Spectacular Places to Cycle in Costa Rica

Bike life © Kumsval/Flickr
Bike life © Kumsval/Flickr
Photo of Jenn Parker
24 May 2017

Mountain biking and long-distance cycling is actually a national passion in Costa Rica. It is not uncommon to see cars stacked with bicycles over holiday weekends heading out for mini cycling vacations, or locals cruising around and outside of their towns and cities on bicycles for leisure and exercise. There are hundreds of cycle paths and trails located throughout Costa Rica. There are also some really wonderful half-day to several-day guided bicycle tours. Costa Rica is a perfect cycling destination.

Cycle around Arenal

Take a full-day guided tour around the outskirts of the Arenal National Park and Lake Arenal. The trip begins in La Fortuna and ends with a dip in the thermal hot springs. This is an ideal trip for families and all levels of cyclists who are interested in sightseeing via bicycle. While cycling around this exquisite area of Costa Rica, you will likely encounter monkeys, coatis, tropical birds, and butterflies, while surrounded by lush vegetation and beautiful flowers.

Bike around this beauty | © Nora Goetz/Flickr

Cycle the Las Catalinas Trail

The single track mountain bike trail at Las Catalinas is a 20.5-mile (33-kilometer) roundtrip and typically takes about an hour-and-a-half to complete. This well maintained cycle trail is ideal for intermediate to advanced cross country cyclists. The views from the peak of the trail are panoramic and phenomenal. This is a trail that you can easily do on your own or you can go on a guided tour.

A bicycle tour outside of San Jose

This family- and beginner-friendly tour is between eight to 16 miles (13–26 kilometers) long – depending on how long you want to cycle – and loops from the Orosí Valley to the entrance of the Tapantí National Park. This lovely trail takes you through cattle farms, agriculture fields, coffee plantations, small towns, tropical rainforest, and the lilypad-covered Cachí Lake. This is a wonderful way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and see the more rural side of the Central Valley.

Captivating views of the Central Valley | © NH53/Flickr

A cycle tour of Rincon de la Vieja

Rincon de la Vieja is a magical place to take a bicycle ride. Between the majestic volcano, hidden waterfalls, abundance of animal life, and ancient rainforest where every shade of green is present, Rincon de la Vieja National Park is a must-visit, whether you are cycling or not. The trails range between six to 19 miles (10–30 kilometers), and will lead you through some of the most stunning natural landscapes. Free range cattle are actually responsible for creating some of the best cycle trails in this area. You can also opt to end your cycle tour with a river tubing or canopy zip lining tour.

Rainforest path | © Patrick Nouhailler/Flickr

Caribbean bicycle adventure

If you are looking for a cycling adventure, this might be the trip for you. The Caribbean Bike, Raft, & Beach Adventure is actually perfectly suited for beginners, too. This five-day, professionally organized and guided adventure will take you to the Irazú volcano, Orosí Valley, Turrialba Valley, Pacuare River, and Puerto Viejo as your main destinations. You will experience lowland mountain forests, rainforests, natural thermal hot springs, coffee plantations, farmlands, and rivers. This nature-packed excursion is a fantastic way to experience the diversity of Costa Rica.

Pacific cycle adventure

The Pacific Bike, Raft, & Beach Adventure is a professionally organized and guided cycling adventure on the Pacific side of Costa Rica. You will cycle between 19–37 miles (30-60 kilometers) a day. The routes and trails that you will take are beginner-friendly. Your adventure will loop you from San Jose, to Santa Clara, to the Sarapiquí River, to the Arenal Volcano, to Sámara Beach, to Carillo Beach, and then back to San Jose. During your adventure you will also go white water rafting, and you can opt to take a surf lesson, go snorkeling, paddle boarding, or kayaking.

Explore this beautiful terrain | © Alan Huett/Flickr

Nicoya bikepacking route

For those who are interested in venturing out without a guide, the Nicoya bikepacking route is a thrilling option. The route starts in Playa Flamingo and takes you 115.7 miles (187 kilometers) south along the Nicoya Peninsula to Mal Pais. The route is a mix of beach riding, paved roads, and gravel country roads. There are plenty of hotels and hostels along the way, but you can camp on any of the beaches, except Playa Camaronal. This route offers amazing views and picture-perfect moments, as well as an opportunity to see a variety of beach towns and experience local life in Costa Rica.

Biking south | © Marissa Strniste/Flickr

Hacienda Guachipelin

If you are looking for a self-guided day cycle, the 18 mile (27 kilometer) trail at Hacienda Guachipelin is a great choice. There is a $10 admission and bicycle rentals are available here. This man-made trail runs alongside several different rivers and offers great lowland forest and volcano views. This is a fun mountain biking trail with plenty of natural obstacles, like river crossings, forest bridges, downhill sections with rocks, and table tops. There are also a lot of other fun activities offered at Hacienda Guachipelin like canopy zip lining and horseback riding for those who want a full-day adventure.

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