The goal of this 13-day Costa Rican adventure is to travel from coast to coast without an engine. That means you'll be mountain biking, hiking, even traveling down wild rivers on rafts and kayaks. It's a demanding journey that requires a good level of physical fitness, and while it's not easy, the rewards are great as you'll visit some of the most beautiful waterfalls, mountains, beaches, and rainforest in the country.

Highlights

  • Cycle over coastal mountains near Manuel Antonio National Park
  • Test your endurance as you peddle over the Continental Divide
  • Cycle and trek along expansive coffee farms and fields of tall sugar cane
  • Camp on the banks of the Pacuare River and fall asleep under the stars
  • Kayak to the mouth of the Pacuare River on the Caribbean coast

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Costa Rica – Experience San José's Culture San Jose
Day 2 Transfer to Arenal Volcano - Mountain Biking El Castillo Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 3 Arenal Volcano - Canopy Tour, Volcano Hike & Hot Springs Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 4 Transfer from Arenal to Quepos Quepos
Day 5 Biking & Trekking to Naranjito Naranjito
Day 6 Cemetery Hill Trekking & Cycling Santa Maria de Dota
Day 7 Biking Over the Continental Divide Orosi
Day 8 Cycling & Trekking Through Tapantí Taus
Day 9 Pacuare Adventure – Biking & Rafting Río Pacuare
Day 10 Pacuare Adventure - Free Day in Pacuare Valley Río Pacuare
Day 11 Pacuare Adventure - Finca Pacuarito Siquirres
Day 12 Pacuare Cycling & Kayak Adventure - Puerto Viejo Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
Day 13 Transfer to San José - Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Costa Rica – Experience San José's Culture

the National Theater in San José
the National Theater in San José

Welcome to Costa Rica, the land of pura vida! After arriving at Juan Santamaría International Airport in San José, a local representative will meet you and escort you to your hotel. The rest of the day you'll have free to explore the city at your leisure.

Perhaps stroll through Mercado Central (Central Market), which features over 200 shops and food stalls. Then visit the Catedral Metropolitana (Metropolitan Church), whose interior combines Greek Orthodox, neoclassical, and Baroque styles. There's also the neo-classical National Theater and the Museo del Jade, which houses the world's largest collection of pre-Columbian jade artifacts.

Be sure to explore Barrio Amón, a bohemian neighborhood home to historic cafetalero (coffee grower) mansions built during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For dinner, opt for a restaurant in the hills of Escazú. This elevated region on the western edge of the city offers panoramic views of the valley below. That said, San José is filled with great restaurants serving everything from traditional Costa Rican fare to forward-thinking fusion cuisine.

Day 2: Transfer to Arenal Volcano - Mountain Biking El Castillo

Arenal Volcano
Arenal Volcano

This morning, you'll transfer by vehicle from San José north to your hotel near La Fortuna, the closest town to Arenal Volcano. Arenal is Costa Rica's most famous active volcano and stands an impressive 5,480 feet (1,670 meters) high. You certainly won't miss it on arrival, as it looms over La Fortuna like a giant sentinel. 

After lunch, you'll explore the Arenal region by mountain bike. This scenic ride takes an old road connecting the dam at Lake Arenal with the main entrance to Arenal Volcano National Park. From there, you'll pedal towards the village of El Castillo, a route that passes through forest and cattle farms. You'll stop along the way for snacks on the shore of the lake, and you'll have the option to take a refreshing dip before heading back to the hotel. The total distance, depending on which trails you take around the park, is between eight and 16 miles (13 and 26 km).

Day 3: Arenal Volcano - Canopy Tour, Volcano Hike & Hot Springs

Soar over the tree tops on a canopy tour
Soar over the tree tops on a canopy tour

One of the most popular adventure activities in the Arenal region is a canopy tour over the rainforest. On this high-flying excursion, you'll connect to a zip-line that runs between different platforms over the treetops. It offers a bird's eye view of this stunning region, including panoramic vistas of the Arenal River canyon, the volcano, and the exotic flora and fauna of the rainforest. You might also spot exotic animals and birds like monkeys, toucans, hummingbird, and sloths.

