Costa Rica Coast to Coast: Biking, Hiking, Rafting and Kayaking - 12 Days

This is experience is a must for any serious adventurer, a coast to coast crossing totally powered on human muscle - no motorized vehicles! Starting at the Pacific coast of Costa Rica and ending on the Caribbean coast. Bike, hike, and raft past hundreds of miles of scenery that define Costa Rica as the world's premier destination for eco-tourism, all while challenging yourself like never before.

Highlights

  • Warm up at Manuel Antonio National Park, renowned for its beaches and biodiversity
  • Hike "Cemetery Hill" before biking uphill through the Continental Divide into the lush Orosi Valley
  • Enter the Tapantí National Wildlife Refuge and paddle a raft past jungle waterfalls
  • Kayak to the Caribbean Sea and enjoy breathtaking views at the Braulio Carrillo National Park

Overview

The adventure itinerary is the only itinerary across Central America that relies completely on human muscle power, a 154 mile (248 km) journey that lasts almost two weeks and has been pushing travelers to the limit since 1994. Most of the route will be covered by mountain biking, but several stretches will provide opportunities to hike, white-water raft, kayak, and swim.

Starting from the Pacific Coast, you will bike past rural villages, coffee plantations, and mountainside scenery before crossing the Continental Divide and acres of virgin forests to end up on the eastern Carribean coast.

It is important to know that there will be no assistance from any kinds of motorized vehicles or pack animals. Therefore, this is an extremely rigorous tour that requires a stamina, fitness, but most importantly, a thirst for adventure. Most nights will be spent camping or in remote accommodations, and most food will be cooked at campsites. If you are a bold risk-taker that can handle high levels of physical activity and want to immerse yourself in nature, this is the tour for you.

Map

Brief Itinerary

Day Destination Activities
Day 1 San Jose (Arrival)  
Day 2 Quepos/Manuel Antonio National Park Free
Day 3 Naranjillo Valley Bike 11.8mi (19km) + Trek (8.7 mi) 14km
Day 4 Santa Maria Trek 7.5mi (12km) + Bike 8.7mi (14km)
Day 5 Orosi Bike 30.4mi (49km)
Day 6 Tapantí National Wildlife Refuge/Taus Bike 5.6mi (9km) + Trek 9.3mi (15km)
Day 7 Pacuare River/El Nido del Tigre Bike 26.7mi (43km) + Raft 6.2mi (10km)
Day 8 Pacuare River/El Nido del Tigre Free
Day 9 Pacuare River/Finca Pacuarito Raft 12.4mi (20km)
Day 10 Carribean Coast/Moin Bike 16.2mi (26km) + Kayak 7.5mi (12km)
Day 11 Carribean Coast/Braulio Carrillo National Park Free
Day 12 San Jose (Departure)  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in San Jose

San Jose National Theatre

Meet your tour guide at the airport, drive to your hotel in historic San Jose, and rest up for the big journey ahead.

Day 2: Warm Up Day at Manuel Antonio National Park

The coast of Manuel Antonio National Park

Leave San José by bus in the morning to the fishing village of Quepos near the Manuel Antonio National Park. Relax at the beach or venture deeper into the park to scope out the native wildlife. Then, take some time to set up your bike, eat dinner, and attend the official briefing for the trip. Sleep early, as we start right away tomorrow morning. From here on out until 10 days later, vehicles are out of the picture, so make sure you are ready to bike like never before!

Day 3: Begin Your Journey at Naranjillo 

Bikers gearing up

Today, your biking adventure begins! Wake up early, enjoy a light buffet of fresh fruit and coffee, and set off on a mountainous trail along the vast Pacific Coast. After a few miles, we will take a break in the small settlement of Esquipulas. Enjoy a fantastic view, eat a hearty brunch, and trade your wheels for hiking boots. For the rest of the day, we will continue on foot into the mountains of central Costa Rica. The weather will cool down as we ascend to our camp in the Valley of Naranjillo, where we will spend the night.

