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Cruising Costa Rica The MotoAdventures Way

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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).

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 motoadventuring.com.