This was our 3rd trip to Costa Rica and our 4th winter trip to Latin America. We visited Costa Rica in 2016, 2018 and 2019. In 2017 we went to Ecuador. In every case, the trips were motorcycle “adventures” on rental bikes. The Costa Rica trips were arranged through Motos Costa Rica and we rode with owners, Fred and Susan Brown. The Ecuador trip was through Freedom Bike Rental of Quito. All the trips were just awesome.
So, just to set expectations, here as usual when traveling by motorcycle, it's more about the journey than the destination. The pictures, however, generally get made at the destinations because that's where it's convenient to do so. So there are not many pictures here while “on the road” but lots in the places we stayed and dined.
The riding in Costa Rica was just excellent. Highways generally follow the lay of the land and the people who built them, probably originally native people on foot or horseback, did not have the ability to grade, slope or otherwise make them more suitable for motorized vehicular travel. Fortunately for us riders, modern day highway engineers have, other than paving them, left them pretty much as is. Hence, they are big FUN on a motorcycle. However, heads-up, if your idea of great riding is cruising along at 75mph on mulitple 10 foot wide interstate lanes you're probably NOT going to be real comfortable riding / driving here. It's often narrow, twisty, steep and sometimes rough – stay alert! One really refreshing thing about riding a moto in Costa Rica is that here a motorcycle is considered a legitimate part of traffic flow. Other drivers will happily share your lane (just as you do theirs) but you know they SEE you unlike back home where, as a rider, you always wonder if the distracted driver reading thier texts in the mini-van even knows you're there.
Outbound we spent the night in Nashville (closest airport with Southwest Airlines connections). Our dinner was the Manager's Reception at the Embassy Suites.
Nashvegas airport. Soup of the day anyone?
Last year the welcome sign said "Bienvenidos a Costa Rica" - looks like they are even more happy to have us gringos ($greengo$) come visit now. Our flight was my favorite kind, uneventful. We de-boarded in Houston and then re-boarded the same aircraft for international travel 30 minutes later.
We got into San Jose late on Thursday, breezed through immigration without problem, and then it was a 30 minute taxi ride to Atenas and straight to bed. This is the morning of day 1 in the common area at Villas de la Colina. There are no glass enclosure windows here as is the norm in Costa Rica restaurants
These are our friends, Lois and Ken, who spend a couple of months each winter here at Villas de la Colina. They live the rest of the year in Illinois but they like the winters better in Costa Rica (who wouldn't?). We have traveled by motorcycle in both Costa Rica and Ecuador with them. The bulldog is Lola. She and her male bulldog companion, Tyson, pretty much run the place.
Señor Freddie - our fearless leader. He and Susan are the owners of Motos Costa Rica and were our companions for the entire time in-country. We did not have a "tour" planned this time as we have previously. The only lodging scheduled when we left the US was the first night at Villas de la Colina. The rest of the trip was planned only one day in advance.
Tania prepares a great breakfast for us here, this is guanabanano (guanabana and banana) - quite tasty!
Me, sitting at the overlook in the common area checking emails over WiFi and enjoying the view and another most excellent cup of coffee. All the places we stayed had WiFi so we could catch keep up on things back home as needed in the evenings. We did not have cellular service in Costa Rica but instead used a VOIP application (Viber) to talk to home. Our cellular carrier at home is Verizon and their TDMA protocol is not the one supported in CR. Ken and Lois use ATT back home and it was a simple and inexpensive option to temporarily move their service to the ATT GMA service in Costa Rica.
This is the view behind me. That's San Jose down there in the valley and that's probably Volcán Irazú in the far distance.
Plants grow much larger here than back home. This is a shoulder-high aloe plant
Interesting banana factiod - they must be picked green or they will turn black and rot on the tree
So, on our first day in-country we repacked our luggage for motorcycle travel and headed for the Pacific coast. The very pleasant mountain temperatures became progressively warmer as we dropped in altitude.
Hotel Delfin may have the finest beach access I have ever seen. We came here in last year and really liked it. Eddie, the proprietor, is an Americano from Georgia. He lives here (nearby in San Isido) year round now.
