What is the best way to get to Tulum from Cancun?
The answer is quite easy; you don’t have to read 4000 words to find out: the private transfer.
But it doesn’t mean that you absolutely HAVE to book one.
Are you coming from Cancun Airport? Do you plan to explore a lot of places? Are you on a tight budget? Do you stay downtown?
I traveled for 2 months in the Riviera Maya and tried all the means of transportation mentioned in this post.
After reading it, you’ll be able to decide if you prefer:
- The private transfer
- The ADO bus
- The colectivo
- The taxi
- The car rental
Bring your map and your calculator, and let’s go!
Want to know everything about Cancun & Tulum? To learn where are the best places and avoid tourist traps and beginner’s mistakes? Nothing could be easier. I put it all together with 2 top-notch travel guides: Cancun & Tulum
Plan your trip around Cancun
In 2 months, I’ve spent more than 10,000 USD to test the best activities in the Riviera Maya. Stay with me to quickly decide which experiences you should do and learn how to make the most of your trip.
Cancun to Tulum: The Takeaway + Map
Cancun is the largest city in Quintana Roo, almost on the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula. Meanwhile, Tulum is located further down south along the coast. It’s about 81 miles or a two-hour drive from city to city.
🚌 Taking an ADO bus is arguably the most comfortable way to get from Cancun to Tulum. It may take you a bit more to make the journey, about 2 and a half to 3 hours. You’ll only pay around 12 dollars (or 18 from the airport) for a one-way ticket, and with that, you can sit back and relax. It leaves from downtown and the airport. | Website
🏎️ Private transfers are another popular way to make the trip. They cost about 170 dollars for a group of 7 people. It may be a bit more expensive than paying for 7 bus tickets, but they’ll take you from door to door in about 2 to 2 and a half hours.
💰 Budget travelers are definitely going to appreciate the colectivo option. This is a small bus that caters to locals. You’ll pay around 4 dollars for about a 3-and-a-half to 4-hour trip to Tulum. There’s a stop in Playa del Carmen where you have to take another bus to Tulum. Not a convenient option with luggage. You can’t take it from the airport.
🚖 Taxis may very well be the most convenient way to get around. Taxi drivers, though, are known to overcharge tourists for their rides. If you can find a 100-dollar ride to Tulum in a cab, you’re golden. Rideshare apps are not much help since Uber is only available in Cancun, and they get harassed all the time by police and taxis.
⛽ Renting a car is your final option, and it can be a good one if you plan to visit many cities in the Riviera Maya or the Yucatan Peninsula. You’ll have to pay about 300 dollars a week plus gas. Beware of traffic jams, particularly in Cancun and Tulum Beach. Also, parking isn’t easy to come by in Tulum or even parts of Cancun.
|Transportation options||Price & Duration||Advantage|
|🚌 ADO buses||12 – 18 USD | ~ 2h30||Affordable & comfortable|
|🏎️ Private shuttle||140 – 200 USD | Less than 2h||Easy and fast|
|💰 Colectivo||~ 4 USD | ~ 4h||Really cheap|
|🚖 Taxis||100 – ∞ USD | Less than 2h||Present everywhere|
|⛽ Car rental||300 USD/week | Less than 2h||Freedom|
|👥 Shared shuttle||30 – 40 USD | ~ 3h30||Affordable door-to-door|
Why are you doing Cancun – Tulum?
The reason why you’re making this trip can help you answer how to get from one place to the next efficiently. You don’t want to rent a car just to park it at your hotel for your entire vacation.
Tulum or Cancun? How to decide?
You’ll Land in Cancun
Chances are you’re going to be landing at the Cancun airport. The Tulum airport is currently being built and may or may not be ready by 2024. Even if it’s up and running, it may take years for it to receive flights from across the globe.
If you plan to explore many cities in the Riviera Maya, renting a car could be the top option. For larger groups or people who’ve taken long flights to get here, booking a Cancun airport shuttle service to Tulum could also be ideal. If you really want to save money, though, take an ADO bus from the airport. That journey may take longer but can be considerably cheaper.
