What’s the best way to get from Cancun to Cozumel? As an expat who lives here, I’m sharing the various Cancun to Cozumel transportation options.
Playa del Carmen, locally referred to as Playa, attracts visitors with its lively vibes and expansive palm-fringed beaches. In addition, the city’s strategic location makes it an ideal destination for exploring the best of Riviera Maya, from cenotes (natural sinkholes) to Mayan ruins and eco-adventure parks.
All the major places of interest in the Yucatan Peninsula are just a day trip away from Playa del Carmen. Playa is close to Cancun international airport, yet far enough to allow easy access to Isla Cozumel, Tulum, or Coba. That’s the reason why many ex-pats (myself included) and remote workers have made this city a home base.
In this post, I will explain how to get from Cancun to Playa del Carmen. I live in Playa del Carmen and have myself travelled from Cancun to Playa del Carmen many times using different modes of transport. So, let’s dive into the various Cancun to Playa del Carmen transportation options.
Table of Contents
- How to get from Cancun to Cozumel
- How to get from Cancun to Playa del Carmen
- 1. By Shared Shuttle
- 2. By Car Rental
- 3. By Bus
- 4. By Colectivo
- 5. By Taxi
- How to get from Downtown Cancun to Playa del Carmen
- Ferry to cozumel
Where is Cozumel?
Located off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, Cozumel is the biggest island in the Mexican Caribbean. Cozumel Island is just 12 miles (20km) off Playa del Carmen, where we currently live, and it’s just 1 hour by car from Cancun. Since moving to Mexico, we’ve hopping over to Cozumel as often as we can!
In contrast to commercialised coastal cities like Cancun and Tulum, Cozumel Island is wild and relatively unspoiled. Most of the island is covered by lush tropical forests, nature reserves and empty beaches. Yes, it is a popular cruise destination — but time your visit to avoid the cruise ship and you’ll have the island to yourself.
It may be the biggest island in the Yucatan Peninsula (far bigger than Isla Mujeres and Holbox island), but it still retains a laidback, island feel. There are resorts dotted all along the island’s west coast, so you won’t have to sacrifice creature comforts. Check out my list of things to do in Cozumel.
How to get from Cancun to Cozumel
Considering that Cozumel is an island, it’s actually really easy to get there. It’s just a 1-hour drive and then a quick ferry ride away from the Playa del Carmen. Taking the ferry is the most popular way, but you can also fly to Cozumel is your budget allows. Let’s drill in on the details of different ways to get from Cancun to Cozumel.
Cozumel has a small international airport. Flying is of course the most expensive way to get from Cancun to Cozumel. But if you’re short on time, this is the fastest and easiest.
Vuelatours run private charter flights from Cancun to Cozumel 24 hours a day every day. You’ll get to fly over the Caribbean Sea and drink in views of the wonderful turquoise sea from above. The 25-minute flight on a Cessna206 costs around US$550 (up to 5 passengers).
It’s a pretty good deal if you’re traveling in a group — considering the total cost of a journey by land for a group of 5 people is close to $400 and takes up to 3 hours.
Aeromexico also runs flights to Cozumel, but they only fly direct from Mexico City (i.e. flying from Cancun to Cozumel involves a transit in CDMX which doesn’t make sense). Return flights from Cancun currently cost around US$500.
The most popular way to get to Cozumel is by ferry from Playa del Carmen, a beach town just 1 hour away from Cancun. The ferry is a comfortable, affordable and convenient way of traveling to Cozumel — the boats are always air-conditioned and they leave regularly in a well-organised manner.
However the ferries to Cozumel only leave from Playa del Carmen, there are no direct ferry from Cancun to Cozumel. So you will first have to get to Playa del Carmen, in order to catch the ferry. I will explain in details how to get from Cancun to Playa del Carmen below.
