Please respect the risks. Personal motorized vehicles are dangerous and will allow you to be as stupid as you try to be. People just out to have fun die instead on 4Wheelers and Jetskis every year in Costa Rica. Don’t drink and drive, do follow instructions and if you’re unsure pick a different activity.
A Costa Rica vacation is not the ideal time for “the kids to try something new and hop on an ATV.” If they haven’t had previous experience please skip it or let them ride with an adult – preferably one that knows what they are doing.
ATVs or 4Wheelers
I used to ride a motorcycle regularly and I’ve tried out a couple of ATV tours and found them to be pretty good as far as safety is concerned. Helmets aren’t always the best fit, which makes them next to useless and instruction might be a bit perfunctory for people new to off-roading but the operators made a sincere effort to keep everyone safe.
A few tours are limited to trails on private property but most use the public roads for at least part of their course. One particularly fun ride (pictured above) followed a rugged road that crossed a small river several times before meeting a trail that led a few hundred meters into the rain forest to a waterfall above Manuel Antonio.
The Talamanca Reserve near San Gerardo de Rivas has dozens of kilometers of trails accessible to ATVs and uses them to give access to the wilderness to people with mobility limitations who couldn’t walk the trails. The wildlife watching is definitely impacted by the noise and fumes but if you park and sit quietly the activity resumes remarkably quickly.
There are tens of thousands of Costa Ricans that use off road motorcycles to commute rugged roads to their jobs, the bank or even school every day. Many don’t quite get the concept of doing it for fun and would jump for joy if the road in front of their home was paved or even graveled.
There are thousands of kilometers of unimproved roads and tracks in Costa Rica and multi day trail bike tours run $2,000 to $5,000 per person for 3-7 days of riding inclusive of motorcycle, accommodations and meals.
For decades screaming whine of Jetskis was absent from nearly all of Costa Rica’s beaches but in the past few years they have become quite common especially at the larger resorts. Their use is largely unregulated but that may change with recent fatalities due to collisions and in one case possibly an inebriated operator. It’s not clear how the growing numbers will coexist with the large numbers of swimmers, surfers and paddle boarders using the same waves. Obviously in any encounter the 1,000 pound machine has the advantage.