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Riding gear for December in Costa Rica / Nicaragua?
Things are shaping up for Christmas in Central America. We will fly down around December 20th or 21st and ride around for about two weeks. We will most likely start in San Jose, Costa Rica, and hope to cross into Nicaragua for at least a few days to see Granada and Ometepe Island.
I always wear my Aerostich Roadcrafter 1-piece suit and touring boots, even when it's quite hot here in California. I wore it to Baja last year. But I'm thinking it might be nice to travel a little lighter (and cooler) if conditions warrant it. Any recommendations?
I rode to Panama and back two years ago and wore First Gear textile jacket and pants. You would be surprised how cold it is up at 10,000 feet in Costa Rica on the Camino del muerte and up on top of the Volcanos. But yes it's hot down in the lower elevations on the Nicoye penninsula etc.
I flew down to Costa Rica earlier in '06 and rented a dirt bike for two weeks. Couldn't get across the border into Nica with a rental bike. Not sure what the situation is now. But there is plenty to see and do to keep you busy for two weeks just in CR. Especially if you head around to the Pacific side of the Osa Penninsula and go over and visit Cahuita and Puerto Viejo on the Carribean side.
Rainy season winds down in November/December so you should have nice weather, but it still can be wet and you might miss that Roadcrafter if you are wearing mesh through the tropical rainstorms. I wouldn't spend money on new gear myself especially if the gear you have worked fine in Baja.
Up a valley overlooking the jungle out to the Pacific. Jumping off waterfalls into mountain pools. I stayed there for a week last time I was through. That place was heaven.
Riding to the top of Mt Irazu volcano and Poas Volcano. Heck every mountain road was great. Definitely check out the cloud forest up in Monteverde. And riding around Lago Arenal and checking out that area, up through the waterfall garden area. Up to the Canoa Negro wildlife reserve. Nicoya penninsula away from the tourist spots is nice but probably the coastal rivers will be too high to ford in December on the fun Pacific side. Definitely the Osa penninsula. And the road going straight up behind Ciudad Niely zig zagging up into the clouds towards San Vito. You'll just scratch the surface in two weeks.
As far as Panama, my favorite area was in the highlands around Volcan and Boquete near Costa Rica. Riding down to Yaviza is something you do once to see what's there. A lot of straight line riding through mowed down teak forests for several hundred miles down and back. Like riding to Prudhoe Bay, do it if you must. Although I may have to go down that way to catch a boat down the Pacific side in a couple months.
There's a lot to see in Costa Rica though. You'll have fun!
What to wear ? Blue jeans and a mesh jacket and throw on a light rainsuit and sweater if it starts to rain or gets chilly at mountaintops.
No need to overdress.
For some added route variety if going into Panama cross to or from the Volcan area of Panama in the highlands to San Vito CR but for the other entry consider doing the Caribbean side from Sixaola CR ( have they built the new border bridge yet ?) This will let you tour the banana country of Bocas del Toro bay area and then cross the mountain spine south to rejoin the Panamerican Highway all the way to Yaviza .
I can't help you with the riding gear question since I was in that area in sweltering April, just before the rainy season started. I probably shouldn't admit this but I rode in shorts and T-shirt at times since my riding gear was so sticky I couldn't safely move my body on the bike. There was nothing better than to ride through torrential tropical rains with minimal clothing to cool down.
But you did ask about favourite places so here are mine
Isla Ometepe, Nicaragua. Beautiful ferry ride with the two volcanoes slowly approaching. Gnarly beat up roads to test your off road riding skills (but the main villages and ferry terminals ...yes, there are two of them are connected by a hard surfaced road.
Volcan Masaya, Nicaragua. You can drive right to the crater's edge. Skip this one if you have any respiratory issues such as asthma. There are rather substantial sulfur emissions from the crater.
Las Penitas, Nicaragua. The less touristy alternative to San Juan Del Sur.
Leon, Nicaragua. More gritty and a bit more run down than Granada, but it struck me as much more authentic than Granada. But Granada is quite nice as well.
Lago de Appoyo, Nicaragua. Apparently it's the cleanest and coolest swimming lake in Nicaragua. A great place to stay at a retreat (relatively expensive for Nicaragua) just to relax.
Lago Arenal, Costa Rica. Head into the hills around Lago Arenal. Pastoral views, tidy little villages and lots of accommodations along with a pretty nice twisty paved road.
Pan American Highway south from San Jose, Costa Rica. Unending twists and turns through high altitude cloud forests with relatively little traffic (at least when I went through). It's also the only place in Central America where I was actually cold to the point of shivering in the 16 degree temperatures and rain (nope, no shorts and T-Shirt on that ride).
I second the suggestion of the Rio Sereno (Volcan) crossing into Panama if you're heading that way. It's a very friendly laid back crossing along a 10km dirt road on the Costa Rica side. Once in Panama you're still in the highlands and the beautifully paved, twisty road and the scenery through coffee country are stunning.