By Private Transfer
If you want to be free of the stress of getting a cab, I recommend booking a private transfer from Cancun to Cozumel. This includes the transfer to the ferry terminal in Playa del Carmen AND the ferry to Cozumel. I always book with Cancun Airport Transportations, as they are reliable, responsive, and provide door-to-door service from Cancun Airport to Cozumel.
Private transfer from Cancun Airport to Cozumel not only saves you time but it’s convenient and keeps you away from haggling with the drivers. It usually costs around US$85 one-way or US$165 round-trip. This is ideal if you’re traveling as a family or with a group of friends as you can split the cost!
You’ll have a bilingual driver who speaks English (and actually drives safely!), waits for you for arrivals even if your flight is delayed, and drives you in an air-conditioned car straight to your hotel on Cozumel island.
How to get from Cancun to Playa del Carmen
If you’re not flying to Cozumel or booking a private transfer, you will need to first get to Playa del Carmen to catch the ferry. Thankfully the beach town is only an hour drive away (or 35 miles/ 55 km away).
There are 5 different ways to get from Cancun to Playa del Carmen. I commute regularly between Playa del Carmen and Cancun and have tried all kinds of transport modes. In this article, I’ll share the pros and cons of each of them.
Shared shuttle services to Playa del Carmen are a good transport option for solo travelers and budget travelers, who don’t want to spend a lot yet seek a comfortable and convenient service.
You can pre-book your ride from Cancun to Playa del Carmen in a shared shuttle vehicle online for 600 MXN (US$30) per person one-way. Whenever I travel alone, I always book a seat in a shared shuttle with Cancun Shuttles. The vehicles are sanitized, comfortable, air-conditioned, and always clean. You’re also greeted by a bilingual driver.
The only drawback of opting for a shared shuttle is that you’ll have to wait for the driver to pick up and drop off all the passengers (usually max 12). That means it can take up to 1 h 45 minutes or 2 hours to get from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen.
If you are traveling with another person (or more), booking the shuttle from Cancun airport to Playa doesn’t make sense. Even if there are just two of you, you’ll only be saving US$10 and that would not be worth the extra time. Book private transfer instead.
Pros – You get picked up by a bilingual driver, usually in a comfortable, air-conditioned van. The driver is always reliable and will pick you u on time. It’s fairly cheap.
Cons – The journey takes much longer than a private transfer and you will be sharing with 10+ other people.
2. By Car Rental
Renting a car is one of the best ways to get from Cancun to Playa del Carmen. It’s convenient, flexible, and relatively affordable; the average price ranges from 600-800 MXN (US$30-40) per day, including insurance and taxes.
I always use DiscoverCars.com to for car rentals worldwide. The search engine compares rental-prices from all the major companies and has consistently given me the cheaper rates and best services. Search for car rentals in Cancun here!
Approximate Driving Distance to Playa del Carmen
- Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen – 35 miles (55 km); 50 minutes
- Cancun Downtown to Playa del Carmen – 45 miles (70 km); 1 hour
- Tulum to Playa del Carmen – 40 miles (65 km); 1 hour
- Merida to Playa del Carmen – 180 miles (290 km); 3.5 to 4 hours
Pros and Cons of Renting a Car from Cancun to Playa del Carmen
Pros – Allows you to travel at your leisure, make as many stops on the way as you want, and even make small detours to nearby areas.
Cons – You don’t really need a car in Playa del Carmen, unless you want to explore the surrounding cenotes and Mayan archaeological sites. If your hotel does not have a parking space, you may have to find paid parking spaces in Playa that might cost 200-300 MXN/day (US$10-15).
Tips for Renting a Car from Cancun AirportPurchase a Personal Liability Insurance and a Car Insurance without fail. Inspect and take good photos and videos of the car's interior and exterior. Focus on any visible dents, scratches, stain marks, rips in seat fabric, etc. Keep a copy of all the rental agreements, booking information, and car papers. In Mexico, it's very common for car rental companies to find a way to get more money out of you when you return the car. The first time we rented a car here, we were told a safety device was missing from the car, which we didn't even remember having it in the first place (but sadly had no proof) and had to pay a fine of $50.