It’s your next destination after Cancun
If you’re going to be staying a couple of days in Cancun, then some in Tulum or even Playa del Carmen, the ADO bus option can be very comfortable. There are bus terminals in both downtown Cancun and downtown Tulum. Traveling from the beach areas can make things at least 20 or 30 dollars more expensive since you’ll need to catch a cab to or from a bus station.
A private transfer service will be more efficient because it can take you from door to door. That can cost about 170 dollars per 6-person group on an SUV. If you’ve rented a car, go ahead and make the trip down the 307 highway.
Day trip to Tulum
Again if you have a rental car go for it! Make sure to look up the different spots within Tulum that you want to visit beforehand. You can start with the Tulum ruins since they will be the beginning of Tulum beach when coming from Cancun.
For those who didn’t rent a car, it can also be an excellent opportunity to look for a day tour of Tulum. Plenty of tour companies will take you to explore the many cenotes and parks near Tulum. If you want a calmer tour go with one that takes you to the Tulum ruins and some of the souvenir stores in downtown Tulum.
Pros & Cons of each Transportation Option
There’s no one perfect way to get from Cancun to Tulum. Here are a few tips on when it makes sense to choose one over the other.
1# Private transfer from Cancun to Tulum
Private transfers can pick you up directly at the Cancun airport and take you to any part of Tulum. You can book these services even if you need to be picked up in another part of Cancun. This is the fastest and most expensive way to travel. It can be faster than renting a car because you don’t need to fill out a ton of paperwork to get on the SUV.
You don’t have to worry if your flight is delayed. With the best agencies, you’ll have an English-speaking driver waiting for you when you arrive. This is a perfect option for a larger group since you may all be able to fit in the van. Speaking of fit, though, don’t forget about your luggage. If your luggage doesn’t fit in one vehicle, they may force you to book another one just for that.
Currently, the best and most popular private transportation companies are Kalido, Stp Caribe, Carmtransfers, USA Transfer, Canada Transfer, and Cancun Shuttle and Tours. Expect to pay around 130 to 220 dollars per vehicle. You can get a discount if you pay for a round trip to and from the airport.
2# ADO buses from Cancun to Tulum
ADO is Mexico’s largest bus company. It operates different routes through the Riviera Maya region. In this case, it has stops at 3 different terminals of the Cancun airport. Also, it can take you to Tulum town (not Tulum Beach) and the Mayan ruins near Tulum. A ticket from the airport to Tulum costs about 20 dollars. Alternatively, the trip from downtown Cancun to Tulum goes for about 14 dollars online.
To get the best deals, you will want to buy your tickets online. The problem with that is that if your flight’s delayed, you may lose that money. To avoid this issue, you can buy tickets at the counter when you arrive in Cancun. They usually have buses that drive out of the Cancun airport every 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the time of day.
It’s a safe, comfortable ride on seats offering more legroom than you had on the plane. They have a large area on the bus to store your luggage, so there are no issues. The two significant drawbacks are that you may have to wait around for a bus to arrive. Also, they take you to set spots that may be far from your hotel.
3# Car rental from Cancun to Tulum
Renting a car in Mexico can be confusing, so here are some of the things you’ll want to know. Also, it may not be worth it for some of you!
Should you rent a car in Cancun?
If you’re coming to an all-inclusive resort where you plan to spend at least 80% of your time, then no. It can be an excellent option for visiting multiple spots across the Riviera Maya and the Yucatán Peninsula. As you can probably see by now, the main cities in the area are not close to each other.
A one-way car ride from Cancun to Tulum takes up to two hours. You can stop in Playa del Carmen if you have a car. You don’t want to understate the ” freedom ” you get with a vehicle to craft your own trip.
