10-days Costa Rica Round Trip
The perfect motorcycle adventure for all off-road enthusiasts. On off-road tracks and on developed roads, we’ll drive through the endless green of the rain forest, past lush pastures on the slopes of some active volcanoes, and up to 11,500 ft. altitude. It goes down to the tropical climate of the Caribbean and over to the hot beaches of the Pacific. Costa Rica is a country that could not be more diverse. Not to mention the incredible variety of the flora and fauna, that are protected in numerous national parks.
We leave San José at around 8 AM towards the west. After about 9 miles, we reach the small town of Ciudad Colón. Shortly thereafter, the small country road begins to wind up at the western foothills of the Cordillera Central. For the next 12 miles one curve follows the other and with all the driving pleasure, you will almost miss to enjoy the fantastic views over the central valley with the volcanoes in the background. On the highest point of the tour (about 5,300 ft.) we reach the picturesque town of Puriscal, which is situated on a narrow mountain. Here we have a really great panoramic view. Just behind the city ends the paved road and the off-road fun begins! From this point, we can choose routes with different degrees of difficulty.
With fantastic views over the steaming rain forest, dry pastures and the white sandy beaches of the Pacific, this tour takes us to the heart of Costa Rica. Today’s destination is the Hotel Villas Romaticas in Manuel Antonio, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country, which is not only famous for its national park (one of the oldest in the country), but also for its beaches. In the late afternoon, we will probably still have some time to enjoy these beaches. After a good dinner, we can then plunge into the colorful nightlife of Manuel Antonio.
We must get up early today, so we can visit the Manual Antonio national park, as well as enjoy the fantastic beach. Before lunch we continue to our today’s destination Puerto Jimenez, a wild west town on the Corcovado peninsula, one of the most specious regions of the world.
We drive along the coast towards the south, with sandy beaches to our right, and the mighty cordillera to our left. After about an hour we reach Dominical, a cool surfing village with a palm-fringed dark sand beach. Here we will have lunch under palm trees at the Tortilla Flat. We continue on the Costanera towards Palmar Sur. The coastal road is now becoming more and more curvy, the coastal rain forest becomes more and more green. At Uvita, we leave the coastal road and visit the Uvita waterfalls for a refreshing dip in the natural pool.
We then return to the coastal road and will cross the Rio Grande river at Palmar Sur. Behind the bridge, we turn towards Sierpe and cross the Rio Sierpe river on a floating steel container. The big macaws with their rasping sound and their colorful plumage will attract our attention. Now we drive along the edge of a national park. The vegetation to the left and right of the muddy trail is getting thicker. At Rincon, we come to an asphalt road and before us lays the paradisaical Golfo Dulce bay. On the well-developed country road, we drive to our day destination Puerto Jimenez.
After a long day of driving, we can relax at the beach, or visit the small village of Carate using a challenging off-road track. The slope winds through very hilly coastal rain forest. Surely, we’ll see howler monkeys, raccoons, toucans and macaws.
After an early lunch break at the beach, we continue the same route back to Rincon. Here we follow the asphalt road and drive back to the Pan Americana on a sleigh-drifting, extremely winding road. Huge oil palm plantations, secondary forests and pineapple plantations alternate along our route. The Pan Americana follows the course of the Rio General river, one of the largest and longest rivers of Costa Rica. In the late afternoon, we reach San Isidro el General, one of the larger cities of Costa Rica.
Nevertheless, the city has a certain charm, which is originated by the rural and hard-working population. The heart of such cities is always the plaza, the central park. We continue to drive a few miles and will stay in San Gerado de Rivas. This small village is the starting point for the ascent of the Cerro Chirripo, the highest mountain of Costa Rica with 12,506 ft. In this almost alpine ambience we can visit the Aquas Thermales in the evening.
The highlight of this day is the crossing of the Cerro de la Muerte, the pass of death. Though a hundred years ago, oxen and slaves have died of exhaustion here, we can now enjoy our ride over the highest point of the entire Pan Americana with our motorcycles. The route takes us across the ridges of the Cordillera de Talamanca to 11,500 ft. Sometimes we have a view like from an airplane perspective, and with some luck we can see both the Pacific and the Atlantic coastlines.
In wide curves, we pass through this highland zone. Here, bamboo, oaks and bromeliads dominate the vegetation. An hour later we reach Cartargo, the former capital. The Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles Basilica church and the ruins of the Parroquia de Santiago Apóstol are the tourist attractions here. Just like San Isidro, Cartargo has a rural charm. We cross the city and drive through vegetables and coffee plantations to our destination Orosi on the Chachi Lake.
We leave Orosi on well-developed country roads westwards. After about 12.5 miles, we turn onto a small country road, which shortly afterwards starts to wind up on the slopes of the Irazú volcano. We pass various vegetation- and climate zones, pastures, horse paddocks and fields with different vegetable varieties. On several miles, a curve after the others follows, while the air becomes increasingly thinner, and the temperatures gets cooler.
