Palmares, 1.5 kilometers south from the Pan-American Highway, 10 kilometers west of Naranjo , is renowned for its lively weeklong agricultural and civic fiesta held mid-January each year. The impressive stone church, built in 1894, is attractive in its ornamental setting and is fronted by a peaceful plaza.
At Cocaleca, one kilometer south of Palmares, is Jardín de las Guarias (tel. 506/2452-0091, 7 a.m.–6 p.m. daily, $4, May–June by donation), a private orchid collection. Owner Javier Solórzano Murillo has more than 180 orchid species on display, but it is Costa Rica’s national flower, the violet guaria morada orchid, that blossoms most profusely—more than 40,000 of them. The best time to visit is February–April, when the place explodes into color.
In town, the lovely Casa Marta Boutique Hotel (tel. 506/2453-1010, www.hotel-casamarta.com , $50 s, $75 d), a former mansion that makes fine use of lava stone and hardwoods, has 12 spacious and endearing rooms in a garden setting with secure parking. It has a plunge pool and hot tub.