250km Self-Powered Coast to Coast Expedition in Costa Rica
Paddle, hike and bike on an epic self-powered journey across Costa Rica, from the Pacific Ocean all the way to the Caribbean Sea
Juan Santamaria International Airport
Fit and adventurous people up for a proper challenge and adventure! You'll be hiking, biking and paddling your way through 250km in 10 days, with just one rest day.
Why it's much better
- Embark on an epic challenge as you bike, hike and paddle your way from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea
- 100% human-powered adventure. No motors, engines or animals to help you out!
- Hike through cloud forest and virgin tropical rainforests teeming with wildlife
- Mountain bike and trek up over the Continental Divide, with glorious downhill riding on the other side
- Raft the Journey wild Pacuare River with whitewater rapids flanked by virgin jungle
- Explore waterfalls and swimming holes, with water so clean you can drink it
- Pass through remote mountain villages, coffee plantations and riverside communities
- Kayak the final stretch down river and celebrate with a swim in the Caribbean Sea
- Guides Expert, English-speaking local guides
- Accommodation 5 nights at permanent campsites, 5 nights in a hotel and 1 night in a local cabin
- Meals Most meals with the exception of a few dinners and a couple of lunches
- Transfers All airport transfers
- Permits All permits and entry fees
- Transport A support vehicle is included for the duration of the adventure
- Equipment All biking, rafting, kayaking and camping equipment is included.
- Happiness Guaranteed We're so confident that your holiday will be your best yet, we actually guarantee it
- Feel Good Vibes We mitigate 4x the carbon emitted by all our travellers and support important conservation projects
Day 1: Welcome to Costa Rica!
Bienvenidos! After touching down at San José airport, you'll be met by your local host who'll take you to your hotel in San José. Depending on what time you land, the rest of the day and evening is yours to explore Costa Rica's capital.
Day 2: Bus ride to the start point on the Pacific Coast
After breakfast you'll hop on a bus in San José, bound for the Pacific Coast and the starting point of your coast-to-coast adventure. This will be your last motorised vehicle for the next 10 days!
You'll spend the night in the fishing village of Quepos, next to Manuel Antonio National Park. There you'll have some time to relax on the beach or visit the national park itself, famous for its abundant wildlife.
This evening you'll have dinner and a group briefing ahead of the adventure getting under way. Your host will help you set your bike up ready for the morning.
3 hours bus ride
Day 3: The Adventure Begins...
You'll have an early start, fuel up with fresh fruit and coffee, then set straight off on your bike. Be warned, there are some steep mountains to climb straight away - although you'll be instantly rewarded with sweeping views of the Pacific coastline.
In the small town of Esquipulas, you'll eat a bigger second breakfast before swapping the bikes for hiking boots. The next stage of your 250km self-powered journey is on foot into the cool mountains of Central Costa Rica.
You'll camp overnight tonight in the valley of Naranjillo.
Biking distance: 22km | Hiking distance: 13km
Total elevation ascent/descent: 1100m/475m | Total active time 6-7 hours
Day 4: Hike and bike to Santa Maria village
Today starts with a hike towards the Continental Divide before tackling the infamous 'Cemetery Hill' - a strenuous 13km climb. At the pueblo of San Lorenzo, you'll swap hiking boots for a mountain bike to reach the quaint village of Santa Maria.
After a full and active day, you'll load up on some typical Costa Rican food and rest up in the comfortable local cabins.
Hiking distance: 11km | Biking distance: 14km
Total elevation ascent/descent: 1625m/675m | Total active time 6-8 hours
Day 5: Mountain bike up and over the Continental Divide
Today you'll tackle the toughest and steepest climb of your adventure; a 14 km uphill stretch to the Continental Divide, reaching an altitude of 2330 meters - the highest point of your journey. Of course, what goes up must come down, so the remainder of the day is mountain biking at its best, mostly downhill on dirt roads and single-track trails.
You'll finish up the afternoon in the beautiful Orosi Valley, where rich pastures and dark green forests of coffee carpet the land. Rest up for the night at your accommodation in the town of Orosi.
Biking distance: 42km - Elevation 1300m / descent 1750m - Duration: 6-8 hours
Day 6: Trek through the Tapantí cloud forest
After breakfast, you'll mountain bike alongside a river to the Tapantí National Wildlife Refuge. This is an area of vast, rugged terrain covered with dense primary rainforest.
Taking a well earned break from your bike, you'll head deeper in to the mountains on foot - beyond where a bike could take you. You'll trek through a cloud forest, feeling tiny between thousands of trees covered with ferns, bromeliads and mosses.
After reaching flatter ground, near the small settlement of Taus, you'll have a big dinner to refuel before camping out under the stars.
Biking distance: 14km | Hiking distance: 16km
Total elevation ascent/descent: 700m/1000m | Total active time 5-6 hours
Day 7: Begin rafting the Pacuare River
After breakfast you continue mountain biking towards La Cruz, the gateway to the raging Pacuare River. You'll eat lunch by the river, load up the rafts and away you go, paddling through pristine rainforest, canyon cliffs and past deafening waterfalls.
