Last Updated: Mar 08, 2014
Miles of trails weave through Costa Rica's pastures, forests and villages past active volcanoes, around placid lakes, over continent-dividing mountain peaks and across sandy coastlines. It's no wonder Costa Ricans love mountain biking. With annual races and organized recreational rides held in cities and towns throughout the country, Costa Ricans share their love for the sport with riders of every skill level – weekend warriors and hardcore riders alike.
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 a half-day to a week-long across every type of terrain the country has to offer.
Travelers looking for a little more freedom and independence in their riding can rent mountain bikes in most tourist destinations including Arenal, Manuel Antonio, Jaco and Puerto Viejo, just to name a few. 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 will also find beach cruisers for rent just about anywhere there is sand; though they tend to be patched-together, rusty affairs. They're 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 14 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 ensure you have a bike that truly fits you and your riding style. Check with your airline for additional fees and packing requirements.
Repairs and trail-side troubles
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 $5,000 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.