Cruising Costa Rica The MotoAdventures Way

Three scenic days of mountains, beaches, jungles, and lots of fun trails

Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a mountainous country in Central America with a number of volcanoes and plenty of beautiful scenery. It also boasts a huge network of remote dirt roads and spicy single-track originally created to transport coffee beans, bananas, and other commodities that dirt riders can enjoy today.Mark Kariya

I was afraid it’d come to this sooner or later—I’d finally met my match. The hard-packed, wet Costa Rican clay made it difficult to even stand when trying to pick up the KTM 350 EXC-F after tipping over on this particular hill, having lost all momentum on a second (or was it the third?) failed attempt to ride to the top.

With the heat, humidity, and all the physical labor inherent in a botched attempt, the only choice was to cry, “¡No mas!” It was time to turn the job over to our MotoAdventures guide, Pablo Monge, who coasted the bike back down the hill, across the creek, then turned around and sailed easily to the top.

Pacific Ocean
Riding on a beach next to the Pacific Ocean is something that Americans generally can’t do at home, but it’s easily achievable in Costa Rica. ISDE veteran Tony Maklouf turns around for another pass.Mark Kariya

But the minor embarrassment was a small price to pay for what we’d already conquered and what lay ahead on our three-day trail tour through Costa Rica. It was just Pablo, me, and a Costa Rican friend, Tony Maklouf (who’s ridden Six Days five times), plus chase truck driver Dimas Jimenez, and—as expected—turned out to be three full days on the trail, which allowed us to explore a taste of what the Central American country offers the dirt-riding tourist.

Since neither Tony or I ride that much nowadays (especially multiple long days in a row), we opted for a slightly gentler route with plenty of dirt roads, which were still fun and allowed us to take in lots of Costa Rica’s beautiful scenery. However, Pablo (who speaks English and is an excellent rider) knew exactly when and where to dive into the jungle for prime single-track to keep us from getting bored and provide no small degree of satisfaction upon completing the section.

Costa Rica
There’s a reason Costa Rica is so green—rainy season or not—and you’ll ride through many of those reasons.Mark Kariya

We spent each night in a different town, Dimas never failing to have our gear/overnight bags in our rooms or meeting us for a lunch stop in whatever tiny village we paused in, where he refueled our bikes while we feasted on local fare.

After our first day from San José’s (the capital city of Costa Rica and the place you’d likely fly into) suburb of Escazú to Parrita not far from the Pacific, the Palma Real Hotel was quiet, fairly isolated, and our small group comprised the majority of guests. The next day was a big loop from Parrita to Hermosa Beach, where we stayed at the Marea Brava Hotel—a favorite on MotoAdventures tours as it’s right on the beach and very accommodating to dirt riders.

costa rica
In one small village, we happened to catch the locals preparing for the following month’s independence day celebrations.Mark Kariya

Most of the country, in fact, seems to accommodate dirt riders in a way not too common in the US. As the years have passed since MotoAdventures first started running tours, the locals may have grown more accustomed to seeing dirt bikes. While driving through Escazú’s smaller streets to the staging location for the first day, I couldn’t help but notice several groups of riders heading out—some hauling their bikes in the backs of pickup trucks, others simply riding the suburban streets to reach the trails as we would soon be doing.

While riding in the dirt is always an adventure, doing so in a different country adds immensely to the experience. It’s not just the terrain, the language, or the food that’s different—it’s observing a way of life that’s similar in some ways and different in many others.

Pablo Monge
Every village has at least two things, according to guide Pablo Monge: a church and a soccer field. As in many Latin American countries, soccer is the national sport and you’ll always see a game being played on Sunday.Mark Kariya

If you want more or less than the usual three-day tour (whose $1,950 price includes bike rental fee, guide, fuel, support vehicle, hotels the two nights on the trail, plus breakfasts and lunches—just not dinners, air fare or lodging in San José), MotoAdventures can accommodate. If you’re pressed for time, a one-day tour is just $350, while if you’re really hard-core, the one-week (with one rest day) tour is $3,190 and includes all of the three-day amenities plus airport pickup/drop-off.

Regular readers will likely recall last year's "Dream Ride" story about riding with multitime AMA National Enduro Champion Russell Bobbitt and the Costa Rica Unlimited (CRU) crew. That, of course, begs the question of how the two tours and companies differ?

Costa Rica
Although it’s not fancy (not that any in the remote villages we passed are), the Restaurante Santa Marta serves great Costa Rican fare, the price of which is included in the tour.Mark Kariya

Among the differences is that MotoAdventures rides feel more like a rally where you stay in a different bivouac each night whereas CRU bases most of its tours from its compound in Hermosa Beach (Playa Hermosa in Spanish) and does different loops from there each day. One advantage of that is being able to wash gear to have it clean and somewhat drier two days later (because with the humidity, it’s certainly not going to dry overnight).

Restaurante Santa Marta
Although it’s not fancy (not that any in the remote villages we passed are), the Restaurante Santa Marta serves great Costa Rican fare, the price of which is included in the tour.Mark Kariya

Trail knowledge appears to be equally superb with the guides from both companies, as is their ability to tailor the ride to abilities and group size. Speaking of group size, MotoAdventures rides tend to smaller contingents on average—a plus for some tastes while others prefer having a lot of companions on the trail. Also, most of CRU’s guides are Americans based in Costa Rica, giving them a slight edge in communication.

Either way, however, you'll have thoroughly enjoyable moto-vacation with memories to last a lifetime and, if you're like most customers, your first time won't be your last! For more information, visit

little fruit stand
A little fruit stand on wheels is also a fairly common sight in villages and towns everywhere.Mark Kariya
Here, Pablo demonstrates that there’s good traction, though, had it been wetter, stunts like this would’ve been practically impossible unless your name was Graham Jarvis.Mark Kariya
Pablo gives Tony a quick rundown of our route during a short break in a coconut grove next to the beach.Mark Kariya
rutted clay hill
Although it’s not very steep, there’s very little traction on this rocky, rutted clay hill so we decided to turn back.Mark Kariya
rocks in the bottom
The rocks in the bottom of this small river were also extremely slick.Mark Kariya
rain in costa rica
During the rainy season (generally August through September), it usually dumps hard for an hour or two each afternoon. Although it drops the temperatures a bit, humidity remains high and traction can become elusive.Mark Kariya
Marea Brava Hotel in Hermosa Beach
On the second day, we started from Parrita, not far from the Pacific off in the distance. Once away from the coast, it was back up into the mountains and jungles before returning to the Marea Brava Hotel in Hermosa Beach for the night.Mark Kariya
San José
On the trail back to San José and the end of our three-day ride, guide Pablo (left) and fellow tour participant Tony keep pace beside a large pasture.Mark Kariya
The author gives the MotoAdventures ride a big thumbs-up after handing his camera to Tony.Mark Kariya