Mainly spent getting to the start location - 24 hours of travelling is not a good way to prepare for a long week of cycling!
Guapiles 20km approx.
After breakfast everyone will get fitted for a bike and take part in a warm-up circular bike ride of 20kms around Guapiles (all flat terrain and on road). The rest of the day is free to relax by the hotel pool, explore Guapiles (approx. 200m above sea level). There is a lively agricultural market every Saturday. This evening we eat together and hear more about the week ahead from the Tour Manager.
Guapiles – Puerto Viejo 75km approx.
We set off from Guapiles into the surrounding banana growing region. The first stretch takes us north of town on a tarmac road. We then head west on a gravel road through fields of banana plantations towards the village of Rio Frio. Bananas, along with coffee, are the main source of foreign income for Costa Rica. After around 25 – 30km we re-join a tarmac road which takes us on to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui. Locals refer to it as simply Puerto Viejo but the longer name is used to differentiate the place from Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast. The town is located where the Rio (river) Sarapiqui and Rio Puerto Viejo meet. Before roads and railways were built in the area it was an important port on the trading route to the Caribbean. We overnight near Puerto Viejo. (Approx. 30km on tarmac road and 45km on dirt road. Almost all flat terrain, but the difficulty today is the long off road stretches).
Puerto Viejo – Muelle de San Carlos 75km approx.
(Some hilly / steep sections, but mostly short hill climbs up to 700m)
We head west from Puerto Viejo through agricultural countryside, over flat and undulating terrain. After around 12km we pass through the small village of Chilamate. A few kilometres later the first houses on the edge of La Virgen come into view. Once through this settlement, the route becomes more hilly but the route is all on road and we stop for lunch after approx 60km. There will sometimes be more traffic in parts with some big trucks, so beware. We pass several villages and small towns such as San Miguel and Agues Zonces. The afternoon is mainly flat road and we quickly reach Nuelle de San Carlos.
Muelle de San Carlos – Arenal 61km approx.
Undulating all the way to lunch at Tabacan hot spring at 900m. Today we cover 43km on tarmac and 18km on dirt roads.
We are eased into today’s ride as the terrain is mildly undulating for the first 13km. However, once over the second bridge there is a 3km stretch of uphill followed by steep undulating terrain. We reach the small town of La Fortuna after 24km. An interesting fact about the place is that it has no street names – local landmarks are used instead. At 250 metres above sea level, there are excellent views from La Fortuna of the perfectly conical Arenal Volcano. Over the past three decades Arenal has been the most continually active volcano in the world. It exploded in 1968 after lying dormant for 450 years and has been rumbling ever since.
After La Fortuna, the road becomes more hilly. We follow the range of the volcano on our left-hand side crossing the Rio La Palma and continuing on strongly undulating terrain past the Tabacon Spa Resort. It is here that we enter the rainforest. After 3km we turn left for the last stretch, which is 11km of off-road through the Parque National Volcan Arenal. We cycle over bridges to cross three rivers en route and pass through the tiny communities of El Castillo and Pueblo. Our overnight accommodation is the attractive Hotel El Castillo Dorado Lodge, which has a volcano-viewing room. By day, clouds of ash and smoke frequently billow into the sky and on clear nights lava and burning rocks can be seen.
Arenal – Tilaran 74km approx.
Around the lake and up to Tilaran is undulating terrain and takes us up to 1200m
A very pretty day today as we cycle round the north eastern side of Lake Arenal to Tilaran. We re-trace yesterday’s route for the first 11km back to the national park entrance. We reach the junction with the main road and a few kilometres later arrive at the Lake Arenal dam. This is actually a man-made stretch of water, which was created when the original lake was dammed in 1973. The first part of the route around the lake is on very bad road with barely any tarmac so we must pay attention. The terrain continues to be undulating and the wind is likely to be quite strong, however the scenery more than makes up for these discomforts. There are spectacular views of the volcano and the gently rolling hills around it. At the 43km point we take lunch.
Just before the town of Nuevo (new) Arenal the road conditions improves (the original town of Arenal was flooded when the dam was built). Once past the town we continue cycling along the shores of the lake on strongly undulating terrain. Our route turns into a steep uphill for 1km followed by a long stretch of downhill after around 65km. We leave the edge of the lake towards the end of the day and head for the market town of Tilaran where we overnight at the Hotel Naralit.
Tillaran – Yomale – Jacó 65km approx.
Immediate transfer from Tillaran for our own safety for approx. 100kms. We are reunited with our bikes and cycle 21kms on road to San Mateo. After lunch we turn south and head for the coast for the next 30kms. It’s a long days’ cycling but we are rewarded with the final leg taking us parallel to the Pacific Ocean. It’s a big push for the last day but the on road flat terrain will mean we can enjoy the views on our way to Jacó, our finishline! Overnight in Jacó with optional tours possible.