Playa del Carmen to Tulum: 6 Travel Options Explained

During my Yucatan Peninsula trotting, I became besties with the route from Playa del Carmen to Tulum.

It wasn’t intentional. But alas, here I am writing an article on what will likely be more than you ever thought you needed to know about how to get from Playa del Carmen to Tulum.

Without further ado, let’s dive in.

How Far is Playa del Carmen From Tulum?

Playa del Carmen is about 40 miles from Tulum. Given the traffic that you’ll likely encounter when departing Playa and entering Tulum, that equates to a travel time of roughly 1 hour and 10 minutes by bus and just under a one-hour drive by car. A colectivo takes longer, given that it stops to pick up passengers along the way.

Luckily, the traffic between Playa del Carmen from Tulum usually isn’t as heavy as between Cancun and Playa.

Nevertheless, Highway 307 is the road travelers take to head down the Riviera Maya from Cancun to Bacalar. So, if you need to get to your destination in Tulum at a specific time, I recommend building in some wiggle room.

6 Ways to Travel From Playa del Carmen to Tulum

Whether you’re interested in visiting Tulum for snorkeling at cenotes (sinkholes), lounging on the beach, or taking yoga classes, you have several transportation options.

You can travel from Playa del Carmen to Tulum via the following methods:

  • ADO bus
  • Colectivo van
  • Taxi
  • Private transfer
  • Car rental
  • Guided tour

I have extensive experience taking the ADO bus and colectivo to Tulum.

By speaking with other travelers and from personal experience in other Yucatan destinations, I’ve also learned how to use the other transportation methods on this list.

Option 1: Take an ADO Bus

Red ADO buses parked in the bus station.
ADO buses lined up at the Playa del Carmen bus station.

ADO is one of the most respected bus companies in Mexico and it operates many routes in the Yucatan Peninsula. Their buses have spacious seats, air conditioning, and plenty of room to store your large pieces of luggage beneath the bus.

But before you hop on a bus from Playa del Carmen to Tulum, you must know this first: There are two ADO bus stations in Playa del Carmen. They are as follows:

  • Playa del Carmen Tourística
  • Playa del Carmen Alterna

The buses to Tulum depart from both the Tourística and Alterna ADO bus stations.

However, the Tourística bus station is applicable for most visitors, as it sits conveniently on 5th Avenue in the heart of all things touristy.

But if you’re staying further outside Playa del Carmen’s tourist center towards Avenida Constituyentes, Playa del Carmen Alterna will be your closest bus station.

An outside view of the ADO bus station where you can take a bus from Playa del Carmen to Tulum.
The entrance to the ADO Tourística Playa del Carmen bus station.

Unless you’re traveling during a holiday or special event, it’s relatively safe to assume that you can buy an ADO bus ticket in person for the same day you want to travel to Tulum.

However, I recommend booking your ticket online in advance. That’s because you can often land lower ticket prices, with the price for certain departures around half the cost of others. Just be sure you book your ticket for the correct bus station you want to depart from.

Playa del Carmen to Tulum ADO Bus Schedule

Below are the approximate departure times you’ll have to choose from. I’ve omitted departure times that are close together for ease of reading.

Please note that these departure times are only from Playa del Carmen’s Tourística bus station and vary according to the date. The Alterna bus station offers earlier and later bus departures from Playa to Tulum, as it’s a popular bus station among locals.

Departure from Playa del Carmen (Turística)Arrival in Tulum
6:30 am7:40 am
8:17 am9:27am
9:01 am10:21 am
10:31 am11:51 am
11:31 am12:46 pm
2:00 pm3:05 pm
3:30 pm4:40 pm
6:15 pm7:25 pm
8:15 pm9:25 pm
9:30 pm10:40 pm

Another item to watch out for when booking your bus from Playa del Carmen to Tulum is where you want to get off in Tulum. The main stop is at the ADO bus station in downtown Tulum.

However, depending on the departure time, you may also have the option to get off the bus at Xel-Ha, Xcaret, or the Tulum ruins. So, consider these options and book your tickets accordingly.

Travel Tip: It’s possible to travel from the Cancun airport to Tulum with ADO. Most of these buses make a brief stop in Playa del Carmen.

Option 2: Take a Local Colectivo

A public van that arrived to Tulum from Playa del Carmen.
A colectivo van parked in downtown Tulum.

A colectivo is the main mode of public transportation for locals in Playa del Carmen and Tulum. This shared van offers each passenger their own seat, though a “seat” can mean sitting backward on a makeshift stool by the sliding door.

