Wondering how to get from Cancun to Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and beyond? Read on!
You collect your personal items, you deplane, you sprint to the restroom, you pick up your checked bag, you finally make it through customs, you walk out those automatic doors and the warm tropical air embraces you like a hug welcoming you to paradise….
And then what?
Coordinating an airport transfer is an important but oft-overlooked aspect of travel. And when you’re a solo traveler, it’s especially important as it can be a matter of safety.
Knowing where you’re going and how you’re going to get there will help you avoid anyone who is looking to take advantage of you after an exhausting travel day.
With the biggest international airport in the region, Cancun is the most common gateway for visitors to the Riviera Maya.
There are many different transportation options available to you from the Cancun airport, determining which option is best for you can be overwhelming.
With that in mind, I wanted to put together this guide to getting from Cancun to Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and beyond.
Below I’ve highlighted the three main transportation methods for getting in and out of the Cancun airport along with insights as to the pros and cons of each.
I’ve also included links so you can make arrangements (or do further research).
Let’s get your airport transfer sorted so you can enjoy all the great things to do in Playa del Carmen!
How far is Playa del Carmen from Cancun?
The distance from Cancun to Playa del Carmen is only 42 miles (68 km). The journey takes about 45 minutes by car or an hour by bus, depending on traffic.
How far is Tulum from the Cancun airport?
Tulum is 73 miles (118 km) from the Cancun airport. The drive is about an hour and a half by car and will take longer using public transportation due to stops.
Sometimes there are slowdowns due to police checkpoints outside Playa del Carmen and Tulum. If you’re heading back to Cancun to catch a flight allow yourself extra time just in case this happens.
How to Get From Cancun to Playa del Carmen or Tulum By Bus
The ADO bus is one of the cheapest and often the most convenient ways to get from Cancun to Playa del Carmen.
ADO is a reputable bus company that serves southern Mexico and the Yucatan peninsula. They offer buses in a variety of different levels of service, with the most basic offering air conditioning and onboard bathrooms and the most deluxe providing complimentary snacks, luxurious lounge chairs, and a personal entertainment station.
There is no baggage limit on ADO, and there is no charge for baggage. You will have to stow your larger bags under the bus, but you can carry your personal items on board.
Be sure to keep your personal items close at all times, as theft does occasionally occur, especially on this tourist-heavy route.
Related Reading: The Ultimate Guide to Using the ADO Bus in Mexico
If you arrive to Cancun by air and want to head straight to Playa del Carmen you can catch the ADO bus directly from the airport.
When you enter the arrivals area of the airport terminal you should see an ADO bus ticket booth in amongst the options for rental cars and shuttles.
At the booth, you can purchase a bus ticket in cash for about 200 pesos. The ADO employees will then direct you to where to wait for the bus.
It’s also possible to purchase ADO tickets online in advance. The website will not accept foreign credit cards but you can pay through your PayPal account. Or, book through Busbud, which has an English website!
There is also an ADO bus terminal in Cancun. If you’re not heading directly from the airport to Playa del Carmen, you will catch a bus from this station.
You can check the ADO bus schedule on their website. If you’re looking for tickets from the airport, type in Cancun and then from the drop-down arrow, select “Aeropuerto Cancun T2” as that is the main departure location from the airport. For your destination choose Playa del Carmen.
I’ve plotted the locations of the Cancun ADO station as well as the Cancun airport location on the map below. Note: the airport marker denotes the ticket booth location, not the bus stop itself.
ADO Bus From Cancun to Playa del Carmen
Estimated cost: $210 MXN ($11 USD)
The journey from Cancun to Playa del Carmen takes 60 to 75 minutes by bus. Usually, there is a quick stop outside Puerto Morelos, which is about halfway between the two cities. Click here to book your ticket to Playa del Carmen on Busbud.
There are two ADO bus stations in Playa del Carmen:
- The Tourist Terminal (ADO Terminal Turistica) which is located in the heart of the tourist zone, on 5th Avenue. This is where most of the airport buses end up.
