Wondering what’s the best way to get from Cancun to Playa del Carmen? In this article, we’re going to walk you through all your transport options. After living in Playa del Carmen for over a year, in this article, I will share with you all the transport options, including our best tips.
Offering some of the best nightlife in all of Mexico and that unmistakable Caribbean Sea experience, Cancun is one of the go-to spots in the Yucatan Peninsula. If you have some extra time on your hands, however, you may want to consider sprucing up your seaside vacation with a trip from Cancun to Playa del Carmen.
You can think of Playa del Carmen as Cancun’s quirky younger brother who has his own thing going on but still takes after his sibling in the best possible way.
The experience of walking down Playa’s renowned Fifth Avenue is like few others along the Mexican coastline, and you’ll practically always be a couple of blocks from the nearest beach.
If you’re already in Cancun, there’s virtually no excuse not to take that extra bit of time to stop by Playa del Carmen – whether you’re looking to keep your beach party streak going or you want to switch over to something a little more on the quaint side, you’re guaranteed to find your little pocket of heaven in this incredible city.
- Quick Answer: How to Get from Cancun to Playa del Carmen
- How far is Playa del Carmen from Cancun?
- Best Way to Get from Cancun to Playa del Carmen
- Local Tour Highlights in Playa Del Carmen
- Private Transfer from Cancun to Playa
- ADO Bus from Cancun Airport to Playa
- Rent a Car from Cancun Airport
- Cancun Airport Shuttle to Playa del Carmen
- FAQ about traveling from Cancun to Playa del Carmen
- Final Thoughts on How to Get from Cancun to Playa
Quick Answer: How to Get from Cancun to Playa del Carmen
How far is Playa del Carmen from Cancun?
- Cancun International Airport to Playa del Carmen Distance: 35 miles (56 km)
- Cancun to Playa del Carmen Time: 1 hour in normal traffic
The trip from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen comes out to about 40 miles, which is roughly 45 minutes of travel time if you’re going by car.
The catch here is, as much as we’d love to take credit for coming up with this vacation itinerary, you’ll find that a lot of Cancun visitors consider Playa del Carmen to be the cherry on the Riviera Maya sundae.
In other words, you can expect Route 307 to be fairly congested on your way out of Cancun, so download an app and try to plan around the traffic. Obviously, this depends largely on the time of the year but Playa is becoming popular amongst travelers in the area.
Currently, there is no Playa del Carmen Airport which means all travelers must fly to Cancun Airport before going to Playa.
The times above are based on if you’re coming directly from Cancun International Airport. If you’re coming from Zona Hotelera (Hotel Zone) or the beach, the distance is a bit further 45 miles (72 km), leaving your driving time to around 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Best Way to Get from Cancun to Playa del Carmen
It should come as no surprise that the connectivity between these tourist magnets is incredible – if you don’t have a car of your own, these are the best ways to travel from Cancun to Playa del Carmen:
- Private Transfer: This is our recommended option that does door-to-door service
- Rent a Car: If you’re comfortable driving overseas, we recommend renting a car from Cancun Airport so you can make your way to Playa del Carmen independently.
- Shuttle: The shuttle from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen is pretty straight forward and can be booked in advance.
- ADO bus: From the Ado bus station, you wait until the bus fills the bus goes straight to Playa del Carmen.
For getting a shuttle or a bus, there are two main providers who you can book in advance with. We recommend checking out Bookaway and 12go to get the best possible deal. If you prefer to get your own private transfer (which we highly recommend), here is the company we personally use.
Local Tour Highlights in Playa Del Carmen
Before I go into each transportation in detail, as mentioned, I lived in Playa Del Carmen for over a year and recommend doing these tours below to make the most out of your experience.
- Paddle Surf Sunrise and Sunset– Start off your time in Playa Del Carmen with a local-run paddle board session. You can opt to join a group or do a private tour.
- Gastronomic experience around Playa del Carmen– Eat your way around the best street food in Playa Del Carmen with the help of a local guide.
- Tulum ruins, beach & brunch– If you have time and want to do a quick visit to Tulum. This unique tour has you covered. You can enjoy seeing some ancient ruins plus the beach. You will also beat the majority of the crowds if you book this one.
- El Cielo, Palancar Snorkel & Beach Party– This tour actually starts in Cozumel which is a quick ferry from Playa Del Carmen. If you want party vibes, beaches and snorkeling this tour is for you.
For your convenience, we’ve outlined all your travel options for getting from Cancun to Playa del Carmen. They all come with their share of pros and cons, so use your best judgment and find the option that works best for you.
Private Transfer from Cancun to Playa
The first few hours after leaving the airport can make or break a vacation, so there’s nothing like getting into a private driver to get your trip from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen started on the right foot. For a fair price of $70+, you and your travel buddies can rest assured an experienced and courteous driver will be sitting behind the wheel.