Is it Safe to Drive from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen?
Yes! Highway 307 is a 4-lane smooth road that is rather well maintained. It’s the main highway that connects all the beach towns along the Riviera Maya and beyond. We have a car and I drive along Highway 307 everyday, and never had any issue.
That said, there are quite a few police checkpoints and speed bumps along the way. The police usually check for any abnormal behavior and only stop drivers that look dodgy. We have been driving in Playa del Carmen for a year now and have only been stopped once and even then the police officer only said hi and let us get on our way.
Driving Tips in Mexico
- In Mexico, you drive on the right side of the road.
- Always keep your driving license, car rental papers, and proof of insurance handy.
- The main road hazards are reckless drivers; they tend to go very fast, changing lanes as and when they like without signaling. Be wary of these drivers and keep calm!
- There are plenty of speed bumps along the Federal Highway, especially when you get close to Playa del Carmen. When you see the signpost “TOPE”, slow down and prepare for the bumps.
- Avoid driving at night as you won’t be able to see the speed bumps and drivers go even faster than usual.
3. By Bus
Taking a bus is the cheapest option to get from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen. All major cities in Mexico are well-connected with an extensive bus network. These buses are clean, safe, comfortable, and air-conditioned.
ADO is Mexico’s largest bus company that has regular departures from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen throughout the day. I’ve traveled in ADO buses many times and can safely say the bus company is top notch. They always leave on time and boarding is pretty well organized.
Pre-book your bus tickets here before arriving at Cancun Airport to ensure availability or visit the ADO counter at the airport to get tickets for the next bus. Bus tickets from Cancun airport to Playa del Carmen cost around 225 MXN (US$11) each way.
The first ADO bus from Cancun Airport departs at 8:00 AM, and the last bus leaves at 11:40 PM. Several buses are scheduled in between, and the waiting time is not more than 1 hour. The bus drops you off at the Playa del Carmen’s ADO stop on 5th Avenue and also at Juarez Station near Walmart.
Approximate Cost and Time by Bus
- Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen – 225 MXN (US$12); 1 hour 10 minutes
- Cancun Downtown (Centro) to Playa del Carmen – 100 MXN (US$5); 1 hour 20 minutes
- Tulum to Playa del Carmen – 115 MXN (US$6); 1 hour 10 minutes
- Merida to Playa del Carmen – 600 MXN (US$30); 4 hours
4. By Colectivo
Colectivos are shared minibus/minivan-like vehicles that run on set routes in Mexico. They are a cheap transport, without any fixed schedules. For those on a shoestring budget, this would be the cheapest way to go. A colectivo ride from Cancun to Playa del Carmen costs only about 40-60 MXN (US$2-3) per person.
There’s no advance booking for colectivos. You simply get to the starting point of the colectivo, or flag down one as it passes by, ask for a seat, get through your journey, and pay the driver directly. The driver will stop many times along the way to pick up and drop off passengers.
There are 2 companies that operate colectivos from Cancun to Playa del Carmen – Playa Express and Colectivos Foraneos. These colectivos do not service Cancun Airport. To catch one, you either have to walk from your terminal to the Highway 307 roadside and flag one or take a bus from Cancun Airport to Downtown Cancun, where the colectivo stand is (right opposite the ADO bus station).
I personally wouldn’t recommend catching a colectivo. Firstly, it is not a comfortable ride, and secondly, there’s little to no luggage space. The colectivos also make many stops in between, lengthening the journey time. They are only good if you are on a day trip from Cancun to Playa del Carmen, have no luggage, and are looking for a means of cheap transport.
5. By Taxi
Taking the taxi is the worst option, and I’d suggest only considering taxis as your last resort. Taxis here don’t have meters and drivers will often offer an inflated price based on how you look.
As you near the airport exit, you’ll find many locals approaching you offering taxi services. Nod and say ‘no thank you’ politely. Many taxi drivers look decent but will trick you into taking a taxi regardless. Some will say that rental companies are closed or buses are not running due to the rain etc.
