Biking in Costa Rica
For those wanting to explore Costa Rica by bike, mountain biking far outweighs the beauty and experience of traveling by road bike. Many of the country’s paved roads are dotted with potholes the size of bathtubs, leaving little to be desired for fast-paced cyclists. As a safe and rewarding alternative, mountain biking has become a great way to access remote locations and discover Costa Rica from a different point of view.
Although avid bikers generally travel to San Jose with their own gear, there are several shops throughout Costa Rica that provide bike rental, tours and a support vehicle for $75 per day. It is also possible to rent a bike and helmet without a guide for $30 a day. Below is a list of some of Costa Rica’s best mountain biking destinations.
Located in the Guanacaste province, Arenal is a wonderful place to cycle past pristine lakes, exotic wildlife, and smoldering volcanoes. With its rain forests, waterfalls and spacious trails, bikers can experience spectacular scenery in every direction. At the base of Arenal Volcano are several tour operators offering intermediate rides along the southern shore of Lake Arenal. One of the most popular options is a 7-day tour along the forest, beach and volcano. The reward of this challenging trek is a relaxing dip in the nearby thermal pools. Some riders prefer to start from the mountainous area west of San Jose. From here, the ride reaches beyond the Cloud Forest all the way to Arenal Volcano. This strenuous uphill ride takes about 12 hours, traversing desolate roads used only by local farmers and horses.
In the city of San Jose are several tour companies offering combination adventure packages. Considered one of the best options is a 9-day adventure that starts with with whitewater rafting on the Pacuare River, followed by hiking at Arenal Volcano. After kayaking on the popular windsurfing spot of Lake Arenal, riders conclude the trip by biking to the beaches of the Nicoya Peninsula. Custom day trips can also be arranged, such as biking through coffee plantations or riding 234 kilometers from coast to coast.
Catering to the active tourist are companies that organize biking tours to the Central Valley’s famed Irazú Volcano. The 22 kilometer journey begins at the top of Irazu volcano with an optional visit to the National Park. The route passes coffee plantations and farms of grazing cattle. Support is provided by a van stocked with water, nuts and emergency supplies. After leaving this rural scenery, bikers continue toward the city of Turrialba.
For an extended trip from Turrialba, bikers can ride along the dirt route past milk farms and beautiful mountains. The tour passes by the National Monument of Guayabo and concludes at the central park of Turrialba. This second option has a length of 32 kilometers. Bikes used for tours in this area are high-quality Trek and Cannondales.
Considered one of the country’s best areas for mountain biking, Turrialba has several companies that organize expeditions from this region. Trips out of the San Jose province pass by archeological sites as well as refreshing pools for swimming. Depending on one’s skill level, guides will take riders along technical single track trails as well as deserted back roads. From Turrialba, it is possible to reach the Caribbean Coast in two days, or in 16 hours total.
The latest practice for tour companies is to combine several destinations into one biking adventure. Most all-inclusive packages include airport transportation, lodging, food, equipment, entrance to national parks and bilingual guides. One of the easier trips features a trek to Poás Volcano National Park. Starting from the parking lot, the route descends through well-maintained roads to the quaint town of Poasito. The tour continues downhill to the town of Sabana Redonda, where riders take a break before entering La Hilda coffee farm. The journey passes Poás river and continues to Doka Estate farm where riders are treated to traditional Costa Rican hospitality and a tour of the coffee roasting facilities. Similar packages start at $100 per person.