Travel Cancun: Ditch The Beach Party, Go Mountain Biking

Ditch the tanning oil and margarita mix for some one-of-a-kind mountain biking complete with underground swimming holes, spider monkeys, and secret ruins.

Mountain biking in the Yucatan

An hour drive south of the Cancun strip mountain bikes emerge from the jungle. The area is hot and flat. Most visitors come to the region to party, but within the jungle is one-of-a-kind single track.

Mountain biking in the Yucatan has grown steadily over the past decade. The riding is scrappy and sparse, but unique. The 16 miles of singletrack through jungle and past beaches is a welcome reprieve from margaritas and snorkel tours.

In Mexico for a Columbia Sportswear testing event, I spent a day with Doug Depies, an expat guide and passionate member of the local MTB scene. He took me on trails unlike any I’ve seen in the United States.

Mountain biking Punta Venado Bike Park

Mountain Biking The Yucatan

On the trail, my sweaty hands gripped the bike, struggling to hold on through the oppressive heat. The dense green foliage to either side of the single track provided cover.

The trail was flat, but man-made rollers and berms kept the ride interesting. We pedaled rapidly, then hit the brakes to observe spider monkeys high in the canopy. In awe, we watched the nimble creatures dance from branch to branch.

A howler monkey at Punta Venado
Some normal trail wildlife

A sharp thud nearby cut the spectacle short. An iguana fell from a tree, and fell hard. It scampered quickly into the distance. The longer we waited, the more mosquitos gathered. We hastily pedaled on.

We ripped past steep banked berms, pump track rollers, and jumps. The trails were well manicured and fast.

Then, a break in the trees. The rocky, dirt trail gave way to sand and the ocean. Turquoise green waters, a palm tree, and the familiar sea breeze provided a welcome change.

Punta Venado Bike Park
Trail map for Punta Venado Bike Park

Caves, Jungles, And Ruins: MTB Development

Mountain biking is an unexpected pastime in the Yucatan. So Depies finds the greatest reward in sharing the trails with new riders.

Visiting cenotes, riding through the jungle, and seeing the fauna leaves riders with a different opinion and vision of the area.

Since Cancun was founded less than 50 years ago, development has progressed, often without foresight into the preservation of local parks or nature preserves, according to Depies.

Mountain biking on the Yucatan beach
The clearing, a welcome sight

Occasionally, new construction projects destroy mountain bike trails. But Depies is optimistic about mountain bike development.

“The best thing is the places we get to explore,” he said. Because much of the peninsula is unpopulated, untouched land remains full of mountain biking opportunity.

Mountain biking to a cenote
“When we were building the bike park, we would find small cenotes all over. Most likely those cenotes have never been seen by any living people in this generation,” said Depies

“As we create relationships with different communities they start to show us their secrets, ruins or cenotes that no traveler has ever seen and probably won’t see,” he said. “And we get to ride our bikes there!”

Mountain Biking Mexico: For Your Trip

Punta Venado Bike Park operates Tuesday to Sunday from 7:00 am to 4:00 pm. It costs $20 for entrance and an additional $35 or $50 for bike rental. They offer the Giant Revel (hard tail, $35) and Giant Stance (full suspension, $50) in addition to guided tours.

Punta Venado Bike park sits just south of Playa Del Carmen, Mexico along highway 307. End your ride on the beach, or as we did, eating phenomenal tacos at El Fogon in Playa Del Carmen.

My main piece of advice if you decide to check out the trails, is to watch out for falling iguanas!

Mountain biking Yucatan peninsula mexico
Post-ride recovery meal
Nate Mitka

Midwest born, Nate Mitka is based in the GearJunkie Denver office. He is an advocate of all outdoor activities and has developed some habits, like running without headphones, eating raw vegetables, and fixing the chain on his ratty old bike.