Colectivos are the cheapest way to travel from Playa del Carmen to Tulum. As of March 2023, the price of a one way colectivo from Playa del Carmen to Tulum costs 50 pesos (about $2.60 USD)—that’s less than half the amount of most ADO bus tickets.

Local transportation authorities regulate the colectivos, making them feel organized and efficient.

While I’ve always felt safe in terms of the passengers on the colectivos I’ve taken, there’s, in theory, a higher chance of safety issues, given that the colectivos stop to drop off and pick up people on the side of the street on the way to Tulum.

That said, Highway 307 has an excellent reputation for being secure. I know that safety in Mexico is a buzzword in the news right now. If you have concerns about safety, I recommend reading my guides on safety in Playa del Carmen and safety in Tulum, which I wrote from the perspective of statistics and my personal experience as a solo female traveler in these destinations.

Colectivo Location in Playa del Carmen

Admittedly, the colectivo station isn’t as conveniently located in Playa del Carmen as the ADO bus station. You can catch a colectivo to Tulum at the Chedraui parking lot (Chedraui is a grocery store).

It takes close to 15 minutes to walk from Parque Fundadores on 5th Avenue to the colectivo station.

If you’re having trouble finding it, look for McDonald’s. The station sits behind it.

On the positive side, since the colectivo station is so close to Highway 307, you won’t have to deal with as much traffic in downtown Playa del Carmen when leaving for Tulum.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t shorten the travel time. On the contrary, you can expect it to take longer to arrive in Tulum from Playa by colectivo than if you were to take an ADO bus due to all the stops the colectivo makes.

Colectivo Schedule & Arriving in Tulum

There isn’t a set colectivo schedule for the route from Playa del Carmen to Tulum.

Instead, the buses depart as they fill. Given the number of locals and tourists that travel between Playa and Tulum, you usually don’t have to wait long for a departure—it can be as little as a couple of minutes while everyone in line boards.

In some cases, you may arrive in Tulum sooner than an ADO bus despite the trip duration taking longer simply due to how frequently the colectivos depart.

The colectivos run from early in the morning to late in the evening.

Since there aren’t designated stops along the Playa del Carmen to Tulum route, you can shout “Parada!” (Stop!) when you’d like to get off the colectivo.

Alternatively, you can stay on the colectivo until the end of the route, which is on the main road in Tulum near the ADO bus station.

Option 3: Call a Taxi

A taxi is one of the most expensive ways to travel to Tulum from Playa del Carmen. It can also be the most cumbersome, given that rideshare apps don’t currently operate there (see my guide on safety in Quintana Roo for more details).

So, if you decide to take a taxi, call a taxi company or ask your hotel in Playa to arrange one for you.

Never flag down a taxi off the street in Playa del Carmen.

Let me repeat that: Never flag down a taxi off the street in Playa del Carmen.

Don’t do it in Tulum, either.

From my experience of talking with travelers in Playa and listening to chatter around town, the risk of something bad happening during a taxi ride from tourists who flag down cabs off the street is too high for comfort.

Be sure to understand how the taxi driver will charge you before getting in the vehicle. A set price is ideal for your trip from Playa del Carmen to Tulum, but some may insist on using taxi meters.

Also, be aware that you likely won’t be able to pay by credit card. Although most taxi drivers will gladly accept your U.S. dollars, I recommend carrying pesos, as they may rip you off with USD exchange fees.

Option 4: Book a Private Transfer

A white shuttle van.
Private shuttle transfers are an excellent option for larger groups.

Calling a taxi to take you to Tulum can be challenging when traveling with a large group. For this reason, booking a private shuttle in advance is beneficial.

Even if you’re not traveling with your neighbor’s sister’s friend in tow, private transfers can be advantageous for single or small group travelers too.

That way, your driver can arrange a pickup at your hotel for a specific time of your choice. They’ll then take you from Playa del Carmen to Tulum, dropping you directly off at your Tulum hotel.

If you’ve visited Tulum before, you understand what a luxury this is.

If you haven’t been to Tulum, let me paint the picture: Tulum’s downtown is about a 10-minute drive from the Hotel Zone, home to Tulum’s beaches and many hotels and hostels.

That means if you arrive in Tulum by an ADO bus or a colectivo and you’ll be staying at or near the beach, you’ll need to take a taxi to your place. And since rideshare apps don’t work in Tulum, you’ll have to call a taxi.

It’s a pain, especially if you’re traveling with luggage.

Many companies run private transfers from Playa del Carmen to Tulum. I personally use and trust GetYourGuide when traveling. But as long as you choose a company with excellent ratings online, you should be good to go.

Option 5: Rent a Car

The road from Playa del Carmen to Tulum.
The road from Playa del Carmen to Tulum.

