Starting in the graceful colonial city of Granada and ending in bustling Panama City, our route takes us into Costa Rica's steamy rainforests, alongside active volcanoes and to the tropical island paradise of Bocas del Toro. We explore the island of Ometepe at Lake Nicaragua, search for Howler monkeys whilst rafting on the Tenorio River, and ride through rural villages along the Caribbean coast.Our journey ends with a cycle near the Panama Canal, following our visit to the famous Miraflores Locks.
Those on the group flight land into Managua and will be transferred to Granada (approx. 1 hour). Those on land only arrangements should make their own way to the start hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure.
After breakfast, we have an overall tour briefing as well as indications for the initial cycling stage. Any last-minute adjustments to the bikes are made before we set off towards the shore of Lake Nicaragua. As we reach the lakeshore, we enter into the Asese Peninsula recreation area, a beautiful protected area, where the traffic is kept to a minimum and several species of exotic birds can be spotted. Our lunch stop offers stunning views of the large volcanic mass of Mombacho.Upon arrival back at our hotel, well have time for a swim or stroll along La Calzada, Granadas main pedestrian street. In the late afternoonwe will head for the popular Mirador Catarina, overlooking pretty Laguna Apoyo. Our Sunday visit will allow us to experience the local people enjoying the wonderful view while being entertained by strolling marimba bands and souvenir vendors. Afterwards we will head for the Masaya Volcano National Park for a night visit to observe molten lava bubbling away in the depths of the huge crater. It may also be possible to spot the 'Chocoyos', a sub-species of parakeet which nests in the crater walls, having evolved to become resistant to the constant emissions of sulphuric gas. Due to safety concerns, the visit to the crater is limited to 15 minutes (and occasionally the park is closed altogether). We then return to Granada for dinner.Gradual descent down to the lakeshore, then virtually flat (but bumpy) out to the tip of the Asese Peninsula. The roads are 65% paved, 35% dirt/rock.
After breakfast we transfer (approx. 1.5 hours) south to the port of San Jorge on Lake Nicaragua, where we will board the vehicle ferry for the 1 hour trip out to fantastic Ometepe Island, with the twin volcanoes of Concepcion and Masaya dominating the view. Upon arrival at busy Moyogalpa, we start our cycling with a stretch around the west face of Concepcion, the active volcano on Ometepe. We then continue with a climb up and over the isthmus which leads out to rainforest clad Maderas, the extinct volcano on Ometepe. Our destination is lovely Ojo de Agua fresh water spring ($5 entry fee), where we will have lunch, and enjoy a swim in the cool, crystal-clear spring water, a welcome respite on a hot day. Afterwards we get back on our bikes to head for the wildlife-filled Charco Verde Lagoon, where our hotel is set. The west facing location right on the lake allows for some spectacular tropical sunsets, as well as the possibility to take a dip in the warm waters of Lago Cocibolca, the Indigenous name for Lake Nicaragua.The roads are all paved except for the final half mile to Charco Verde.
Today we depart the hotel around 10:30am, which gives us some free time beforehand to hike the trails around the lagoon to spot more wildlife or relax on the beach and admire the view.For keen cyclists looking for a challenge, an early morning ride along the single-track trails within the Charco Verde Reserve ($2 entry fee for hotel guests) is a great start to the day. Those looking for a hike can do the same trails; make sure to bring your camera as the reserve is full of wildlife, best seen in the early morning.Departing the hotel, we cycle to Moyogalpa and get the ferry back to the mainland. We then hop on the saddle again for a ride to Rivas, the largest city in southern Nicaragua, and then along La Chocolata Road towards San Juan del Sur, a Pacific beach town. The road takes us through dry forest where we may see (or hear!) Howler monkeys and spot large iguanas. We also pass through several small villages which experience no tourism other than our biking groups. If you plan to bring any gifts for local people, the children and teachers in the small rural schools along the way really appreciate pencils, pens and crayons. After finishing the mild climb which then drops us onto the Pacific side of Nicaragua, we ride just a bit further west to the beautiful beach Playa Marsella, in time for a late afternoon swim. Our hotel for this evening is close to the main San Juan del Sur beach, a great place to watch the sunset or simply enjoy the hotel pool.Along mostly level roads with some mild climbs. The road is 60% well-groomed dirt and 40% paved.
