6 Ways to Travel From Tulum to Playa del Carmen

So, you’ve basked on Tulum’s beaches, explored its ruins, and filled your camera with photos of the Ven a la Luz sculpture. Now it’s time to make your way from Tulum to Playa del Carmen, a backpacker’s mecca where cheaper prices and parties abound.

I spent over one year in Mexico, mostly in the Yucatan Peninsula, and have traveled between Tulum and Playa del Carmen many times.

I’ll share my preferred two methods with you first—taking a colectivo and an ADO bus—before giving you the low-down on other transportation methods.

How Far Is Tulum From Playa del Carmen?

Tulum is approximately 40 miles from Playa del Carmen.

So, how long does it take to drive from Tulum to Playa del Carmen?

You can expect the drive from Tulum to Playa to take just under one hour if you rent a car or hire a taxi and about 1 hour and 10 minutes if you take an ADO bus. Colectivos take even longer than the ADO, given that they stop along Highway 307, picking up passengers along the way.

Needless to say, although a bike is a great way to get around Tulum, biking to Playa del Carmen isn’t a good fit for most travelers (not to mention that you’d have to deal with some crazy drivers on Highway 307).

6 Ways to Travel From Tulum to Playa del Carmen

Without further ado, let’s explore how to get from Tulum to Playa del Carmen, starting with public transportation.

1. Colectivo

A shuttle colectivo van in Tulum.
A colectivo parked in Tulum.

Colectivos are the most popular way for locals and in-the-know tourists to travel from Tulum to Playa. These are large vans that hold around 12 passengers.

Since colectivo roofs are so low, you don’t have to worry about standing in the aisle for your trip to Playa del Carmen. Nevertheless, during peak travel times, one passenger often has to sit backward by the sliding door.

Although the road from Tulum to Playa del Carmen is flat and mostly free of curves, sitting backward likely isn’t the best idea if you suffer from car sickness.

The silver lining?

Since you’ll be starting your trip in Tulum, you can wait until the next colectivo departure to snag a “real” seat.

Where to Catch the Colectivo

You’ll see the colectivos lined up along Highway 307 in downtown Tulum. There isn’t a formal bus stop. But if you’re near the ADO bus station, the starting departure point for these buses is only a handful of meters away from it.

It’s impossible to miss the colectivos; they’re white with blue writing and have both “Tulum” and “Playa del Carmen” written on them.

Simply walk up to one of the drivers and ask, “Playa del Carmen?” They’ll point you towards the next departing colectivo.

Prepare for a Long Ride

From my experience, there tends to be a longer waiting time when taking a colectivo to Playa del Carmen to Tulum than from Playa to Tulum.

So, be prepared to wait awhile on the colectivo while it starts to move at a snail’s pace through Tulum, hoping more passengers will board. If you’re lucky enough to hop on a colectivo that’s just about full, you’ll be in for a shorter ride.

In classic local public transport fashion, the colectivo stops to drop off passengers and pick them up along the route. There aren’t designated bus stops, so simply say “Parada!” when you want to get off.

Alternatively, you can wait until the end of the route, which will drop you off a handful of blocks away from Playa del Carmen’s popular 5th Avenue.

Taking a colectivo is the cheapest way to arrive in Playa, and since the colectivos depart Tulum about every 10 minutes or as they fill, there’s no need to work your schedule around the colectivo departures.

Safety on the Colectivo

As a solo female traveler, I always felt safe when taking the colectivo between Tulum and Playa del Carmen. Nevertheless, since passengers get on and off the van regularly, keep your belongings close to you.

Ideally, you should travel with small bags that can fit on your lap. If you’re traveling with large pieces of luggage, you’re better off taking the ADO bus.

2. ADO Bus

A row of red ADO buses.
A group of ADO buses awaiting passengers.

ADO is an excellent way to travel to Playa del Carmen from Tulum if you’re seeking decent prices while having perks like extra legroom and strong air conditioning.

I had one situation where I tried to book a late afternoon bus from Tulum to Playa and there wasn’t availability, forcing me to take a colectivo.

I say “force” because I was staying at Selina Playa del Carmen, right by the ADO station in Playa. So, taking the colectivo meant I had to walk about 15 minutes back to my place. It certainly wasn’t the end of the world, but I had already put in many miles exploring Tulum that day.