Inside the lobby. There is no glass in those windows and doors. That sea breeze blows right through the lobby/dining room. It's Costa Rica baby!
The ceiling in the lobby. The little black spots in the corners are bats.
A baby bat that had fallen on the floor. Fred rescued it and relocated it to a safer place.
Backside of the lobby/bar opens a very nice pool.
Where we saw a Jesus Christ lizard "walk" across the pool.
Beach side view from our 2nd floor room. The surf is REALLY close and the beach is without dunes. This is possible because they don't normally have hurricanes here.
The beach was very nice but caution is required as there is an undertow. This was Friday, there are many more beach folks and surfers on Saturday and Sunday.
I'm not really a beach guy but Nancy insisted that we needed this picture.
Hotel Delfin from the beach side
One of MANY iguanas
Eduardo, bartender extraordinare.
Awesome beach sunset
Another one - pretty enough for two pics
And Eduardo's view of Fred, Susan and Jim at the bar.
Nancy with my ride. The young man behind her is a modern day "freebird". He had a homemade surfboard rack attached to his bike. He lives off the motorcycle and migrates around to the good surf locations where he takes menial jobs to earn a little spending money or lodging. Then, when he tires of the location he simply loads up his board and moves on.
Nancy and Susan took a non-riding beach day while Fred and I did some adventuring. Not far out of town we hit gravel.
I was supposed to have a Honda NX400 Falcon like Nancy but those were over-committed and I agreed to ride this older DR650 ('96 model with 53K miles). It's the machine I ride at home so it felt very familiar although this one was not as well-maintained as mine. However, no complaints, it performed flawlessly all week and with the exception of a few turistas passing through on big bikes would easily pass pretty much anything on else on 2-wheels down here.
So, Saturday morning and away we go. Obviously at sea level here at Delfin
The adventure ride this day was all maintained roads but there were some VERY steep and very loose grades and we met a few coffee farm trucks loaded with workers in switchback curves just to make things interesting.
Up in the clouds. That's our road down there going round the next knoll.
So, starting at sea level, we climbed to over 2000 meters (~6600 feet, roughly the same as the top of Mount Mitchell in NC) within about 40 kilometers.
That's a lot of altitude change over a short distance. Like I said it was REALLY steep and very loose in places. Here you can see my SPOT locater in my tank bag. I called and asked ndash; they said it would work here. Fortunately we didn't have to test that.
Lunch stop (well, technically it was an ice cream stop - there were lots of those!) at a supermercado in San Marcos on our way home
There were some awesome vistas up there. Here we are very close to the Pan American hiway and to cerro de la muerte (the summit of death). It's up there in the clouds. More on that later.
In Costa Rica, motorcycle riders must wear a reflective band as seen here and in other pics. It really does make a difference particularly at dusk when visability is poor. Notice also, I am using my vintage Quest GPS. I downloaded free maps for it from https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/OSM_Map_On_Garmin/Download. The maps worked perfectly and were quite accurate. I chose to take the old Quest because it doesn't require external power and if I were to loose it, no big deal.
So,back at Delfin later, in time for another spectacular Pacific coast sunset
Our ride on Day 3. obviously right down the coast to the rugged Osa peninsula. Because we were so low this was our hottest day of riding. However the last bit of riding out to Puerto Jiménez was an excellent well-maintained twisty road with lots of elevation changes. A very nice way to finish the day.
Tried to get some pictures of us on the bikes in front of Delfin but the light was not good under the canopy of palm trees. Here's Nancy and Fred departing.
And Nancy geared up.
Fred and Susan rode 2-up. Here he's waiting for Susan to mount after taking pictures
The sunlight was really bright and kinda overwhelmed the simple exposure "brain" in the phone
Hot! We stopped frequently for fluids
How hot was it? Well, apparently even the local Ticos seemed to think it was pretty hot.
Puerto Jiménez is a harbor / fishing town. There were some sport fishing boats in the harbor and I talked to another Americano who had caught and released 3 big sails that day.
Internet picture cause we didn't take one, but this the harbor at Puerto Jiménez.There is deep water further out but close to shore the harbor is very shallow and there were lots of locally owned small boats. The tide is in here but when the tide was out those boats sat down right on the mud.
