Off Roading Trails in Costa Rica


428423925_5637ea7a52If you are anywhere outside of San Jose, it might seem like you are always on an off road trail! But if you are looking for something a little more exciting than an unpaved road that is riddled with potholes, don’t worry, there are plenty of great off road trails for both motorbikes and other off road vehicles. Some of these trails are for experienced riders and drivers only. Otherwise, you run the risk of getting stranded in the middle of the jungle, which is no good. Not to mention there is no tow truck service out there!

Pit Bull Pass

Located near Orosi, Pit Bull Pass is not for the faint of heart. Starting at the town’s church the trail follows a gravel path towards Tapanti National Park. At Kiri Lodge a steep gravel road leads up to the mountain, taking about 35 to 45 minutes to reach the summit. Once at the top of Pit Bull Pass there are incredible views of the Turrialba Valley. The trail descends into primary and secondary rainforest, is quite scenic, filled with wildlife and offers a very technical, challenging ride. The route winds through the villages of Pejibaye, Tucurrique, Cachi and back to Orosi. The trail is 45 miles long (72.41 kilometers) and is recommended for advanced riders. Most riders take about six hours to complete the journey.

Drake’s Bay – Aquila de Osa Inn

Isolated, self sufficient and eco friendly, this rainforest inn has added mountain biking trails to their list of offerings for adventurous travelers. Drake’s Bay is accessible by boat or by a handful of dirt roads through the rainforest. The bike trails make use of some of these roads on routes that begin at Drake Bay’s beach and, depending on the route chosen, take from 1 ½ to almost 3 hours to complete. The simplest, known as Drake’s Planes takes you down into a river canyon, across a rope and wood suspension bridge and then uphill to Los Planes. Riders then can head back down towards the beach or take one of the side trails that loop through more old growth forest and pastures. The initial trail is suitable for beginners; the side trails are steeper and perhaps best for those with a bit more mountain biking experience. Bikes and helmets are available at the inn.

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Irazu Volcano

Irazu Volcano tops out at over eleven thousand feet and last erupted in 1963. This intermediate trail starts in the parking lot, starting off on pavement then switching to a rough semi-graveled jeep trail after about 2 miles (3 kilometers). Working your way through ruts, loose rocks and segments of sand you are rewarded with impressive views of the valley, rich farmlands and lush primary rainforest. The trail has three options to finish. One is an off-road descent suitable for advanced riders that leads to Santa Cruz, the second is an easy ride on a paved road down to Capellades and the third is an incredibly scenic paved trail all the way to Turrialba.

Lake Arenal North and South Shore

Costa Rica’s Lake Arenal is the largest inland body of water in the country and is also home to the very active Arenal Volcano. Two distinctive bike trails ring the lake and offer impressive views of not only the surrounding countryside but of the imposing volcanic cone on the eastern shore. The northern trail is great for beginners offering a relaxing ride on a gently sloping, paved road starting in either Nuevo Arenal or Fortuna. The southern route is more challenging. A thirty minute boat ride takes you from Lake Arenal dam to Rio Chiquito. From there, a dirt road crossing several creeks leads you to the village of El Castillo and then the ride becomes a bit easier. A gravel road travels along Arenal National Park eventually meeting up with the paved road to Fortuna. Most riders take about three hours to make the trip from Rio Chiquito to Fortuna.

Poas Volcano to Doka Estate Farm

Beginning riders can combine the fun of chasing rainbows and looking for Quetzel birds along a part paved, part graveled trail with a visit to one of Costa Rica’s most productive and prized coffee farms. Start your ride at the Poas Volcano parking lot and follow the road down to the town of Poasito. Continue downhill to Sabana Redonda, home of Doka Estate Farms. Take a tour of the mill and roasting facilities, enjoy a buffet lunch and of course sample the coffee. The total ride distance is 13 miles (21 kilometers) and is rated easy.

Fortuna to Nuevo Arenal Epic

One of the most challenging and scenic rides in Costa Rica starts on a dirt road near a cemetery leading to La Guaria. After crossing the Arenal River (in the water, the bridge is past its prime) the trail climbs toward Monterrey and Lindavista ending at a mountain top overlooking the Vanado Valley. Continuing south takes you past the Vanado Caverns and the town of Tigra and eventually to the six thousand foot ridge that overlooks Lake Arenal’s northern shore. The return is on a downhill dirt road that takes you to Toad Hall. From there it is 28 miles (44 kilometers) of paved road back to Fortuna. The ride itself is about 6 or 7 hours, but when taking in the scenery becomes an unforgettable all day journey.