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.
- 1 How far is Playa del Carmen from Cancun?
- 2 Quick Info: How to Get from Cancun to Playa del Carmen
- 3 How to Get from Cancun to Playa del Carmen
- 4 FAQ about traveling from Cancun to Playa del Carmen
How far is Playa del Carmen from Cancun?
The trip from Cancun 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.
Quick Info: How 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
- Ado bus from Cancun to Playa
- Rent a Car
- Airport Shuttle via Hotel
How to Get from Cancun to Playa del Carmen
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.
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The first few hours after leaving the airport can make or break a vacation, so there’s nothing like getting into a private vehicle to get your trip from Cancun to Playa del Carmen started on the right foot. For a fairly generous price of $60 to $80, you and your travel buddies can rest assured an experienced and courteous driver will be sitting behind the wheel.
If you’re feeling particularly bourgeois, you can even expect to find a limo, albeit at an understandably higher rate than the average SUV.
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 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. On that note, you wouldn’t be depending on other people being on time as you would be if you were going by bus.
Lastly, 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.
ADO Bus from Cancun to Playa
Budget traveling is all the rage these days, and there’s no cheaper alternative for the trip from Cancun 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 bus conveniently picks you up at Cancun International Airport, which is at the heart of the Cancun tourist area, and there’s an additional terminal 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 for Ado, you’re better off traveling earlier in the morning to get as much out of your day at Playa as possible.
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.
Rent a Car
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 can rent a decent car for as little as $10 a day if you’re thrifty.
Some of the fancier picks cost around $50 per day, but these types of rentals are best suited for one-day excursions as opposed to a full weekend at Playa.
Renting a car is also a great way of getting around the inconvenience of planning your trip around bus and shuttle schedules, should you arrive at Cancun at an inconvenient time.
The main downside to renting a car in Cancun is that Playa can often be packed with visitors, and if your hotel of choice doesn’t have a dedicated parking area, you might waste a day that could have been spent exploring on finding a place to leave your car.
Also, 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. 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!
Airport Shuttle via Hotel
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 a 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 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 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 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 $60, 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.
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 taxies 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:
Is Playa del Carmen a safe city?
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 the article below for safety tips and more!
When should I do the trip?
It depends on what you’re after, but we think May and November are some of the best months to go on a trip from Cancun 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.
How much should I pack?
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.
If your main goal is to catch some rays and enjoy a weekend by the sea, you should have no trouble finding all the necessary beach accouterments in the relatively small city of Playa, no matter where your hotel is.
What is there to see in Playa del Carmen?
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 ofcourse the music and nightlife in 5th Ave.
Are there Ubers in Cancun and Playa del Carmen?
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!
Are taxis in Mexico 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!
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.
Check out this Mexico travel guide for awesome tips on where to stay and what to do!
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