This section gives you the scoop on transport in Playa del Carmen: getting there, getting around, and getting out to explore the surrounding Riviera Maya and other destinations in Mexico and beyond.
To get to Playa del Carmen from Cancun airport, catch the ADO bus at the front of the terminal for 150 Pesos ($12). It will take you to the main bus station of Playa del Carmen at the southern end of town, on the corner of Avenida Benito Juarez and Fifth Avenue. Taxis from here will generally cost 50 pesos to anywhere in town. It is too much, but I always allow myself to get ripped off on the first day, and umm, it’s $4…
Some buses to other destinations (such as Valladolid) sometimes leave from the other bus terminal on Avenida 20 and Calle 14, so be sure to check which terminal your bus departs from.
These small white vans are the cheapest way to get around the Riviera Maya and the main departure/arrival point is on Calle 2, near 20th Avenue. They also operate around town and are a popular form of transport for locals. I can’t offer timetable or route information around town, except to say jump on one going in the direction you are heading and hope for the best!
As far as getting around to destinations outside of Playa, it’s very straight forward. At the depot on Calle 2, vans will be heading to either Tulum, or Cancun.
Puerto Morelos is a small fishing town with a nice beach and some cenotes on the way to Cancun.
Bundle into a van heading in your desired direction, tell the driver your destination (“Cenote Azul, por favor”) and sit back for the ride of your life (they like to drive rather fast). Pay on disembarking, usually around 30 Pesos ($2) per person, depending on the length of the journey.
I’ve only ever caught a local bus once, but they are a good way of getting out to the malls of Plaza Las Americas and Centro Maya (which both have cinemas). They cost 5 pesos (45 cents). In front of the Mega supermarket on 30th Avenue is a good place to catch them from/to. Destinations are written on the front window of the buses, otherwise check with the driver.
Taxis in Playa are very cheap. I have friends who pride themselves on never paying more than 20 Pesos for a journey, but honestly, when the most you will ever pay is 50 Pesos, I’m not bothered when I occasionally get ‘ripped off’. It’s still a cheap, convenient way of getting around. If you hail down a taxi on the street, you have a better chance of paying less, and if you speak a little Spanish, even more so. If you go with one of the taxi touts from the tourist zone, expect to pay a little more so be sure to confirm the price with your driver beforehand.
Before we purchased a car we rented cars several times to explore the surrounding Riviera Maya and the Yucatan Peninsular. We found it to be more economical and enjoyable to rent a car for the day and hit a few sights rather than take a tour.
Small Huyundai Matiz cars (or ‘rollerskates’ as we like to call them) can be rented for around US$40 – $50 per day including full insurance. Third party liability insurance is compulsory in Mexico and we always get extra coverage for accident and theft just in case.
We have experience with two car rental companies in town, and have had good experiences with both. We like to book in person rather than online, and always ask for a discount in the off-season.
PRICE car rental: Calle 26, in between 5th Avenue and 1st Avenue.
EXECUTIVE car rental on 5th Avenue, in between Calle 14 and 16.
Suggested itineraries for day trips include Chichen Itza and Valladolid (a big day), The ruins and cenotes of Coba (nice manageable day), the ruins and beaches of Tulum (an hour south), or the beaches and Lagoons of Akumal (45 minutes south).
For trips further afield such as Merida, passing through Valladolid or Izamal, or the flamingos of Ria Lagartos via Tizimin, you will need two-three days (see the ‘Around Playa’ section for more information about those places).
Cycling is a good way of getting around Playa del Carmen. There are many bicycle rental places around town, including one run by a friend of mine, Ian. He has a good selection of bikes at good rates, particularly when you rent for longer than a week.
Ian is professional and friendly and has been living in Playa del Carmen for several years, working as a personal trainer at The Gym. Even if he doesn’t have any bikes available, he’ll recommend somewhere who does.
His website, ‘Playa Rida’ is here.