Paraiso, Cartago

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Located in the breathtakingly gorgeous Central Valley, the town of Paraiso sits southeast of Cartago City around 8 km away. Cartago, which is a 45 minute drive southeast of the capital San Jose on the Inter-American Highway, was the former capital of Costa Rica. A quaint charming town that is often found bustling with tourists; Paraiso owes much of its fame to its exceptionally beautiful surrounding locales.

To get to Paraiso, buses leave regularly from the Coca Cola Bus Station in San Jose City and offer some truly amazing scenery along the way. Among the first places to be colonized by the Spanish when they landed here, Paraiso means ‘paradise’ in English.

Another key attraction of this town is that it plays home to the spectacular Lankester Botanical Gardens. Named after the British botanist, Charles Lankester who was sent here in the 1900’s to plant coffee; this 11-hectare garden is today, home to 600 of the total 1,400 native orchid species found in Costa Rica. Managed by the University of Costa Rica, this botanical garden has a varied landscape creating a number of microhabitats, with each habitat housing various species of orchids, bromeliads and other plants. A visit here between the months of February and April is especially beautiful, as this period is flowering season and the garden is visited by hundreds of beautiful birds.

Famous for its farmers market in the center of town, Paraiso is a friendly and welcoming place with plenty of local sodas that offer some exquisite views. Just on the outskirts of town, a modern shopping mall (Paraiso Shopping Center) has recently been built, with its own movie theater, a pharmacy store, grocery stores and even a few fast food joints like Burger King.

If you don’t mind some physical activity that visit the Finca la Flor de Paraiso operated by ASODECAH or the Association for the Development of Environmental and Human Consciousness. A non-profit organic farm, Finca la Flor is located 7 km northeast of Paraiso and offers instructions on sustainable agriculture and reforestation practices. It is also important to mention earlier this year Paraiso became the first Costa Rican city to declared itself transgenic or GMO (genetically modified organisms) free.