Starting early to avoid the heat, we cycle over the continental divide and down to a backroad (subject to road/weather conditions) near La Virgen, which then take us on to Sapoa, close to the border with Costa Rica. We then have a 5 minute transfer which will take us to Peas Blancas where we will exit Nicaragua. After clearing immigration on the Costa Rica side, we will stop for lunch near La Cruzand then continue south along the Pan Am highway to just outside Caas, another good sized town. Our arrival will be late in the afternoon due to ongoing highway constructions.Initial climb departing San Juan del Sur, then gradual descent to near La Virgen. Back road to Sapoa is mild rolling terrain, graded dirt. 40% paved / 60% dirt
This morning we get out of the saddle early in the morning for a 2 hour float down the Tenorio River, a haven for birds and wildlife. As our raft takes us gently along the river, we can expect to see several species of monkey, iguanas, coatis and a wide range of birds. There are also crocodiles along the lower stretch of the river and our experienced guides will not only handle the oars but will also point out as many species as possible. This is likely to be a big wildlife highlight of the trip! Afterwards, we transfer up to near Bijagua, then cycle back down to the Pan American Highway before lunch. After our meal we head up to the hilly region surrounding Lake Arenal where our afternoon biking stage will begin. This is quite a challenging section and although the distance is short there are several climbs and it can also be rather windy. The rewards are the spectacular views of the lake with the surrounding hills and Arenal Volcano off to the east.Morning stage is fast downhill after climbing out from Bijagua but can be pot-holed. Afternoon stage from outside Tilaran to Mystica includes several fairly steep climbs through rolling hills. 100% paved.
After breakfast we set off on our bikes towards La Fortuna. This is one of the most spectacular cycling stages, starting in lush agricultural land which gradually gives way to thick rainforest as we approach the dam which forms Lake Arenal. Watch out for monkeys, toucans and the amazingly colourful neon-blue Morpho butterflies as we cycle. If it's clear the dam is a great place to take a break for a wonderful view of Arenal Volcano. The town of La Fortuna is a major tourism destination within Costa Rica, so those looking for souvenirs will be well satisfied.Mostly on rolling hills with some short but fairly steep climbs, followed by fast downhill to La Fortuna. The road is 95% paved and 5% dirt or gravel.
Todays ride follows a circular route through the region surrounding La Fortuna, taking in a great variety of terrain and ecosystems. Starting from the hotel, we head south toward Chachagua, then divert to a backroad leading to El Bosque where we pass through agricultural landdevoted to bananas and sugar cane before heading into a rugged hilly zone leading back towards rainforest near the small town of La Tigre. Toucans are especially common here and there are some incredible views of the jungle and Arenal Volcano. As we approach La Fortuna again, there is one final steep climb before we reach our hotel. This evening we include a visit to the Eco-Termales Hot Springs to soothe any aching musclesthe best hot springs in the area!Paved roads, mostly level for the first half, followed by several challenging climbs./Please note: Traffic can be heavy near La Fortuna; a modified route may be selected./
We have another early start today as we head east into the rolling terrain of the San Carlos plains, riding through rich agricultural zones, sugar cane and pineapple plantations and rural villages. We are generally descending on this leg, which levels off as we get closer to Muelle where we conclude the morning stage. Have your cameras handy upon arrival, as there is a population of large iguanas posing while the staff will load the bikes for the transfer out to the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. As we will be crossing a large portion of Costa Rica, this is a long transfer (approx. 4-5 hours). Just outside the busy port of Limon we put the bikes back into use for a short ride using a more tranquil back road which will take us to the main coastal highway at Rio Banano, we then have a short transfer to the southern zone of the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. Our destination is bustling Puerto Viejo, a popular destinationon this coast of Costa Rica.Morning stage fast descent leaving La Fortuna, then level out to Muelle. Afternoon stage fully level 100% paved for both stages.