Our destination for nights 3 and 4
We're definitely Runnin' Through the Jungle here
The water absorbing cooling bandanna was a life safer!
Our lodging - A big open air house with 5 or 6 air conditioned bedrooms. The common area / kitchen did not have AC
It was called the "spider house" because of the motif. I'm sure there were spiders but I didn't see any of note
We could ride the bikes right to the door which makes for easy loading and unloading. Nice.
The view of the "parking lot" from our door. This was a gated compound as are most places here.
As the name implies, this place is in a Mangrove only a couple of feet above sea level
Much of the Osa peninsula is designated National Park and nature preserve. We're pretty close to Panama (as the gull flies) here.
The town itself was pretty typical of small Costa Rican villages. All one-story buildings with open construction. There are usually bars and gates on entrances but rarely wooden or glass doors and windows.
LOTS of monkeys here
And like I said, it REALLY is a jungle out there
Pathway to the common area and pool
Note the monkey on the limb over the walkpath
Nancy got pretty close to these guys
They were apparently unafraid of humans
One has the feeling here that if they let the place go for a couple of days, the jungle would completely overgrow everything
The common area where the "front desk" and the kitchen are located
Stand up straight Jim
In case you need to know
The modest pool. It actually felt pretty darn good. I stood in it for quite some time sipping on a cerveza Imperial
More monkey business
Some of the paths were delineated with coconut shells
Another view of the common area. Obviously no AC here
Yeah, yeah, you're tired of monkeys, right? If you don't like monkeys, I wouldn't advise visiting here.
Breakfast is served
Breakfast was gallopinto. This breakfast of huevos, frijoles and arroz, tortilla, sometimes plantains, and excellent cafe is a Costa Rica staple.
Seemed everyone washed their own dishes here, so we did too
As in other locations where we spent two nights, the ladies made a town day of the second one and Fred and I explored. Our adventure ride on day 4 took us to the end of "civilization" on the Osa peninsula. The road was actually pretty good although unpaved from Puerto Jiménez on. And, there was a small paved airstrip where we turned around at the end of the public right-of-way. It even has a name - Carate
This is not a sign one sees in the USA. The animals from L to R appear to be either a monkey or a coatimundi, a tapir and some kind of wild canine
It is legal to ride on the beach here. However there was very deep sand between the road and the hard pack wet sand and I decided it wasn't worth the effort
The big DR plowed out of this but I thought we might have to physically drag it. Whew!
This small stand of palms is all that separates the road from the beach. As mentioned earlier there is no row of high dunes as we see on the Atlantic coast.
There were a number of small rivers flowing into the ocean and hence several stream crossings on the road to Carate. Most were no big deal and Fred did this one correctly by swinging way down stream where it was more shallow. This was the return trip so we had a chance to scout this one on the way out. Unfortunately on the outbound trip I was first across and I took the straight line. I got pretty wet. Fred said an SUV followed me through and the water rolled up on his hood!
Most of the road was well-maintained
And occasionally offered some very nice views of el Golfo Dulce and the Pacific
These folks were American tourists. One thing about traveling with Fred, you get to meet and usually talk to pretty much everyone you encounter.
Day 5. We left the low coastal area and headed back into the mountains to San Isidro de la General.
On the way to today's lodging, we rode past Playa Dominical. It was time for a break and we saw this little smoothie shop. Oh yeah!
Our lovely tica hostess
There were LOTS of choices. Fred, Susan and Nancy made a healthy choice of fruit smoothies. Me, I went with a banana milkshake.
Order up! The irony of our choices was that on this particular evening Nancy had a mild bout with "Montezumas Revenge" we think because of the ice used in the smoothies. Me, no problem - my drink was made with ice cream, milk and bananas.
We enjoyed a late lunch here in San Isidro
It was first class!
The view from our table
We came to this place based on a friends recommendation. That's Eddie at the end of the table. He is from the USA but lives here in San Isidro now.
They had some fancy coffee drinks
And some unusual but quite tasty pizza
Just chillin' at our hotel (La Princesa) up the mountain a bit from San Isidro de la General
I really like this Imperial label. The literal translation is Made of pure life. ¡Pura Vida!