Things to know before booking a rental car in Cancun
You’re not going to need an international driver’s license. What you will need is insurance. You don’t have to purchase your insurance directly through the car rental company. Discover Cars are a tourist favorite because their third-party insurance costs are cheap.
If you refuse to book the insurance directly with the car rental company, some’ll likely hold up to 3,000 dollars from your account. If that’s the case, make sure you give them a credit card to process that payment. When they “hold” the money on a debit card, they actually take it and then reimburse you days after you return the car.
Make sure only to rent cars from companies with good ratings. Bargain hunting on this type of thing can backfire spectacularly. First, they promise ridiculously low prices, around 4 or 5 dollars a day. Those prices are a lie. They don’t include the insurance cost. These companies have also been known to refuse third-party insurance policies.
That means you may end up paying double insurance if you still want to rent a car with them.
In any case, take your own pictures of the entire vehicle when you get it and when you drop it off. This can protect you against wrongful claims from the insurance company.
You should expect to pay around 25 dollars a day on the low end with minimal insurance coverage. The extended coverage, which I recommend, can take your rate to about 40 dollars. Before you get into the insurance mess, though, find out if the resort has parking.
Finding a place to park in downtown Tulum or the beach area is challenging and expensive. If your hotel does not have a parking area, then maybe renting a car is not such a good idea. You may have to pay 10 extra dollars a day to park in the beach areas within both Cancun and Tulum.
Is it Safe to Drive from Cancun to Tulum?
Yes! Highway 307 is a 4-lane smooth road that is rather well maintained. You’re going to come across police checkpoints regularly. That can be a good thing and a bad thing. You want to make sure that you stay within the speed limit—don’t give them an excuse to ask for a bribe 😉
If you see a sign that says “tope,” that means there’s a speed bump up ahead. A lot of these are hard to spot to be on the lookout. It’s better to drive during the day just to be extra safe.
4# Taxi from Cancun to Tulum
In Cancun, cabs usually have green stripes, and in Tulum, red.
This may seem like a good option just because there are likely going to be a ton of cab drivers at the airport. Just get in one and go, right? Not quite, actually! You want to settle on a rate before you get on the taxi. Also, know that you don’t have to tip taxi drivers.
The problem with taxis is that many drivers seek ways to scam tourists. If you get a cab from the hotel with a fixed rate, then maybe that’s ok. For the most part, the fewer taxis you take, the better.
5# Hotel’s service from Cancun to Tulum
Some of the high-end hotels in Tulum may offer a complimentary shuttle service from the airport. Not all of these will be a private shuttle service, though. You may be paired with other people going to or from the same hotel. The hotels that have their fleet of vans offer the best service.
The worst-case scenario is when the hotel charges you extra for this service. Most hotels charge a lot more for a private transfer service than independent companies. So, avoid falling into that trap, or at least compare the prices that you’re being offered.
6# Shared shuttle from Cancun to Tulum
These tend to be considerably cheaper than private shuttle services. Still more expensive than taking an ADO bus. The big advantage is that you can be dropped off right at your hotel. Just make sure you book the service beforehand and let them know what hotel you’re staying at.
You must wait for the bus to fill up; that could take a while. Some leave every hour. Since you’re going to Tulum, you’ll be the last one dropped off. That can make for a 3 or 4-hour trip. These shared shuttles usually only pick you up at the Cancun airport.
7# Colectivo from Cancun to Tulum
If you’ve got time, no money, and you want the local experience, take the colectivo. These are typically smaller buses than the ADO ones. That’s not great if you have a ton of luggage. You may not have enough room to put it. They may not even let you on if your luggage makes the driver lose passengers.
The whole journey costs about 2 to 3 dollars per person. These buses make stops everywhere to drop off or pick up more people. If you’re going all the way to Tulum, expect almost a 4-hour trip. The drivers are fearless and hold all the power aboard the bus!
How to get to Tulum from Cancun’s airport
Some of the options that I’ve talked about already are going to work for this trip. There are key things to keep in mind.
