This Costa Rican escape packs a year's worth of adventure into a mere 13 days. It begins on the Pacific coast with mountain-biking around the beach followed by cycling to the interior highlands, waterfall hikes, visits to volcanoes, and whitewater rafting. The trip culminates on the shores of the Caribbean Sea, where you can relax in paradise before heading home.

Highlights

  • Cycle alongside Pacific beaches on Costa Rica's stunning Nicoya Peninsula
  • Ride in the shadow of volcanoes as you travel the Tilarán Mountains
  • Visit the Arenal Region and enjoy waterfall hikes and hot springs
  • Alternate between cycling and whitewater rafting on the wild Pacuare River
  • Combine kayaking excursions with cycling along the Caribbean Coast

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Costa Rica – Experience San José's Culture San Jose
Day 2 Warm-Up Ride to Samará Playa Sámara
Day 3 Samará Extended Ride Playa Sámara
Day 4 Mountain Biking to Tilarán Tilarán
Day 5 Mountain Biking Around Lake Arenal Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 6 Arenal Hanging Bridges, Waterfall & Hot Springs Arenal/La Fortuna
Day 7 Mountain Biking Irazú & Turrialba Volcanoes Turrialba
Day 8 Pacuare Adventure Río Pacuare
Day 9 Pacuare Adventure - Free Day in Pacuare Valley Río Pacuare
Day 10 Pacuare Adventure - Finca Pacuarito Siquirres
Day 11 Pacuare Cycling & Kayak Adventure - Puerto Viejo Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
Day 12 Caribbean Coast Free Morning - Transfer to San José San Jose
Day 13 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: Warm-Up Ride to Samará

You'll ride along some impressive sections of coast
You'll ride along some impressive sections of coast

The cycling adventure begins! 

In the morning we'll pack the bikes in a vehicle and transfer three hours west to Guanacaste Province and the Nicoya Peninsula. Upon arrival at the coast, we'll set up the bikes and get ready for our first warm-up ride of the trip. This is a breezy 15-mile (25 km) excursion over a balanced mix of gravel and paved roads with some light hills along the way and some easy flat sections along the coast featuring stunning views of the Pacific ocean. It's just enough to get the blood pumping.

During the ride, we'll make a pit stop at the wide and inviting Playa Carrillo, and you bet you'll have time for some bodysurfing. We'll arrive at the surf village of Samará in time to get cleaned up, and then you can head down to the beach to watch the sunset.

Day 3: Samará Extended Ride

Get ready for some cycling
Get ready for some cycling

In the morning you and your guide will plan the day's 42-mile (68-km) route according to the weather and your personal interest. This journey may include a ride along some remote beaches, so don't forget your bathing suit. Aside from that, this coastal region of Nicoya has many brilliant mountain biking routes that meander inland and back to the coast again. Make no mistake, this will be a full fun day of riding.

At the end of the day, you'll return to Samará. This laid back town is the perfect place to just chill out after a long day of riding. You can enjoy the beach, your hotel's amenities, and some of the most spectacular sunsets you will ever witness.

Day 4: Mountain Biking to Tilarán

Mountain biking around Arenal
Mountain biking around Arenal

By now you should be properly warmed up and have your cycling legs under you. Now it's time to head to the central mountains. We'll transfer by vehicle a couple of hours east through Guanacaste Province to the town of Guayabo, which sits in the shadows of the 6,653-foot (2,028-meter) Miravalles Volcano. This is where we'll begin the day's 32-mile (52-km) ride.

The route heads south and is mostly downhill but does have a few climbs and tricky sections along the way. Be aware that the area is usually quite windy as it is close to the Continental Divide, and is thus a hub for the production of renewable energy through wind, geothermal, and hydroelectric power. So you'll definitely want to pack a windbreaker. 

The ride finishes at the Pan-American Highway, at which point we'll load up and head to the Tilarán region of the central highlands. You'll then check into your hotel, which overlooks the expansive Lake Arenal.

