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Mountain Biking at the Best Beaches on the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica

March 16, 2017

Let’s start with facts, there is a judge misconception that insecurity is higher when we talk about our Caribbean side. If you compare every main city at any country has more crime than the surroundings. More than often it is overlooked, perhaps there are no huge, luxury resorts; others don’t like the drive, as the road route 32 is considered dangerous; whatever the reasons may be, the fact is that Limón Province and the beaches in the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica don’t have the same popularity as the beaches in the Pacific Coast; it is also safe to say that many people rather this be the case, because it is precisely the fact that these beaches are not ever as crowded and the lack of huge resorts that make them the perfect vacation destination for many.

 

 

The Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica extends for about 125 miles offering everything from mangrove wetlands to lush mountains that will be consider a perfect mountain biking spot; the region has rich historic and cultural importance to the country.

 

So, the Caribbean Coast in fact is a good choice for a day of pedaling or a week of pedaling. Almost all of the area is dirt roads and paths winding through beaches, villages and up and down mountains.

 

You can stay on the coastal route for a more relaxed less strenuous bike tour, or ride high into the Talamanca mountains over rough terrain.

 

We also offer a multiple-day mountain bike tours, which range from a two-day exploration of the area around Cahuita and Puerto Viejo to a six-day tour of the entire southern coastal area all the way to Panama.

 

Bikers who bring their own wheels will find no shortage of routes in Costa Rica. The entire southern Caribbean Coast, which is crisscrossed by sparsely travelled dirt roads, is the perfect region for mountain-bike touring, as are the southern Talamanca mountains.

 

The Cahuita National Park has a great bike trail that runs along the coast, where you will come face to face with snakes, lizards, Pacas, Agoutis, Green & Black Frogs, red frogs,howler monkeys, white faced monkeys, Iguanas, sloths and many different species of birds and amphibians.

 

Stop in a quite calm cove and take a dip in the crystal clear waters.

 

Ride out to the point of Cahuita National Park and you can see 30 miles north to Limon and south to Punta Uva.

 

Lock your bike up and take a snorkeling trip out to the reef and see the hundreds of species of coral and fish that make up the largest reefs south of Belize.

 

From there you can bike south to Home Creek and then onto Puerto Viejo, Cockles, Punta Uva and Manzanillo, where you can bike through the Manzanillo-Gandoca Wildlife Refuge. 

 

There are miles of roads and paths going up into the mountains, with some fabulous views of the Caribbean.

 

From the village of Manzanillo you can head south through the refuge on small paths to the river estuaries, where you will find a unique species of river dolphin, Caymans, Crocodiles, monkeys, otters and other exotic wild life.

 

Cross the rivers and go all the way to the Panamanian border.

 

Since the beaches are just part of what makes this province unique, we will provide the rider with a quick review of the best in the area, it is important to mention that the most beautiful beaches are located in the touristic are of Southern Limón (South Caribbean), while the North has more of a “raw nature” appeal.

 

Playa Tortuguero

 

Situated in the Northwest of the Limón province, the beach of Tortuguero (Land of Turtles) is part of the Tortuguero National Park and it is a preferred destination for eco-tourists. The untouched nature and wildlife present in the area are the main attractions.

Type of Sand: Black

Selling Points:

1. Remote location, no cars, in Tortuguero you are in the middle of the rainforest. (nice)

2. Impressive surrounding nature provides many options for eco-tourism, from navigating in the canals to witnessing the nesting of turtles in the beach.

Disadvantages:

1. Swimming conditions are not good, very strong currents.

2. It rains here, a lot, always pack a raincoat.

Recommendations:

You can pedal from Cariari de Pococí directly to La Pavona or if you want to get extra miles you can do it from Turrialba town. Here you’ll need to take a boat to get to Tortugero. 

Extra Notes:

The main attraction at Tortuguero beach is the possibility of witnessing an incredible natural phenomenon as is the nesting of the sea turtles, the best months to visit are February through August, but some of the species arrive even through October.

 

Playa Bonita

 

This is a small beach located close to the Port of Moín in Limón, due to its location its visited by many national tourists. Here is where the mayor event of “La Ruta de los Conquistadores” ends after 4 days of tenuous pedaling over Costa Rica from de Pacific Coast.

Type of Sand: Tan

Selling Points:

1. To the south there are rock formations with diverse marine life

2. Restaurant Quimbamba right in front of the beach is a famous stop site

Disadvantages:

1. Small beach

2. Strong waves and currents

Recommendations:

Pedaling from Turrialba town you can discover a perfect 100 km way thru Siquirres town that will give you the opportunity to enjoy the last day of “La Ruta” way, and watch out, you will have to cross an old train railway to Moin, very fun and exciting. It is a good place to stop on your way to Limón, but it is not one of the best beaches so a transfer to the Southern Limón will be pretty much mandatory.

Extra Notes:

The restaurants here offer good food, bathrooms and WiFi

 

 

Playa Negra (Cahuita)

 

This beach is to the Northeast of Cahuita National Park.

Type of Sand: Black

Selling Points:

1. Isolated beach, likely you’ll be sharing the beach with one or two more people

2. To the North the beach has great swimming conditions, but on the western side there are good conditions for beginning surfers or boogie riders.

3. Restaurants and small hotels close to the beach

Disadvantages:

1. Although it is not a disadvantage many people don’t find the beach as attractive because of the dark sand.

Recommendations:

There are many restaurants and bars close by the beach that will become a perfect spot after riding all over the mountains at Talamanca.

Extra Notes:

Lay down on the sand and relax to the sounds of the waves, the black sand in the location is said to have a therapeutic effects.

 

 

Playa Blanca (Cahuita)

 

Part of the Cahuita National Park, this 3km beach is absolutely stunning.

