250km Coast to Coast Expedition through Costa Rica

Hike, bike and paddle yourself from the Pacific Ocean all the way to the Caribbean Sea

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Trip Ref #10042

250km Coast to Coast Expedition through Costa Rica

Hike, bike and paddle yourself from the Pacific Ocean all the way to the Caribbean Sea

DURATION

11 nights

LOCATION

Costa Rica

ANNUAL LEAVE

10 days off work

SEASON

Sept-May

GROUP SIZE

Up to 16 people

MEETING POINT

Juan Santamaria International Airport, Costa Rica

ACCOMMODATION

Classic

Hotel · Campsite

OVERALL RATING

4.9

Based on 31 reviews
DIFFICULTY

Challenging

Crossing 250km coast-to-coast is a challenge, so strong fitness and a sense of adventure are vital.

Cross the width of one of the most biodiverse countries on Earth under your own steam, from one lush coastline to another

Journey through cloudforest, mountain villages and virgin rainforest teeming with wildlife before heading up and over the Continental Divide

Rest up at beautiful eco-lodges on the banks of the pristine Pacuare River and cool down with swims and dips at secret swimming spots in the rainforest

Day 1

Welcome to Costa Rica

Fly into beautiful Costa Rica and head to your hotel in San José. Depending on what time you land, explore, or just relax and get ready for the start of your adventure.

Day 2

The Pacific Coast

Hop on a bus bound for the Pacific Coast - the starting point for your coast-to-coast adventure. This will be your last motorised vehicle for the next 10 days! Spend the night in the quiet fishing village of Quepos, next door to Manuel Antonio National Park. Relax on the beach, visit the park, famous for its abundant wildlife and then have dinner and a group briefing with the rest of your team.

Day 3

The adventure begins

Hiking

14km · 1000m up · 700m down

Cycling

19km · 350m up · 150m down

Fuel up with some fresh fruit and coffee and set off on your bike. There are some steep sections straight away, although you'll be instantly rewarded with some sweeping views of the Pacific coastline. Reach the small town of Esquipulas and have a bigger, second breakfast before swapping your bike for hiking boots and heading deep into the cool mountains of central Costa Rica. Camp for the night in the valley of Naranjillo and listen to the sound of nature uninterrupted.

Day 4

Santa Maria Village

Hiking

12km · 1000m up · 250m down

Cycling

14km · 500m up · 300m down

Start with a hike towards the Continental Divide before tackling 'Cemetery Hill' - a challenging 3km climb. From the pueblo of San Lorenzo, grab your mountain bike and set off for the quaint village of Santa Maria. Load up on some typical Costa Rican food and then rest up in a comfortable cabin for the night.

Day 5

Over the divide

Cycling

49km · 1300m up · 1800m down

Time to tackle the toughest and steepest climb - a 14 km uphill stretch to the Continental Divide. This section is on a tarmac road which makes the going easier during the climb. At 2330 meters it's also the highest point of your journey. Of course, what goes up must come down, so the rest of the day is off-road cycling at its best – downhill along dirt roads and smooth trails. Finish the day in the beautiful Orosi Valley, where rich pastures and dark green forests of coffee carpet the land.

Day 6

Tapantí cloud forest

Hiking

17km · 500m up · 1000m down

Cycling

9km · 300m up · 150m down

Cycle beside the river and then into the vast Tapantí National Wildlife Refuge. Take a break from the bike and head deeper into the mountains on foot – far from where wheels could ever take you. Trek through the cloud forest and feel tiny beneath thousands of trees covered with ferns, bromeliads and mosses. After reaching flatter ground, camp near the small settlement of Taus and have a big dinner under the stars.

Day 7

The Pacuare River

Cycling

4hrs · 43km · 700m up · 1000m down

Rafting

2hrs · 10km

Continue cycling towards La Cruz - gateway to the raging Pacuare River. Eat lunch on the shore and then load up your raft and paddle through pristine rainforest, canyon cliffs and past deafening waterfalls. Set up camp at El Nido del Tigre, named after the giant indigenous ginger plants that carpet the area, nestled between the sounds of the rainforest and the river There will be some free time to explore this lush environment - be sure to look out for toucans, boa constrictors and sloths - or just relax in a hammock.

Day 8

Rest day

Enjoy some well-earned downtime at this gorgeous location. Explore the primary forest, swim in the river, visit some nearby waterfalls and swimming holes where the water is so pure you can drink from them, or just put in some more hammock time. The area of rainforest around your camp is in a pristine state and rarely visited – perfect for a peaceful day.

