Biking in Costa Rica

Countless miles of dusty paths and trails that cover various types of terrain are waiting for biking enthusiasts.

You may choose from a variety of day tours in the outskirts of San José around Irazú and Poás volcanoes or the Orosi Valley.

For something a little more rigorous, you can trek the high mountains of Talamanca, the Central Volcanic Mountain Range, the mountain range in Guanacaste and Tilarán, as well as the valleys and plains along the Caribbean, the Central Pacific, and the Southern Pacific.

There are an estimated 80 paths to choose from and more than 400,000 cyclists circulating the country, a statistic that continues to grow as does the sport’s popularity.


There are activities year-round. Enthusiasm for the sport has led to numerous activities for elite or expert riders, cycling routes, recreational activities, and even large participation in international events.

Some of the most important events in the country are the National Cup and the National Championship, the Panamerican Championship, the Mountain Biking National Championship, the Sun Route (la Ruta del Sol), the Endurance Cup, the Volcano Challenge (in the Central Valley and Arenal volcanoes), the Conquerors’ Route (Puntarenas to Limón) and the International Tour in Costa Rica, which has been held since 1964 in December. The Female Tour was also created just a few years ago.


The preferred style for enthusiasts is cross country, which extends from one point to another over all-terrain paths: secondary roads, paths, neighboring trails and those with a certain degree of technical difficulty like uphill climbs, down-hilling, or rivers. Another possibility is the “descent,” which is extremely intense and risky. It consists of descending an all-terrain slope at top speed.

Those in excellent physical condition and with keen cycling skills prefer the “free ride” where they lose themselves in the mountains for several days, riding without any set time or route.

The harsher the terrain and the more extreme the descent, the better.

Cartago. One of the best places for mountain biking is in Turrialba, which has various archeological sites. From there, you can reach the Caribbean coast in one or two days, 16 hours of cycling a day. The terrain ranges from moderate to extreme.


High altitude challenge. The Cerro de la Muerte (Death’s Peak) is the highest peak along the Interamericana Highway at 11,300 ft.; it is part of La Amistad Pacific Conservation Area. You can ascend its high plateau and descend toward the coastal beaches. The rainforest makes up the areas around the Arenal Volcano, with difficult ascents and descents throughout the territory.

Wildlife. In Sarapiquí, Heredia, there are gravel roads and terrain that wind through remote communities. Howler monkeys, iguanas, insects, butterflies, and all types of birds inhabit this rainforest. Its difficulty is intermediate, with flat terrain, dunes and hills.

Toward the ocean. The spectacular Piedras Blancas National Park is a wildlife refuge extending from Puntarenas, in Golfito, to the southeast in the Osa Peninsula. It is home to the only lowland rainforest in the tropical Dulce Gulf that remains green year-round.

  • This activity, like any other, requires a certain amount of experience, adequate equipment, and careful planning of the places you want to explore.

  • Mountain biking is designed especially for handling difficult terrain. It generally requires front-fork suspension, and rear-end suspension is becoming more and more common. Essential accessories include: knee pads, shin pads, elbow pads, gloves, and helmet. It is recommended to wear light (synthetic) clothes, as well as appropriate socks, and to bring adequate fluids.

  • Before heading out, check your bike completely. Check the condition of the chain, the gears, tire pressure, brakes and brake pads. Bring a tool kit.

  • Keep your distance from vehicles, ride defensively and be cautious with descents. The rainy months still provide attractions for biking, but use caution.

  • Traveling in groups with a guide has the advantage that he/she can monitor the physical condition of every person and provide directions along the route. This is highly recommended.

Photos courtesy of Henry Pérez,

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