The flowers and view of the valley were super
This valley is very agricultural. The haze is because farmers are burning off the sugar cane fields
With Costa Rica's strong cultural emphasis on a green lifestyle, burning off the sugar cane leaves is somewhat controversial. The farmers contend there is no other economically feasible option for harvesting the sugar cane. They burn the fields before harvesting the cane to remove the leaves and to drive off the snakes and lizards.
Breakfast in the open air as usual. Did I mention the fruit? Ohhh, the fresh fruit in Costa Rica was just awesome - EVERYDAY. Best piña (pineapple) I've ever eaten anywhere.
Our view from the breakfast table
A perfectly shaped fan palm next to the breakfast spot at La Princesa
Our Day 6 ride. Just outside of San Isidro we got on the Pan American Highway and headed north. This section of the PA crosses el cerro de la muerte - the summit of death so named because so many people died attempting to cross the rugged terrain before the highway was built and then during it's construction. It is mostly 2-lane, narrow, and curvy with lots of altitude changes even now. It reminds me a lot of our Blue Ride Parkway except it's a lot higher and is subject to the frequent changes in Costa Rican weather conditions. It's better to travel this section early in the morning because most afternoons it is fogged in.
We put on our warmest riding gear before starting up and even so it was chilly at the top. Here, we are stopping for a warm up / stand up break.
There was a new (since last year, I think) strip of stores. What we would call a mini-mart back home, a restaurant and a fruit/flower shop.
The Summit Fruit and Flowers
Remember it's February. Things are always in bloom at 9 degrees latitude.
The coffee machine was notable. It's not something one sees frequently in Costa Rica. They take their café seriously here and most of the time a stop for coffee involves a sit-down, social event. This particular machine made a pretty good cup as it ground the beans before brewing.
Unlike some this tienda was well stocked
So, what do things cost in Costa Rica? It's not really that much different from the US. The unit of currency is the colón and the currency conversion at the time of our visit was US$1 = 614 colones so the energy/fruit bars pictured here were approximately $1.45
There were often "craft" edibles in the stores. These are made mostly from marshmallows
Are you nuts?
Potato (and other) chips. I'm not sure chips with the brand name "Yucas" would be a good seller back home
Powdered milk. Not everyone has refrigeration and powdered milk can be stored for long periods at ambient temperatures
Welcome to Orosi! Another small village in the mountains. We all liked Orosi
This was only decorative but it shows the traditional way of brewing coffee here. When we were in CR last year we ate breakfast at a restaurant where each cup of coffee was brewed this way at our table.
The menu here. The photos are vintage of the local church. Modern day pics later
Looking towards downtown Orosi from Restaurante el Luz
There are noticeably more cars in Costa Rica than our first trip only four years ago but there are still ALWAYS pedestrians. This can be a problem at night because they walk in the road and may not be wearing light colored clothing. I don't like driving/riding at night here. Also, there were lots of children about because school was out of session. It was to resume on Feburary 5th and every little tienda was selling school supplies.
This was one of our favorite places during this trip. The Orosi Lodge is a B&B operated by a very pleasant German couple who ride also.
Our secure parking area across the street in the proprietors' yard. Their Royal Enfield motorcycles are in the little garage.
Welcome to Orosi Lodge
Hand painted coffee bags
We were tempted to buy one of these but we couldn't figure out where we would hang it at home
Like most Costa Rican art, these were very colorful
Orosi is another place that we stayed for 2 days. On the second day, Fred and I explored as usual and Susan and Fred walked around town absorbing the culture. The next few pictures are a lesson for you in los nombres español for fruits and veggies. This picture isn't a fruit but the brand name had significance for us. You know who you are ;-)
In most cases the products are priced by the kilogram. So here we have Yellow Potatoes at $.71/lb. Small white potatoes $.58/lb. Red and white onions $.66/lb. Probably the coconut price is each - $.81
Medium tomatoes $.40/lb
Corn on the cob $.26 each
Garlic Large bag $2.16, small bag $.33
Cilantro $.26 per bunch (I think)
Apples $1.60 / bag
Bananas $.08 each
Medium pineapples $.97. Big ones $1.38.