Today we begin riding south at the base of the towering Talamanca Mountains. We follow the main coastal road at first before turning off to the indigenous community of Bri-Bri, home to members of the Guaymi tribe. We may see some of the traditionally dressed women in flowing embroidered dresses as we pass through this area. The ride continues through vast banana plantations to the border crossing on the banks of the Sixaola River. After a quick lunch we leave Costa Rica and cross to Guabito, the Panamanian port of entry. After the border formalities, we board the bus through the frontier town of Changuinola, and then through steep rainforest hills which are inhabited by indigenous people. We hit the coast and embark on a private boat transfer to cross into the Caribbean to the wonderful Bocas del Toro Islands, our home for the next two nights.Mostly flat roads, although there are some climbs as we head to Bri-Bri. The roads are paved although there are often potholes and washouts close to the border.
We enjoy a free day today to explore the beautiful Bocas del Toro Islands, which are rapidly becoming a popular destination in the Caribbean. Today you will get a chance to see why: spectacular palm-shaded white sand beaches, crystal clear water, wonderful snorkelling and diving, lots of wildlife, kayaking and even great surfing are all available! It's also possible to take boat trips to the other islands, or go on dolphin-watching tours. All of these optional activities can be arranged through the hotel or nearby tour agencies whom we have long-established relationships with.For those who want to ride today, biking is available on the island and the 32km round trip to Bocas del Drago on the island's western tip is recommended. Our bikes will stay on the mainland at Almirante, but other bikes can be hired locally.
After taking a private boat back to the mainland, we drive to Punta Robalo for a ride through beautiful jungle scenery. After lunch we transfer (approx. 1.5 hours) through the mountains that separate Panama's two coastlines after which we begin our second ride of the day. The change in temperature, humidity and eco-systems are significant as we gain altitude. At the top of the pass we find beautiful Lago Fortuna, set in a rainforest-clad tropical valley. We then have a fast downhill ride with great mountain views and several river crossings to Gualaca and the Pan-Am Highway beyond. Upon meeting the Pan American Highway junction, we board the minibus for the drive down to Las Lajas, an isolated Pacific beach which stretches for miles. Here we can enjoy a great tropical sunset while relaxing under the shade of a palm thatch palapa.Some moderate hills near start, then level AM / Fast downhill to Pacific plain then some short climbs near finish PM. 100% paved.
We have an early start today as we avoid the heat and traffic on our ride through the Panamanian countryside. We take a short drive to Guabala, a customs/passport control point on the Pan Am highway, and once our documents have been checked, we will offload the bikes for a fairly challenging ride through a quite remote and hilly section of the western portion of Veraguas Province. Some of the morning's ride takes us along remote backroads past large sugar plantations and through dry tropical forest. We finish cycling close to the town of Jorones, where we start our transfer to Panama City(approx. 5-6 hours), with a quick lunch stop in Santiago, the main city in this part of Panama.We cross the famous canal where we're very likely to see huge ships as they make the journey between the Caribbean and the Pacific. Our hotel is located in the suburb of Albrook, where many opulent residences are a testament to the days when US military officers and Canal Authority officials lived in the city.Level start but becoming increasingly hilly during the middle section. The last stage is level again and the road is fully paved./Please note: A different stage may be selected if the weather conditions are very hot./
Our final day is truly memorable, as we travel along a stretch of the Panama Canal to observe some of the highlights. Starting from our hotel which overlooks the Pacific entrance to the canal, we transfer to the Miraflores Locks Visitor Centre (entry fee to museum and video presentation included) to view the process of raising and lowering the ship traffic. We then have a short transfer to the entry point of the Soberana National Park, where we will enjoy a final biking stage through lush rainforest. Our biking concludes with lunch at lovely Los Lagartos, set over Lago Gamboa, with the canal as a back-drop. This offers a great photo opportunity as ships pass by during their transit. After lunch we transfer back to our hotel for some free time or a swim. In the afternoon we visit the World Heritage Site of Casco Viejo, the historic old portion of Panama City. We will have our final group dinner in the Casco Viejo this evening.This is mostly level along the canal, but with some climbing within the Soberana Park. The main road is fully paved.
Our trip ends after breakfast this morning, and those on group flights will be transferred to the international airport for the return journey to the UK.