley

5 minutes to read

Cachí is mostly a farming village in the province of Cartago. Other than being surrounded by the lush beauty of the Orosi Valley, it’s mainly known for its hydroelectric dam and Cachí Lake

©  Flickr/Dominic Smith
© Flickr/Dominic Smith

The Orosi Valley is traditionally an agricultural region famed for its exquisite coffee which is exported worldwide. It’s also sometimes referred to as the “breadbasket of Costa Rica.”  If you wonder why, visit the main Mercado (market) in Cartago and you’ll see a spectrum of fresh produce and fruits, often organically grown, on valley farms.

©  Flickr/Xavier Cirac Solé
© Flickr/Xavier Cirac Solé

Experience the “real” life rhythms of rural Costa Ricans

Carchi is probably less visited by international tourists as it is by Costa Rican tourists.  It’s a favorite place for a Sunday drive or family holiday outing.  As such, it is a wonderful place for international tourists to get a glimpse of the natural look and rhythms of Costa Rican culture

Although the quaint community of Carchi is a striking contrast to the surrounding greenery, it’s an ideal destination as you create your own ecotourism road trip.  One of the best ways to explore Cachí is by renting a bicycle. Biking gives you an entirely different perspective of the scenery and local life at your own leisurely pace.

©  Flickr/Casey Alberts
© Flickr/Casey Alberts
Cachí, a farming town, Costa Rica
Cachí, a farming town, Costa Rica
Cartago Province, Cachí, Costa Rica

Cachí Lake & Dam: Sights to see

In Costa Rica, Cachí is known for its great man-made lake. Lake Cachí is formed by the Cachí hydroelectric dam. Apart from the captivating views, the lake and the Cachí dam have important functions. First, together, the dam and lake are important controls to prevent flooding in the valley. They function to preserve the bountiful farming lands of the Orosi Valley.

©  Flickr/Scott P
© Flickr/Scott P

Second, Cachí dam provides an important source of electric power in Costa Rica.  It’s one of the first hydrographic structures in Costa Rica and part of Costa Rica’s nationwide sustainable energy system. Costa Rica produces 99% of its own energy. Cachí dam is part of the network of natural, renewable energy sources including dams, wind farms and thermal energy sources.  Nestled between volcanic-mountain ranges and breath-taking views, the dam is truly an astonishing and awesome sight.

©  Flickr/W & J
© Flickr/W & J
Cachí Lake & Carchí Hydroelectric Dam
Cachí Lake & Carchí Hydroelectric Dam
Represa de Cachí, Provincia de Cartago, Costa Rica

United Nations names Costa Rica Champion of the Earth (September 2019)

In recognition of its world leadership around fighting climate change, the United Nations has named Costa Rica as the “Champion of the Earth” in September 2019.  This is the U.N.’s highest environmental honor.  It is awarded to outstanding leaders from government, civil society and the private sector whose actions have a positive impact to protect nature and combat climate change.  The extent of nature conservation in Costa Rica includes a pledge to become the world’s first carbon-neutral economy by 2021.

©  UNenvironment.org/championsofearth
© UNenvironment.org/championsofearth

Plan your own eco-tour to explore

You can extend your self-planned eco-tour by continuing on to visit other attractions and activities in the area. A next stop could be the historical site of Ujarras which sits along the banks of the Cachí Lake.  There are many beautiful churches in Costa Rica, including the Basilica in Cartago city. In Ujarras you can discover the oldest church in Costa Rica.   Built in the 1560s, the ruins of the Church of Our Lady of Clean Conception offer a glimpse into the region's past. You’ll find a quiet, beautiful garden around remnants of traditional Spanish colonial architecture.

