Last Updated on March 7, 2023 by Nellie Huang
What’s the best way to get from Cancun to Tulum? As a local expat, I will share the various forms of Cancun to Tulum transportations.
Once a sleepy coastal town, Tulum has transformed into a cool, boho chic beach destination loved by hipsters, honeymooners and yogis alike. This is where the jungle meets the sea, and the beach is backdropped by large patches of wilderness and stylish treehouses.
To get to Tulum, you’ll need to first fly to Cancun. With the ongoing construction works on the Federal Highway, it now takes longer than usual to get from Cancun to Tulum. In this post, I will explain the various ways to get from Cancun to Tulum. Let’s dive into the various Cancun to Tulum transportation options.
Table of Contents
- Where is Tulum?
- How far from Cancun to Tulum?
- Cancun to Tulum Transportations
- Mexico Travel Requirements
- 1. Cancun to Tulum by Taxi
- 2. Cancun to Tulum by Private Transfer
- 3. Cancun to Tulum by Shared Shuttle
- 4. Cancun to Tulum by Car Rental
- 5. How to get from Cancun to Tulum by Bus
- 6. Cancun to Tulum by Colectivo
- How to get from Downtown Cancun to Tulum
- Is There Uber in Cancun & Tulum?
- Getting around Tulum
- Where to Stay in Tulum
- Things to know before visiting Tulum
- Is it Worth Visiting Tulum?
Where is Tulum?
About a 1.5-hour drive south of Cancun, the bohemian, laidback beach town of Tulum is located in the southern end of the Riviera Maya. Unlike neighboring Cancun and Playa del Carmen (which has been developed over the years), Tulum is considered a rising star in the Yucatan Peninsula.
While the town is undergoing development, Tulum Beach still retains a wild, jungly setting and unique architecture. Here, you won’t find big, sprawling all-inclusive resorts unlike in Cancun. Instead, the wide beach is fringed by boho chic art galleries and barefoot luxury cabañas (cabins) built from natural materials in the quintessential Tulum style.
The area around Tulum is spectacular too, offering secluded lagoons, turtle reserves, and fascinating Mayan ruins that have been tumbled and shaped by time. Nearby reserves like the Sian Ka’an Reserve beckon nature lovers and make for excellent day trips from Tulum.
Check out my power-packed Tulum travel guide!
How far from Cancun to Tulum?
So what is distance from Cancun to Tulum distance? Cancun is relatively spread out, and it depends on where in Cancun you’re coming from. Here are the general driving distances and time from various parts of Cancun.
Driving distances and time from Cancun
- Cancun Airport to Tulum – 73 miles (118 km); 1.5 hours of driving.
- Cancun Downtown to Tulum – 81 miles (131 km); 1 h 45 minutes of driving.
- Cancun Hotel Zone (beach) to Tulum – 85 miles (137 km); 2 hours of drive time.
Cancun to Tulum Transportations
Tulum doesn’t have an airport yet, but the new airport is currently under construction. It’s said to be completed in November 2023, along with the Maya Train, but as I’ve learned from living in Mexico, things don’t usually finish on time here.
For now, Cancun airport is the closest airport to Tulum and it’s only a 1.5-hour hour drive away (or 73 miles/ 118 km away).
There are 6 different ways to get from Cancun to Tulum. I commute regularly between Tulum, 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 Tulum 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, agree on a fare before getting in. A fair price for a taxi from Cancun Airport to Tulum ranges from 1800-3000 MXN (US$90-150). I highly recommend booking a private transfer rather than going through the hassle of negotiating with the taxi drivers. (Unfortunately Uber doesn’t work at Cancun Airport or Tulum).
2. Cancun to Tulum 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 Tulum. 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
Booking a private transfer from Cancun Airport to Tulum not only saves you time but it’s convenient and you won’t have to haggle with the drivers. It is expensive though, usually costing around US$110 one-way or US$210 round-trip. But if you’re traveling as a family or with a group of friends, 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 Tulum!
Pros and Cons of a Cancun Private Transfer
Pros –This is the fastest way to get from Cancun to Tulum; 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 the most expensive transport option from Cancun to Tulum.
Shared shuttle services to Tulum are a good 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 Tulum in a shared shuttle vehicle online for 740 MXN (US$37) 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 2 to 3 hours to get from Cancun Airport to your hotel in Tulum.
If you are traveling with another person (or more), booking the shuttle from Cancun airport to Tulum doesn’t make sense. Even if there are just two of you, you’ll only be saving US$20 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 Tulum by Car Rental
In my opinion, renting a car is the best way to get from Cancun to Tulum, especially if you’re planning to do a Yucatan road trip. Many of the best things to do in Tulum are further out, so I recommend renting a car. Traffic along the beach road can be bad at times, but having a car allows you to do day trips from Tulum. 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!
⚠️ Many bloggers accuse car rental companies in Mexico of scamming innocent travelers into buying insurance, as it’s not mandatory. It’s NOT true; you do need to have insurance when you rent a car in Mexico! It will cost more than what you were quoted online, but at least you’ll be covered in case of any accidents.
Pros and Cons of Renting a Car from Cancun
If you can drive, I would definitely recommend renting a car as it’s the easiest way to get around the Yucatan Peninsula. It’s generally easy to drive in Mexico, and most signs are in Spanish and English. Just watch out for portholes and crazy drivers! Most rental companies accept drivers’ license from anywhere in the world, so you don’t need an international drivers’ license to drive in Cancun.