You'll arrive in the afternoon at your riverside camp, El Nido del Tigre, nestled between the sounds of the rainforest and the hum of the river. There will be some free time to wander off and explore this lush environment this afternoon. Look out for toucans, boa constrictors and sloths - or just relax in a hammock to the sounds of the river.
Biking distance: 40km - Elevation ascent 700m / descent 1000m - Duration: 4 hours
Rafting distance: 8km - Duration: 2 hours
Day 8: Rest day on the banks of the Pacuare River
Today you're rewarded with a full day of downtime at this gorgeous location on the banks of the Pacuare River. Explore the primary forest, swim in the river, visit nearby waterfalls and swimming holes, with water so pure you can drink it. Or just relax in a hammock at the camp on the banks of the river.
The area of rainforest surrounding the camp is in a very pristine state. El Nido del Tigre is the name of the giant ginger plants that carpet the area around the campsite. It's a very private place, with only a handful of guests, which makes for a peaceful and relaxing rest day.
Day 9: White Water Rafting on the Pacuare River
Today the Pacuare takes you further along virgin rainforest, cascading waterfalls and through river carved canyons. There are exhilarating white water rapid sections to manoeuvre. During the gentler sections, you can peer into the rainforest and try to spot wildlife.
Along the way you'll take a break from rafting to hike up to some spectacular waterfalls and have lunch on the shore. In the late afternoon you'll leave the river at the beginning of the banana plantations at Finca Pacuarito, your rest stop for the night.
Rafting distance: 27km | Elevation descent 300m | Duration: 4-6 hours
Day 10: Kayak the final stretch to the Caribbean Sea
Jump on your bike first thing for a short ride through banana plantations to the town of Freeman. Here you'll begin the final leg of the adventure: kayaking down the Pacuare as it leaves the rapids of the highlands behind behind and eases into the Caribbean lowlands. The river slows to a tranquil pace as you raft the last mile of the river, before finally meeting the Caribbean Sea.
You'll celebrate your coast-to-coast achievement with a drink in the surf, before some well earned beach time! Later in the afternoon you'll be picked up by a motorboat and transferred to Moin and then on to your beach-side hotel.
Biking distance: 27km - Elevation ascent 80m / descent 160m - Duration: 2 hours
Kayaking distance: 11km - Duration: 2 hours
Day 11: Morning at the beach before returning to San José
Your morning is free to relax around the hotel or on the beach. After lunch you'll head back to San José, about 4 hours away. There are some breathtaking views as you pass through the high cloud forest and misty mountains of Braulio Carrillo National Park.
You'll arrive back in San José late afternoon, perhaps ready for a few celebratory drinks back in civilisation to toast your epic coast-to-coast achievement. Not everyone can say they've crossed a country!
4 hours driving
Day 12: Goodbye Costa Rica :(
Your adventure comes to an end back in the capital of Costa Rica. If you are flying onwards today your host will drop you off at the airport in time for your flight.
All our adventures take place in wild places. Things can go wrong in wild places. Your perfectly planned itinerary may change a bit (or a lot) if the weather turns, someone gets hurt, or a volcano erupts. Usually though, changes make it all the better.
In San Jose you'll stay in Hotel Paseo Las Damas, a 3 star hotel in an excellent location opposite España Park and the Modern Art Museum.
On the Pacific Coast before setting off on your expedition you'll stay at Kamuk Hotel and Spa in Quepos, minutes from Manuel Antonio National Park and steps from the Pacific Ocean.
Accommodation during the expedition
During the expedition you'll stay at campsites and rustic cabinas along the route. Highlights include El Nido Del Tigre, an authentic Costa Rican camp located in the Bajo Tigre rainforest. The camp is in a peaceful and beautiful location on the banks of the Pacuare River and is passionate about sustainability.
After completing your epic journey you'll celebrate with a night at the boutique Hotel de las Flores in Cahuita National Park. The hotel is close to the beach here which is fringed by virgin rainforest. The area is renowned for its invaluable biodiversity. It's possible to observe white face capucin and howler monkeys, iguanas, toucans, sloths as well as a variety of birds and butterflies.
Private Room Upgrade
For solo travellers looking for their own space, an optional private room and tent can be booked for £320 per person (subject to availability).
Costa Rica is the world's most pioneering eco-tourism destination and global leader in sustainability. Flanked by the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, it's famous for its beaches, volcanoes and biodiversity, with rainforests teeming with wildlife.
The challenge starts at the sandy Pacific beaches of Manuel Antonio National Park and finishes 10 days later at the mouth of the Pacuare River, where the river meets the Caribbean Sea. In between you'll pass through small towns and remote villages, such as Esquipulas, San Lorenzo and Santa Maria.
A lot of the trip follows the Pacuare River which flows for 108km into the Caribbean Sea. The river is surrounded by rainforests which are home to exotic animal species such as jaguars, monkeys, ocelots, sloths and a large number endemic birds.