Day 9

White water

Rafting

4-6hrs · 20km

Continue along the Pacuare, passing through river-carved canyons. There are also some exhilarating Class II & III rapids to manoeuvre as well as gentler sections where you can peer into the rainforest and spot wildlife. Take a break from rafting and hike to some cascading waterfalls and have lunch on the shore. Stop for the night as the forest gives way to the banana plantations at Finca Pacuarito and enjoy the rapidly changing scenery.

Day 10

The Caribbean Sea

Cycling

2hrs · 26km · 100m up · 100m down

Kayaking

2hrs · 12km

Jump back on your bike and ride through the plantations to the town of Freeman and board your kayak for the final leg of the journey. Leave the rapids of the highlands behind and paddle into the tropical lowlands, before finally drifting into the Caribbean Sea. Celebrate with a drink in the surf and some beach time - you've earned it!

Day 11

Final beach time and back to San José

Enjoy some final downtime on the sand and then drive back to San José through the cloud forest and misty mountains of Braulio Carrillo National Park. Toast your epic coast-to-coast achievement. Not everyone can say they've crossed an entire country!

Day 12

Goodbye Costa Rica

After breakfast, head back to the airport in time for your flight home, or explore a little more of this incredible country.

Included

Guides

Expert, English-speaking local guides

Accommodation

5 nights camping, 5 nights in a hotel and 1 night in a cabin

Meals

Most meals with the exception of a few dinners and a couple of lunches

Transfers

To and from the airport and everything in-between

Equipment

All your biking, rafting, kayaking equipment. Sleeping bag & tents for the camping nights

Permits

All permits and entry fees

Not Included

Flights to and from the meeting point

Travel insurance

Personal expenses

Some meals as described

Visas where required

Day 1

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 2

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 3 – Day 4

Campsite · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 5

Campsite · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 6 – Day 9

Campsite · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 10

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 11

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 12

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

What is the food like?

A classic plate of Costa Rican food traditionally includes rice and beans, salad, fried sweet plantains and either fish, chicken, pork or beef. Some will also have cheese, French fries or grilled vegetables. Gallo Pinto is another classic Costa Rican staple: slow cooked rice and bean with onions, peppers and coriander (cilantro). This is often part of the Costa Rican breakfast, Gallo Pinto - eggs, fried cheese, sweet plantains and homemade corn tortillas. There'll be plenty of other Latin American and tropical foods available and on both coasts you’ll find Pipa Fria: a whole, cold fresh coconut.

Vegetarians, vegans and other dietary requirements and allergies can be catered for - please just request on your passenger info form.

What is the accommodation like?

San Jose

You'll stay in a 3 star hotel in the centre of town, for example the Hotel Sleep Inn Paseo Las Damas which is opposite España Park and the Modern Art Museum. The exact hotel will be confirmed by your local host in your pre-departure information.

The Pacific Coast

You'll stay at Kamuk Hotel and Spa in Quepos, just minutes from Manuel Antonio National Park and steps from the Pacific Ocean.

The Expedition

You'll stay at campsites and rustic cabinas. Highlights include El Nido Del Tigre, an authentic Costa Rican camp that’s passionate about sustainability in the Bajo Tigre rainforest.

The Caribbean

You'll celebrate the end of your journney with a night at the boutique Hotel Casa de las Flores in Cahuita National Park. The hotel is close to the beach and surrounded by an area renowned for its invaluable biodiversity where you're likely to see White Face Capuchin and Howler monkeys, Iguanas, Toucans, Sloths and a variety of birds and butterflies.

Upgrades

For solo travellers looking for their own space, an optional private room and tent can be booked for an extra charge, see Optional Extras for the price. Please request this at the time of booking (this is subject to availability).

The Area

map

Logistics

Starts

San José International Airport, Costa Rica

Anytime on Day 1

Ends

San José International Airport, Costa Rica

Anytime on Day 12

Transfers

Airport transfers are included on arrival and departure days. Just let your host know your flight details. If you arrive and depart outside of the set days, your host can arrange an airport transfer for you for an extra cost. See Optional Extras for the price.

Travel options

There are regular flights to Costa Rica from major airports across the UK and Europe.

Enjoy 12.5% Off Outdoor Gear

In need of a few more items? All bookings receive a 12.5% discount to use at Cotswold Outdoor, Snow + Rock and Runner's Need.

What's included?

  • All your kayak, rafting and cycling gear (except for biking helmet)
  • All season sleeping bag
  • Sleeping mat

What's available to hire?

