September 30, 2019

A Naturally Active Town: Sports and the Outdoors in Las Catalinas

Colin Sharpe

The town of Las Catalinas is located in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, surrounded on one side by a tropical dry forest reserve and on the other by Playa Danta and Playa Dantita, two sandy beaches on the Pacific Ocean. It’s a blend of environments that offers a rich selection of activities to those staying in town, and helps contribute to the naturally active and physical lifestyle in Las Catalinas.




You can mountain bike all morning before returning to the beach for a splash in the water to cool off. A scuba diving trip can be capped off with a stroll along the hillside roads before dinner. You can start the day with sunrise hikes to the top of McHenry peak, before ending with sunset paddle board yoga out in the bay. Not to mention the triathlons, obstacle course races, and other events that feature both the water and town’s diverse terrain.

When the beauty of nature is only ever a few steps away, there’s an instinctive desire to get out and explore. Town’s manmade beauty and walkability are fundamental to this active lifestyle as well. When the first step of every journey is made on foot or by bike through a thoughtfully designed, engaging, and lively neighborhood, outdoor activities become an easy part of the rhythm of life, rather than a trip that needs to be planned.









Compared to life in a big city, where the beauty of the outdoors can be miles away through inner city traffic or busy highways, it’s plain to see how much easier it is to engage with the nature.

On both land and sea in Las Catalinas, there is a love for sports that ranges from surfing to mountain biking to scuba diving to trail running and much more. This passion for sport, combined with easy access into town, a versatile environment in which to perform, and a wide variety of lodging options, makes Las Catalinas the ideal location to host outdoor events like the Las Catalinas TRI, the Paddle Battle, the Intrepid Challenge, and much more.


Land Activities in Las Catalinas

Las Catalinas has 42km of multi use trails through an 1000 acre tropical dry forest reserve, two beaches, as well as walkable hillside streets ranging from beachfront to hillside. It’s a place that fosters hiking, running, fitness on the beach, yoga, beach football, street football, and more.



One very popular option is mountain biking. Trail heads are scattered around town, so in moments riders can set off into the heart of the tropical dry forest and weave alongside the seaside cliffs. Each trail has been custom built, and aims to offer a diverse set of trails accessible to most beginners and enjoyable for everyone including experts. There are sections with climbs, free flow portions along the hilltop, thrilling downhills, and more being built in the coming months.

Riders set out onto the trails in any weather all year round, departing morning, noon, and night. This is another key part of the active lifestyle in town. Whether rain or shine, windy or still, all of the land activities power on, embracing the elements each in their own unique way.


Ocean Activities

A slight foil to town’s land activities, the variability of town’s ocean activities mean that every day on the water is completely different, drawing the residents and visitors of Las Catalinas out in different ways depending on conditions.



Some days, the water is crystal clear and calm, the perfect conditions for snorkeling and scuba diving along the vibrant rock reefs off of Las Catalinas as well as the Catalinas Islands. These days are also ideal for an open water swim out in the sheltered bay, a journey out on a paddle board or a kayak to explore the coastline, or a quick journey out to the swimming platform for a breathing practice or to lounge in the sun.



On other days, when the swell and the wind are a bit sportier, the waves on Playa Danta form perfectly to boogie board or body surf. These days are also excellent to get out and surf at one of the region’s surf breaks, which range from gentle learning beaches to world-class breaks.

Its for this reason that Las Catalinas makes for an ideal surf basecamp, scuba basecamp, snorkeling site, and beach vacation spot all wrapped up into one. No matter what the day is like, there’s something to enjoy out in the ocean, which is another key factor to town’s active lifestyle.


A Place to Train for Triathlons and More

Chip Beard, as well as triathlon coach and former IronMan Champion Jessica Jacobs, both put Las Catalinas among their favorite training destinations. To Beard, the accessibility of the ocean right outside of your front door, especially so close world-class trails, made training far more convenient. To Jacobs, the combination of food options, friendly people, and town’s many activities (alongside training opportunities on land and in the water) made training in Las Catalinas “a pretty nice plus!”