If you’re feeling particularly extra, you can even rent a limo for you and your friends, albeit at an understandably higher rate than the average SUV.
The cheapest private transportation is around $70 for up to 3 people. If you book a round-trip transfer, the price goes down to only $125 round trip! They also have larger cars which fit groups of friends or families which run from $120 one-way.
An obvious benefit of hiring a private driver is that you can generally expect a comfortable, air-conditioned ride, and you can preselect whatever vehicle you think is best suited for the amount of baggage / people you have.
The fixed prices can’t go unmentioned either – you know exactly how much you’re going to pay ahead of time, so you won’t have to worry about an unexpected slowdown potentially upping your fee.
Honestly, we’ve everytime we land in Cancun Airport, having transportation booked in advance just makes it so much easier! We land, grab our bags, look for our driver, and we’re soon on our way to Playa del Carmen.
Why We Recommend Booking Private Transport
By booking a private driver in advance, you also wouldn’t be depending on other people being on time as you would be if you were going by bus or a shuttle. We once took the shuttle and spent almost 40 minutes waiting for it to fill up.
Most of the people that would hire a private driver are travel-hungry foreigners such as yourself, so you’re practically guaranteed an English-speaking driver.
This is good news for anyone who’s slept through one too many Spanish classes since a driver is a perfect person to ask about interesting spots and activities to check out in town. The drivers are all bilingual and are able to dish out good tips on the best things around Playa.
ADO Bus from Cancun Airport to Playa
Budget traveling is all the rage these days, and there’s no cheaper alternative for the trip from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen than the ADO Bus, by far the most reputable bus company in the entire region.
Early birds can take advantage of the 9.30 bus (though there are plenty of buses throughout the day every 30 minutes or so) and get to Playa for a meager $10. The last bus departs at 11:45 PM. There are several buses scheduled in between and they depart approximately every 2 hours.
The Playa del Carmen bus conveniently picks you up at Cancun International Airport, which is at the heart of the Cancun tourist area, and there’s an additional ado bus station downtown as well.
These aren’t your run-of-the-mill buses either – provided that you don’t mind the crowds during peak season, you can expect the interior to be spacious and air-conditioned.
The trip usually takes around 1 hour and 15 minutes, so if you opt to take the ADO bus, you’re better off traveling earlier in the morning to get as much out of your day at Playa as possible. The ADO bus is definitely the cheapest transportation on how to get from Cancun Airport to Playa.
The biggest downside to taking the bus is that it drops you off at the Playa del Carmen bus station located on Fifth Avenue, meaning you have to make your way to your hotel on foot or using local transit.
This is hardly an issue for light packers, however, and it gives you the perfect opportunity to familiarize yourself with the area before leaving your things at the hotel and heading out again.
As far as buses go, the ADO buses are a great option but for a little bit more, you can get a smaller shuttle which is a lot more comfortable.
Rent a Car from Cancun Airport
Often, the journey can be even more rewarding than the destination, so you might want to consider making some optional detours on the way from Cancun to Playa del Carmen. The best way to do this is to rent yourself a car at the Cancun International Airport.
Besides allowing you to check out some of the region’s other notable spots (Chichen Itza and Tulum come to mind), another benefit is that you have a ton of freedom and can see all the best spots around the area. Having a car rental means you can go to places like Merida, Cenotes around Tulum, and see the many Mayan ruins.
Car rental ranges from $35-60 a day, depending on the type of vehicle you select. Considering most tours are around $100+, getting your own transport can be a great way to get around Mexico. We’ve rented cars and have driven all over Mexico and everything is pretty straight forward.
The main downside to renting a car in Cancun is that Playa can often be packed with visitors. Just make sure that your hotel has a dedicated parking area for car rentals which most do.
Do note that from experience, Playa del Carmen, generally speaking is a very walkable city so apart from a few day trips here and there, you might not use your car rental very much around the city.
Tips for Renting a Car in Cancun Airport
Sadly, it’s not uncommon for car rental companies to try and pin any pre-existing damage on the car on you, so try to get as good of a look at your hot rod as you can before heading out. We recommend taking photos and videos of your rental car to make sure that they don’t charge you with anything later on.
We always recommend getting insurance whenever you’re renting a car. Unless your credit card has a tried and tested insurance provider, spend the extra $ and protect yourself from any unwanted hassles.
There have also been occasional reports of police officers attempting to bribe unsuspecting tourists so just make sure you take photos of your car and remove any large bills from you wallet!
Check out our full guide on is Playa del Carmen Safe for more tips.
Cancun Airport Shuttle to Playa del Carmen
If you want the perfect middle ground between luxury and affordability for your trip from Cancun to Playa del Carmen, one of your options would be to catch the Cancun Airport shuttle at the Cancun International Airport.
While it’s understandably not as cheap as taking the bus, you can expect to reach your destination for about $25, depending on the size of the shuttle and the number of passengers.
