Putting snowboarding in Chile and mountain biking in Costa Rica togetherSantiago, Valle Nevado, Concón, Chile, Liberia, Playa Flamingo, Las Catalinas, Costa Rica, snowboarding, and mountain biking
This crazy idea started out when I noticed that Valle Nevado joined the Ikon Pass for the 2018-2019 season. Of all the international additions, this seemed like the most reasonable, but to make it worth it to one of my potential travel companions, I needed to string on some warm weather activities too.
If you are like me, you book these sorts of things 4-6 months in advance; at that range out, you have no idea how good the snow will be so try to maximize between a good historical average:
- Early August is between school holidays: https://www.officeholidays.com/countries/chile/2019
- There are usually a few good storms in the mid-to-late season of August (once the base has built up): https://www.onthesnow.com/chile/valle-nevado/historical-snowfall.html?y=0&q=top
- During an El Nino year your chances are better for the Andes to be wetter and Central America to be dryer.
- Most of the mid-to-late season Brazilian tourists to contend with do not leave the groomers.
We settled on August 1 as our transit day, August 2 to 7 to be in Chile, and Aug 8 to 13 to be in Costa Rica.
I can speak enough Spanish to negotiate transactions and make a little small talk. At all of our stops you could have got by with just knowing English, but would have had a very rough and boring time! Make an effort and you will be rewarded with recommendations (wines, views, snow lines, dance parties, geo politics) from the locals.
I booked with Delta on my way into South America because I had some miles with them to burn. DEN->ATL->SCL. Delta did not get my checked bag containing my snowboard and boots on to the flight departing from Atlanta, so they were nice enough to deliver it up to Valle Nevado the next night. Had to rent boots and a board for $35 on the first day.
Copa Airlines is the only airline flying from SCL to LIR at anything close to reasonable from a money/time perspective.
Finally, I booked LIR->IAH->DEN with United.
My traveling companions booked all of the above on one ticket through United, although they went through IAH on the way South.
All told you end up ~$1300 for all the airfare. Not too bad.
I was able to reserve a solid crossover SUV with Alamo at the Santiago airport. Shell and Total gas stations work best with foreign credit cards. That made it much easier to transport all our gear, pick up all our groceries, drive up into the mountains, and not deal with another group’s timeline. During a snowstorm the road up to Valle Nevado would be terrifying to drive, but fortunately? it was warm bluebird days the whole time we were there.
Everything at Valle Nevado is expensive, since there is only the resort and their lodging and dining. Found a studio apartment in the Licancabur building on Airbnb; significantly less than staying in any of the official hotels (not including the savings on having a kitchen). Licancabur is not part of the main hotel system, it is on the far South end of the plateau, and you will get quizzical looks sometimes when telling waitstaff that no they won’t be able to bill your room.
The forecast called for what I would consider spring conditions the whole time. If you are up to the task of doing a bit of navigating between sharks of igneous rock, the off trail areas are pretty glorious since no one seems to even go for a thirty second walk.
Blowing some money at Restaurant Sur and Monte Bianco Ristorante was definitely worth it.
Small bills for faster toll ways from Santiago to Valparaíso come in handy.
Cheap off-season resort town digs at the Costa Horizonte 2. Very Miami style. Many new buildings going up. Many stray dogs.
Good seafood dinner at La Picá de Martín. YAASSSS paella. Best wine I have had in a long time we picked up at Minimarket Gabycam walking back.
Took the back roads back toward the capital which made for some interesting driving. Dropped off the car with Alamo since where we stayed in downtown Santiago had no parking and no real need for a car. The airport has officially licensed airport taxis and then a bunch of other guys; got into a shady situation and ended up going with one of the official.
Walked from our place to the city park and up the West side to the top, which has a Catholic shrine and old casino. It’s all free and great views.
Barrio Bellavista on the South end of the park has some fun looking clubs and cool street art. Officially Uber is not allowed in Chile? but they still operate under the radar; don’t ask/don’t tell/don’t get caught kind of thing.
Highly recommend Etniko for dinner and then be sure to hang out in the gastro-mall for a drink!
Playa Flamingo and Liberia
Good experience (airport pick up, paperwork, returns) with my reservation with Budget. Bit out of the way, but easiest experience grabbing our groceries at Mega Super. Solid Airbnb in the Sunset Heights complex within walking distance to all the glorious beach front.
We went out for a ride early in the morning to get ahead of the 95% humidity and 85F degree heat; still brutal on the return. Hard tail bike rental with Pura Vida Ride to ride https://www.mtbproject.com/trail/7013441/las-catalinas-main-loop went well. Any amount of sun halfway through the ride was just killer.
Another day we headed East into the interior to check out the riding at Hacienda Guachipelin. I want to say entry was a few hundred Colones per person. Nice full-suspension rentals were $45/person for a few hours. Good steady climb up and fast descent down the North section of https://www.mtbproject.com/trail/7022527/hacienda-guachipelin, while the South section is rough rolling; we cut out a chunk of the South section. Sweet waterfall at the park boundary at the North end of the ride … bring your trunks! Authentic Costa Rican lunch at Restaurante Los Comales and riding out an afternoon rainstorm at Cafeto del Monte were the best decisions.
Highly recommend renting sea kayaks from Costa Rica Sailing Center and https://www.pacificcoastdivecenter.com/snorkel-tour/.
Good eats: Amigos Tacos y Beer, Restaurante Coco Loco, El Garden
This was absolutely the chill ending to this trip that I needed.