A# Private transfer
One of the more comfortable options by far. You call or book your trip online. The agency is going to be on the lookout for your flight. They’ll know if you’re delayed. The biggest issue with this option is the 60-minute wait time after your flight lands.
Many companies have this policy of only waiting for you for 60 minutes. If you get in trouble at immigration or your bags are nowhere to be found, that can turn into a problem. For the most part, though, Mexican immigration is not too strict. If your papers are in line, you should be fine.
Another thing you want to watch out for is sellers from other agencies coming up and telling you that your service was canceled. Keep calm and look for someone with a sign with your name on it.
- Cancun airport – Tulum downtown: 117 km (73 miles) | 1h40 hours
- Cancun airport – Tulum Beach: 123 km (76 miles) | 2h00
Here are some excellent transportation agencies in Cancun.
|Kalido||130$ | Up to 5 pers|
|StpCaribe||130$ | Up to 6 pers|
|CarmTour||119$ | Up to 5 pers|
|USA transfers||175 $ | Up to 7 pers|
|Canada Transfer||167 $ | Up to 7 pers|
|Cancun Shuttle & Tours||119 $ | Up to 3 pers|
|Top Cancun Shuttle||155 $ | Up to 3 pers|
B# ADO buses
There’s an ADO bus terminal at every air terminal that you arrive at. The direct bus route from the Cancun airport to Tulum takes off about every 1h20.
Here are the bus schedules (but double-check online): 10h15; 12h; 13h20; 14h40; 16h00; 17h20; 18h40; 20h05; 21h25
Why don’t I just say buy your bus ticket and get where you need to go? The problem with the ADO bus is that it doesn’t wait for you. So if you purchase the ticket in advance and your flight’s delayed, you lose that money. It’s about 18 dollars; some may say it’s worth taking the risk.
The other problem you can have is arriving without a ticket and wanting to purchase one at the counter. Yet when you get there, you realize the upcoming Tulum bus is all sold out. The direct bus to Tulum takes a bit less than 3 hours to get there. Remember that the bus will drop you in downtown Tulum.
If you plan to go to Tulum Beach, you’ll have to pay an extra 20 USD for a cab. Basically, you’ll save about 70 USD if you’re a couple and decide to take the bus instead of a private transfer to your beachfront hotel in Tulum.
If you miss the direct bus, you could take one to Playa del Carmen. The Cancun airport – Playa del Carmen route sees a bus leave the terminal about every 20 minutes. Playa also has two stops, so be careful with that. From there, you can take the Playa to Tulum bus. The total time on a journey where you find the connecting bus quickly is about 3 hours.
Note: The last bus to Tulum from Playa del Carmen turística is 8h15 pm. Therefore, the last bus you can take at Cancun airport is 6h20 pm.
The ideal situation when taking an ADO bus from the Cancun airport to Tulum makes the most sense is when you arrive early in the day. Anything in the morning to about midday is good. Even if you must wait a while near the ADO terminal to board a bus, you can grab a bite at the airport.
Any time that you’re arriving at the Cancun airport in the evening, you should probably be looking into other ways to get to Tulum. The risk that you’d be taking of getting stuck at the airport or in the middle of the journey just isn’t worth it.
C# Car rental
The best time to rent a car when you arrive at the Cancun airport is precisely upon arrival. Most of the car rental companies are located there. They’ll even give you a ride from the terminal to their lot if it’s far away from your arrival point.
Car rentals are going to be setting you back around 300 dollars a week. Just make sure you read the fine print, so you don’t get caught in a bad situation where you’ll have to put money down for the car.
Here are some good rental companies:
- JM Car Cancun is a good spot to find decent rates without that deposit situation that can be a big issue. 3-day minimum rental policy.
- Avant and Yes Car Cancun can also offer rides from the airport to their lot. They’ll get you a car with insurance for about 300 dollars a week—a 3-day minimum rental policy.
- Go with Freedom Car Rental if you need the car for just 1 day.
