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The views from the road into Orosí are as stunning as the town is charming. Buses and cars slowly wind along the edge of a lush valley anchored by a snaking river and carpeted with verdant coffee fields. The steep hillsides, dotted with colorful houses and patches of forest, cradle the town center, where most of the valley’s 10,000 residents live.

Coffee is a large component of the local economy, but the town has grown to comfortably accommodate a small tourist population. Orosí’s location—a half hour from Cártago’s magnificent Basílica Nuestra Señora de Los Angeles, an hour from Irazú Volcano, and less than two hours from San José—and its low-key atmosphere make it an ideal base for exploring the region and experiencing small-town Costa Rica firsthand.

Orosí’s two main streets run parallel through the town, flanking the all-important soccer field in the city center. Most businesses, including the supermarket, bank, butcher, and bakery, line one side of the main street, while Orosí’s famous Iglesia San José Orosí sits along the other. Built in 1743, the squat white structure is the oldest continuously operating church in Costa Rica. The church courtyard is attractively landscaped, and a religious museum filled with dusty relics is open most days. Orosí has developed a solid infrastructure for tourists.

Accommodation ranges from budget to upscale, but nothing is shockingly expensive. Visitors can sample traditional food, enjoy homemade pizza on the main drag, nurse lattes at a comfortable coffeehouse, or have a beer at a local bar. For an even more authentic experience, many travelers enroll for a week or two at Montaña Linda, a foreign-run Spanish school with strong community ties. Students can opt for a full immersion and live with families in town, or they can stay at the nearby hostel, which offers maps and walks into the surrounding countryside.

Although it is fun to hike into the hills, strolling around town is a pleasant alternative. Residents are used to visitors and greet passers-by with a musical “Buenas!” as they go about their errands. Pickup trucks laden with seasonal produce trundle through town, and men and children zip by on bicycles. Stray dogs roam the streets, patrolling their imaginary territory. A soccer ball is nearly always in play on the central plaza. It is typical Costa Rican life—unaffected, friendly, and utterly tranquilo.

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