Warning – I hope you like sloths! As you may remember, I recently spent a couple of weeks in Costa Rica. While most of that time was spent in a tour van, I did get to spend a couple of days on a motorcycle in that beautiful country, so let me share with you what happened.
First, the how: if, like me, you’re flying into San Jose (SJO), an excellent option is Wild Rider.
I discovered the shop through regional forums in ADVRider, my go to site for these sorts of inquiries. There were a few suggestions to reach out to Thorsten, the friendly German ex-pat who runs Wild Rider. Thorsten and his staff rent out small 4x4s and a variety of dual sports from the Honda XR250 Tornado to a Suzuki DR650SE and a few options in between.
I tried emailing Thorsten directly through an email address listed on the site and got no response, however he did quickly respond to a built-in online reservation request form. After we exchanged a few emails about what my plan was (riding out to the east coast to visit the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica), Thorsten set me up with a Honda NX4 Falcon because it was better suited to the route my girlfriend and I were planning on taking. Sadly, that route was mostly pavement, with a few exceptions like this:
Once we arrived in Costa Rica and showed up at Wild Rider, Thorsten and his team took plenty of time to discuss possible routes with us and go over local customs and laws that differed from what we were used to in the US. Pictured – Not Thorsten:
Not once did I ever feel like they were in a rush to get me out. Unfortunately, there are only two roads to the east coast from San Jose and one of them had been blocked off by a landslide. That made route planning easy but it didn’t give us many options for off-road detours for exploration. Based on that, we decided to stick with the NX4, which is similar to a XR400 but with a detuned engine for improved reliability and maintenance. The 397cc engine puts out 30 horsepower and 25 pound feet of torque while yielding about 60 miles per gallon – with a 4 gallon fuel tank, I would have enough range to never be worried about finding a gas station.
In addition, Wild Rider had an aftermarket luggage rack on the back and provided us with some bungee cords so we could carry what we needed. Note that in Costa Rica, motorcyclists have to wear a reflective vest – Wild Rider provides that for you, too. And with that, you get thrown out into the chaos of Costa Rican traffic. Well, chaos isn’t fair. There’s a lot of lane changing without turn signals and the general nuttery you find in cities abroad, but at least everyone’s actually paying attention to the road and not looking at their cell phones!
Immediately, I got pointed at and pulled over by a police officer. Great. My initial concern was thankfully short-lived – it was just a safety checkpoint where they made sure you had working lights and a reflective vest!
During the rainy season, visitors to the east coast of Costa Rica should expect heavy rain at an unpredictable schedule. Vy and I hoped we’d stay as dry as possible as we hopped on the bike and headed east. About 2 hours in, we made a quick stop in Turrialba to stretch our legs. Thankfully, we were still dry.
Even though there’s one main road, don’t think it’s anything like a US freeway. Instead, expect mountain passes, sections of switchbacks, and surprisingly decent pavement. It was an enjoyable ride, though I don’t think I ever went faster than 60 miles per hour. The lack of lights on this truck were a bit freaky.
Eventually we pulled into the port town of Limon, which is notable for having a large Afro-Caribbean community. This is because the Costa Rican government did not consider these individuals to be citizens (and did not allow them to leave the Limon area) until 1948, and it also means the area is home to many delicious Caribbean food options. We decided to get lunch.
At this point, those of you familiar with Costa Rica might be wondering why we were heading east, considering that most of the touristy fare in the country is on the Pacific side. The answer is simple – VyVy wanted to see some sloths! We had spent the first part of trip doing the tourist bit, but Vy had discovered the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica and I figured it was the perfect excuse to hop on a motorcycle.
And then ate at the highly recommended (and appropriately named) Sobre las Olas. Spanish for “On the Waves”, this place serves delicious seafood alongside the water. The tide was too high for us to enjoy the hammock, but we were able to survive that hardship.
The big thing you’ll take away is that sloths have a bad rap. In Spanish they’re called “oso perezosos” (lazy bears), but the staff here can’t tell you enough that sloths aren’t lazy. They just have to conserve energy because they barely get any out of their diets.
After lunch (included with the tour), we packed up and headed back towards San Jose – but not before I encountered the life-size replica of a Megatherium, the elephant-sized ground sloths found in South America during the Pleistocene epoch. If that means nothing to you (like it did to me), that’s the range of time that spans approximately 2.5M years ago to 11,700 years ago. What a range!
Outside of San Jose is a lovely community called Orosi. We were sick of the rain so we decided to stop here at the Orosi Lodge. It’s run by a German father/son duo and they do an excellent job of taking care of the guests.
We asked the staff for a dinner recommendation and they suggested the local pizza joint. We got to enjoy delicious pan pizzas and conversation with our friendly waiter Emilio, who had great local stories and plenty of questions about the US.
At first, I was annoyed, but a quick call to Thorsten revealed the staff was 15 minutes away as they were picking up some renters from the airport. Not the end of the world. Remember earlier when I mentioned that of the two routes that head east, one was closed? Today we found out that all the rain we had suffered through the day before had created mudslides that closed the other road! If we were on the road just a few hours later, we would have been turned around and missed our flight. We got lucky, but these British tourists had to change their plans…looks like they were going west instead.
In a very abrupt conclusion, Wild Rider was awesome. If you’re planning a trip to Costa Rica and want to take a motorcycle, give them a shout. And if you weren’t planning a trip to Costa Rica and you need an excuse to get your wife/girlfriend to join, take them to see sloths! Thanks for reading.