Renting a car for your time in Playa del Carmen is a waste of money and time finding a parking space in most cases. But a car rental is an excellent option for getting from Playa to Tulum, given how spread out it is and the number of nearby day trip options.

The road to Tulum is paved and well-maintained.

Although Mexicans tend to err on the side of not following driving laws, don’t feel pressure to keep up with them.

While the road between Playa del Carmen and Tulum is safe, police officers sometimes target foreigners for any small wrong driving move, demanding a bribe to let them off the hook.

There’s not much to see scenery-wise on the drive to Tulum from Playa del Carmen. Nevertheless, a stop at Akumal Beach is an excellent halfway point for lunch and swimming with sea turtles. Akumal is my second-favorite beach in the Yucatan after Isla Mujeres.

Be sure to check with your accommodation in Tulum whether they have a parking lot or where they recommend you park your vehicle.

Option 6: Book a Tour

Ven a la Luz sculpture.
The famous Ven a la Luz sculpture in Tulum.

There are many full-day Tulum tours from Playa del Carmen, which are a great way to sightsee before arriving at your Tulum accommodation.

Some popular tours include Mayan ruins, such as the Tulum or Coba ruins. If you haven’t already visited Chichen Itza, you’re better off waiting until you arrive in Tulum. Because of how the roads are set up, you’ll save some travel time by traveling to Chichen Itza from Tulum rather than Playa del Carmen.

Booking a private tour will be easiest, as many tours from Playa del Carmen to Tulum are round-trip.

That way, your driver can drop you off at your Tulum hotel after you sightsee. You’ll also have more control over the amount of free time you have at each destination.

Be sure to check with your tour provider whether entrance fees are included.

Sometimes they are, and sometimes they aren’t.

Travel tip: Since you’ll be traveling with luggage, check with your tour provider to ensure there’s enough room in the van to accommodate your bags.

A Note on Traveling From Playa del Carmen to the Tulum Ruins

White brick ruins in Tulum.
The Tulum ruins.

When you’re traveling to Tulum from Playa del Carmen, you’ll arrive at the road leading to the Tulum ruins before arriving in downtown Tulum.

Therefore, if you want the Tululm ruins to be your final destination, be sure to arrange this in advance.

Colectivos, taxis, and private drivers will have no problem dropping you off by the ruins. You’ll also be able to get off at the Tulum ruins with an ADO bus as long as you book your ticket accordingly.

Note that there’s a short walk to arrive at the entrance gate of the Tulum ruins from the road (applicable if you take an ADO bus or a colectivo).

If you’re continuing your vacation in Tulum after you visit the ruins, you can flag down a colectivo heading into Tulum. The ADO buses won’t stop for you.

FAQs About How to Travel From Playa del Carmen to Tulum

Do you still have questions about how to get to Tulum from Playa? Read below to see if I answer them. If not, leave your questions in the comments and I’ll be glad to help.

How much is a taxi from Playa del Carmen to Tulum?

A taxi from Playa del Carmen to Tulum costs around 600 pesos. Don’t be afraid to negotiate the price with your driver, and always confirm prices before getting into the cab.

Can you take a day trip to Tulum from Playa del Carmen?

You can take a day trip to Tulum from Playa del Carmen since these destinations are only about an hour apart. Taking a full-day trip to Tulum is an excellent option for seeing Mayan ruins, swimming in cenotes, and spending time beaching it by the Caribbean Sea.

Is Tulum or Playa del Carmen a nicer place to visit?

Tulum is a nicer place to visit for people looking for a nature-oriented, quieter destination. The beaches in Tulum are also more abundant and nicer than in Playa del Carmen. On the other hand, Playa is a better place to visit for travelers who are on a budget or who want to party at clubs.

What’s the best time of year to visit Playa del Carmen and Tulum?

The best time of year to visit Playa del Carmen and Tulum is in the winter, from around December to February. The temperatures are milder during those months, there isn’t the threat of hurricanes, and it’s outside of seaweed season (which begins in May).

Are You Ready to Travel From Playa del Carmen to Tulum?

Tulum is an excellent destination for people seeking a nature-oriented vibe. Whether you want to partake in adventure activities or lay low at one of the many eco-friendly resorts, Tulum is a great place to rejuvenate your mind and body.

If you have questions, leave them in the comments and I’ll get back to you.

I’d also love to hear about your experience traveling from Playa to Tulum. What transportation method did you choose? Has anything changed since I published this article?

P.S.—Are you trying to decide whether to base yourself in Playa or Tulum? If so, check out my guide on the common mistakes people make when weighing Tulum vs Playa del Carmen.

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