A Dirty Adventure Around the Nicoya Peninsula

A 208 mile (335 km) off-pavement adventure over some of the most challenging and rewarding terrain of our trip…

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I am now convinced that bike touring on the Nicoya Peninsula will lead to nothing short of an adventure. Lee and I set out to try and cobble together an interesting route circumnavigating the Nicoya Peninsula in Nortwest Costa Rica. Although the gravel roads and ridiculously steep rocky dirt tracks proved themselves much more challenging than anticipated, the peninsula offered many shiny gems amongst its rough and dusty terrain. Over the course of 6 days we were covered in dust and dirt as we discovered some interesting off-road tracks, beach routes, remote camp spots and surprise experiences on this wild Pacific outcropping. Details are in the photos:


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Bicycle Touring Costa Rica - Nicoya Peninsula

Coati - Bike Touring Costa Rica

This guy (Coati) liked to sneak up and scare the crap out of me in the morning when I was having coffee at our hotel in La Cruz (before heading into Nicoya).

Bike Touring Costa Rica

Finally drained this bottle of oil I’ve been carrying since somewhere outside of Mexico City… I will kind of miss it.

Bike Touring Costa Rica

Lee tearing up some berms on this dirt descent into the peninsula.

Bike Touring Costa Rica - Nicoya Peninsula

Yep, this is a road.

Bike Touring Costa Rica - Nicoya Peninsula

The ‘track’ going over the point to Playa Conchal.

Bike Touring Costa Rica - Nicoya Peninsula, Surly Troll

I think we’ll stay here (Playa Conchal)… probably one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve seen.

Bike Touring Costa Rica - Nicoya Peninsula

Our camp at Conchal.

Bike Touring Costa Rica - Nicoya Peninsula

Leaving Conchal the next morning… skirting the beach to find the track out to the South.

Bike Touring Costa Rica - Nicoya Peninsula

An old sign for Little Hawaii (a surf break made famous by Endless Summer II)

Bike Touring Costa Rica - Nicoya Peninsula

Nope, I think we’ll camp on the beach again.

Bike Touring Costa Rica - Nicoya Peninsula

We were woken at 5:15 by a woman saying, ‘tortuga, tortuga…’ at Ostianal, the most important and protected beach in the world for sea turtle nesting. This Green Ridley was within 10 feet of our tent.

Bicycle Touring Costa Rica - Nicoya Peninsula

She had dug several holes and seemed to be very tired.

Bicycle Touring Costa Rica - Nicoya Peninsula

Back to the sea.

Bicycle Touring Costa Rica - Nicoya Peninsula

Evidently we were very lucky to witness this 5 months before the high nesting season.

Bicycle Touring Costa Rica - Nicoya Peninsula

In September, this is what the beach may look like, as a local gentleman points out!

Bicycle Touring Costa Rica - Nicoya Peninsula

Lots of locust shells this time of year.

Bicycle Touring Costa Rica - Nicoya Peninsula

The first of many river crossings.

Bicycle Touring Costa Rica - Nicoya Peninsula

Cruising through another beach outside of Samara.

Bicycle Touring Costa Rica - Nicoya Peninsula

Darting off the gravel onto a dirt track.

Bicycle Touring Costa Rica - Nicoya Peninsula

Navigating a river bed as we tried to piece together some tracks in West-central Nicoya.

Bicycle Touring Costa Rica - Nicoya Peninsula

Some interesting public art in Islita…

Bicycle Touring - Surly Troll

The whole square is full of whimsical paintings and sculptures.

Bicycle Touring Costa Rica - Nicoya Peninsula

Spring is popping as the rainy season is approaching.

Bicycle Touring Costa Rica - Nicoya Peninsula

Sunrise over our campsite on the remote Playa Caletas.

Bicycle Touring Costa Rica - Nicoya Peninsula

Playa Caletas… all to ourselves.

Bicycle Touring Costa Rica - Nicoya Peninsula

This guy washed up not too far from camp on Caletas. Evidently if one of these happens to bite you, you’re dead in :20.

Bicycle Touring Costa Rica - Nicoya Peninsula

Also, lots of hermit crabs.

Bicycle Touring Costa Rica - Nicoya Peninsula

I wish I had a constant supply of hielo… it’s really hot.

Bicycle Touring Costa Rica - Nicoya Peninsula

Several kms of beach riding to piece together our route.

Bicycle Touring Costa Rica - Nicoya Peninsula

Rounding a point in low tide.

Bicycle Touring Costa Rica - Nicoya Peninsula

Beautiful and interesting rock formations along the the Southwestern edge of Nicoya.

Bicycle Touring Costa Rica - Nicoya Peninsula

The mighty Lee.

Bicycle Touring Costa Rica - Nicoya Peninsula

Cows trecking along the beach outside of Playa Hermosa.

Bicycle Touring Costa Rica - Nicoya Peninsula

Beached and rounded pebbles contrast against the rock formations.

Bicycle Touring Costa Rica - Nicoya Peninsula

Higuerón – This giant strangler fig was honored the ‘Exceptional Tree of The Year, 2009’.

Highlights

  • Conchal beach – a hidden gem.
  • Ostional – One of the most important turtle-nesting beaches in the world.
  • Stretch of beach road on the Southwest corner during low-tide.
  • Hidden ‘tracks’ strewn throughout the peninsula.

The Ups

  • One can reach some really nice remote and beautiful places on a bike.
  • Some of the off-beaten-path riding is superb for dirt lovers.
  • You can find nice places to camp on beaches… gratis.
  • Plenty of opprtunities for adventure if you can talk to the locals with a little español.

The Downs

  • This time of year, the dust can be overwhelming; may be a better to visit at the end of the rainy season.
  • Groceries, restaurants and places to stay are expensive. USA expensive.
  • Without being able to ask questions to the locals, you may find yourself lost on many occasions; the maps are a little off.

For more information on this route, including GPS and logistics, click here. Also, check out our growing list of bikepacking and dirt road touring routes.

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