What’s the best way to get from Cancun to Playa del Carmen? As a local expat, I will share the various forms of Cancun to Playa del Carmen transportation.
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
- Cancun to Playa del Carmen Transportation
- Mexico Travel Requirements
- 1. Cancun to Playa del Carmen by Taxi
- 2. Cancun to Playa del Carmen by Private Transfer
- 3. Cancun to Playa del Carmen by Shared Shuttle
- 4. Cancun to Playa del Carmen by Car Rental
- 5. How to get from Cancun to Playa del Carmen by Bus
- 6. Cancun to Playa del Carmen by Colectivo
- How to get from Downtown Cancun to Playa del Carmen
- Is There Uber in Cancun?
- Getting around Playa del Carmen
- Things to know before visiting Playa del Carmen
- Is it Worth Visiting Playa del Carmen?
Where is Playa del Carmen?
Playa del Carmen is located on the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. It’s a part of the Riviera Maya, which runs 75 miles (120 km) south of Cancun to Tulum. Situated along the Caribbean Sea, Playa is also a perfect gateway to Cozumel Island. To get from Cancun to Tulum, you’ll need to pass through Playa del Carmen.
There are dozens of cenotes in or around Playa, my favorite being Cenote Jardin del Eden. La Quinta Avenida, also known as 5th Avenue, is the main artery in Playa. The pedestrianized streets runs from North to South and spans more than 20 blocks. Even if you are not a beach person, there are plenty of adventure eco parks in Playa that visitors of all ages enjoy visiting.
Cancun to Playa del Carmen Transportation
Playa del Carmen does have a tiny airport, but it only serves charter planes and skydiving flights. For travelers, Cancun airport is the closest airport to Playa del Carmen and it’s only an hour drive away (or 35 miles/ 55 km away).
There are 6 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.
Mexico Travel Requirements
- Mexico has no travel restrictions, and there’s no need for proof of vaccine or PCR tests on the plane. Anyone is welcomed to travel to Mexico.
- However, I always recommend travelers to buy travel insurance, whether you’re traveling for a year or a week. These days, it is particularly important to have travel insurance that covers COVID-19. Read my travel insurance guide.
- Safety Wing is the most popular travel insurance company for COVID19-coverage. I use their Nomad Insurance plan, which covers COVID-19 as any other illness as long as it was not contracted before your coverage start date.
1. Cancun to Playa del Carmen 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.
2. Cancun to Playa del Carmen by Private Transfer
If you want to be free of the stress of getting a cab, I recommend booking a private transfer from Cancun airport to Playa del Carmen. I always book with Cancun Airport Transportations, as they are reliable, responsive, and provide door-to-door service from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen
Private transfer from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen not only saves your time but is convenient and keeps you away from haggling with the drivers. It usually costs around US$70 one-way or US$125round-trip. This is ideal if you’re traveling as a family or with a group of friends as you can split the cost!
During COVID times, a private service is the safest way to go. Plus, it’s the fastest and most convenient. 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 in Playa. If you’re celebrating something special, you can even book a limo to Playa del Carmen!
Pros and Cons of a Cancun Airport Private Transfer
Pros –This is the fastest way to get from Cancun to Playa del Carmen; you won’t need to waste time waiting for other passengers and your driver; you get picked up by a bilingual driver and in a nice vehicle .
Cons – It’s more expensive than other transport options from Cancun to Playa del Carmen.
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.
4. Cancun to Playa del Carmen 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 Airport
- Purchase 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.
5. How to get from Cancun to Playa del Carmen 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.
Grupo 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
6. Cancun to Playa del Carmen 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.
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.
Is There Uber in Cancun?
Uber actually works in Cancun and it’s possible to hail an Uber using the app. However, Uber drivers still face a lot of issues from the local taxi companies. That said, an Uber will only get you from Cancun Airport to the Cancun hotel zone or Cancun city. They won’t usually bring you as far as Playa del Carmen.
Getting around Playa del Carmen
Downtown Playa del Carmen is relatively small and almost completely walkable. Quinta Avenida, or the 5th Avenue, where all the restaurants, bars, and shops are, is a pedestrian-only street and can be easily explored on foot.
Another great way to explore Downtown Playa del Carmen is by renting a bicycle. Playa del Carmen actually has a city-wide bike-sharing system, with many BiciPlaya kiosks dotted around town. Download the app, and unlock a bike for just M$98 ($4.80) per day.
The city’s most practical cycling lane runs along 10th Avenue, a block away from the beach. It starts from the entrance of the Playacar residential area and stretches to Avenida Constituyentes.
For day trips outside of Playa del Carmen, renting a car is a good option than going through the hassle of navigating public transport. Otherwise, you can also take colectivos or hire a taxi. We have a car and have found it makes a world of difference being able to explore whenever we want with our wheels.
Things to know before visiting Playa del Carmen
- If you have booked a fancy or luxurious all-inclusive resort in Playa del Carmen, chances are your resort offers free/ paid transfer services from Cancun Airport. Enquire directly with your resort and ask for all the inclusions up front.
- Since there is no Uber service in Playa del Carmen, you will have to rely on local taxis for internal transfers in the city. Always agree on the fare with your driver before getting on.
Is it Worth Visiting Playa del Carmen?
There’s a reason why I chose to live in Playa del Carmen! It’s definitely worth visiting with its gorgeous beaches, incredible cenotes, historic ruins, and outdoorsy activities.
I hope I have given you some great tips that will help you decide how to get from Cancun to Playa del Carmen. What is your preferred Cancun to Playa del Carmen transportation? Let me know in the comment section below.
For those who are planning to travel more of Mexico, check out other articles I’ve written on Mexico:
- Where to Stay in Cancun 2022 Guide
- 30 Fun Things to Do in Cancun
- How to Get from Cancun to Tulum
- Things to Do on Isla Holbox
- Where to Stay in Holbox 2022 Guide
- 10-Day Yucatan Road Trip Itinerary
- 35 Fun Things to Do in the Yucatan Peninsula
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