Type of Sand: White

Selling Points:

1. Pristine water, excellent swimming (except for the first 300 meters), great snorkeling and diving near the coral reefs.

2. Good infrastructure, bathrooms and showers.

3. Camping is allowed (bikepacking yeah!!!)

Disadvantages:

1. If you get here in the afternoon the tide will be high and then it’s hard to enjoy the beach to the fullest, other than that, this beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica.

Recommendations:

Bring cash because when you enter the park you have to make a donation of whatever amount you wish. Walk to the tip of the park to enjoy the impressive view of the reef.

Extra Notes:

The walk through the National Park is beautiful many howler monkeys and sloths can be. Sorry no bikes allowed into the National Park. So sad.

 

 

Puerto Vargas

 

The beach at Puerto Vargas is missed by many because it is hidden away and it has to be accessed by a natural trail from the Cahuita area.

Type of Sand: White

Selling Points:

1. Very clean, clear waters ideal for snorkeling and diving

2. Abundant wildlife

Disadvantages:

1. Although there are bathrooms in the area, that’s about all the infrastructure you will find.

Recommendations:

The biking here can take you to a pretty private land, not many people use a bike there but you will be bomb!, make sure you are well prepared with plenty water.

Extra Notes:

Ask about the camping facilities in the area. (bikepacking yeah!!!)

 

Playa Negra (Puerto Viejo)

 

Not to be confused with Playa Negra in Cahuita. This Playa Negra is located right in the center of Puerto Viejo.

Type of Sand: Black

Selling Points:

1. This is the closest beach to the surfing beach town of Puerto Viejo

2. Good surfing conditions

Disadvantages:

1. Being so close to all the commercial areas takes away some of its appeal

2. Sometimes it gets crowded

Recommendations:

You can enjoy a good biking trip around the natives area at Talamanca and have the opportunity to come here to enjoy the sunset and relax in one of the many restaurants close by.

Extra Notes:

Nightlife at Puerto Viejo is always vibrant. Take some safety precautions in this area, especially at night time.

 

Playa Cocles

 

Just about 10 minutes from Cahuita and South of Puerto Viejo, is the very popular Playa Cocles.

Type of Sand: White

Selling Points:

1. Beautiful scenic beach, good surfing conditions

2. Coral reef and incredible marine life.

Disadvantages:

1. Careful while swimming as currents can be strong and drag you into the ocean.

Recommendations:

This area has a trail that will take you over the beach and enjoy the surroundings, you can also relax and enjoy by the beach after a good day of pedaling around.

Extra Notes:

The advantage of the Southern Caribbean beaches is that they are all just a few minutes away, you can choose to spend the morning in Cahuita and then head to see the sunset at Cocles.

 

 

Playa Chiquita:

 

Next to Cocles Beach, Playa Chiquita has an extension of just 2km

Type of Sand: Tan/Smooth

Selling Points:

1. Perfect beach to enjoy a relaxing day surrounded by green nature

2. Because the access to the beach is somewhat hidden there’s never a lot of people

Disadvantages:

1. No infrastructure near the beach

2. Waves can be strong

Recommendations:

Take all you need with you to be able to enjoy a day disconnected from the city life. Oh sorry, you already have a bicycle, duh!

Extra Notes:

From here you can pretty much ride to the next beach, Punta Uva and continue a biking day tour.

 

Punta Uva

 

Close to 20 minutes from Puerto Viejo on the road that leads to Manzanillo is a small, quiet beach called Punta Uva, part of the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife and Marine Refuge.

Type of Sand: White

Selling Points:

1. Secluded beach surrounded by nature

2. Good swimming conditions most of the year

3. Simply walking on the beach you will get to see a lot of marine life, star fish, crabs, sea urchins, and small colorful fish

Disadvantages:

1. No infrastructure close to the beach

Recommendations:

Punta Uva is a great location to swim, but make sure to take everything you need with you since there is nothing near the beach

Extra Notes:

Many people like to travel from Puerto Viejo to Punta Uva and then to Manzanillo by bike, it is actually a short distance, the view is amazing and the street is in great conditions.

 

 

Playa Manzanillo

 

The last of the beaches in the South Caribbean, Manzanillo is part of the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife and Marine Refuge and it is just 25 minutes away from Puerto Viejo.

Type of Sand: White

Selling Points:

1. Impressive scenic blue water beach

2. Excellent conditions to swim, kayak and snorkel.

3. Surrounded by untouched nature

Disadvantages:

1.Lack of proper infrastructure (some could argue in favor of this)

2.It tends to get crowded during the high season months

Recommendations:

Biking the trail through the Gandoca-Manzanillo Refugee is a must, you will see plenty of monkeys and sloths, at one point you will get to the famous viewpoint which is absolutely breathtaking. If you want to walk further into the reserve, it is best to get a guide. If you like hiking, you might want to take the hike to Punta Mona, here you will find a small self-sustainable community hidden in the middle of the jungle, ideal for wellness and eco-tourism.

Extra Notes:

Take into consideration the only bathrooms really available here to the public are not in the best conditions, Maxi’s restaurant is the only restaurant nearby, food is really good and they usually have live Caribbean music.

 

 

 

As we mentioned before, the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica is completely different from the Pacific, the hotels here are mostly small villas or bungalows, cabins or eco-lodges. There are a limited number of boutique hotels that are more up-scale. But, who cares, you are a rider!!!

While visiting the Caribbean, you must be open to having a unique experience in terms of culture, food and music. For the most part the ambiance here is that of a laid-back town, colorful houses and tasty food with very different flavors.

 

Warning: Waking up to the sound of howler monkeys, being surrounded by green everywhere, and the vibe of the Caribbean can be absolutely addicting.

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