©  Flickr/Eric
© Flickr/Eric
Ujarras, Ruins Lady of Clean Conception Church
Ujarras, Ruins Lady of Clean Conception Church
Ujarras, San José Province, San José, Costa Rica

Lankester Botanical Gardens with orchid displays are nearby

Speaking of gardens, heading south to other side of Lake Cachí, be sure to visit Lankester Botanical Gardens.  The gardens are open to the public, but the University of Costa Rica operates a research center there.  It’s a major site for orchid research in both Central America and the Caribbean. From Lankester, continue on in the direction of Purisil (where you’ll find top hiking trails) to reach Tapanti National Park (Parque Nacional Tapantí). This park is home to several lush virgin cloud forests in the region.

©  Flickr/Sebastian Moreno
© Flickr/Sebastian Moreno
Lankester Botanical Garden, Cartago
Lankester Botanical Garden, Cartago
Lankester Botanical Garden, Provincia de Cartago, Cartago, Costa Rica

Next stop: Tapanti National Park (Parque Nacional Tapantí)

Tapanti National Park has excellent ecotourism reviews and is a birdwatcher’s must-see! With about 18 square kilometers of cloud forest and a part of the Talamanca mountain range, Tapanti Park is one of the most biodiverse in the country. In 2009, a University of Costa Rica (UCR) team discovered three new species of Lepanthes orchids in the park. So far, it’s their only known habitat. In fact, the park consists of two life zones: lower montane rainforest and the pre-montane rainforest. It covers more than 12,500 hectares and is the natural habitat for a wide variety of wildlife, including more than 400 species of birds, 45 species of mammals, and 28 species of reptiles.

©  Flickr/Ken Feustel
© Flickr/Ken Feustel
Tapanti National Park (Parque Nacional Tapantí)
Tapanti National Park (Parque Nacional Tapantí)
Tapantí National Park, Provincia de Cartago, Costa Rica

Restaurante La Posada de la Luna (The Moon Inn): A great place to eat

Paraíso is on the way back to San Jose (turn left/west on Highway 10). Check out Paraíso’s central farmer’s market if it’s open.  However, before returning to the city, an excellent lunch, afternoon coffee or dinner stop is Restaurante La Posada de la Luna (The Moon Inn).  To get there is a slight detour with a right turn (East) onto Highway 10. 

©  Flickr/Sparky
© Flickr/Sparky
Posada de la Luna Restaurant, Cervantes, Costa Rica
Posada de la Luna Restaurant, Cervantes, Costa Rica
10, Provincia de Cartago, Cervantes, Costa Rica

By the way, if you’re not a coffee drinker or just want to try something different, order a hot ”aguadulce” drink. “Aguadulce” is a typical hot beverage made with hot milk (or hot water for the lactose intolerant) and cane molasses.  It’s the Coast Rican equivalent to hot chocolate, but you can order that too!

©  Wikipedia/Aguadulce
© Wikipedia/Aguadulce

Day trip to the enchanting villages and nature parks in Cachí and the Orosi Valley

We hope you’re inspired to plan a day wandering through enchanting villages and nature parks in Cachí and the Orosi Valley. It’s located in the province of Cartago, just minutes southeast of the city of Cartago.  It’s about an hour from San Jose depending during non-rush hour times.  If you’re interested in exploring the true Costa Rican rural culture, Carchí and neighboring towns will give you the chance to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of farm towns.  Be sure to try the local foods.  The fresh fruits and produce are top quality, and increasingly grown organically.  

©  Flickr/Kurt Buzard (Collared Whitestart or Collared Redstart /Myioborus torquatus)
© Flickr/Kurt Buzard (Collared Whitestart or Collared Redstart /Myioborus torquatus)

You loved this story?

Live it yourself as a memorable local experience!

Discover the Live Stories

The author

Susan Wesley-Vega

Susan Wesley-Vega

My name is Susan and I’m from the U.S., but have been living in Alajuela, Costa Rica for 15 years. I love discovering the specialness in every place I go. By writing about the fun and fabulous ecotourism hotspots in my adopted country, Costa Rica, I hope to inspire you to come and see for yourself!

View more stories

Stories you might also like