A Dirty Adventure Around the Nicoya Peninsula

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

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.

Tags

  • http://www.facebook.com/rafael.deecheandia Rafael de Echeandia

    Michael: Rafael here, I wonder if your mother is as nervous as I am for your health and safety. Have fun and keep going.
    I’m enjoying your trip immensley. Do you hear from your Dad? Good night 8:05 PM here in New Bern,NC
    P.S. We are going to the Virgin Islands in July.St. John. The only similarity to your trip is I will be driving an open automobile. JEEP Wrangler.
    Bye for now. All be safe. Have Fun . Rafael de Echeandia

  • Mykal and Nico

    Hola!
    Thank you for the beautiful images and inspiring words!
    We are in San Jose right now, after a beautiful northern route along lake Arenal and before heading to Orosi where we’ll be building for 2 weeks or so.
    If you wanna stop by you’re very welcome, more information http://eco-sanctuary.blogspot.com/
    Please drop us a line through chaingethecycle@gmail.com in any case, as we’d like to send you our blog and stay in touch.
    Abrazo,
    Mykal and Nico
    cyclists http://www.chainngethecycle.org

  • nate

    Unreal man. Unreal. That turtle by your tent! Dang. I’m in Ensenada after 10 days straight through deserts and tropical beaches in Baja. But I’m waaay to close to the border and home. What a way of life, eh?

  • http://www.facebook.com/loganwatts Logan Watts

    Damn… almost home, huh? I am sure you are excited and ready to be home, but after so long on the road it’s got to be slightly scary. My bet is that you are back on tour within a year!

  • http://www.facebook.com/loganwatts Logan Watts

    Thanks! We thought about taking the Arenal route, it sounds very nice. We are actually crossing into Panama today, but I definitely look forward to reading your posts as your trip progresses. Buen vieje!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/larry.watts.1422 Larry Watts

    nice post, good pics. guess I missed something, wheres michael and who is lee? didnt see ginny in the pics, is she ok?

  • Johnny Johnskins

    Was that a sea snake? That picture of Lee is awesome.

  • http://www.facebook.com/loganwatts Logan Watts

    Thanks! Yeah, that’s a yellow-bellied sea snake.

  • http://www.facebook.com/loganwatts Logan Watts

    Yeah, everybody’s OK. We met Lee in El Salvador and I am riding with him for a bit. Gin flew out from Costa Rica last week…

  • Michael Viglianco

    Sorry I missed this. Like I said in the other post I have been back about two months but about to depart on another trip in a few weeks and hope to contribute some more once out on the road again. I am currently in Winston Salem visiting my parents.

  • Ross

    Hey Logan. Awesome blog. Love the photos. I am planning a trip for December with my wife and 2 kids (aged 2 and 4) for Costa Rica and Nicaragua. We want to cycle in many places you have been (Nicoya Peninsula and Leon, Ometepe) so i was wondering if you could drop me your email? I’m at rosshopkins1@hotmail.com. I have quite a few questions for you. Cheers, Ross

  • Claire

    This looks completely amazing. How did you manage with finding tracks and navigation? I’m thinking of doing something similar – any advice?

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    Hi Ross, sorry for the delay. I had the wrong email for comments. Fixed now though. Check your email…

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    Hi Claire. Sorry for the delay (see below comment to Ross). I used printed travel maps and Google Maps mostly…

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    Also, here is a link to the ‘atlas’ I made showing the route: http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/adventures/bike-touring-mexico-and-central-america-route/

  • Dean Hill

    Nice trip and report! I was wonder what you thought about being able to connect alot of beach riding if you had a Fatbike (snow and sand bike) and a packraft? It looks like it might be a good idea looking at your photos, but maybe not? Not looking for easy, just fun, or maybe just adventurous .

    Thanks,

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    Thanks! Hmm, maybe, in some places. But the surf is rough around the peninsula, so I think it may be tough. Maybe worth thinking about on the Caribbean side, although I haven’t been there to get an idea. Could be something to think about in SOuth Africa though… there is a stretch called the Wild Coast that has a series of river openings that could allow for some coastal touring…

  • Trevor

    I did pretty much this same trip in January 2013. I rode from Liberia to the top of the peninsula and then down to Mal Pais and then turned around. I winged it the entire time. I didnt bother using a map, because you cant really get lost following the ocean. Great people, great times, dusty and steep.

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