Nicoya Peninsula Dirt Road Odyssey, Costa Rica
185 Mi.(298 KM)
% Rideable (time)
Although there are a few tourist hotspots on the Peninsula de Nicoya, the majority of it is fairly undeveloped. Nicoya’s rugged topography and unpaved dirt and gravel roads make it a great place for an off-road tour. We began our odyssey from Liberia, which conveniently has an international airport for those looking for a quick escape.
Day one consisted of a mostly paved traverse toward the coast where we made camp on Playa Conchal, a beautiful, protected, and fairly desolate beach. In the early hours the next morning we were woken by sea turtle egg poachers. We tried to find authorities to file a report, but no luck. A few days later at Ostional, we had a close encounter with a sea turtle nesting on the beach only 15 feet away from the tent.
Several days in we hit a stretch of remarkable beach riding that took us through the remote Playa Manzanillo. There is more beach riding on the southwestern point, but once you round the corner, it gets a little touristy.
If you are planning a bikepacking trip in Costa Rica, Nicoya should make your list, just be prepared for some hearty climbs and dusty roads. Read the full ‘Must Know’ section below…
- Desolate beach riding.
- Wild camping on remote beaches.
- Spotting sea turtles and camping amongst them.
- Enjoying nice post-ride swims in perfectly clear water.
- Exotic bird species and marine wildlife.
- Tying in a surf vacation with a bikepacking trip!
- December through April is classified as the dry season. There are many water crossings on the route and that during the wet/shoulder season or after heavy rain might require a cautious approach.
- Flying into and out if Liberia is ideal; there is an International airport on route! Otherwise, you could fly to San Jose and take a shuttle to the ferry at El Roble, then do the route in reverse and bus back from Liberia to San Jose.
- However, the roads on Nicoya can get really dusty during the dry season, so May or the fall months might not be so bad.
- The coastal section near Manzanillo is tide critical. You will need to approach this section and river crossing before Manzanillo at or near low tide. Check tides here.
- With high waters and flooded rivers, crocodiles may be an issue. We’re not a croc experts but there are signs. Another rider was warned at Rio Bongo. At times of high flow this river is definitely not crossable without a boat.
- Throughout our 6 days on the peninsula, we found several wonderful wild camp sites and two pay campgrounds, one of which was right on the beach at Ostional.
- There are also hostels and cheap hotels in the touristed towns.
- There are small stores with food in most small towns.
- Most people will let you refill water bottles from their spigot, just ask.