Lettuce at $.48 / head
Green cabbage $.72/lb. Purple cabbage $.58/lb
Zucchini $.81. Not sure if that's each or per kilo
White squash - $.29
Green beans - $.89 / bag
Flowers are everywhere! And the plants are gigantic compared to back home. Marigold on the left, hibiscus on the right
At every hotel, we found our towels folded artfully on the beds. At the Orosi Lodge, we had both folded towels and origami butterflies
And then there was breakfast - or I should say BREAKFAST! First thing on the table (other than the coffee of course) were containers of jams and jellies
And fresh, hot bread
I had the skillet breakfast - eggs, ham, onions, cheese - kinda like an omelet but not folded and served in a sizzling skillet. Nancy had the continental - fresh fruit and yogurt.
The continental. Like everywhere else with fresh squeezed orange juice.
Costa Rica is predominantly a Catholic country. Every village, no matter how small, has two things - a Catholic church and a soccer field. Here are pictures of the ones in Orosi.
annnd, the soccer field. EVERY restaurant and bar had soccer on the TVs. Pretty much 24-7 it seems.
This appeared to be a public meeting place. Open air as are most things. No need for walls when it never gets cold.
On our second night in Orosi we “splurged” and enjoyed an excellent Italian dinner with wine just down the street from the lodge. It was all quite good.
This was recommended by our waitress and we found it to be a good Cabernet
The crew at Pizzeria a la Lena
Our waitress was excellent (all of them were!)
This was a pretty fancy place for Orosi.
Flowers are always everywhere and in bloom here
So, why is this picture significant you ask.
Because Volcán Turrialba is angry this morning and spewing a bit of ash
Turrrialba closed the San Jose airport a few months back with her ash. Active volcanoes are just part of daily life in this part of the world.
Interesting coffee factoid – The plants are grown in a nursery and transplanted to the fields when mature enough
And it was
We really enjoyed this location
But alas, it's time to leave for Day 8
But what about day 7, you ask. Well as per usual, Señor Freddie and Señor Jimmie went adventuring. This was by far the most challenging day for dual sport riding.
There are many one-lane (sometimes less than one-lane by our standards) bridges in Costa Rica. In fact, on most paved secondary roads have been widened but the more expensive bridges have not. Drivers must be attentive as one direction will nearly always have to yield. The sign will say “Cede de Paso” that means YOU yield to oncoming traffic.
Coming out of Orosi we had quite a few miles of this kind of enjoyable semi-maintained road
There were numerous really beautiful vistas
And, then there was this. To be fair before we started this section we stopped and talked to a local. He said the road was passable on a motorcycle but for a car it was impossible. A 4X4 with good ground clearance could have crawled through but no common sedan was going to get through here
The picture does not do this justice. It was steep and those rocks are the size of grapefruit or larger. Plus there were several ledges. Momentum is definitely your friend here.
It had rained the night before up here and the surface mud was pretty slimy. No injuries to man or machine but it was definitely slow going through here. What was the movie – No Country for Old Men. Yeah that applies.
We had this kind of thing for about 10 kilometers – the rest of the day was pretty easy.
During the afternoon we rode the side of Turrialba ending up back in Orosi just moments before the afternoon rain shower.
This kind of thing is not at all unusual, even on major highways. You can see this has been like this for a while. There are sometimes signs warning that the road or bridge ahead is en estado mal (in bad condition).This one was well marked but often there is nothing more than a pile of rocks or sticks in the road to warn of upcoming danger.
So, day 8. Out of the mountains and into the eastern low country for awhile. CR32 is a major thoroughfare from the Caribbean port of Limón to San Jose and the eastern, low country agricultural regions. There are many large trucks here and it seems it under reconstruction nearly every where. Some parts are being converted to four lanes which will help eventually. Bottom line – that section was not a lot of fun.
All three bikes at a gasolinaria
This was a very nice, modern station. Not all of them were. When I pulled up to the pump, I asked the attendant (one does not pump their own gas here) in Spanish to fill both bikes with 91 octane regular. He answered in perfect un-accented English. It happens.
