It's All Bueno

Mountain Biking and Hiking

Endo: Singletrack meets sea near Cabo Rojo     Photo: Rob Howard

MOUNTAIN BIKING gathered steam in Puerto Rico in the mid-eighties and has developed into a full-fledged local passion under the auspices of La Comisión Mountain Bike de Puerto Rico (www.cmtbpr.com). The group organizes a few dozen races between March and October, mostly on western trails. Preferring to pedal at less than race pace, I hired Hilda Morales, of AdvenTours (787-530-8311, aventura@coqui.net), to organize my ride. She in turn hired local field biologist Emilio Font-Nicole to guide me by mountain bike, foot, and kayak through the Combate region, which includes 1,836-acre Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge.
We started out near the 1,249-acre salt flats of Cabo Rojo, biking past the crystallized edges of the flats and into the refuge, whose guests include thousands of migrant warblers that stop here on the way from Alaska to South America between September and December. Piping plovers, yellow-shouldered blackbirds, and brown pelicans—all endangered—also use this as a stop. We rode about eight miles along flat trails blazed by the U.S. Civilian Conservation Corps in the thirties and came upon the remnants of a train track laid more than a century ago by the American Railroad Company. Conservationists are lobbying legislators to incorporate the track into a proposed 100-mile mountain-bike trail network.

Leaving the refuge, we rode up the steep rocky paths surrounding the Cabo Rojo Lighthouse, which sits on dramatic limestone cliffs carved by pounding waves. From the lighthouse, we rode down to the horseshoe-shaped shore at Bah'a Sucia ("Dirty Bay")—which is anything but—and took a cleansing dip.
That evening, I drove 20 miles east of Cabo Rojo to Gu‡nica and the Copamarina Beach Resort (doubles start at $165; 800-468-4553, www.copamarina.com), a plush 106-room hotel, with two miles of sandy beach connected to the public Cana Gorda Beach. The resort is adjacent to the 11,000-acre Gu‡nica State Forest, which contains 25 miles of hiking trails.
The Wheel Shop (787-255-0095), in Cabo Rojo, rents mountain bikes for $20 a day. AdvenTours' Hilda Morales can arrange guided biking, hiking, kayaking, and bird-watching trips. Half-day bike tours are $78 per person; half-day kayaking tours are $63 per person; and a full-day combination runs $107.

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