Day 4: The Pacific Slopes of Santa Maria 

Crossing a bridge near Santa Maria

Begin your day with a trek towards the Continental Divide, where you will first have to get past the daunting “Cemetery Hill” - an intense 8 mile (13 kilometers) climb. Next, hike on towards the pueblo of San Lorenzo, where we will switch to back to biking. By sunset, you will reach the humble village of Santa Maria, where Costa Rican cooking and comfortable cabins will await you.

Day 5: Orosi Valley and the Continental Divide 

Trekking near the Continental Divide

Today, we take on the most challenging, steepest stretch of our journey. Before breakfast, you will have to bike up an 8.6 mile (14 kilometers) uphill path to the Continental Divide.  Here, you will reach an altitude of 7,644 ft (2,330 meters) - the highest in the trip. Fortunately, the remainder of the day will be spent biking downhill on gentle dirt roads and single-track trails. By the afternoon, you will end up in the scenic Orosi Valley, where you can appreciate views of open pastures and coffee trees. Spend the night in the village of Orosi.

Day 6: Through the valley to Tapanti

The landscape of Tapantí

After breakfast, we bike along a river to the extensive Tapantí National Wildlife Refuge, completely made up of dense rainforest foliage. Leave behind your bike for now and trek among countless trees, ferns, bromeliads, mosses, and other plants of the cloud forest ecosystem. As you continue to trek, the mountainous terrain will flatten out, and you will eventually arrive at Taus, our campsite for the night.

Day 7: Enter the Pacuare River

Rafting on the Pacuare River

Eat some breakfast and bike your way to towards La Cruz, the upper gateway to the fast-flowing Pacuare River. After lunch, load up onto your raft and paddle through pristine jungles, canyon cliffs, and roaring waterfalls. By the afternoon, you will arrive at El Nido del Tigre, a peaceful riverside campsite. Wander around to explore the surroundings and spot toucans, boa constrictors, and sloths, or simply rest in a hammock to the sounds of the rushing water.

Day 8: Free Day in the Rainforests of Pacuare 

Under a waterfall by El Nido del Tigre

Spend some quality time on the banks of the Pacuare River, a great destination for hiking, exploring the rainforest, and swimming in the refreshing waters dozens of miles away from civilization. Other than the river, there are plenty of waterfalls and swimming pools. Some of them are even pure enough to drink out of! Giant ginger plants sprawl around the campsite, which gave rise to the name El Nido del Tigre, or "the tiger's nest". Be sure to make the most of your time here, as this area is one of the most well-preserved natural environments in the region, located far from the reaches of normal human activity.

Day 9: Continue Downstream the Pacuare River

Rafting through rapids

Today, continue on your raft along the Pacuare through more virgin forest, cascades, and canyons. Maneuver through both exhilarating rapids and gentler currents while rainforest scenery surrounds you on all sides. For lunch, we will come to shore and have some extra time to hike to nearby waterfalls as well. After a long day, head to the banana plantations of Finca Pacuarito to spend the night.

Day 10: Finish at the Caribbean Coast 

Kayaking out to the Carribean

In the morning, we hop on our bikes for a brief ride through banana plantations to the town of Freeman, where we will finish the final leg of the cross-continental journey. Kayak down to the mouth of the Pacuare, leaving the rapids behind as the river eases into the Caribbean Sea and plantations replace the rainforest wildlife. Finally, after the river comes to a standstill and peaceful waves take you out into the open ocean, you will have completed your coast to coast experience. After celebrating on the beach, a motorboat will take you to Cahuita National Park area.

Day 11: Free Morning in the Coast and Back to San Jose

A Brown Toed Sloth native to Costa Rica

This morning, you are free to relax around the hotel and beach grounds and explore the Cahuita National Park nearby.  After lunch, you will return to San José. Along the way on the 4-hour drive, get one last chance to see all the breathtaking cloud forests, towering mountains, and stark canyons you spent the last few days traversing. After passing by Braulio Carrillo National Park for some more great views, you will once again be back in San Jose.

Day 12: Departure from San Jose

We will pick you up and drop you off at the airport. Say goodbye to Costa Rica as you fly back home and reflect on an adventure of a lifetime!