We can take our motorcycles to the highest point of the crater, from where we can enjoy a breathtaking view over the crater and its green lagoon inside, as well as the central valley and the neighboring volcanoes and mountain chains. After a visit to the information center, we will drive to our next destination, the Turrialba volcano.
On unpaved roads, we drive through vegetable fields and pastures. From an altitude of 8,200 ft., we see more and more cloud forest regions with their typical bromeliads. On a rocky slope, we approach the crater. Within the crater, we see various places where steam and ashes are rising. It smells of sulfur and rotten eggs. From 10,800 ft., it goes down to Turrialba, the city at the foot of the volcano.
We have the choice to drive over an asphalt road with dozens of serpents and pot holes, or on a challenging off-road track into the valley. In Turrialba, we take the well-developed country road, which leads us on a winding and hilly route through attractive landscapes towards the north to Siquieres. The landscape is now more flat, and we continue with our motorcycles along national road 32 past huge pineapple and banana plantations. Past Guapiles we see less and less of these plantations, bur now cattle pastures dominate the landscape. While in the high altitudes of the volcanoes dairy farming is operated with European breeds, we find in the hot plains exclusively African meat cattle. After about 25 miles we reach our destination El Virgen.
Today’s destination is the mighty Arenal volcano in the north of the country, which is located near the artificial barrier lake of the same name. After we drove very long distances in the first days, our today’s destination is not too far away. This gives us more time to drive by various tourist highlights. If the sky is cloudy, we will visit the Poas volcano with its bright blue, hot crater lake. Or we will continue along a well-developed winding road to the breathtaking waterfall gardens of La Paz.
After a good lunch, we visit the five waterfalls on small paths and enjoy fantastic views from different platforms. We will also visit the world’s largest butterfly farm, the orchid groves and a smaller zoo with native animal species in quite large natural compounds. In the late afternoon, we will ride to the Los Lagos resort in La Fortuna. Depending on the mood, we can visit the La Fortuna waterfalls, or relax in the hot and cold water pools at the resort. If you still have energy to go hiking, you can visit the volcano slope on extensive hiking trails.
After breakfast, we leave La Fortuna westwards and drive on small country roads along the shore of Lake Arenal barrier lake. At the western end of the lake, we reach the small town of Tilarán, which is situated on a ridge of the same name. To our destination of the day, Tamarindo, which is located some 62 miles further west, we can use various routes, alternatively on paved country roads (including a section of the Pan Americana), or on gravel roads.
On our way to Tamarindo we will visit the Llanos del Cortez waterfalls. From the dry plain, the water of the Rio Portrero river rushes into a valley, and turns it into an evergreen paradise. Waterfall, lake and sand beach provide a stunning sight. The lake gives us the opportunity to cool down in this super-hot region. In the early afternoon, we continue to our destination Tamarindo.
Again, a diversified day of driving awaits us. A ride from the north of the Nicoya peninsula to the southern tip at Montezuma. It goes on dusty gravel roads along the coast. We expect many river and stream crossings. Though the terrain is relatively flat at the beginning of the route, after Samara it will become more and more hilly. There are fantastic views of the open sea, the inner hill chains and dozens of beaches of all colors.
Before Santa Teresa the trail ends and we can go along a designated beach road by the sea. We relax from this long and strenuous driving day and enjoy the sunset in a beach restaurant. Shortly after sunset we drive to our accommodation in Montezuma.
Since we do have a shorter driving day today, there is the possibility to arrange the morning individually. If you feel like it, you can visit the imposing Montezuma waterfall on foot, or relax a few hours at the beach or at the hotel pool.
Around noon we’ll sit on our motorbikes and drive cross the peninsula from west to east. Our route on a varied asphalt road leads us through the agricultural area and some large mango plantations. In Paquera we’ll load our motorcycles on a ferry to Puntarenas. Then we continue along the coast to the north. About 12.5 miles behind Puntarenas we leave the coastal road and change to a small country road that leads us to the small village of Miramar.
From here it is another 3.7 miles on a small country road, which winds in many curves up on a mountain flank. At 3 PM to 4 PM we’ll reach our day’s destination, the picturesque mountain lodge Hotel Vista Golfo. If you haven’t had enough for today, you can swing back into the saddle after a short break and explore the beautiful mountain scenery of the surroundings on numerous gravel roads. If it is cloud-free, we can enjoy a breathtaking sunset with a view over the Pacific Ocean during our joint dinner.
Today starts with a Costa Rican specialty-a canopy tour through the tree tops of the cloud forest around our hotel. We’ll slide down a total of 21 steel ropes, which lead from tree top to tree top, but spanning in part whole valleys. One of the cables has a length of 2,300 ft. There is some courage needed for this adventure, but you can get to know the cloud forest from a whole new, fascinating perspective.
After lunch, we will return to San José. If the weather allows us to do so, we can cover a large part of the route on gravel and clay tracks, that wind along the western flank of a huge mountain. For this variant, however, a good portion of off-road experience e is recommended. Alternatively, there is a route, which leads us exclusively over gravel roads.