Don’t expect awesome cars from any of these options. These companies, though, provide car rentals at decent rates. You’ll pay what you see on the bill when you book. Most other companies are known for their hidden fees.
Once you get the car, you get from Cancun to Tulum in about two hours & 15 USD for gas. Just as long as you don’t run into the rush hour. 7 to 9am and 5 to 7pm are the two-time slots when you can expect to find the most traffic.
Cabs are a convenient way to get to Tulum from the Cancun international airport. There are going to be taxis lined up outside every terminal. The thing is, there are no official airport taxis. At least regulated cars should be driven by people in a white collared shirt with a blue taxi logo.
That’s pretty much the only way you can be sure you’re getting into a car licensed to offer taxi services. Although they usually won’t let fake cabs into the pickup lines at the airport. A good deal for taxi ride from the Cancun airport to Tulum will cost around 90 to 130 dollars.
Shared shuttle services cost anywhere from 30 to 40 dollars. That’s for the whole trip from the Cancun airport to Tulum. Make sure that the company that you book with works 24 hours. Also, if you’re arriving late, you should call them and let them know.
You may have to wait around for more people as the shuttle fills up. Since there are multiple shuttle companies, it may not get as crowded as an ADO bus. Just make sure that the shuttle company does provide rides all the way to your Tulum hotel.
How to get to Tulum from downtown Cancun
You’re going to have similar options. If you plan instead of just taking the first cab you see, you can save money and be more comfortable throughout the trip.
A# Private transfer
Private transfers are an excellent option for medium-sized groups or families. You’ll pay around 140 to 180 dollars for the ride. Kalido offers the lowest rate at 140 dollars for 5 people. USA Transfers charges 175 for up to 7 people.
These agencies will take you from wherever you are in downtown Cancun to wherever you want to get to in Tulum.
- Cancun Downtown – Tulum downtown: 133 km (82 miles) | 2 hours
- Cancun Downtown – Tulum Beach: 136 km (84 miles) 2h20
B# ADO bus
The ADO bus terminal in downtown Cancun is on Uxmal Avenue near hostels frequented by digital nomads. Departures start at 6:10 am and every 45 minutes until 11pm.
The tickets are about 12 dollars, and it takes the bus around 2 hours and 40 hours to get to Tulum. This makes the ADO bus option a cheap and comfortable way to make the trip.
The problem is you may end up taking at least a couple of cabs to get to your final destination.
You will want to add the costs of those taxi trips to your trip total if you don’t stay in the city center. Don’t be surprised if you end up spending 30 or 40 dollars on a taxi on top of the 12 dollars for the bus ticket.
Getting from downtown Tulum to a hotel in Tulum Beach can set you back more or less 30 dollars for that Taxi ride. You could take a Tulum colectivo to make the trip. The problem is that these buses or vans won’t have room for your luggage.
C# Car rental
If you’ve already rented a car, then it’s a no-brainer; take it out to Tulum. Just ensure that you know where you can park before visiting Tulum and the price.
You can rent a car in downtown Cancun if you didn’t do so at the airport. Jolley Travel Cancun is an agency that rents cars in downtown Cancun. Their headquarters are a bit further inland from the ADO bus stop. They can give you a ride to the airport once you’re done with the car.
Taking a cab is quick, but you need to ensure you’re getting a good deal. From Cancun to Tulum, you should get charged about 100 dollars. If you find a cab driver that gives you good deals, ask for their number.
If you need to schedule a trip, you can call them ahead, and they can give you a better rate.
Solo travelers with little luggage can take advantage of the colectivo. You have to make the trip to Playa del Carmen. The station is in front of the ADO buses. It’s called Playa Express colectivos.
Once you get to Playa del Carmen, you need to catch another bus to get to Tulum. Each trip costs about 2 USD. A journey from Cancun to Tulum should only cost about 4 dollars. You’ll want to carry Mexican pesos to pay for this ride.