Needless to say, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and purchase your ADO tickets online in advance. An advantage of doing so is that you can shop around for different ticket prices. Certain departures have prices about half off, especially if you book in advance.

Alternatively, you can head to the ADO Tulum bus station and buy your tickets there for the date and time of your preference.

ADO Tulum to Playa del Carmen Bus Schedule

ADO’s bus schedules vary according to the travel date. Nevertheless, I’ve put together the chart below as an example of the departure times you might have to choose from.

Departure from TulumArrival in Playa del Carmen (Turística station)
12:27 am1:27 am
8:10 am9:20 am
10:20 am11:30 AM
11:31 am12:41 pm
12:20 pm1:30 pm
1:50 pm3:00 pm
3:30 pm4:40 pm
4:50 pm5:40 pm
5:35 pm6:30 pm
6:20 pm7:20 pm
7:55 pm9:05 pm
9:50 pm11:00 pm

Note that this chart is based on arriving at Playa’s Turística bus station. I’ll talk more about this next.

But for now, know that you need to be careful when booking your ticket, especially if you’re traveling with a lot of luggage. Choosing the ADO station nearest to where you’re staying means less walking or a cheaper taxi ride upon your arrival in Playa del Carmen.

It’s also worth noting that you’ll see other departure and arrival options when booking your ticket, including:

  • Tulum Ruins
  • Xel-Ha
  • Xcaret

More likely than not, you’ll want to book your ticket out of the regular “Tulum” station (which is the starting point for the ADO bus departures) and book your arrival at Playa del Carmen’s Turística bus station.

Playa’s Two Bus Stations

A front view of the ADO Turística bus station which you'll arrive at when traveling from Tulum to Playa del Carmen.
The ADO Turística bus station in Playa del Carmen.

Playa del Carmen’s two bus stations are ADO Turística and ADO Alterna.

As you can probably guess from its name, the Turística station is the most popular arrival destination for tourists. ADO Turística is ideally located in the heart of 5th Avenue, Playa del Carmen’s popular pedestrian street.

So, if you booked accommodation in downtown Playa, the Turística station is likely your best arrival station.

On the other hand, if you’re staying further down 5th Avenue, the ADO Alterna station may be closest for you. ADO Alterna sits a few blocks back from the seemingly never-ending 5th Avenue.

Travel Tip: ADO buses depart Tulum directly to the Cancun airport and vice versa. However, the buses from Tulum to the airport often make a brief stop in Playa del Carmen to pick up passengers.

3. Guided Tour

Blue water and white sand Akumal Beach.
Akumal Beach is the halfway point between Tulum and Playa del Carmen.

A guided tour can be a wonderful and worry-free way to travel to Playa del Carmen from Tulum.

That said, since most tours departing Tulum are full-day trips, it’s important to check with your tour agency to ensure they can drop you off at your accommodation in Playa. You may need to book a private tour, especially if you’re traveling with a lot of luggage.

Some popular Tulum to Playa del Carmen day trips include a visit to Mayan ruins such as Coba, a stop at one or more cenotes (cenote means “sinkhole” in Spanish), and snorkeling with sea turtles in Akumal.

It’s also possible to head away from the Riviera Maya and go inland to Chichen Itza. You’ll likely need a private tour for the Tulum to Chichen Itza to Playa del Carmen route. But it can be an excellent way to check one of the New 7 Wonders of the World off your bucket list.

If you decide to go with the convenience of a guided tour to arrive in Playa del Carmen, check to see whether entrance fees are included with your tour price.

Not all tour agencies include them. And in the case of Chichen Itza, that can add a significant increase to the base price of your trip.

4. Private Driver

A white shuttle van can take you from Tulum to Playa del Carmen.
A private shuttle van.

Hiring a private driver is the most convenient way to travel to Playa del Carmen from Tulum. Not only will your driver pick you up directly at your accommodation, but you can choose the departure time of your preference.

Another advantage of a private ride is that you can book a vehicle size according to how many people are traveling with you. So, large groups can secure a shuttle van, allowing everyone to travel together.

While it’s usually easy to reserve a last-minute private transfer to Playa del Carmen, booking in advance is wise around holidays or special events.

I also recommend booking in advance if you need a larger vehicle like a shuttle van.