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 – Traffic in Tulum can be really bad (trust me, I’ve been stuck in a traffic jam for hours there) and it’s difficult to find parking at Tulum Beach, so I would advise using the car to drive to Tulum but leaving it at the hotel once you’re there. You can use it to explore the surrounding cenotes and Mayan archaeological sites, but I wouldn’t recommend using it to go to the beach.
Tips for Renting a Car from Cancun Airport
- Purchase a Personal Liability Insurance and a Car Insurance without fail Many bloggers tell you it's not mandatory to buy insurance, but that's no longer true.
- 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, a common scam among car rental companies is that they charge you with exorbitant fees on damages on the vehicle. 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.
- Always stay within the speed limit, even if you notice that nobody sticks to it! Tourists are often targeted by the police. We haven't encountered this ourselves, but several friends have been asked for bribes by the police because they were not following certain traffic rules.
Is it Safe to Drive from Cancun to Tulum?
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 Tulum by Bus
Taking a bus is the cheapest option to get from Cancun Airport to Tulum. 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 Tulum 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 Tulum cost around 340 MXN (US$17) each way.
The first ADO bus from Cancun Airport departs at 10:30 AM, and the last bus leaves at 9.25 PM. Several buses are scheduled in between, and the waiting time is around 1-1.5 hours. The bus drops you off at the Tulum Bus Terminal in the center of Tulum Pueblo, but you can also get off at the Tulum ruins.
CANCUN TO TULUM : ADO BUS SCHEDULE
- 10:30 am
- 12:00 pm
- 1:20 pm
- 6:40 pm
- 9:25 pm
Approximate Cost and Time by Bus
- Cancun Airport to Tulum – 340 MXN (US$17); 2 hour 25 minutes
- Cancun Downtown (Centro) to Tulum– 194 MXN (US$9.7); 2 hours 30 minutes
- Cancun Downtown to Tulum Ruins – 226 MXN (US$11.3); 2 hours 30 minutes
Is the ADO Bus Safe?
Yes! ADO Bus is generally very safe and secure. I’ve never heard of any theft, robbery, or crime taking place in the bus. Drivers also abide traffic rules (mostly).
You’ll be surprised by how well run and organized the bus company is. Just show your bus ticket on the phone before boarding. The driver scans your QR code, then you leave your baggage underneath the bus, and you can board! ADO buses are always air-conditioned and comfortable, with reclining seats and WiFi onboard.
The bus is definitely a cheap, safe, and comfortable way of traveling from Cancun to Tulum. It’s really popular among locals and travelers.
6. Cancun to Tulum 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 Tulum costs only about 40-60 MXN (US$2-3) per person.
This trip takes much longer than the ADO bus thou (up to 4 hours sometimes), as colectivos stop many times along the way to pick up/drop off passengers. There are no direct colectivos from Cancun to Tulum, so you’ll take the first one to Playa del Carmen, then a second to Tulum. 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 down.
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, taking way too long to get there.
How to get from Downtown Cancun to Tulum
If you’re spending a few days in Cancun first (check out our list of things to do in Cancun), the bus is the best option to travel from downtown Cancun to Tulum. The ADO bus from Cancun 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 in Tulum Centro. A ticket costs around 80 MXN (US$4).
Is There Uber in Cancun & Tulum?
Uber doesn’t work in Tulum, but it 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 Tulum.
Getting around Tulum
Tulum is big on bikes, and they’re cheap to hire in town or from your resort. It’s the best way to move around if you’re staying on the beach, as the dusty beach road often gets clogged with traffic. You can rent one of the ubiquitous turquoise bikes for just 150 MXN (US$7) per days from Ola Bike on Avenida Coba.
Besides hiring a bike, you can also catch colectivos (shared minibus or minivan-like vehicles) to go further afield. The colectivo fares are cheap, and you just need to flag them down along when you see one. Be sure to have Mexican pesos in hand to pay the fares.
Where to Stay in Tulum
Tulum is split into two main areas: Tulum Beach and Tulum Pueblo (town); and it takes approximately 10 minutes to get from one to the other. A dusty beach road runs parallel to the beach (which you can easily navigate on foot or bicycle), with the sea on one side of the road and lush jungle on the other. Most things to do in Tulum are along the beach, though there are also plenty to do in town.
Hotels in Tulum Beach are definitely much more expensive than those in Tulum Pueblo. Budget travelers should base themselves in Tulum Pueblo, which is brimming with backpackers hostels and local taquerias. Those seeking peace and tranquility will prefer staying in the newly developed areas of La Veleta and Aldea Zama. Check out my complete guide on where to stay in Tulum.
Things to know before visiting Tulum
- If you are planning to rent a car, be sure to check with your hotel if they have a carpark.
- The beach road is narrow and dusty and it can be very hard to find parking. Like I mentioned, either rent a bike or a quad to get between Tulum town and the beach.
- When taking taxis, always agree on the fare with your driver before getting on.
Is it Worth Visiting Tulum?
Tulum has become a hugely popular tourist destination for good reason: the jungle-meets-beach setting is unrivaled, the Tulum-style beach resorts are gaining Insta fame, and the lush cenotes surrounding Tulum are a magnet for adventure seekers.
I hope this article has helped you decide on how you’re getting from Cancun to Tulum. Let me know if you have any questions in the comment section below.
For those who are planning to travel more of Mexico, check out other articles I’ve written on Mexico:
- Tulum Travel Guide 2022
- 30 Cool Things to Do in Tulum
- Where to Stay in Tulum 2022 Guide
- 30 Fun Things to Do in Cancun
- 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
- My Guide to Laguna Bacalar
- 15 Things to Do in Cozumel
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!