As we cycled closer to the more touristy area of the Yucatan Peninsula (the east coast), the roads we had to bike on became bigger and busier. We’d entered the section of our trip where we had to take the highways! Whereas from Mérida to Izamal and Izamal to Chichen Itza, we could travel on quiet state roads. If you Google map it, you’ll see that the state roads are white and the highways are yellow. Notice how from Chichen Itza to Tulum, all the roads are yellow? Yep, quieter state roads weren’t an option here.
Highway 180 – Chichen Itzá to Valldolid
After two nights at Hotel Mayaland, our head colds were better but still lingering. Good thing this was a short, easy ride!
All we had to do was get on the highway, bike on the paved shoulder, and eventually we’d end up in Valladolid.
There are only three tiny towns between Chichen Itza and Valladolid…
See those metal bumps on the road in the photo above? Those are speed bumps. They don’t seem that treacherous in the photo, but they’re bigger than they look and made of slippery medal that can cause a cyclist to wipe out! But if you slow down, you can navigate your tires between the bumps and avoid them altogether.
A few kilometres outside of Valladolid, a separated bike path begins. Yippee! It was nice to get some distance between us and the cars, not just for safety, but so we could get away from the gas fumes!
The path is a bit bumpy and unkept in places, like it was put in a decade ago and then forgotten about, but it works.
And in just 2 hours, we arrived at our hotel in Valladolid.
More on Valladolid in this post: Cities & Sights on our Cycle Route from Mérida to Tulum.
Our first day of highway riding wasn’t hard, but our overall impression was “meh”. There’s not much to see except highway and a couple small towns with nothing in them except a weird tourist strip mall. Traffic wasn’t crazy, but there was enough to make our throats sore from breathing in exhaust. And even though it was fairly flat riding, we had a brutal inland headwind going against us. Since we were still so sick, we wondered if this kind of cycling was worth it…
Highway 108 > Chemax-Coba State Road – Valladolid to Coba
Because we have folding bikes, taking a bus was an option for us. No need to worry if the bus has enough luggage room to take bicycles! And good thing too, because when we looked into it, we discovered that no 1st class buses were going to Coba, only 2nd class buses on that route. This means that the buses are older, there’s less luggage space, and there’s no bathroom. But at least the bus ride is only an hour and a half.
What should we do?
We reasoned if it was going to be boring highway cycling like the day before, we might as well give our virus-ridden bodies a rest and take the bus. This turned out to be a good decision, because except for the tiny town of Chemax, the highway looked just like yesterday’s highway. If we had been on our bikes, we could have checked out Chemax, but this is literally the only town between Valladolid and Coba! So possibly not worth the ride. I took a couple photos from the bus.
After Chemax, the road became narrower, more like the state roads we were cycling on between Merida and Izamal and Chichen Itza, except the road to Coba had tons of HUGE buses on it! We saw buses squeeze past a couple of those Mexican cargo trikes and were super scared for the riders! We were now extra glad we didn’t bike to Coba.
More on Coba in the post 6 Maya Archeological Sites from Mérida to Tulum.
Highway 109 – Coba to Tulum
Coba is a teeny tiny town, even smaller than Chemax. There is nothing there except a few small hotels, some restaurants, and the ruins. There’s not even a bus station. The bus just dropped us off at the side of the road. If we wanted to catch a bus to Tulum, I wasn’t sure how to do that except stand in front of the entrance to the Coba ruins and wait for one to show up. However, we were finally feeling less sick, so after seeing the ruins, we hopped on our Bromptons and hit the highway again!
This was a highway route, nothing special. But we did stop off for some delicious food in the tiny town of Manuel Antonio Hay.
Yes, we filled up on fruit and soup – gotta kick that cold virus!
Fed and hydrated, we continued our highway ride…
And came across some more weird Mexican bicycle infrastructure.
At first, this looked decent. Sure, it was just a bumpity underused sidewalk with paint and a sign denoting it as a bike path, but it was better than nothing! Or was it…?
So instead of making the cars drive up and over the bike path, the path dips down, and the massive problem with this is that they made the slope to road height incredibly steep! So every time the road crossed the path, we had to slow down to a crawl so we didn’t hit this steep slope at speed and launch ourselves into the air. The Bromptons aren’t BMX bikes! I know in the photo it doesn’t look that steep, but trust me, it was.
Then it was just more highway to Tulum.
If we’d been feeling better, we’d have stopped at a cenotes before Tulum, but swimming in a cold, dark cenote is not appealing when you have a cold.
Overall Thoughts on Cycling Mexico’s Highways
The closer you get to the touristy areas, the busier the highways become, and though there are nice wide shoulders to bike on, the traffic and fumes from the buses don’t make for the most pleasant ride. Cycling on highways in the Yucatan Peninsula is totally doable and we felt relatively safe on the wide shoulder, but the ride was more of an accomplishment than an enjoyable tour.