In the afternoon, a bilingual guide will meet you in the lobby of your hotel and you'll embark on a two-hour hiking tour to the base of Arenal, where you'll walk through rainforest trails and over dried lava fields as your guide points out the flora and fauna of the area. Eventually, you'll arrive at an observation point just in time for sunset, which affords premium views of the rainforest and volcano.

Later, you'll transfer to a natural volcanic hot spring where you can take a relaxing dip in thermal waters and soothe your weary muscles after all that adventure and exertion. Afterward, you'll return to your hotel just in time for dinner.

Day 4: Transfer from Arenal to Quepos

Beach near Quepos, Costa Rica

Today you'll transfer about four hours southwest to the Pacific coast by bus. This will be your last ride in a motorized vehicle until the end of the trip. Your destination is the village of Quepos, next to Manuel Antonio National Park. With its fertile lowland rainforest and postcard tropical beaches, Manuel Antonio is one of the most beautiful places in the country. Upon arrival, you can chill out on the beach or embark on a hike into the rainforest for wildlife spotting.

Before dinner, you'll set up the bikes in preparation for the next day's early start. After eating, there will be an official trip briefing and then you can retire to your hotel room to rest up.

Day 5: Biking & Trekking to Naranjito

From the coast to the mountains
From the coast to the mountains

The adventure begins!

After waking up early the group will enjoy a light buffet of fresh fruit and coffee before setting off on the bikes. This is a 10-mile (16-km) ride featuring steep climbs up the mountains along this stretch of the sparsely populated Pacific Coast. It's a rigorous ride, but the stunning coastal views from high up are a reward for all the hard work.

In the small town of Esquipulas, we'll enjoy a heartier breakfast, rest up, and prepare our day packs for the next leg of the journey. Trading our wheels for hiking boots, we'll continue by foot eight miles (14 km) into the cool highlands of central Costa Rica. We'll set up camp and overnight in the valley of Naranjito.

Day 6: Cemetery Hill Trekking & Cycling

Up and over the Continental Divide
Up and over the Continental Divide

Our day begins with a trek towards the Continental Divide to challenge the infamous “Cemetery Hill,” a strenuous eight-mile (13-kilometer) ascent to an elevation of 5,200 feet (1,600 meters). Then it's an easier jaunt to the pueblo of San Lorenzo, where we'll switch to mountain bikes and cycle another nine miles (14 km) to reach the quaint village of Santa Maria. Here we'll refortify with traditional Costa Rican fare and rest up in comfortable bungalows.

Day 7: Biking Over the Continental Divide

The Orosi Valley, Costa Rica
The Orosi Valley, Costa Rica

Today we'll tackle the hardest, steepest cycling climb of the adventure. Before breakfast, we'll hop on the bikes and embark on an eight-mile (14-kilometer) up-hill stretch to the Continental Divide. This will bring us to an altitude of 7,644 feet (2,330 meters), which is the highest point on the entire journey.

After reaching this milestone, we'll rest and then spend the remainder of the day on a relatively easy, mostly downhill ride on dirt roads and single-track trails. We'll finish in the afternoon in the beautiful Orosi Valley, where green pastures and expansive coffee fields blanket the land. Our destination is the town of Orosi, where we'll rest up for the night. The total distance you'll cover for the day is 30 miles (49 km).

Day 8: Cycling & Trekking Through Tapantí

Trekking through the jungle
Trekking through the jungle

After breakfast, we'll embark on a brisk five-mile (nine-km) mountain-bike ride along the banks of a tropical river to the Tapantí National Wildlife Refuge. This is an area of vast rugged terrain covered with dense primary rainforest. Leaving our bikes, we'll continue on foot, trekking nine miles (15 km) over the mountains. This route passes through the hanging vines and towering exotic trees covered in moss and bromeliads that comprise the cloud-forest ecology here.