  • Bike helmet (for your own comfort we advise bringing your own if you can)

What do I need to bring?

SLEEPING

  • Sleeping bag liner (optional)

BAGS

  • Soft overnight duffel bag or rucksack
  • Daypack (25+ litres)
  • Daypack rain cover
  • Dry bag (optional)

FOOTWEAR

  • Lightweight adventure shoes or hiking boots (worn-in)
  • Sandals with SNUG straps (Teva type)
  • Lightweight fast drying hiking socks

CLOTHES

  • Lightweight rain jacket and rain pants (Gortex, nylon or similar)
  • Lightweight comfortable pants
  • Shorts/ skirts (quick dry)
  • Medium weight wool or fleece jacket
  • Shirts (poly-pro outer wear (for quick drying)
  • Short sleeve and light colored long sleeve for sun protection)
  • (Thermal) underwear
  • Fast drying hiking socks
  • Buff or Bandana
  • Sunhat (ideally with brim)
  • Something to sleep in
  • Swimwear
  • Towel
  • Sarong (optional, works as towel or quick cover-up)

BIKING GEAR

  • Bike helmet
  • Trainers or specific cycling shoes (for flat pedals unless you bring your own clip in pedals)
  • Bike shirts (optional)
  • Bike gloves (can also be used for padfdling)
  • Padded shorts for cycling segments
  • Bike water bottle

Note: feel free to bring your own pedals and seat if you want.

OTHER

  • Trekking poles (optional)
  • Sunglasses (UVA + UVB resistant) + keeper strap (don't want to lose your sunnies in the river)
  • Headtorch or torch
  • Spare batteries (camera, torch, etc)
  • 2-3 reusable water bottles
  • Prescription glasses or contacts (bring an extra pair)
  • Passports (visas and copy of your passport)
  • Travel Insurance documents
  • Insect repellent
  • Waterproof sunscreen 30+ SPF
  • Earplugs
  • Padlock for left luggage
  • Universal travel adapter
  • Power bank or solar charger
  • Personal first-aid kit (inc. blister treatment)
  • Personal items (biodegradable toiletries, sanitary wear etc)
  • Alcohol hand-gel

Bike Helmet Hire

Payable Before Departure

Bike Helmet Hire

Pre/Post trip accommodation in San Jose (per room, per night)

Payable Before Departure

Pre/Post trip accommodation in San Jose (per room, per night)

Optional Private Room & Tent Upgrade

Payable Before Departure

Optional Private Room & Tent Upgrade

Per Person

Airport Transfer One Way

Payable Before Departure

Airport Transfer One Way

- Catherine(December 2022)

This is an amazing trip! Some cardio fitness would be an advantage, but the guide is always encouraging and supportive to get you through. First few days seem tough, but last few are defo the most fun. Suggest reading all the previous comments for additions to kit list, as all been said before. Group was fab, only 6 of us, and we all got on really well. It was just an excellent adventure, achieving a pretty cool thing at the end, travelling coast to coast!

- Arthur(December 2022)

A wonderful trip! A professional, experienced, friendly and engaging local guide: Juan Carlos Nelson Cascante. A compatible, joyful and physically prepared group. A beautiful, engaging and welcoming country. What more could one want?

- Alex(December 2022)

The trip was very well run and day to day management with JC was brilliant

- Xenia(December 2022)

This is a great trip - well organised and executed. The local guide,Juan Carlos was excellent and I’d say the best guide I’ve ever had - he’s passionate , enthusiastic, supportive and real good fun. The kit list was spot on and equipment was in excellent condition. Food plentiful and good quality and always opportunities to stock up on beers / wine en route ! We were a small group of 6 which gelled very well and we were all supportive of each other throughout the trip ( 4 solo travellers and 1 couple ) . There was some tricky descents on some of the bike rides - all doable but some like myself were more cautious and slower…but it wasn’t a problem ! There is an opportunity to do laundry once on the trip ( third of way through ) and at the end in Cahuita. There isn’t really anything I would change on the trip - the local team are brilliant ( Memo ; Douglas ; Randall to name just a few ) and there is a real sense of adventure and achievement with many memories made. Few tips / suggestions

  • don’t stay in San Jose for more than a day as little to see or do. Would recommend the 3 hour food tour via tripadvisor ( £25 ). It was superb
  • would have been good to have a cycling jersey / t shirt as memory of the 250 km adventure .

In summary - it’s a fab trip / adventure and would defo recommend to anyone with a reasonable level of fitness and sense of adventure.

