Transport me there – How to travel in Playa Del Carmen and the surrounds

The easiest and most cost efficient way to travel to and from Playa Del Carmen is by collectivo.

Collectivos are a mini-van system used in many Mexican towns and cities.  The vans usually seat around 15 passengers and are primarily used as transportation by the locals to and from their place of work.  However, visitors and locals also use them as a cheap way of getting from A to B.  In Quintana Roo, they run along the main highway (307) from Cancun down the coast to Tulum via PDC with a few set stops but generally you can get on and off as you please by making your destination known to the driver as you get on (or shouting “place name” por favour, shortly before arriving) or flagging one down on the road side.

Playa Del Carmen to Cancun:

You can get the collectivo from Calle 2 between 15th and 20th Avenue.  There will be a line of vans as you turn the corner on 15th Avenue, carry on to the end of the road where there is a small bay – this is where the vans to Cancun leave from.  The fare to Cancun will be 40-45 pesos per person (depending on how the driver feels that day) and the journey will take 50 – 70 minutes.  The PDC collectivos don’t go directly into the hotel zone of Cancun and so you will need to get a local bus if you are planning to explore the beaches.  The R1 bus will pick you up where the collectivo drops you off and costs 12 pesos per person to venture into the hotel zone.  This is where you will get access to the sandy beaches and blue seas.  To get back to the collectivos heading to PDC, get the R1 bus in the SAME direction as that which you got dropped off (ie don’t change to the other side of the road to go in the opposite direction as you normally would to return somewhere).  You can also get the R1 bus to the ferry terminal for Isla Mujeres before it continues on to the hotel zones.

Playa Caracol, Cancun

Playa Del Carmen to Tulum:

As mentioned above, head to Calle 2, 15th Avenue to the collectivos.  The first queue of collectivos you will reach are those which will take you to Tulum.  The fare from PDC to Tulum will also be 40-45 pesos per person and the journey will take around 60 minutes.  The driver will be aware that many people are looking to visit the Tulum ruins and will shout out shortly before reaching the destination to make sure you are ready to disembark.  Be aware that you will need to cross the highway to enter the ruins.  If you are heading to the beaches at Tulum then you will need to get off at the San Francisco Supermarket which is a few minutes down the road from the ruins, and get a taxi to the beach road for between 70 – 90 pesos (there will be plenty of taxis waiting at this point to take you).  It is a long, hot walk from the supermarket to the beaches and I would not recommend that you attempt to reach them by foot.  Again, the driver will be aware that this is a popular drop off point and prepare to stop.  If you’ve stopped at the ruins first and later fancy some R and R at the beach, then cross back over the highway and flag down the next collectivo to the supermarket.

You can easily flag down a taxi from the beach road to the collectivos going to PDC when you are ready to head back.  The collectivos leave from a stop across the road and slightly further down from the San Francisco Supermarket which the taxi driver will know.

Cancun to Tulum:

Unfortunately, there is no direct collective from Cancun to Tulum.  You will need to take the collectivo from Cancun to Playa Del Carmen and then change collectivo to one heading to Tulum.

Tulum beachfront

The collectivos aren’t intended to be used to transport large luggage and so there is no storage space.  You can easily fit a day pack on the floor but a large traveller backpack would need to be held on your lap and be rather uncomfortable (you may even be turned away), suitcases are a no, no.

If you are looking to travel around Mexico with larger luggage then check out the ADO coaches.  This coach service also provides cheap transport to and from the airport but do allow for additional time as the coach may leave late and/or be slowed down by traffic to the airport during busy periods.  The journey to/from the airport by coach takes around 1hr 15 minutes and costs around £7 for a single ticket, whereas by taxi or shuttle will take around 50 minutes and cost in the region of £25 – £30.

To Isla Cozumel:

There are three ferry companies which can transport you from PDC to Isla Cozumel:

  1. Barcos Caribe
  2. Ultramar
  3. Mexico Waterjets

There is little difference between quality of the ferries provided and the ticket cost is also very similar.  The ferries leave from the port at the end of Calle 1 and Avenue Benito Juarez.  If you chose to purchase a ticket from the set counters at the ferry port then you will pay around 150 pesos each way.  However, if you visit the smaller stands along the streets leading to the port then you can haggle the price down slightly (particularly during quiet seasons).  I managed to get a return ticket for 150 pesos.

The ferry travel time from PDC is 45 – 60 minutes depending on the weather conditions.  It can get a bit rough so if you are prone to sea sickness then I advise on taking an anti-sickness tablet and sitting on deck if you can.  There are only around 50 outside seats per ferry, so it’s first come, first served.  Top tip – you can only access the outside seats by boarding the ferry at the rear entrance.  Most people will begin to queue to board the ship via the front entrance, avoid this queue and head straight to the back.

Companies trying to rent you cars and scooters are doing so on the false premise that there is no where to eat or visit on the island.  Obviously, there are parts of the island which are more easily accessible if you have transportation but it’s not necessary if you are visiting for the day, most of which you will be snorkeling.


To Isla Mujeres:

Ultramar run regular ferries to Isla Mujeres from Playa Del Carmen and Cancun.

From Cancun, board the ferry at Puerto Juarez or Gran Puerto.  These ports can be reached by catching the R1 bus as mentioned above, local collectivo or by taxi.  The ferry travel time from Cancun is around 25 minutes and is a relatively smooth journey.  The ferry costs 160 pesos for a one-way trip and 300 pesos per person for a round trip to the island – due to the high demand this price is unlikely to be reduced.

You can also catch a ferry or arrange a catamaran trip from the hotel zone of Cancun but the price will rise considerably.

There is not a direct ferry from PDC to Isla Mujeres.  You will need to make your way to Cancun by collectivo or ADO coach and then to the ferry port.


Want more information on how to get to specific places in Quintana Roo such as; Chichen Itza, Croc Cun Zoo and Cirque De Soleil?  Contact me via the tab above and I’ll be happy to help!

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