How to get to Tulum from Cancun Hotel Zone
There’s a chance your hotel can hook you up, or you can book a day tour. If not, then you’ll have to pick one of these options.
A# Private transportation service
If you need to get from a hotel in the Cancun hotel zone to Tulum Beach, this can be a great option. You’ll get from door to door in the same two-hour time frame. As I said, some hotels may even provide this transportation.
- Prices are the same as if you leave from downtown Cancun: about 160 USD.
- Cancun Hotel Zone – Tulum Downtown: 133 km (82 miles) | 2 hours
- Cancun Hotel Zone – Tulum Beach: 139 km (86 miles) 2h20
B# ADO bus
There’s no ADO bus stop in the hotel zone. So you have to take a cab downtown to make the trip. That ride should cost you around 20 dollars.
If you’re not carrying too much luggage, taking the public R1/R2 bus routes to the ADO stop could make sense (less than 1 USD).
You’ll again need to take a taxi from the terminal in Tulum to Tulum Beach.
In total, count at least 4 hours and budget 50-70 USD for 2 people.
C# Car rental
It could be a great option if Tulum is just one of the multiple stops in your trip across the Riviera Maya. There’s a good car rental company in the hotel zone. They charge about 233 dollars for 7 days. Ask where you can drop the car off before you rent it!
You’re in the hotel zone, so be prepared to pay the highest prices on taxi fares for the entire trip. If your hotel calls a cab for you, you can get a better rate. If you just walk out on the street and stop a taxi, it’s getting expensive.
FAQs: Tulum transportation from Cancun
Here are a couple more things to know when getting from Cancun to Tulum.
Is There Uber in Cancun & Tulum?
You can technically get an Uber to take you from Cancun to Tulum, but not the other way around. The app is legal in Cancun, but it's banned in Tulum. It's complicated to use Uber in the area regardless.
What is the cheapest way to get from Cancun to Tulum?
A colectivo charges you about 4 dollars a person from Cancun to Tulum. It's 2 dollars to get to Playa del Carmen and 2 dollars from there to Tulum.
What's the fastest way to get from Cancun to Tulum?
The private transfer companies usually only take about 2 hours. Taking your rental car can be just as fast.
How much is a taxi from Cancun to Tulum?
As I said, 100 dollars is a good deal. You have to bargain for it, though. So if you don't have the wit or the patience, you'll end up paying more than that.
Is there an airport in Tulum?
There is currently no international airport in Tulum (maybe in 2024). The Cancun airport is still the closest one.
Where to stay in Tulum
Even though Tulum is much smaller than Cancun, the city has different districts, each with its own vibe.
Tulum downtown is where you can still feel that Bohemian beach town vibe that made Tulum famous. You’ll find restaurants and hotels much cheaper than in the beach area.
Speaking of the beach, it’s actually rather far from the Tulum Pueblo area (4km). That and the fact that it can be a bit boring during the day will be a turn-off for some people.
Aldea Zama & La Veleta
These two are newer districts that are now home to a lot of the digital nomads that have migrated to Tulum. They are located pretty much between the beach and the town area. If your dream is to vacation or live in a suburb of a Mexican Caribbean beach, this is where you need to be.
If you don’t rent a car, it will be hard to stay in this area. Since pretty much all of the popular tourist spots are either on the beach or in town. A lot of the people that plan to stay in this area for an extended period are gravitating towards Aldea Zama and La Veleta.
The most famous Tulum hotels are located in the beach area. You can also find high-end restaurants and fancy beach clubs in this part of Tulum. What you’re not going to see is a lot of budget travelers staying in Tulum.
This is arguably the hottest Mexican beach town at the moment. That means the prices you pay for amenities in Tulum Beach will always be more expensive than any other beach city in Mexico.
The problem is some spots live off the Tulum hype but only have a little to offer.
More information about Tulum
My favorite articles about Tulum:
- Where to party in Tulum
- My favorite and secret cenotes around Tulum