Here is a sampling of top places in the Caribbean to cycle and embrace some bike tours.
There’s nothing like a tour ashore on two wheels rather than four. Bicycling, whether it be to get errands or shopping done, or simply pedal for exercise, or explore on a guided tour, is a great sea-to-land compliment for cruisers. Businesses exist on most islands that rent bikes. These could be simple cruising bicycles or light-weight racers or sturdy mountain bikes. Many of these same companies offer everything from bicycle repair if you have your own to set guided tours that make a great way to sightsee.
1. Jamaica. Synonymous with some of the best coffee beans in the world, Blue Mountain’s scenic lush tropical hillsides are a perfect place to bike. Best of all, and especially because this mount is the highest in the English-speaking Caribbean, Blue Mountain Bicycle Tours based in Ocho Rios offers a 10-mile ride tour that is all downhill. See the world-famous coffee plantations along the way and end with a dip in the Fountain of Youth waterfalls. The 6-hour tour includes brunch, lunch and plenty of time to smell the coffee along the way. www.bmtoursja.com
2. The Dominican Republic. It’s known as the country’s kite-boarding capital. However, Cabarete, a resort town on the island’s northern coast, boasts great mountain biking. Fifteen minutes out of town is the 30 square mile El Choco National Park where there are miles of dirt roads that make natural cycle trails. A fair level of fitness is essential in this locale due to the oftentimes rugged terrain and frequent changes in elevation. The rewards are the many sights to see along the way such as waterfalls, rivers, caves, beaches, tropical forests and remote mountain villages. There are bike rental shops in Cabarete. Guides too, available for day-long, overnight, or even several day bike trips both in and beyond the park. www.godominicanrepublic.com/mountain-biking
3. St. Maarten/St. Martin. Pedal into the past or explore two nations on one guided ride. Two of the most popular bike tours offered by TriSport, with locations in Simpson Bay, St. Maarten and Marigot, St. Martin are the 2.5-hour Historical Bike and Beach Tour of Phillipsburg with a stop at the beach and a 3- to 4-hour, 10-mile Cross the Border Bike Tour that travels between Phillipsburg and Marigot. The company rents a variety of bikes, from sturdy touring to mountain and electric bikes for a day, week or month. Rentals come with a helmet, water bottle, lock, pump and repair kit. There’s also a sizable cycle racing scene for those that like the fast lane. www.trisportsxm.com
4. St Lucia. Off-road or jungle biking at its best is available via some of the custom trails built and maintained by Bike St. Lucia on the Anse Mamin Plantation. Located near Soufriere, there is everything from novice trails on fairly level terrain to the advanced super steep Tinker’s Trail route where there’s a bell at the top to ring out your accomplishment. This challenging ride was designed with the help of Tinker Juarez, a world champion and member of the Volvo-Cannondale racing team. Along the way, the trails pass through lush jungle and abundant birdlife and centuries-old ruins. You can bring your own mountain bike or rent the company’s Cannondale F800’s ideal for this type of terrain. bikestlucia.com
5. Grenada. Explore the Spice Isle with a guide or on your own. Adventure Grenada, a tour company located in St. George’s that also offers river tubing tours, rents mountain bikes (plus helmets and safety locks) for either type of adventure. Independent bikers can get a complimentary detailed tour route leaflet that gives directions to several scenic on-road and off-road routes. A great place to ride is up north in the 450-acre Levera National Park. There’s a path-sized wooden bridge between the inland Levera Pond and Bathway Beach that’s especially fun to ride. www.adventuregrenada.com
6. Curacao. There are three great bike tours in which to choose from WannaBike Curacao, located near Willemstad. The Koraal Tabok and Sint Joris trek is a 3.5-hour ride to cool caves near a natural lake on the east side of the island. Longer, the 5-hour cycle to Boca St Michiel, a quaint fishermen’s village, and the nature preserve at Mal Pais, both to the northwest of Willemstad. The most popular is the 3.5-hour trip to the Caracasbay Peninsula and the Jan Thiel Lagoon, where most of this area is an amazing nature reserve complete with pink flamingos. All tours are guided. Bikes are specialized Chisel 29 MTBs. wannabike.com
7. Belize. Find basic-style bikes to rent close to shore in the native Garifuna village of Hopkins on the country’s Caribbean coast. There are several small shops offering both rentals and repairs, including Mark’s Bike Rental housed in a quaint wooden shack. Rentals are by the day, every day except Sundays. The two best places to explore are the Northside of town and the southern part known as False Sittee near the Sittee River. Both areas of town are dotted with beachside eateries serving traditional Garifuna cuisine such as Sere (coconut milk and fish-based soup), Darasa (a tamale-like dish made of spiced green bananas) and cassava bread. There’s good fishing on the Sittee River. www.travelbelize.org/do-and-see/southeast-coast/hopkins