Much like when hiring a private vehicle, you can reasonably expect for your driver to be bilingual, so you can get some last-minute info on Playa on the way. The catch here is that there can and will be other groups of travelers in the Playa del Carmen shuttle with you.
In other words, the driver will be making plenty of stops along the way, making it harder to predict the exact time of your arrival.
The upside is that, unlike the bus, the Playa del Carmen shuttle can drop you off at a more convenient stop so you don’t have to lug your belongings all the way to your hotel.
Generally, we would only recommend this option if you’re traveling with enough people to fill up the entire shuttle, as this would effectively give you a private vehicle for a fraction of the price.
At the very least, you should have no trouble finding an online review for your shuttle of choice, so there’s little room for surprise in the comfort department.
Anyone who’s seen their share of tourist towns knows better than to travel long distances by taxi unless there’s absolutely no other choice, and the trip from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen is no exception.
We could go on about these cities’ finer points forever, but the fact of the matter is, few taxi drivers will pass up the opportunity to overcharge a foreigner that doesn’t know the area and the local rates well.
If you happen upon a particularly clever driver, you could end up paying upwards of $100+, especially if you’re not the bartering type. Better use of that money would be to pay for the aforementioned private transfer and travel stress-free and in style.
There are no Ubers, Lyft, or any other ride-sharing platforms available in Cancun Airport when you land.
One possible exception to the no-taxi rule would be if you flew into Cancun and are only using it as a pivot point to get to Playa, which has no airport of its own – planning around the takeoff times of other modes of transportation might not work with your schedule, so if you have a good feeling about that driver that’s trying to get your attention, there are no shortage of taxis just outside Cancun International Airport.
Two other things to keep in mind here are the amount of baggage you have on you and the size of your group. While the drive isn’t the longest, your vacation is all about you, so you might not want to spend forty-something minutes crammed inside a tight car with half a dozen of your friends.
FAQ about traveling from Cancun to Playa del Carmen
You don’t want to leave anything up to chance if you’re traveling from Cancun to Playa del Carmen, and odds are you’ll find the answers to all your questions down below:
Playa del Carmen is definitely not an unsafe city, but as with any other popular tourist spot, be sure to use your best judgment, especially after a long and eventful evening at one of the city’s many nightclubs.
We lived there for more than a year and never felt unsafe. Make sure you read this article for Playa Del Carmen safety tips and more!
May and November are some of the best months to go to Playa del Carmen.
Despite the spectacular weather, you won’t find as many tourists during these months as you might expect, and the lower prices definitely help. Our guide on when to go to Cancun will help you further with this question.
It would have to depend on whether Playa del Carmen is the focal point of your trip or just one of the many stops you plan on making while exploring the Yucatan Peninsula. Check out our tried and tested beach packing list for more tips on what to pack with you.
If your main goal is to catch some sunshine and enjoy a weekend by the sea, you should have no trouble finding this in the relatively small city of Playa, no matter where your hotel is.
Yes, taxis in Mexico are generally safe.
Being the big visitor pullers that they are, both Cancun and Playa del Carmen’s downtown areas are under constant surveillance. In that sense, the taxies in each of these cities are every bit as safe as any other taxi you’ve ever taken, if not safer.
Either way, given how small the city is, the best way to get around Playa is on foot. If you can deal with all the vendors, 5th ave allows you to walk up and down most of the city. If you want to reach the beaches by Playa 88th, there is also a nice big boardwalk type leading to the beach!
As you may have guessed from our recommended means of transport for this route, there are very few Ubers to be found throughout most of Riviera Maya. It should be noted that Ubers are a bit of a legal gray area as far as this region is concerned, so while you may occasionally encounter one in Cancun, you might not want to take your chances.
You are better off finding an honest taxi guy and getting their whatsapp number so you can message them if you need a ride!
Playa del Carmen is defined by its glorious parks and unparalleled sandy beaches.
Some of the spots you don’t want to miss out on are Parque Los Fundadores, the beaches in Playa Car, the many nearby cenotes, and of course the music and nightlife in 5th Ave.
A private shuttle will cost around $70. This is good for 3 people and is the best way to get from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen. A shared shuttle for 1.5-2 hours will cost around $25 per person.
An airport taxi will cost around $60-100+ and will take 45 minutes. We generally do not recommend getting a taxi as the drivers tend to overcharge tourists. We prefer booking our transport in advance that way there are no surprises.
Final Thoughts on How to Get from Cancun to Playa
And that concludes our guide on how to get from Cancun to Playa del Carmen, as well as what you can expect from your trip.
Getting ripped off is a quick and easy way to put a damper on your vacation, so we hope we’ve helped you make an informed decision on how to approach the trip. If you’re looking for more travel tips from local expats like ourselves who have lived in different parts of Mexico, check out our guide below.