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Costa Rica has been a superb country to tour on a mountain bike (writing this from Panama). It´s possible to cycle from the Peña Blanca border (Nicaragua) and cross over the Continental Divide to the Carribean border (Panama) spending 95% of your time on quiet (steep!) back country dirt and paved roads with nearly zero traffic. With places like the Nicoya pensinsular and a fantastic route nicely mapped out by the tough annual´La Ruta de las Conquistadores´race from Jaco (Pacific) to Puerto Limón (Atlantic / Carribean) it is easy to find quiet dirt roads to yourself. However, expect to pay the price in sweat with long steep ups and downs through a variety of climates ranging from extremely hot at lower altitudes to cold drizzling rain near the summits of peaks such as Irazú Volcano (3,432m) which you can ride all the way to the top.
Costa Rica´s riding potential became apparent 20km from the border almost immediately after the small town of La Cruz. After our torturous cross country experiences in Nicaragua, Eric and I headed down to Bahía Salinas followed by an excursion around Volcán Rincón de la Vieja and down to Liberia before heading down to the Nicoya Peninsular (next post). Up until the Nicoya, we more or less followed a route taken a few years back by the inspirational Cass Gilbert from whileoutriding.com. Well photographed and documented here.
Northwest Costa Rica and the border of Nicaragua. Working on getting an embedded image with the GPX route…
After La Cruz, we passed by the beaches of Bahía Salinas and camped in Playa Junquillal reserve (Refugio de Vida Silverstre Junquillal). We were soon to discover one tedious aspect of Costa Rica, nearly all the reserves cost $10 for entry by foreigners. Taking one look at our bicicyles they gave us the ´nationals rate´ of $3 plus camping fees for the designated camping area. A beautiful empty beach with a few biting insects at dawn and dusk…
The upside of having to pay for entry into these parks: clean beaches and the minimal amount of discarded rubbish that can be seen in other Central American countries.
Having climbed back up out of the Bahias we had a short stretch on the Panamerican Highway before a long ascent up over the saddle that joins Volcán Orosi and Volcán Rincón de la Vieja. Heading round the back of the volcano we enjoyed some superb mountain biking before camping late under a roof in a ranger station 7 km before Colonia Libertad.
Shortly before Colonia Libertad
After a long steep climb from Colonia Blanca, it started leveling out…
…this river flows under the road that the trail eventually meets. The road is paved and steep down to the right but gravel to the left. Head left and continue straight to find…
…this awesome white rock road. Sandy in parts but not enough to be a problem, this road passes through a dry desert area that reminded me of New Mexico.
It´s downhill all the way to Liberia on this dry road and was an absolute joy to ride after some of the tough uphill rainy sections earlier that day… Thanks again to Cass for this route!