Hacienda Pinilla is well-known amongst the mountain biking community as having amazing trails for all levels, with stunning scenery throughout. We caught up with Jonathan Cooley, MTB enthusiast & owner of Bike Craft, to get all the answers one might have before getting into the sport.
What makes Hacienda Pinilla trails such a fantastic landscape for MTB?
Hacienda Pinilla is truly a unique place to mountain bike. First of all, it’s a huge area, 4500-acres of private land. Most of the property is open forest or fields for grazing cattle. The 45km trail network traverses through scenic coastal vistas, beautiful dry forests and the open grazing fields. It truly offers something for everyone. Also, last time I checked, it is the only area to offer world class surfing and mountain biking in the same property. If the ocean goes flat, grab a mountain bike. If the waves are pumping, grab your surfboard.
What are some of the most noteworthy stops/views you can find on the Hacienda trails?
One of my absolute favorite places to stop is the black sands beach found by the bluffs at Vista Mar. Another spot is on Surfside trail, where the trail traverses a famous section of the Playa Avellanas coast line where you can watch surfers catch amazing waves at Little Hawaii. Lastly, I like to finish the ride off at the dirt jumps and pump track located next to the shop where we can watch families of howler monkeys swing from tree to tree.
How many different trails are there? What’s the shortest/longest trail?
Hacienda Pinilla offers a mix of trails for all ability levels. From fast downhill descents to chill and relaxing single-tracks, there’s tons of variety for your ability. In total, there are 21 trails which encompass more than 45km of terrain, all located within the private area. Our longest trail is Guiri Guiri at nearly 7km and our shortest trail is Slingshot at 800 meters. Each trail has a distinctly different flavor and we have riders between the ages of 2 and 82 riding the trails. For those located outside of Hacienda Pinilla, we offer a trail day pass through the shop.
What kind of wildlife are you most likely to encounter?
On the trails you are guaranteed to see a wide variety of birds both in the forest and on the coast. If you are lucky you might even spot the local group of Scarlet Macaws. There are also many, many howler monkeys located in the area. They tend to be most active in the early morning and sunset where you can hear their distinctive calls echoing through the forest.
You mentioned in your story before your Bike Craft days that you did a lot of stunt creation. Do the Pinilla trails offer the opportunity for stunts as well?
Prior to moving to Costa Rica in 2009, I lived in Bellingham, Washington which is really an amazing place to be a mountain biker. It was in the natural playground of the Pacific Northwest where I learned about trail building and sampled some of the finest trails in the area. To me, jumps and berms are essential to the mountain biking experience.
Starting in October 2020, we began working on some new features in Hacienda Pinilla including the creation of the pump track and Slingshot trail which includes a table top jump line. One of our goals is to promote bike skills progression for local riders and this area serves as a perfect training ground. Our next project is the skills area with small wooden bridges to practice fine motor skills next to the pump track.
What trail would you recommend for the most advanced mountain biker?
Many of the trails located near the water tower are great for advanced riders. These trails offer more opportunity for downhill style terrain. The trails offer steep chute style descents and rugged roots. One of my favorite trails is Fast Track.
Can you tell us a little bit about the tours you offer?
Our shop serves as the hub of all of our bike tours. At BikeCraft, we offer two hour mountain bike or E-bike guided tours. We also offer MTB coaching and guiding services on the property if you already have your own bike. In addition, we just started doing night riding tours which is really fun if you’ve never done it. Our tours are customized by the guide and are based on the rider ability level and also what types of terrain they would like to explore. On E-bikes, we can really cover a lot of terrain in a short period of time, which is cool.
What make/model of mountain bike would you suggest for a beginner?
I really like the Scott 980 as a quality bike. It offers a solid drive train, powerful disc brakes and a decent suspension fork. If you are looking to try before you buy, we have this bike in various sizes. One upgrade that I would make to any bike in our area is a tubeless tire conversion. This conversion, which eliminates the need for bike tubes, virtually eliminates flat tires which exponentially increases the fun factor of mountain biking. All of our rental bikes are set up this way because we believe that riding a mountain bike doesn’t have to be a frustrating experience. If you are looking to convert your bike, we would be happy to set you up.
What’s something to know about the MTB culture? Are there traditions or courtesies like out in the surf lineup?
As a whole, mountain bikers are a pretty mellow bunch. Unlike surfing, where it can be highly competitive getting waves, mountain biking is more about a bunch of friends getting together for a ride. With that being said, there are a few things that you should know.
Rule 1: On a two way trail, the uphill rider always gets priority. Downhill riders should always move aside for the uphill riders.
Rule 2: Always be prepared for trailside maintenance. Make sure that you are carrying the proper tools and know how to make basic repairs.
Rule 3: Don’t roll jumps. Pop off of jumps. Rolling jumps ruins the lip and can make lots of work for the trail builder.
Rule 4: Respect trail closures. Sometimes trail builders need to do essential improvements that involve closing a section or an entire trail. Be cool, ride another trail.
Rule 5: If you are riding alone, make sure to have a charged cell phone in case of emergency.
Rule 6: Remember to have fun. Mountain biking can be an amazing athletic and creative outlet in your life.
If you are looking to get started, stop into Bike Craft and pay Jonathan a visit, he’ll help you with what you need!
Looking for more information on Hacienda Pinilla?
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Wow, this sounds amazing! I’m an avid mountain biker and love exploring new trails, so I’m excited to hear about the new bike shop and trails at Hacienda Pinilla. It’s great to see the area investing in outdoor recreation and providing opportunities for people to get outside and enjoy nature. I’ll definitely have to plan a trip to check it out