Family Adventure 2017: Mac Riding in Costa Rica

Mackinley is 6 now. We feed him protein and vegetables (honest), but he seems to be holding down his height so that he can keep enjoying his Mac Ride. We took a chance in the Fall, that he would refuse a Winter growth spurt, and booked flights for a Spring Break bike trip to Costa Rica.

An international family adventure on bikes...one of our happy places.

Luckily, Mac's still a comfortable fit on Mac Ride and our nine year old daughter Savannah is tall enough that she can ride an adult bike. The trip was a huge success. 

Arenal Volcano, last eruption in 2010, but still supplies many delightful hot springs & hot rivers.

Arenal Volcano, last eruption in 2010, but still supplies many delightful hot springs & hot rivers.

We flew into and out of Liberia and stayed in the Northwest of Costa Rica for a glorious 3 weeks. Our observations: 

  • The areas we explored were beautiful, full of wildlife and adventure. Overall, it was an amazing trip. This was our first time in Costa Rica, and we would definitely return to explore new areas down the road.
  • We felt very safe. The people we encountered were warm and welcoming.
  • We enjoyed the food. It was easy to find nutritious and fresh meals, and ones that the kids enjoyed.
  • Traveling was low stress. Directions were simple (with a bit of planning). We didn't feel crowded and overly "touristy". Internet was widely available (necessary for us as we worked most evenings...Mac Ride v2.0 progresses nicely). And although the roads to most of the national parks required a 4x4 (Monteverde/Sanata Elena etc), the driving wasn't technical in nature; we simply had to slow down to navigate the bumpy and washed out sections. 
  • The Lonely Planet recommendations were absolutely spot on for food and lodging. Thanks again, Lonely Planet! 
  • Sadly for the wallet (but hopefully happily for the Costa Rican conservation effort?) the trip was pricey. We wish we had been better prepared for food and activities to be more expensive than in Canada and USA.
  • We need to take more Spanish classes. We cycled about like fools, throwing out the odd "Por Favor" and "Mucho Gusto". Embarrassing. 

With a focus on our biking adventures:

  • Mac Ride traveled as easily as ever. We normally take it in our day pack as a carry-on, but for Costa Rica, we had the luxury of a piece of check in luggage. We got asked about Mac Ride a lot on this trip, and made a few sales during our travels too. 
  • Our family biking was largely on roads, paved and gravel. We didn't find a network of off-road trails and single track, which is our ultimate preference.
  • We chose quiet roads, which were easy to locate, and found that drivers were very respectful of cyclists, often, for example, calmly waiting long periods before finding a safe stretch to pass.
  • There was a significant amount of traditional longer distance cycle touring in the Arenal area (with a hired van to take your goods from village to village, hotel to hotel). Volcanoes, jungles, and lakes, with beautiful long, winding hills. What's not to love? Well, with youngsters on board, the hills and distances were tricky. We had to plan carefully with a river swim here, and an ice cream there, to keep spirits high. We'd recommend returning to this area when the kids are teenagers, and can handle a tough daily 30-50km sans melt down. 
  • Hiring mountain bikes for longer trips came in at $75 US per day, per bike. It was better value to hire a local commuter bike for shorter excursions, but not as comfortable ($10 US per day). We love staying in accommodation where the hotel's bikes are free to burrow. This was the case in the amazing glamping spot, Flor Y Bambu, in Playa Grande.
  • When we go biking abroad, we bring helmets for the kids. They are so particular about how their helmets fit, and often rental spots don't have helmets at all, so we find it's easiest to bring our own, even when we are doing carry on only.
Playa Grande. Accessible on bike along quiet roads. Waves, sun, turtles. Bliss. 

Playa Grande. Accessible on bike along quiet roads. Waves, sun, turtles. Bliss. 

We are so happy to be sharing Mac Ride with the world, version 2.0 launching this Summer. Without Mac Ride, we would not have been able to go on so many precious, active, family adventures during the years when Savannah could cover a good stretch on two wheels, but Mac was simply too little.

We've been back home for less than a week, and we are already savouring the memories of our wonderful Costa Rican family adventure.