Even if you opt for a taxi to get to Playa del Carmen, agree on a fare before getting into the taxi. A fair cost for a taxi from Cancun Airport to Playa ranges from 1700-2000 MXN (US$85-100). I highly recommend booking a private transfer rather than going through the hassle of negotiating with the taxi drivers.
How to get from Downtown Cancun to Playa del Carmen
If you’re spending a few days in Cancun first (Remember to check out our list of things to do in Cancun), the bus is the best option to travel from downtown Cancun to Playa del Carmen. The ADO bus from Cancun to Playa del Carmen leaves from the bus station and runs multiple times per hour. Click for the location of the bus station on Google Maps. The bus will drop you at the ADO bus station at Fifth Avenue in Playa del Carmen. A ticket costs around 80 MXN (US$4).
Don’t miss my recommendations on where to stay in Cancun.
Ferry to cozumel
There are only ferries to Cozumel from Playa del Carmen. Two ferry companies run the route: Ultramar and Winjet. Currently, Ultramar runs on even-numbered dates, and Winjet on odd-numbered dates. Both companies have comfortable ferries that air-conditioned and punctual, and take 45 minutes each way.
You can book tickets online directly on their websites (links below).
Ferry ticket prices are as follow (per person):
*Car Ferry: There is also a car ferry to Cozumel, but it leaves from Punta Venado, outside Playa del Carmen. The ferry takes 1.5 hours each way and you need to be there at least 1 hour before departure. Tickets can only be reserved through Whatsapp. Check out the Ultramar Carga website for rates.
How to Get around Cozumel
The best way to get around Cozumel is by hiring a car. The island is relatively large and you won’t be able to explore without a car. Taxis are expensive — a taxi ride to any resort on the west coast would cost US$20 each way.
We hired an open-roof Nissan hatchback for 800 Pesos ($40) per day from HTL Rentals, a block away from the ferry terminal. It worked well for us, although we did get pretty wet whenever it rained. Alternatively, you can book your car rental online to ensure availability.
Here are the rental prices from HTL Rentals:
- Scooter — 500 Pesos or $25 a day
- Normal sedan — 1000 Pesos ($50) a day
- Jeep — 1200 Pesos ($60) a day
- ATV/quad —1500 Pesos ($75) a day
Where to Stay in Cozumel
Budget: Albatros Suites by Bedsfriends
With a great location near San Miguel, this budget hotel has simple, modern suites decorated with a tropical feel. Check rates here.
Mid Range: Westin Cozumel
With surprisingly reasonable prices, this new hotel is a high-end resort with a small beach on the north end of the west coast. It looks more upscale than where we stayed and was just $30/night. Check rates here.
Luxury: Secrets Aura Cozumel
This is one of the few adults-only resort, perfect for those looking for a more exclusive experience. Check rates here.
Luxury: Presidente InterContinental Cozumel Resort & Spa
Lauded as the best resort on Cozumel, the Presidente is swanky and modern (pictured). It’s not cheap of course, but you’ll be guaranteed the best digs. Check rates here.
Further Reading on Mexico
A trip to Cozumel is a dream come true for beach bums and active travelers who love underwater adventures. Getting to Cozumel Island is pretty easy; I hope I’ve answered all your questions. Don’t forget to check out this list of things to do in Cozumel. Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions.
For those who are planning to travel more of Mexico, check out other articles I’ve written on Mexico:
- 10-Day Yucatan Road Trip Itinerary
- 35 Fun Things to Do in the Yucatan Peninsula
- 30 Best Things to Do in Cancun
- Where to Stay in Cancun
- How to Get from Cancun to Playa del Carmen
- How to Get from Cancun to Tulum
- How to Get from Cancun to Isla Mujeres
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links i.e. if you book a stay through one of my links, I get a small commission at NO EXTRA COST to you. Thank you for your support!