Day 5: Mountain Biking Around Lake Arenal

Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal
Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal

Today you'll cycle along the scenic shoreline of Lake Arenal. Much difficult terrain means this route is all but impassable save for 4x4 vehicles, horses, and, of course, mountain bikes. Expect the route to be challenging, with constant ascents and descents. Throughout the journey, however, you'll be treated to incredible vistas of the green shoreline running up to the Azure blue waters of the lake. And always in the background is that famous 5,358-foot (1,633-meter) active volcano, Arenal

Once you reach the far end of the lake, we'll ride around the volcano and finish the day's trip in the busy little town of La Fortuna. If you're feeling a bit sore after your arduous journey, you're in luck: the region is famous for its natural hot springs, and a nice long soak might be just what the doctor ordered.

Day 6: Arenal Hanging Bridges, Waterfall & Hot Springs

Mistico Hanging Bridges Park
Mistico Hanging Bridges Park

Today, you will experience the best of the Arenal Volcano region. Head out early to Mistico Hanging Bridges Park, where visitors young and old can wander along trails and get a kick out of crossing 15 suspension bridges—some that are hundreds of feet long—and which afford prime views of the volcano. You'll also get an up-close look at the incredible biodiversity that occurs in this region, where upland and lowland rainforests meet. More than 350 bird species can be found here alone. 

Next, it’s time to head to La Fortuna Waterfall, at the base of the dormant Chato Volcano, which is a short drive outside town. The falls drop some 210 feet, and a 1,500-foot downhill hike allows you to see it from the bottom up. Swim and relax in the La Fortuna River below the falls before heading back to your hotel to unwind.

In the evening you'll head off to one of Arenal Volcano's famous hot springs and enjoy a gourmet dinner served waterside.

Day 7: Mountain Biking Irazú & Turrialba Volcanoes

Today you'll ride down from the top of Irazú Volcano
Today you'll ride down from the top of Irazú Volcano

The day begins early with a four-hour vehicle transfer east to the top of the Irazú Volcano, which is Costa Rica’s tallest volcano at around 11,154 feet (3,400 meters) high. On a clear day, it is possible to see both oceans from atop Irazú. Following a visit to the edge of the crater, we'll begin the day's 37-mile (60-km) ride down the volcano. 

The first part of the ride takes us east from Irazú along country roads towards the active Turrialba Volcano, where you'll most likely see smoke billowing from its top. For the best vantage points in which to snap pictures, we'll ride as close to the volcano as is allowed and to some prime viewpoints. Then we'll begin an exhilarating descent into the town of Turrialba. After riding through the town and across the Reventazon River, we'll ascend to a beautiful mountain lodge where we'll overnight.

Day 8: Pacuare Adventure

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 6-mile (10 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 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 9: 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 10: Pacuare Adventure - Finca Pacuarito

More whitewater fun
More whitewater fun

After breakfast, you'll continue your whitewater rafting adventure. Today you'll enjoy a 12-mile (20 km) ride down the Pacuare, traveling amid 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 scenery. 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 11: 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 12: Caribbean Coast Free Morning - Transfer to San José

Say goodbye to Puerto Viejo and the Caribbean Coast
Say goodbye to Puerto Viejo and the Caribbean Coast

You'll have the morning free to relax on the beaches of Puerto Viejo, or you can choose to stay in and enjoy your hotel's amenities. After a leisurely lunch, we'll hop in a vehicle and transfer five hours back to San José. It's a long trip but one filled with breathtaking scenery as we'll pass by misty cloud forest, deep river canyons, and the fertile rainforests of Braulio Carrillo National Park.

Day 13: Departure

Come back soon!
Come back soon!

In the morning one of our representatives will transfer you to the airport for your journey home. This concludes your Costa Rica cross-country adventure. Adios and pura vida!

Map

Map of Costa Rica Mountain Biking & Adventure Sports - 13 Days
Map of Costa Rica Mountain Biking & Adventure Sports - 13 Days