Winter Travel Guide 1996
Mountain Biking in a Country of Mountains The pleasures of mountain biking in Costa Rica range from cruising through a serene countryside of coffee plantations in the central valley to gear- and gut-busting assaults on mountainous red-dirt roads that all too frequently plummet into streams of undetermined depth. For a taste of it all (the taste will sometimes be bugs between the teeth), ride for eight days with Backroads ($1,798; bike rental, $149; 800-462-2848). The trip, which includes some van shuttling, starts near the Arenal Volcano and climbs to Monteverde before winding across the Nicoya Peninsula to the fishing port of Tambor and a beach resort, the Tango Mar, that will make you think you've pedaled all the way to Fiji.
From Sea to Shining Sea Combine whitewater rafting, mountain biking, and hiking in a 15-day transcontinental adventure (Coast to Coast Adventures, $1,800; 800-747-2833) that takes you entirely by non-mechanized transport from the Pacific Ocean, across the Continental Divide, to the Caribbean sea. Starting at Manuel Antonio National Park, near Quepos, you'll bike up into the Cordillera Talalmanca, camping out or staying in hotels. After more biking and hiking, you'll raft down the Pacuare River to the Caribbean north of Limün.
Paddling the Golfo Dulce Sea kayaking is one way to see more of Costa Rica's watery side than what you can wring out of your socks after every jungle hike. The perfect place for it is the Golfo Dulce, which balances flat-water cruising along the edge of the rainforest with open-water crossings of as much as nine miles. Nantahala Outdoor Center runs
a ten-day trip ($1,475; 704-488-2175); RŒos Tropicales offers a nine-day trip ($1,370; 011-506-233-6455) along a scalloped coastline whose every headland reveals a small farm, jungle lodge, or-most often-more wilderness. While camping at the RŒo Esquinas, you'll want to hear the story of the classical violinist who created the nearby "Rainforest of the