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Old 9 Oct 2012
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December in Costa Rica: Add Ometepe? Yaviza?

Starting a new thread to focus on where to go and what to see during a short trip in Central America this December (2012 in case you're reading this much later).

A buddy and I will be flying down to San Jose, CR the week before Christmas. We only have a bit over 2 weeks total due to my work schedule. We're renting Honda NX-4 Falcons, and we have the option of doing a border crossing by paying a large deposit.

I've always wanted to see Nicaragua, and I've also thought it would be cool to see the Panama Canal and the end of the road at Yaviza. But, as I say, we only have about two weeks. For those of you who have been there, what would you recommend -- spend the whole time in CR, or add a side trip north to Granada and Ometepe in Nicaragua, or add a side trip down to Panama to see the canal and stare across at the Darien Gap?

Also, should we make sure to have reservations for some place to stay for Christmas? Is everything closed for the holiday? What about New Year's?
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Old 9 Oct 2012
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Well, we're all different and it's a bit hard to answer that one. I would stay in Costa Rica since two weeks is very little time and Costa Rica has lots to offer.

Yaviza will take several days as a round trip. It's almost 1100km's (one way) from San Jose, CR ...plus a border crossing. That's along the main highway with no detours to parks, beaches and highlands. Central American border crossings, while not as horrible as they're sometimes made out to be, are a bit of a pain in the derriere. The highway was pretty fast with few slowdowns through towns and villages, as is often the case in other areas. You will get stopped 3 or 4 times at military checkpoints south of Panama City. No big deal, they just want to know who you are and will record the info in some sort of ledger. If you're limited on time you'll probably be sticking to the main highway which is long and boring. The Panama canal was a high point of my trip since it's an amazing feat of engineering, especially for the time in which it was built. But I wasn't rushed and was able to stay in Panama City for a few nights.

Yaviza was also quite powerful for me but only because it was the end of the road and my turnaround point. I'm not quite sure what your expectations are but you don't really "look out" over the Darien Gap :-) There are some pictures on my blog which I hope convey the feel of the place, in addition to hot, sticky, humid, jungly ...in other words, pretty cool.

If you're really leaning towards taking in another country I'd recommend Nicaragua, simply because Ometepe is not very far from the border and it is a pretty cool place. I stayed at Finca Magdalena, an organic coffee cooperative along a nasty little dirt road. The border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua is insanely busy and annoying and possibly the worst in all of Central America but I only spent 2 hours there in both directions.

So if you're the type who wants to stay in a place for a few days then stay in Costa Rica, or maybe pop up to Ometepe and maybe Granada, Volcan Masaya area. If you're the type who's doing it mostly for the riding, then by all means head on down to Yaviza.

...Michelle
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Old 9 Oct 2012
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Michelle, that is perfect info! Thank you so much. I was leaning slightly towards doing the Tico/Nica option just to have the opportunity to ride on Ometepe for a couple days, and after looking up Finca Magdalena I have to say that I'm now pretty sure that's what we'll do.

BTW, I was exercising poetic license when I talked about staring across the Darien Gap. I understand that you really just stare across a small river.
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Old 9 Oct 2012
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I once rented a BMW F650 in Costa Rica for 2 weeks, and found plenty to see and do without leaving the country. As others have said, with only 2 weeks it probably isn't worth paying the extra.

BTW what company are you using? I have some time off in November and am thinking of going overseas and renting a bike for a week or two.
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Old 9 Oct 2012
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BTW what company are you using? I have some time off in November and am thinking of going overseas and renting a bike for a week or two.
Hi Bruce,

We're going to rent from Motos Costa Rica (http://www.motoscostarica.com). They rent the exact bike I wanted to ride -- the Brazilian Honda NX-4 Falcon -- and they also allow border crossing if you leave a large security deposit and arrange things in advance.

The other place I looked into was Wild Rider (http://www.wild-rider.com). Their bikes are more dirt oriented, which means they all have those high, narrow seats (KLR, Suzuki DR-Z, Honda 250 Tornado). I own a DR-Z myself, but it has a Corbin saddle and even that is less than ideal for my bony butt. Also, they told me that they only allow repeat customers to take their bikes across a border. I wouldn't hesitate to rent from them if I wanted to stay in CR and if I preferred one of those bikes. Motos Costa Rica happens to match exactly what I want on this trip, so that's my choice this time.
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Old 9 Oct 2012
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Thanks for the info. I have seen Wild Riders' site but not the other: I will check it out.
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