They say that Costa Rica is one of the happiest countries on Earth. With so many stunning destinations like the Orosi volcano, it isn’t hard to see why. Costa Rica features nearly 70 distinct volcanoes and dozens of other beautiful mountains, parks and nature preserves, which means that some of these great attractions end up getting lost in the shuffle. Orosi is just such an attraction. It isn’t visited as frequently as some of Costa Rica’s most popular volcanoes, but a trip to Orosi is every bit as enjoyable and rewarding as any other destination around.
Where History, Ecology and Adventure Meet
Whether you love nature, you’re passionate about history or you’re just an adrenaline junky, no trip to Costa Rica would be complete without a visit to the fascinating Orosi volcano. Orosi is the northwesternmost volcano in Costa Rica. It’s situated near the Nicaragua border in the Cordillera de Guanacaste mountain range. Orosi is actually part of a group of four distinct volcanic cones, each of which is heavily eroded and covered in dense vegetation. Though there are reports of eruptions in 1844 and 1849, the volcano is considered dormant and may not have erupted in the last 3,500 years.
Because it has been dormant for so long, Orosi and the surrounding area is a great place to experience Costa Rica’s rich biodiversity. In particular, the tropical rainforests and cloud forests that spread out from the volcano’s flanks are home to a wide variety of marine birds and other migratory species. Just as fascinating is Orosi’s deep historical ties. The region surrounding the volcano is home to an ancient indigenous site that was once settled by the Chorotega peoples. The historical site is an intriguing destination for history buffs thanks to a number of broad, rough-hewn stone slabs with rich petroglyphs and other displays carved into their faces.
Exploring the Region
Orosi and its neighboring peaks are located within the sprawling, 83,000-acre Guanacaste National Park. This park, in turn, is part of the larger Area de Conservación Guanacaste World Heritage Site. These areas are particularly important because they protect a vital connection between the region’s dry forests and rainforests, which is an essential migratory corridor for the local wildlife. As a result, Orosi and Guanacaste National Park are home to a spectacular array of species. Nearly 150 species of mammals, more than 300 distinct bird species and 100 different reptile and amphibian species can be found within the Guanacaste region, making it a dream destination for birders, conservationists and anyone else who loves the beauty and majesty of nature.
In fact, Maritza Biological Station stands at the base of the volcano. Maritza is an important base of operations for aquatic biology research in the area, and it also offers one of the few camping opportunities near the volcano. Dorm-style lodgings are also available, though it’s best to make reservations in advance to ensure availability. Unlike most of the other volcanoes in Costa Rica, the weather on and around Orosi is relatively hot and arid. Depending on the elevation and location within the region, temperatures may range from around 65 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The rainy season runs from June through November, but precipitation is less common than in other parts of Costa Rica even during this time.
While most of Costa Rica’s volcanoes and parks are designed with tourists in mind, Orosi and Guanacaste National Park are visited far more often by scientists, research volunteers and teachers than by adventure-seekers. For this reason, access is somewhat more difficult than at other parks. Public transportation and cell phone reception are both limited. The roads in and around the park are rather poor as well. Visitors to the park area often come in from the city of Liberia. From here, reaching the volcano requires a trip of about 27 miles along Route 1 toward La Cruz. Turning right just before the Cuajiniquil checkpoint, the volcano lies a further 10 miles to the east.
If you intend to make the trip yourself, be sure to rent a vehicle that is capable of off-road travel. It’s also important to call ahead and make arrangements with the Guanacaste Conservation Area’s Biological Stations Center to ensure a smooth experience. Alternatively, there are typically several guided tours of the area available from La Cruz. These include horseback riding tours, off-road expeditions and other group tours that offer an opportunity to take in the local culture in addition to enjoying the volcano and all it has to offer. The more well-known Santa Rosa National Park, situated nearby, may also assist in reaching the volcano and its park.
Things to Do
If you’re headed to Orosi, it’s probably because you’re in search of a good hike. The volcano and surrounding Guanacaste National Park don’t offer many of the amenities and trappings typical of more tourist-oriented attractions, but you will find a wide variety of rustic, virtually undeveloped trails that let you experience the natural wonder of Costa Rica in a wholly unique way. You’re unlikely to encounter many other visitors on your trip, so be sure to prepare yourself for the relative isolation. The old-growth forests and rich biodiversity also make Orosi a wonderful place to go birding or searching for local animals. There’s a particularly large collared peccary population along the flanks of the volcano. Though there aren’t many amenities, you will find basic services like potable water, restroom facilities and an information center.
If you’re starting your trip from nearby La Cruz, one of the most enjoyable ways to explore the area is to join one of the many horseback riding tours. It’s a great opportunity to see the region from a new perspective, and the helpful guides can also help you learn a little more about the local communities. If you’re a history buff, be sure to check out the pre-Columbian petroglyphs near the plain at El Pedregal. More than 1,500 years ago, the Chorotega peoples who inhabited the area scratched fantastic images, characters and designs into great stone slabs that can still be viewed today. Finally, if you happen to have a scientific background, you may even find an opportunity to volunteer at the park for an extended stay. There’s always exciting research to be done, so scientists are frequently greeted with an open invitation to participate.
Where to Stay
Because it’s typically visited more by researchers than honeymooners and vacationers, there are relatively few notable places to stay in the immediate Orosi area. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t find great accommodations if you’re willing to travel a bit. The Blue River Resort & Hot Springs is located on the north face of the scenic Rincon de la Vieja volcano, offering a luxurious experience with on-site waterfalls, mineral-rich hot springs, lush botanical gardens and so much more. Its blend of tremendous amenities and activities and a gorgeous, intimate setting make it a wonderful place for both couples and families.
For a great place to stay that offers relatively easy access to the Orosi area, Hotel Casa del Viento in La Cruz is a great option. The relatively humble accommodations can’t quite stack up with the luxury offerings elsewhere in Costa Rica, but the price is highly affordable and the location is excellent. There’s a beautiful mosaic-bottomed pool, breezy rooms with excellent views and even a terrace from which you can view the monkeys that call the area home. Hotel Casa del Viento is especially fitting for unpretentious solo travelers thanks to its wallet-friendly pricing, easy access to transportation and proximity to many of the places that give La Cruz its quaint charm.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are few more upscale and luxurious places in the country to rest your head than Dreams Las Mareas Costa Rica. Though it requires a lengthier journey from Playa El Jobo, Dreams Las Mareas offers an all-inclusive experience that’s hard to match. It’s a wonderful choice for couples and retirees of all ages, though families and solo travelers will undoubtedly love it as well. There’s a world-class spa, tremendously refined accommodations, a wide variety of activities and attractions and a setting that is simply breathtaking. Because the resort is located on the beach, you’ll also get access to a variety of fun activities at sea. Sunset sailing, scuba diving, kayaking, snorkeling, surfing, fishing and much more are all available. If you’ve got the budget and you can handle the longer commute, you may not find a better choice than Dreams Las Mareas.
There truly is something for everyone when it comes to Costa Rica’s diverse array of volcanoes and national parks. Orosi and the surrounding Guanacaste National Park are far more wild and untamed than most of Costa Rica’s popular destinations, making the area a natural choice for travelers looking to experience the country’s rugged beauty in its most pristine and untouched state. It certainly isn’t for everyone, but if you’re up for the challenge, Orosi offers a rewarding experience quite unlike anything else in Costa Rica.
If you are interested in more information about Costa Rica Volcanoes, we recommend reading the following articles:
Active Volcanoes in Costa Rica
Costa Rica Volcanoes – How many are there?
Rincon de la Vieja Volcano