The end of the day will find us on flatter ground, camping near the small settlement of Taus.

Day 9: Pacuare Adventure – Biking & Rafting

Time for some river rafting!
Time for some river rafting!

Get ready for a combined mountain biking/whitewater rafting adventure. After breakfast, we'll start the day's 26-mile (43-km) ride to Finca La Cruz and the put-in of the upper Río Pacuare. At the riverbank, we'll enjoy lunch before hopping into the rafts and embarking on a six-mile (10-km) ride down the Pacuare. The scenery is incredible as we'll paddle along easy class II/III rapids, passing by unspoiled rainforest, towering canyon cliffs, and the occasional exotic waterfall.

By the afternoon we'll arrive at our comfortable riverside camp, which is nestled in the sweet spot between the rainforest and the running river. You'll have the afternoon free to wander off, explore the surrounding jungle, and view the exotic wildlife in the area. Be on the lookout for toucans and boa constrictors as well as sloths and monkeys playing in the trees. Or simply relax in a hammock and let the sounds of the river lull you into a nice nap.

Day 10: Pacuare Adventure - Free Day in Pacuare Valley

Enjoy a waterfall hike
Enjoy a waterfall hike

Today is something of a free day on the banks of the river. You'll be able to head out and explore the Pacuare Valley, wander through the hills, venture into the rainforest, swim in the river, and hike up to tropical waterfalls. The guide will even point out the unique flora and fauna of the region such as the giant ginger plants that carpet the area around the campsite.

Rest assured that there are never more than a few guests here at any given time, which allows you to enjoy the area in its natural state. You can also get a good nights sleep, as you'll hear nothing but the sounds of the running river and surrounding nature.

Day 11: Pacuare Adventure - Finca Pacuarito

More whitewater fun
More whitewater fun

After breakfast, you'll hop back in the boat and continue your whitewater rafting adventure. Today's itinerary involves a 12-mile (20-km) ride down the Pacuare, traveling alongside more virgin rainforest, cascading waterfalls, and river canyons. The excitement will pick up as we maneuver through exhilarating class III/IV rapids, and in the gentler sections you can relax and appreciate the rainforest passing by on the riverbanks. Along the way, we'll take a break to do some hiking to a tropical waterfall and enjoy lunch on the shore.

Later in the afternoon, we'll arrive at Finca Pacuarito and the beginning of the region's banana plantations. This is where we'll pull ashore for the evening, and we'll all overnight at the finca.

Day 12: Pacuare Cycling & Kayak Adventure - Puerto Viejo

Travel down the Pacuare by kayak
Travel down the Pacuare by kayak

This morning we'll hop on our bikes for a 16-mile (26-km) ride through Costa Rican banana plantations to the town of Freeman. Here we'll leave the bikes, hop in a kayak, and begin the final seven miles (12 km) of the day's journey as we travel down the Pacuare. There are no more rapids, just gentle running currents that ease into the Caribbean lowlands. The last mile is particularly tranquil, and you can relax in your kayak and appreciate the bucolic landscapes and exotic wildlife passing by as you glide over the water. 

At the end of the adventure, we'll reach the mouth of the Pacuare as it meets the Caribbean Ocean and celebrate the end of the journey with a glass of champagne and a well-deserved rest. After some leisure time on the beach, a motorboat will arrive and transfer us to the town of Moin, where we'll travel by vehicle to the beach village of Puerto Viejo, where we'll overnight.

Day 13: Transfer to San José - Departure 

Come back soon!
Come back soon!

In the morning you'll transfer back to San José just in time to catch your flight home. This concludes your grand Costa Rican adventure. Adios and come back soon!

Map

Map of Costa Rica Cycling, Rafting, & Kayaking - 13 Days
Map of Costa Rica Cycling, Rafting, & Kayaking - 13 Days