5. Taxi

I’ve included taxis on this list in the spirit of showing you all available options for traveling from Tulum to Playa del Carmen. But the truth is that taking a taxi is often a headache because it involves haggling the price.

It also may not be the safest way to travel, depending on how you go about it.

Let’s start with this: Is Uber available in Tulum?

No, Uber isn’t available in Tulum, nor is any other rideshare app. There’s an ongoing battle between local taxi companies and rideshare drivers in Quintana Roo state, which Tulum sits within. You can read my guide on Is Quintana Roo Safe? for more details.

But for now, know that even if you happen to see Uber or another rideshare service available, it’s not currently a safe option.

So, what does that mean for you?

If you want to take a taxi to Playa del Carmen from Tulum, you’ll need to call a taxi or have your hotel arrange one for you.

Flagging taxis off the street in Tulum comes with a higher risk of crime. I don’t want to scare you away from taking a private taxi—plenty of tourists do it. You just need to approach it in a smart way.

While most taxi drivers accept USD, they often give poor exchange rates. So, I recommend paying in pesos. Be sure to negotiate the fee upfront to avoid an unwanted surprise at the end of your trip.

6. Car Rental

A road in Tulum beside the ocean.
The road leading from Tulum’s Hotel Zone.

A car rental is one of the most convenient ways to travel from Tulum to Playa del Carmen for people who love having control over their schedule.

Going at it on your own will allow you to visit destinations that many people pass by, such as off-the-beaten-path cenotes. If you’re looking for a nice spot to stop for a meal, Akumal Beach is a great choice.

Just be sure to check with your hotel about whether they have a parking lot before you head to Playa del Carmen from Tulum.

Street parking is common in Playa, and it can be quite the headache to find.

Couple that with the fact that it’s easy to see most of Playa del Carmen’s attractions on foot, and it often makes more sense to drive to Playa and immediately drop off your rental car rather than keep it for the duration of your stay.

FAQs About Traveling from Tulum to Playa del Carmen

If you still have questions about how to get from Tulum to Playa del Carmen, read on to see if I answer them here. Otherwise, leave your questions in the comments and I’ll get back to you.

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

A taxi from Tulum to Playa del Carmen costs around 600 pesos. However, this price can fluctuate depending on whether you’re starting your trip in downtown Tulum (directly on Highway 307, which leads to Playa) or in Tulum’s Hotel Zone (a bit out of the way).

Is it hard to get a taxi in Tulum?

It isn’t usually hard to get a taxi in Tulum. Taxis are abundant along Highway 307 and in the Hotel Zone by the beach. However, it’s safer to call a cab than flag one off the street.

Is Tulum more expensive than Playa del Carmen?

Tulum is significantly more expensive than Playa del Carmen. Prices are especially exorbitant at the end of December, when holiday prices set in. The prices in Tulum also tend to be higher in January and February, during the peak tourist season.

That’s not to say that the prices in Playa don’t increase during the high season; they just remain lower overall than in Tulum.

What is between Tulum and Playa del Carmen?

The main attractions between Tulum and Playa del Carmen include Xel-Ha Park, Xcaret Park, and Akumal Beach. The parks are full-day experiences. However, Akumal Beach is a great destination for a short stop on your way to Playa.

Is Tulum or Playa del Carmen better?

If you enjoy a jungle and yoga-oriented environment with easy access to an archeological site, Tulum is better. Alternatively, if you enjoy partying, a backpacker vibe, and are seeking lower prices, Playa del Carmen is better.

It’s also worth noting that Tulum’s beaches are longer and, in some areas, quieter, than in Playa del Carmen.

You can read my guide on Tulum vs Playa del Carmen to learn about common mistakes people make when choosing between these destinations.

Ready to Visit Playa del Carmen?

Playa del Carmen has a distinct atmosphere from Tulum, causing curious travelers to want to visit both towns. Luckily, traveling between Tulum and Playa is fast, easy, and cost-efficient, depending on your chosen mode of transportation.

If you have questions about how to get to Playa del Carmen from Tulum, leave a comment and I’ll be happy to help.

I’d also love to hear from you after your trip. What transportation method did you use? Is there any advice you’d give future readers?

P.S.—If you’re concerned about safety during your trip, check out my guides on safety in Tulum and safety in Playa del Carmen. I share details based on statistics and my personal solo travel experience.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top