- The Alternate Terminal (ADO Terminal Alterna) which is located in downtown Playa del Carmen, a few blocks from the tourist zone
Most airport buses are bound for the Terminal Touristica, but don’t worry about it if you are given a ticket to the Terminal Alterna.
The two stations aren’t very far apart (less than 10 blocks) and it will be easy to find ground transportation to your accommodation from either one. Your bus ticket will state which terminal your bus is bound for.
For your reference, I’ve plotted both Playa del Carmen ADO terminals on this map:
ADO Bus from Cancun to Tulum
Estimated cost: $276 MXN ($14.50 USD)
To get from Cancun to Tulum on the bus there are two options: take a direct bus, or take a bus to Playa del Carmen and make a transfer.
According to my research, there are direct buses from the Cancun airport to Tulum departing 5 times daily.
Meanwhile, there are about 40 daily departures from the airport to Playa del Carmen. This number may fluctuate depending on the season, but you can check the schedules on the Busbud website.
If you time your arrival right you can grab the direct bus to Tulum and your work is done.
If your arrival time isn’t compatible with the Tulum bus schedule, don’t panic. Just catch a bus to Playa del Carmen and buy a ticket to Tulum upon arrival.
There are 27 daily departures from the ADO Terminal Alterna in Playa del Carmen, and 13 departures from the Terminal Turistica. As you can see, if you’re forced to go this way, you shouldn’t have to wait long for a connecting bus.
Most airport buses are bound for Playa’s Terminal Turistica, but if you’re making a transfer, the Terminal Alterna offers many more departures. Fortunately, it’s only about 10 blocks from the Terminal Turistica.
If you don’t have too much luggage it’s a 10 to 15-minute walk. If you’d rather grab a lift in a taxi it will probably cost about 40 pesos to get over there.
If you’re curious about how to make buses a bigger part of your travel transportation plans, check out this article on bus systems in Mexico.
Taxi From Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen or Tulum
Estimated cost: $600 – $2000 MXN ($30 – $100 USD)
Taking a taxi is another simple way to get from Cancun to Playa del Carmen and beyond. It isn’t the most economical option but is one of the fastest ways to get between the two cities since you don’t have to worry about making stops.
Any time you take a taxi, it’s best to speak to the driver and agree on a set price in advance.
A taxi from Cancun to Playa del Carmen from the airport will likely cost between 600 and 1000 pesos ($30 – $50 USD) depending on the driver.
To get to Tulum from Cancun, expect to double that price.
Taxis are a good option if you’re in a hurry, haven’t arranged an airport shuttle in advance, or want private transportation. However, they do have some downsides:
- Taxis aren’t usually the most modern/comfortable vehicles. They may not have air conditioning or be particularly clean.
- If you are traveling with a group and have lots of baggage a taxi may be a tight squeeze. Many of them are compact cars.
- Taxi drivers aren’t necessarily the most professional drivers. They often drive very fast, and customer service isn’t always important to them. Some of them are awesome, but it’s totally a matter of chance.
I wouldn’t typically recommend taking a taxi when it comes to airport transportation, but I wanted to include here just in case you are considering it.
I do recommend taxis for local transportation but when it comes to traveling long distances there are more comfortable and more affordable options.
That said, it’s good to know that taxis are there for you if you need one!
Cancun Airport Shuttles
Estimated cost: $500 – $1500 MXN ($25 – $75 USD)
One of the most comfortable ways to get between Cancun and anywhere else in the Riviera Maya is with an airport shuttle.
This is one of the more expensive transportation options, but it has some perks that might make it worth the higher price tag.
Reasons to choose an airport shuttle over other transportation methods:
- They are typically modern vehicles with air conditioning and comfortable seats
- Drivers are usually professional, safety-conscious, and willing to help you with your luggage
- The vehicles are typically large vans or SUVs, making shuttles a good option for individuals or groups with a lot of bags
- Shuttles will deliver you right to your resort or Airbnb
- Shuttles are easy to reserve ahead of time, and reviews are available online, enabling you to feel confident in your choice
The prices for shuttles vary depending on whether you opt for a private shuttle or a shared shuttle.