You'll hike over the Continental Divide of the Americas, which runs from the Bering Sea in Alaska all the way through the Americas to the Straight of Magellan in southern Chile.
The route visits Tapanti National Wildlife Refuge: a vast rugged terrain covered in primary rainforest.
You'll pass through and stay over in the Orisi Valley: a national park brimming with wildlife, natural hot springs and coffee farms.
The trip ends on the Caribbean coast at Maun in the Cahuita National Park.
Your trip starts at San José International Airport in Costa Rica. Transfers are included if you arrive on the start day, so please let your host know your flight times.
Your trip ends back at San José International Airport in Costa Rica, where your host will drop you off in time for your departing flight. Transfers are included if you depart on the final day, so please let your host know your flight times.
The bikes used will be front suspension mountain bikes with disk brakes. You are welcome to bring your own pedals, seats and accessories if you like, though it's perfectly fine to just turn up with comfortable active shoes and start riding.
The following are not included in the trip price:
- Travel to/from San Jose
- Travel insurance
- Personal expenses
- 4 dinners and 2 lunches are not included, giving you the chance to sample some local restaurants
- Alcoholic drinks
The expedition will have a support vehicle which will transfer all luggage and equipment from stage to stage. For example, when you finish a hiking section, the support vehicle will be strategically waiting for you with bikes at the ready. Same story for the rafts and kayaks. Everything is organised and supported so that you simply need to power yourself from coast to coast, rather than think about any logistics!
You need to have strong fitness levels for this trip. You'll be working your way from coast to coast, covering 250km in 10 days with just one rest day. You'll also need to be happy swapping from bike saddle, to hiking boots to a multi-person raft to a single person kayak.
Sure can! Over 50% of our travellers travel solo, it’s a great way to meet like-minded people.
This trip will run with a minimum of 4 people and a maximum of 16.
A classic plate of Costa Rican food, often called a 'casado' traditionally includes rice and beans, salad, fried sweet plantains and either fish, chicken, pork or beef. Some casados will have cheese, french fries or grilled vegetables.
Gallo Pinto is another Costa Rican staple: a slow cooked rice and beans dish with onions, peppers and coriander (cilantro). This is often part of a classic Costa Rican breakfast of Gallo Pinto, eggs, fried cheese, sweet plantains and homemade corn tortillas.
There'll be plenty of other Latin and tropical foods available, on both coasts you can find Pipa Fria: a whole, cold fresh coconut.
Costa Rica's dry season, also considered summer by the locals, runs from from mid-November to April.
Temperatures vary significantly depending on region and elevation. Along the coast and the Caribbean flatlands, temperatures average 25–34˚C (77–93˚F). At the mid-level elevations which we will encounter on this trip temperatures average between 17–26˚C (63–79˚F).
Good question! The support vehicle will transport everyone's luggage to the various start and end points of each section. You'll need to bring a day pack to carry water, snacks, camera, waterproof jacket etc... But your main pack will transported for you at all stages.
We’ve teamed up with the guys at World Nomads to offer insurance designed for adventurous travellers across 140 countries that includes overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities. To get yours sorted, click here.
We suggest that you book travel insurance as soon as you book the trip, just to cover you for any last minute life changes. We know you’re an active lot and injuries do happen!
Our group adventures are adult only. However, if you would like to bring children along this can be arranged by requesting a private trip with the host. This trip is suitable for children from age 14 only.
The water in Costa Rica is generally safe to drink except for in the most remote rural areas with no infrastructure. The support vehicle will carry large containers of water which the group can fill their bottles up from at the start of each stage. There will also be drinking water at each accommodation.
Tips are not included in the trip cost. These are entirely at your discretion. Of course, you are free to tip as much or little as you like and the amount should be reflective of your perception of service and quality - a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
- Soft overnight duffel bag or rucksack
- Daypack (25+ litres)
- Waterproof liner for kitbag/rucksack or drybags
- Padded shorts for cycling segments
- Trainers or specific cycling shoes (for flat pedals unless you bring your own clip in pedals)
- Waterproof jacket
- Waterproof trousers
- Breathable wicking layers
- Fleece jacket or similar
- Buff or neckscarf
- Lightweight trousers/shorts / skirts
- Underwear & socks
- Sunglasses + keeper strap (don't want to lose your sunnies in the river)
- Something to sleep in
- Hiking boots (worn-in)
- Padlock for left luggage
- Universal travel plug adapter
- Power bank or solar charger
- Spare camera batteries
- Passports (and visas)
- Travel Insurance documents
- Ear plugs
- Insect repellant
- Personal first-aid kit (inc. blister treatment)
- Personal items (biodegradable toiletries, sanitary wear etc)
- Quick-dry towel
- Alcohol hand-gel
- Headtorch or torch
- Reusable water bottle x1 litres (2 of these if you have room)
- Quickdry towel
- Biodegradable wet-wipes
- Energy bars and snacks
- Water purification tablets/treatment system
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