The XPT’s Waterman Experience is an example of an event made better by town’s versatility. Waterman was designed to push athletes to their limits across a variety of different environments, and having pool facilities, ocean, mountain, beach, ocean and accommodation in walkable distance meant less transit time and a more integrated experience.

The physically active and healthy lifestyle of Las Catalinas is also supported by many of town’s shops, restaurants, and partners. Athletes can stay nourished by gourmet groceries from Copper & Stone, recover with sports recovery massages at Wake Day Spa, and enjoy fresh, healthy, and flavorful cuisine at restaurants like Ponciana and in-home dining from town’s chefs.

Being active and healthy, especially when training for a large event, includes good diet and recovery, and both are readily available in Las Catalinas.


Major Athletic Events in Town

The Las Catalinas Triathlon, the Pura Vida Ride Paddle Battle, and the Intrepid Challenge are three of town’s largest outdoor events. Each of these events has something different to offer for athletes, and thanks to strong communities of athletes year after year they’ve become a part of the tradition of Las Catalinas.




First is the Las Catalinas Triathlon, an off road triathlon that covers over 40km of town’s trails, beaches, waterfront, and streets. The TRI started in 2013 with 160 competitors, and in the ensuing years the event has grown to host over 400 racers who work solo or in teams to race across all that town and the surrounding environment have to offer.


Past winners include current Olympian Leo Chacón and XTerra World Champion Rom Akerson, and the event as a whole is inclusive for many different skill levels, offering a team relay option, the Aguas Abiertas two-distance swimming competition, and the kids’ race through the streets of town. It’s a lively time to be in town, and an experience for the whole family. Athletes train and race, families offer support and cheer on race day, and then everyone gets to celebrate together at the end of the weekend.



The Pura Vida Ride Paddle Battle is town’s oldest running athletic event, starting in the earliest years of town back in 2011. Taking place in the bay just off of Playa Danta, the Paddle Battle is a collection of small-to-long distance paddle boarding races that cover distances of up to 10km.



When the event first started, it was a small group of competitors from around the country who gathered in an informal setting. Since then, the Paddle Battle has grown to cover elite, amateur, kids, and 4-person board Dragon SUP divisions, and hosts the country’s best paddlers as they compete in the final race of the Costa Rican SUP circuit to qualify for the Costa Rican national team in the Central American Games.



The Intrepid Challenge is an obstacle course race that covers the ocean, beaches, and trails around town. Founded in 2015, Intrepid Challenge hosted its first beach edition in Las Catalinas in 2018, where it has continued to evolve each year.








PC: Carlos Brenes

The most recent edition of the Intrepid in early 2019 featured 15 obstacles and a 5k+ loop that was run once or twice, whereas this November’s race will feature 16+ obstacles, an 11k+ run, a 16k+ mountain bike ride, a 1k+ kayak, and a 1k+ open water swim. Estimates are a result of the relative secrecy of the event’s exact challenges, which are closely guarded until race day.


Throughout the year there are also a number of other friendly competitions in town. On the trails, the Las Catalinas Reto just began, a time trial event that pits riders in a race for the best time on different sections of a set mountain biking circuit. Out on the water, events like the Pitahayas Challenge Open Water Swim have hosted swimmers on a races of up to 3200m.

Each of these events offers something different to athletes from different specialties, but there’s one thing that unites them. They would not be the same (and in some cases, would not even be possible) anywhere else other than Las Catalinas. During these weekends, town and the natural world around it are full of friendly faces and world-class athletes. It’s an elevated way to experience what exists here already, a town full of people who love the outdoors.


Join Us in Town This November

The Paddle Battle and Intrepid Challenge are coming to town on Saturday, November 16th and Sunday, November 17th, and both the Santarena Hotel and the Las Catalinas collection are offering special lodging packages to spend the weekend in Las Catalinas.

It’s also just about time to start preparing for next year’s edition Las Catalinas TRI, which will be hosted on February 8th, 2020. Registration usually opens a few months in advance, and the event does sell out, so you’ll want to keep an eye out for more information.

Hope to see you in town in November for Intrepid and the Paddle Battle, and then again in February for the TRI.

Stay in Town

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