Private airport transfer shuttles charge by the vehicle and will transport you and your party alone, directly to your destination.
Shared shuttles charge per person and can usually hold up to 15 passengers. Keep in mind, if you opt for a shared shuttle they will make many stops to drop passengers at their respective destinations.
If you’re short on patience you may wish to opt for a different method of transportation.
Shuttles can be reserved online in advance or purchased upon arrival. Click here to check rates.
I recommend reserving in advance for a few reasons:
- Knowing that your transportation is arranged gives you peace of mind. You know exactly how you’ll be getting to your final destination, all you have to do is locate the driver.
- Reserving in advance is often cheaper than purchasing upon arrival
- You won’t be at risk of falling victim to transportation scams because you’ve done your research and you booked with a reputable company
Renting A Car in Cancun
Naturally, a rental car is another transportation option you may wish to consider. Having a car at your disposal offers you freedom from transportation schedules and makes it easier to explore harder-to-reach areas.
But, if you’re planning to post up in an all-inclusive, or wish to spend most of your time wandering the beaches of Playa del Carmen or Tulum, a rental car probably isn’t necessary.
Between buses, taxis, and colectivos (local shuttle vans), the entire Riviera Maya is very well connected.
Cars definitely offer a certain level of convenience but the whole region can definitely be explored without one.
My suggestion: If you’re not sure whether a rental car is necessary, get to your accommodation and settle in. Once you’ve had a chance to get your bearings you’ll know whether or not a car is essential for your trip. You may find that you only need a car for certain Playa del Carmen excursions. Once you work out a loose itinerary you can decide which days it will make sense to hire a rental car.
You can always rent one for the day if you want to explore an out-of-the-way destination!
If you’re planning to rent a car, compare rates on Discover Car Hire to find a great deal.
Be sure to check out these tips for driving in Mexico before you hit the road!
Mexico Travel Planning Resources
🌡️ Do I need travel insurance?
Yes! Healthcare in Mexico is affordable for minor ailments, but travel insurance will give you peace of mind if an emergency arises. Plus, you can add coverage for trip interruption, theft, etc. Get a quote from SafetyWing.
🏨 What’s the best way to find accommodation in Mexico?
I use a mix of Booking, Airbnb, and Hostelworld.
💸 How should I exchange money in Mexico?
Use local ATMS to withdraw cash. US travelers should open a Charles Schwab bank account because they’ll refund ATM fees at the end of the month.
Travelers from outside the US should open a Wise account to secure the best currency exchange rates.
📱 Where can I buy a local SIM card in Mexico?
Pick up a Telcel SIM card at any convenience store. Or, buy an Airalo eSIM online so you’re connected as soon as you land.
🗣️ Do I need to speak Spanish in Mexico?
No, but it definitely helps you feel more confident and connected.
✈️ What’s the best way to find affordable flights?
I use Skyscanner because it makes it easy to compare rates across different travel days.
🚖 How do I find a safe airport transfer?
I recommend GetTransfer for airport transfers anywhere in Mexico.
🚗 What’s the best way to find rental cars in Mexico?
I recommend Discover Cars because they aggregate prices across rental car companies, making it easy to find competitive rates.
🚐 How do I book bus tickets online in Mexico?
🤿 How do I find cool activities and tours in Mexico?
🇲🇽 How can I experience Mexico like a local?
Solo female travelers can hire a local female guide through Greether. Greeters will tailor tours based on your interests— it’s basically like experiencing a destination with a local bestie!
🧳 What’s the best luggage for Mexico?
Unless you’re staying at a resort, a travel pack is recommended. I’ve used this one from Osprey for the last 8+ years.
👯♀️ How do I connect with fellow travelers in Mexico?
Join my Female Travelers in Mexico Facebook group, a supportive community of fellow Mexico travel enthusiasts, where you can find answers to all your travel questions!