“Cycling in Costa Rica” by Juancho Otalvaro (theroversquest.com)

Visiting a small country allows you to cover virtually everything in a short period of time. However, in Costa Rica, with its rugged and mountainous terrain, roads wind along every hill, mountain, and river, making short distances longer than usual. Road tripping along Costa Rica’s roads is a beautiful experience, absorbing the entirety of its ever-changing landscapes, getting lost in cities and towns to try their local food, and greeting their friendly people.

Driving through some of Costa Rica’s dirt roads, windows open, warm or cool breeze swirling inside the cabin, gives you a better sense of what the environment along the way is like; nonetheless, one can’t help but wonder what lies beyond the roadside. Sometimes the abundance of trees and vegetation obscures the views, leaving you with a desire to stop and wander through the undergrowth and thick vegetation.

Taking the off-beaten path can bring spectacular inspiration, and the best way to experience this is through mountain biking.

Costa Rica boasts extensive terrain with all kinds of mountain biking trails for recreation and most avid riders. After all, Costa Rica has the “Ruta de los Conquistadores” – “the main mountain bike race in Costa Rica and one of the most challenging athletic events on the planet.” Recently, I took a nostalgic journey down memory lane, back on my old mountain bike through some old routes where I used to get lost. Muscles never forget! Once again, I felt the lactic acid streaming through my leg muscles, making me pedal in a cycle of inertia, moving my body without even thinking about it.

Costa Rica’s weather is constantly changing, no matter where you are. It’s definitely thrilling to notice the different types of vegetation as you bike up a hill or a mountain. In just a short distance, you’ll feel a change in temperature. Thus, plants, trees, terrain, and wildlife metamorphose up and down during the journey, so embrace the weather and enjoy the exercise. Always try to be prepared for anything; travel with a patch repair kit, an extra tube, a first aid kit, and a cell phone for emergencies.

If you’re not new to Costa Rica, you’d know that San José is a hub. From there, you can get to almost anywhere in the country within a few hours. After all, it’s the capital city, with plenty to do if you’re planning to stay for a vacation. Take a look at hotels offering good amenities, like Apartotel Villas del Río, or the relaxing atmosphere found at any of the Barceló Hotels around the country. There are always other options like Palma Real that go the extra mile in service. Outside of San José, Casa Turire, Hotel Cristal Ballena, and the Tapirus Lodge at Rainforest Adventures are excellent choices as well.

You can reasonably get anywhere in Costa Rica with a car. Still, if you’re on a very tight schedule, you can find bike trails, routes, and tours in different parts of the country where you can fly with Aerobell and get to virtually anywhere in 30 minutes or less. I recommend Guanacaste, especially for cycling. Guanacaste is dry most of the year, it’s the hottest and usually the driest part of Costa Rica. If you plan to bike around there, preferably do it early in the morning: it’s sunny and cooler, and you’ll be close to the Pacific coast, where beautiful beaches and cool waters await to enjoy after a long bike ride! If you’re nearby, staying at Capitán Suizo or the Planet Hollywood Beach Resort.

You can try some of the following travel agencies to help you find what best suits you on your trip: ARA Tours, Swiss Travel, Reparto de Costa Rica, Costa Rica para Todos, and Viajes TAM.

Jungles, mountains, green valleys, low and high forests, rivers. They all are colorful landscapes with challenging terrains and demanding climbs rewarding you with panoramic views. Most of these available routes are ancient paths that connect villages. They still serve as circuit routes for delivering, selling, or collecting goods; so you’re likely to become acquainted with the traditional “Tico” way: the “campesinos” (farmers), dairy farmers, cattle ranchers, and some other characters, giving Costa Rica that unique, friendly, and welcoming spirit as they wave hello as you pass by. You might encounter some traffic along the way; colorful carts and happy riders usually kick up dust on the rough roads. Time stands still along these tracks. You may recognize the smell of firewood, signaling there’s a “Soda” (small typical restaurant) nearby. Here you can stop for a snack or a meal cooked on old iron stoves fueled by wood, recharge, and continue on the quiet dirt roads.

As you descend through rocky ridges and turns, enjoy the vistas where the landscape opens up to staggering geomorphological features, vast open spaces, and dense forests. Pedaling through nature awakens something within you; it connects the mind and body with life and focuses you through endurance, a vigor that pushes you out of your comfort zone, building self-confidence. There’s a moment while cycling when you start to feel superhuman; overcoming a challenge, every obstacle in the way becomes a target for conquest. You’ll begin to look at your surroundings differently, and that’s when you’ve begun to elevate your connection with nature, a heightened inspiration through the serene landscape.

Living in the moment. Your elevated heart rate will make you feel alive, breathing deeply in the environment you’re in, sharpening your senses, and reaching that point where you’ve exerted all your strength… stopping to feast your eyes on the present in relief and gratitude. Mountain biking reminds you that enduring effort and discomfort have their reward. Generally, life’s best moments come after you’ve gone through some tougher ones, and that’s just part of the human experience. The important part is that no experience in life is a hill, a lake, a valley, or a mountain to conquer; whether tough or joyful, enjoy the journey.