I rode all the way down to Yaviza just for the hell of it but didn't give myself much time to explore Panama. I did find a nice beach on the Pacific side and the Panama Canal was something to see. Otherwise I found the one single road heading south to be quite boring. Of course I would probably have had a different experience had I had more time to explore.
Great stuff -- thanks! Since we'll only have a couple weeks total, it seems likely that we will do one of the following three things:
1. Costa Rica the whole time.
2. Mostly Costa Rica, with a few days in Nicaragua to visit Granada and Ometepe.
3. Mostly Costa Rica, with a few days in Panama to visit the canal and Yaviza.
My riding buddy and I both feel that any of these options will make for a fun trip, so any strong opinions or input from people who have ridden the area recently would be great. Maybe I should start a different thread, since it has drifted from the gear question to the "what to see" question.
But back to gear for a moment: After our planning meeting, I'm rethinking wearing my Aerostich. My buddy recently saw a mid-weight KTM textile jacket with light armor at the elbows and shoulders, and he reminded me about enduro pants. He's a much more experienced dirt rider than me, plus he rides trials, so he has a bunch of that sort of gear. I still have some O'Neill pants from my own offroad riding days and they do seem as though they might be a great choice for this sort of trip. I wouldn't want to ride U.S. interstates with them because I'd feel less protected than I'm used to (yay Aerostich!), but I doubt that we'll be doing 80mph on pavement all day very often in Costa Rica. They do have heavier leather patches at the knees and hips, so there's some protection. And they can be worn over jeans if it's chilly, or by themselves if it's hot.
Offroad-oriented gear also has the advantage of being far lighter and far less bulky than my 'Stich, and it dries quicker.
So ... what do you experienced Central America riders think about a light- or mid-weight textile jacket with plenty of ventilation on top, and some enduro pants on the bottom?
Oh yeah, we also talked about boots. I am NOT taking my road boots. They are definitely too heavy, and overkill for sure. Does it seem reasonable to wear high-top hiking boots for riding in Costa Rica and maybe Nicaragua or Panama in December?
Now you have got it . Ventilation is the big key to comfort . I have
seen too many gringos downthere ( many is a relative expression here)
who were overdressed in heavy touring suits from up north.
Even some of the local sportbike riders fall into this trap and buy
that style of suit or even full leathers. because that is what they see
as stylish in imported European and America bike mag advertisements
Butthose are NORTHERN fashions impractical in the tropics .
For shoes anything comfy with solid construction and ankle coverage
will be fine.I wear steel toed work boots on the bike and carry a pair
of light shoes for walking in the evening or for slippers I my room
Just signed up to this board and found this thread...
Lots of good info already mentioned by other inmates, so won't add much more at the moment, but if you need more details on places to go, let me know and I'll try to help. I've been living & riding here for almost 4 years now.
Regarding the gear & weather - December shouldn't be too wet, but expect gusty wind at times. Best advice in CR is : be ready for all weather conditions (above freezing point that is ).
You mentioned a rental place that would let you take the bike across the border - which one was it? I haven't found any so far. If you want to rent a beemer, I can put you in contact with the right person. I also have a contact for bmw rental in Panama as well.
Sjoerd Bakker - I did the Sixaola crossing about a month ago, and yes the new bridge is there. I had read postings about riders crossing on the old bridge, and had a good laugh when I saw it next to the new one.
... if you need more details on places to go, let me know and I'll try to help. I've been living & riding here for almost 4 years now.
That's excellent -- thanks! I'll pm you.
Originally Posted by QCRider
You mentioned a rental place that would let you take the bike across the border - which one was it? I haven't found any so far.
The place is Motos Costa Rica (Motos Costa Rica) and I actually found out about them by reading other posts here on HUBB. There is a bunch of paperwork that the rental company has to do, so I think it's very generous of them to allow it. There is also a very heft deposit required ($5,000 US), but that makes sense to me and I don't mind a bit.
The other place I considered renting from, Wild Rider (Wild Rider Costa Rica - Motorcycle Rental and Motorcycle Adventure Tours, 4x4 Car Rental, Costa Rica Adventure Tours and more ...) also allows their bikes to be taken across the border, but they told me they only do it for repeat customers. Understandable, as I do believe it involves a lot of work for them. I had some contact with them via e-mail and I wouldn't hesitate to rent from them, but I really wanted to go up to Ometepe Island in Nicaragua during this trip, and that wouldn't be possible with them because I've never rented from them before. Also, I very much wanted to ride a Honda NX-4 Falcon if I could find someone who rents them. As luck would have it, that's exactly the bike Motos Costa Rica uses in their "fleet."
Originally Posted by QCRider
If you want to rent a beemer, I can put you in contact with the right person.
Thank you kindly for the offer, but my friend and I really want smaller bikes. The 400cc Honda NX-4 seems ideal for us for this trip.
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