As it turned out, Road 18 in Tulum didn’t exactly go to the beach. Not directly, anyway. If you’ve been to Tulum lately, you can’t help but notice the massive amount of construction going on. Everywhere beautiful houses, condos, and new hotels are underway, but also roads – well, kind of. The roads are a labyrinth being cut through the jungle, with indefinite destinations. Our hope was that one of these roads would lead to the pristine white sand beaches framing the azure and aqua waters of Caribbean Sea. After our reconnaissance run that morning we were certain Road 18 would be a direct short cut to the beach, sparing us the 40-minute bike route most tourists take.
So, we picked up the girls (our daughter, Courtney, and her friend Lisa), packed up towels and water bottles, and turned the coaster-brake cruisers toward the Caribbean Sea for an afternoon of sun. After a decent start, the road took an early and devious turn for the worse. It became a single track of rocks and dirt, with a few thorny shrubs thrown in for good measure. Not to be deterred, we pressed on, pedaling furiously, hoping for smooth terrain.
The road came to an abrupt end at a barbed wire fence, so naturally, we lifted the bikes over the wire and continued the bumpy journey. Walking the bikes through a field of thick weeds, suddenly two buildings appeared in the distance, about a quarter-mile away. Surely, there must be a road leading to and from those structures. As we neared the place with laundry hanging on the line, there appeared to be no one around, save for a litter of adorable and cuddly puppies. That’s when fear struck – what if this land belongs to a drug lord?
Finally, we discovered a rocky dirt trail leading away from the buildings and towards … a road. A road! Relief! Then suddenly my husband’s bike lurched right over a grass strip and onto another road, headed in a completely different direction. “This will go to the beach,” he said. Getting a little ahead of us, because Courtney and I had some twig removal work, he and Lisa faded out of sight. Once we were up and running, which took a minute or two, we passed a truckload of smiling young men all perched in the back of a pick-up. They seemed friendly enough, waving and smiling and we waved right back. Not two minutes later, we arrived at a gate, chained with an impressively large padlock and a man on the other side forbidding our entry.
What in the world? Where had my husband and Lisa gone? There had been no other turns. Did those friendly guys in the truck take them? And what to do now? Going back over that terrain was not an option and my limited Spanish was simply not convincing the man to open that gate.
Luckily, a few moments later, after much head-scratching, my husband and Lisa appeared on the other side of the gate. With a better Spanish vocabulary, he convinced Javier to let us through for 500 pesos, and that fare included the next gate, which led directly to the beach.
Needless to say, we took the paved bike route home that evening!
Biking really is a great way to get around Tulum, and you can easily ride from town to the beach via the beautiful paved bike route that ends at the beach road. From there you are on the narrow sides of the road, but not to worry, there are plenty of bikers and cars seem to be quite cautious in this area. If you enjoy visiting the bars, it’s a great way to do it, and you can park and lock the bikes nearby. Some of the hotels and bars on the beachside require you to park the bikes in a neighboring lot, but usually, it is just a short walk to your destination.
We found the trip from our rental house in town to the beach via this route took about 40 minutes, depending on exactly where along the beach road you plan to go. Our rental house offered enough bikes for each of us, included in the rate, and they were great about changing out bikes for a better fit, or for rickety tires.
When in town, bikes are a great way to make trips to the grocery store or to a breakfast destination. And, it is a lot of fun to cruise around both east and west of the highway to see all of the new development taking place in Tulum. In my next Tulum post, we will visit the Cenotes, subterranean water chambers that were sacred to the ancient Mayans.
Rental Costs: Approximately US$30/day or US$200 per week