- Thomas(November 2022)

This trip is a brilliant experience and pushes each person at some point but is more than achievable. The scenery is stunning, the food delicious and the guides were so enthusiastic and knowledgeable, especially JC and Douglas. All the logistics are sorted for you and Memo ensured they ran seamlessly for us. Highly recommend this trip for anyone that loves outdoor activities and beautiful views.

- Patrick(November 2022)

Costa Rica is a stunning country and this journey takes you right through the heart of it. The whole experience was run brilliantly by JC and his crew, with so much enthusiasm, seamless logistics and amazing food.

I couldn't recommend this trip more for those that want a real adventure. Parts will be tough, but manageable if you have a reasonable level of fitness (for context, I typically run two or three 5ks in a week, and did no cycling training going into this). Taking a CamelBak will make your life a lot easier – I bought a Camelbak Mule especially for this trip thinking it would probably be helpful, but it ended up being almost essential.

To wrap up, this trip is an awesome mixture of activities, landscapes, wildlife and terrain. I didn't want this trip to end - it was an incredibly fun and rewarding journey through some of the most beautiful scenery on this planet. Easily one of the best trips I have ever done. Just book it!

- Becca(November 2022)

This was a truly great trip. JC and the rest of the guides went above and beyond to make sure we had the best time and worked so hard to make that happen. Whilst there were some challenging climbs and terrain during the trip, it was totally doable. Don't be put off by some of the other reviews, anyone with a good level of fitness would find it very manageable.

- Claire(November 2022)

This is such a great trip, challenging in parts but rewarding completing the experience. The local team lead by JC is impeccable, we could not have asked for more from them. Friendly, helpful, fun, patient, really hard working without complaint. Totally recommend this trip to anyone wanting a hard effort, invigorating trip. The perfect way to experience Costa Rica

- Georgie(November 2022)

If you’re thinking about doing this trip, do it! It really is the trip of a lifetime. Don’t be put off by other reviews that say how hard it is - it is challenging at times but definitely manageable for anyone who’s relatively fit. JC and the guides and fab and the trip is a good mix of cycling, hiking, kayaking and white water rafting, which keeps things interesting as well as ensuring you see lots of different landscapes in the country. Brilliant trip, I had the best time!

- Derek(May 2022)

Epic trip that really was an ADVENTURE and physical challenge. Juan Carlos the guide was incredible and made this trip one never to be forgotten. You definitely need to put some serious hill training in beforehand for bike and hike components.

We've crunched the numbers to work out the total carbon footprint of this trip, and plant enough trees to suck 2x as much back out the atmosphere.

What's the number?
It works out on average at 147kg of CO2 emissions per person, including all local transport, accommodation, food, activities, guides, staff and office operations.

The only thing it doesn’t include right now is flights and travel to the destination. We do make an overall estimate across all our customers separately, but as we don’t book flights, have customers from all corners of the world, and no way of reliably knowing their travel plans, we simply can’t include an individual number in the figure on display here. We’ve got a goal for 2022 to fix that, so that when you book, there is a way to measure and mitigate the carbon emitted by your flight too.

But what does the number mean?
Yep, hard to picture eh? To give you an idea:

  • Driving 1000miles/1609km would be approx. 281kg of CO2 in an average car (or 140.5kg per person if there was 2 of you in it).
  • A return economy class flight London - New York would be approx. 1,619kg (1.66 tonnes) per person.
  • 10 trees in a temperate forest are estimated to remove approx. 250kg of CO2 from the air in a period of 5-10 years.

What are we doing about it?
Our trips are relatively low-carbon by design, and we're working with all our hosts to develop long term carbon reduction plans. For every person booked with us since 2016 we’re planting enough trees to suck at least 2x more carbon out the atmosphere than is emitted by their trips. All native trees, as part of amazing projects that are re-foresting degraded land, tackling the biodiversity crisis and supporting local communities at the same time. We go further than that too, also funding re-wilding projects worldwide to help protect important keystone species from extinction. See the reforestation and re-wilding schemes we support. See our carbon action plan.

Want to know more?
Amazingly, no international travel company has ever publicly published their carbon measurements before, as far as we know. We believe that must change, quickly. So we’re openly sharing the method we used in the hope that other companies will be able to more easily follow suit and build on what we've done so far. You'll find it all here.