This will be a frameable picture I think. The two of us actually both smiling, our bikes and Volcán Turrialba spewing ash in the background.
Our lodging for night 8. It was yet another nature hotel. Monkeys and Iguanas everywhere.
The lobby – open air of course
Interesting carved bench
Flora on the grounds here
These are Walking Palms. Much of the root system is above ground and they can "walk" up to 1 meter/year to find better soil and water
More walking palms. QUICK! STEP BACK! They're coming through!
Recycling station on the grounds. There are many of these around - unfortunately often overflowing.
More towel art
The dining area at Ara Ambrigua
The deck overhangs dense jungle floor with all kinds of resident wildlife
So at dinner, our really fun waitress, Maria is helping Fred find the Red Poison Dart frogs. We're looking down on them below the main dining room. That's Maria at the bottom. They didn't find any frogs.
But they were thrilled when they a found a white snake and this guy.
And this guy too
The restaurant offered several delicious sounding but heavy deserts. We were pretty full but wanted something. Dos Piñas to the rescue again.
Breakfast juice station. I've never seen watermelon (sandia) juice served in a carafe before.
Morning of day 9, in the Ara Ambigua parking lot.
Sometimes translations from another language don't turn out as expected in English. I believe Rule #4 would have been written something like "Use designated facilities for handicapped persons". And Rule #5 (chuckle), means no making out in the parking lot.
Day 9 ride from Puerto Viejo to La Fortuna. The big dip south was to get away from the truck traffic on 32 and to visit a special location Fred knew about - the Iguana Cafe
This is just a big green tree, right?
Wrong! There was a huge iguana up there. This guy was as big as a small alligator but as far as I know gators don't climb trees.
But, look closely and there is another BIG guy surveying the dozens of smaller lizards down on the ground.
They are hard to see in the photo because they blend in so well, but the ground down by the water is teeming with iguanas. Some of them were only visible when they moved.
No, I could not resist. I believe Eskimo is a US brand but it may not be the same company here.
We're in pineapple country down here. There were numerous gigantic trucks carrying harvested piñas. This one had 6 axles - 22 wheels. No telling how much it weighs.
They navigate the narrow roadways very well but sometimes require the entire road to make a turn.
Our lodging in La Fortuna
La Fortuna is the town closest to Volcán Arenal which is a popular tourist attraction. There are numerous opportunities here to do canopy rides (Ziplines). We chose one of the larger facilities - Sky Adventure / Sky Trek. After buying our tickets (pricey at $86/each) we waited a few minutes at the mountain house (restaurant/bar) for our start time. This is the view of Lago Arenal from the deck
This is the third time we have visited La Fortuna and we've never gotten a clear view of the top of Arenal. This was pretty close to being able to see the caldera
So, here I am geared up for the Zipline. We bought the professional photo package and the link to those photos is below. There are some neat shots but it's not possible to capture the magitude of this thing in a photograph. There were 7 connected ziplines between two ridges that criss-crossed a big (BIG!) valley. The total length was 1.7 miles and at one point you're 650 feet above the canopy. It was a real rush.
Link to professional ZipLine Pics
At the top of the gondola there is a another large platform. This is your last chance to turn back because after you start down the lines, there is only one way down. They did have a neat sign up there though and I decided it would be a good time to ask this question with Arenal behind us. She even said yes even though she's known me for 42 years and we've been married almost 39!
So, day 10. Our last day on the bikes. The ride back from La Fortuna to Atenas is narrow and twisty much of the way. The last 30 kilometers from San Ramon to Atenas would make a great YouTube video.
Our last day in-country was very laid back. We unloaded the bikes and repacked for air travel home. It's just sooo peaceful up here at Villas de la Colinas
There is a great back porch on Cabina 2 where we spent much of the day.
A selfie from the porch and pictures inside the cabina
For lunch we walked down the hill to small tienda and grazed on convience store food. After lunch I enjoyed a "quiet time" a.k.a. a nap in the hammock on the deck. This was my view from the hammock.
Late afternoon some Americano friends showed up with a dozen or so bottles of local craft brew. It would have been impolite not to sample, don't you know.
It was a(nother) totally awesome winter escape. I hope we can go back again.
Nancy and Jim