Last Updated: Feb 02, 2013
Costa Ricans love mountain biking, and the races and organized recreational rides held throughout the year in nearly every town are a tribute to that passion. While single track is a rarity, miles of dirt roads that snake through Costa Rica’s mountains provide plenty of adrenaline-fueled action for both weekend warriors and hard-core riders.
For visitors to Costa Rica who want to include a bit of mountain biking in their itinerary, a tour with an organized company might be the way to go. Several tour companies based in the U.S. and Costa Rica organize bike trips ranging from one day to week-long, and that ride everything from twisting mountain roads to leisurely coastal routes.
For the more independent traveler, mountain bikes can be rented in most tourist towns, including Arenal, Manuel Antonio, Jaco and Puerto Viejo to name a few. Keep an eye out for signs advertising bikes for rent. Rates usually run from $8-$10 a day for a standard 21-gear bike. Bike brands and conditions vary greatly so be sure to check out your bike thoroughly before pedaling off. Visitors can also rent beach cruisers just about anywhere there is sand, although they tend to be patched-together, rusty affairs. These are fine for trips from your cabin to the nearest bar or corner store, but if off-road riding is what you want, seek out a reputable rental company.
If your idea of a vacation includes serious time in the saddle, customized mountain biking trips are available. Organized tours lasting anywhere from two to fourteen days can be tailored to suit both intermediate and advanced riders. Some of the more popular routes to ride include the Turrialba Volcano area, the loop around Lake Arenal, through Central Valley cloud forests, or the dusty trails around Rincon de la Vieja National Park. Outfitters that organize these trips will provide quality, name-brand bikes like Trek or Cannondale, as well helmets, gloves and water bottles.
For the truly serious rider, bringing your own bike as checked luggage may be the way to go. This will insure you have a bike that truly fits and that you are used to. Check with your airline for additional fees and packing requirements.
If you are on your own and encounter trail-side troubles, most mid-sized towns will have a bicycle shop that can do simple repairs. These shops will also carry basic equipment like tires, tubes, lubrication and brake pads. Gear in Costa Rica is relatively cheap, with items like tubes costing $3-5, brake pads $8 for a set, and derailleur and brake cables at $8-10. Several bike shops in the San Jose area carry major bike brands like GT, Gary Fisher and Haro, and have prices comparable to the U.S., ranging from $300 for a basic model to $5000 for top-of-the-line rides.
If you plan on doing extensive biking on your own, you should learn to do basic repairs. Come with the tools to do them in case you have a break down miles from town. Tire levers and a pump for changing flats (as well as a patch kit and spare tubes), a multi-tool for minor adjustments, broken chains and loose spokes should do the trick. These repairs can be learned at any bike shop before you arrive.
Mountain biking is an amazing way to explore Costa Rica while getting some adventure in on the way. With a bit of planning and a pair of strong legs, adding mountain biking to your itinerary is sure to be one of your trip highlights.