Bike Tour To Panama City: In Search for Answers

September 28, 2013 | By | Reply More

I was searching for answers thinking about what to do next. I could cancel the bike trip or continue solo.

My American friend Hugh from Tamarindo who has lived in Costa Rica for awhile gave me an idea to combine long distances with bus travel. I’ll just put my bike on the bus like I did when traveling from Monteverde to San Jose. Since this is my first bicycle tour, it makes sense. This whole trip is more about the journey than it is the mode of transportation. It’s also about connecting with the people I meet along the way. Instead of cycling from San Jose to the coast, Hugh recommended that I start in Jaco, then continue on to Panama City. Great idea!

I needed a few questions answered first:

  • How are accommodations spread out along the Pacific coast of the country?
  • If there a lot of hostels or hotels, should I get rid of my tent?

Jaco to Panama City

The distance from Jaco to Panama City is 757 kilometers which is about 470 miles. If I average to cycle 50 to 75 km a day, I should make it there in a few weeks. Not bad, huh? #iknowimcrazy

Researching the route

Well, back in June when I was thinking about biking the country, I met this guy Brian from California when I was in Montezuma who rode this route I’m about to take.

He did all the homework for his trip already, so instead of doing extra work myself I emailed him to get some insight. He’s the guy who gave me advice to wear underwear under my bike shorts that I mentioned in the post Bike Costa Rica, Panama, then sail to Colombia. Brian also recommended that I use a Camelbak so it would be easy to drink water while cycling.

This is the email I sent to him on September 2nd.

Hi Brian,

It’s Mig. We met in Montezuma when I ask you questions about biking a few months ago.

We’ll I started my journey with a friend and biked 60 km from Tamarindo to Nicoya. He decided to bail since things didn’t work out between us.

Anyways, i’m thinking about heading from Jaco to Panama City solo.

I have a 10 lb tent that I’m thinking about shipping back home.

Was there enough infrastructure to find a hostel or hotel every 50 to 75 km from the Pacific coast of Costa Rica to Panama City?

What would have you done differently looking back?

Thanks in advance for your insight.


Sent from my cell phone.

Finding a bicycle shop

I had to find a bicycle shop in San Jose to get some additional parts. I needed some CO2 cartridges just in case I had to replace my tire and fill it up with air quickly instead of using a pump. This tip was given to me from Brad, a cyclist from Chicago whom I met when I was in Tamarindo.

When I started my day I didn’t know where a shop was. I asked someone who worked at the hostel if they knew because I was looking for a handlebar bag for my bike. They didn’t know, but they pointed me to a camping store. I went to the camping store. They didn’t sell what I was looking for, so I asked them if they knew where the nearest bike shop was. They told me to go to Alajuelita several blocks away. I didn’t see a store in the area, so I asked a guy who was dressed in office attire on the street where the nearest bike shop was. He pointed me in another direction to where he thought it was. When I got there, I didn’t see it immediately so I asked the police officers on the street. They pointed me to the store around the corner.

All I had to do to find a bicycle shop in a foreign country where I don’t know the area nor that many people was just ask around. Eventually, I was lead to one.

Bike store in San Jose

Bicycle shop in San Jose

Getting more information

Right after I sent an email to Brian, I was looking at Google Maps trying to figure out the logistics between the towns of David and Santiago in Panama.

I met this Dutch guy at the hostel I was staying at. I tell him my story and the small challenge I’m trying to solve, then he tells me that he was driving from South America to Vancouver with the car he had shipped from Holland. This guy just came from the direction I’m heading, so I asked him what the route looked like. He mentioned that he didn’t recall alot of infrastructure between David and Santiago.

By sharing my story with the Dutch guy, more pieces to answer my questions were coming together.

The email reply

Hey Mig,

Going solo is a great idea… a lot of times I wish I went solo. The only time we ran into problems with places to stay, or even camp, was between David and Santiago. However, we were biking on average 50 miles a day. If your daily range is less then I can’t say for sure. I think Costa Rica you should be fine. We did Jaco to Uvita. Uvita to a city 50mi out of Puerto Jimenez. Then to Puerto Jimenez (so much climbing). Too the ferry to Golfito then crossed the border to La Concepcion. We went from La Concepcion to David. Took the Bus up to Boquette. Then Biked to Lost and Found hostel in the Panama highlands. From there we took a short bus trip to bocas (meh) then biked back down to david. One night in David then to Las Lajas. Then from here to Santiago is where it gets tricky. We got off track and ended up camping at a school in a city whose name I don’t remember. Then Santiago (big city) to a camping spot right before Panama city. Then Panama city.

Good luck and load up on simple carbohydrates!!


Getting the answer to my first question was easy. Brian had already crossed the path that I’m about to take.

Since I’ve never done a bike tour before I asked more experienced cyclists than myself for advice.

Post office in San Jose

Post office in San Jose

The following day I shipped my tent back home. I really like my tent, but it was too heavy on my bike. It cost me $70 USD to send a 6 kilo package to the U.S. from Costa Rica.

Frame the questions

Like I mentioned in previous posts, I’m learning as I go. I don’t have to know all the answers up front. I just have to ask questions to each person I meet along the way who will point me to the next direction.

The serendipitous interactions I had with random people helped answer the questions I had. By telling others that I’m biking to Panama City and searching for answers by asking everyone I encounter, my questions have been magically answered effortlessly.

Most of the questions I ask are open versus close ended. Open ended questions begin with who, what, where, when, why, and how. Close ended questions can be answered with a yes or no answer. By asking open ended questions, it will help elicit longer responses which can lead into conversations.

I didn’t need to know everything before starting this journey. All I had to do was ask the right questions.

It’s okay not to know all the answers. They will come to you.

Track my location

Track my progress to to Panama City.

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