You start your daily activities in the morning. Your guide sets the pace that can be kept up by the entire group, and there will be breaks for water, pictures etc. You stop for lunch and finish the activities in the afternoon, to allow plenty of time to rest before dinner and the daily briefing. When you finish a section – rafting, hiking, kayaking etc, the support vehicle will be strategically waiting ready with your next equipment. Everything is organised and supported so that you simply need to power yourself from coast to coast, rather than think about the logistics. While the guides do encourage and support everyone on the trip to complete the expedition successfully without using motorized transport, if you are unable to complete any section for any reason, transport can be arranged to skip you through to the next stage.

Crossing 250km coast-to-coast in 10 days is a challenge, so strong fitness and a sense of adventure is vital. You'll also need to be happy swapping from bike, to hiking boots, to a multi-person raft, to a single person kayak. You do not need kayaking experience although upper body strength is useful. And the mountain biking is not technical so whil you do not need to have prior experience of trails etc, the more experience will make your trip more enjoyable. The rafting is from Class II up to Class IIII rapids. No experience is needed for the rafting, your guides will give you a full instruction on how to tackle the rapids as a team, with an experienced rafting guide captaining each raft.

The cycling on the trip is a combination of paved roads and dirt roads going through dry forests, jungles, and cloud forests. Most of the riding is not that technical, your guide will give a heads up on the more difficult parts. Experience in riding back-to-back days is recommended but not absolutely necessary. Most of the days there are climbs as you pass from one valley to the other over the mountains. There is always plenty of time each day to take your time riding and to stop to take pictures etc. You will regroup wherever the guides find it necessary to keep the group together and safe. There will be plenty of local snacks and some shade to keep you going. The ultimate aim of cycling on this trip is simply to be able to see more of Costa Rica combining it with hiking, whitewater rafting, and kayaking.

The bikes used will be front suspension mountain bikes with disk brakes. You are welcome to bring your own pedals, seats and accessories, although it's also perfectly fine to just turn up with comfortable active shoes and start riding.

You will be paddling in double sit-on-top kayaks of the brand 'Ocean Kayak'. If you are an experienced kayaker and wish to use a single, please discuss with your host, as they have a limited number available.

The rafting is from Class II up to Class IIII rapids. No experience is needed for the rafting, your guides will give you full instructions on how to tackle the rapids as a team, with an experienced rafting guide captaining each raft.

Costa Rica's dry season, considered summer by the locals, runs from mid-November to April and temperatures vary significantly depending on the region and elevation. Along the coast and the Caribbean flatlands, temperatures average 25–34˚C (77–93˚F). At the mid-level elevations temperatures average between 17–26˚C (63–79˚F).

The expedition has a support vehicle that transfers all luggage and equipment from stage to stage. You just need to carry a day pack with water, snacks, camera, waterproof jacket etc.

The water in Costa Rica is generally safe to drink except for that found in remote and rural areas where there's little to no infrastructure. The support vehicle carries large containers of water from which you can fill your bottle at the start of each stage. There will also be drinking water available at each night’s 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.

Sure can! Over 50% of our travellers travel solo, it’s a great way to meet like-minded people.

We recommend checking out the country specific information here and also talking to a travel nurse.

For current advice about travelling in Costa Rica, have a read of the UK Foreign Office pages here.

Our recommended travel insurance provider is Campbell Irvine.

Travel insurance is compulsory on all of our adventures. Your insurance should include adequate protection for overseas medical treatment, evacuation/repatriation, your baggage and equipment and the specific activities involved on your adventure.

Your insurance policy should also include specific Covid-19 cover, including cancellation and curtailment cover if you, your travel companion or a close relative are diagnosed with Covid-19.

We fully endorse Campbell Irvine as their insurance offers all of the above, so get in touch with them or call on 020 7938 1734 to get your insurance sorted. We suggest that you book travel insurance as soon as you book your adventure, just to cover you for any last minute life changes. We know you’re an active lot and injuries do happen!

We automatically convert prices from the local currency that a host receives to your chosen currency. We update our exchange rates on a daily basis so this does mean that prices displayed on the site are subject to currency fluctuations, which is why you may see them change over time.

If you wish to change the currency you pay in, head to the bottom of the page.

All of our group adventures are specially designed for adults to enjoy (18+) as we want these adventures to bring together outdoorsy people who are truly like-minded. Children can be accommodated on some private departures.

You're in good company. Our adventures are typically made up of a mix of solo travellers and small groups of two or three friends who simply love adventure, pushing themselves and meeting awesome like-minded people. See here for more info about our lovely bunch of Much Better Adventurers.

Want to book a private trip? Just tap ‘Private Group’ in the dates and prices tab.

Your trip is led by carefully curated local hosts and expert guides. See here for more info about the guides we work with.

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