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Cancun Airport to the Hotel Zone – 9 Things you NEED to KNOW!

Cancun Airport to the Hotel Zone – 9 Things you NEED to KNOW!

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Cancun is the perfect place to kick back and relax on vacation. There are so many things to do in Cancun, from swimming in cenotes to enjoying gourmet cuisine.

But unfortunately, the journey from the airport to your hotel can be a bit stressful. As soon as you pick up your bags and head toward the exit, you’ll be surrounded by crowds of fellow travelers waiting inside the tiny terminal. Even worse, there’ll be a mob of overzealous taxi drivers just waiting to rip you off.

We love Cancun and have been there countless times. But sometimes, the stress of the airport has made us question if it’s worth it! Luckily, there are ways to avoid the chaos. You just need to know what you’re dealing with before you arrive.

So if you want a smooth and stress-free start to your Cancun trip, keep reading. We’ll break down the best ways to get from the Cancun Airport to the Cancun Hotel Zone – plus how to avoid long wait times, persistent con artists, and exorbitant taxi prices. 

Don’t have time to read the full article? When you arrive in Cancun, the last thing you want to do is deal with the hassle of countless taxi drivers trying to get you to empty your wallet. Instead, we love this private shuttle that includes a round-trip, stress-free ride to and from your accommodation.

1. How far is Cancun Airport from the Hotel Zone?

Map showing the location of Cancun Airport near Cancun
The airport is around 20 minutes from the hotel zone, depending on traffic!

Cancun Airport is about 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) from the Hotel Zone. Of course, the exact distance will vary according to the specific hotel you’re staying in. 

It usually takes between 20-30 minutes to get from the airport to the Hotel Zone, although this can take longer when traffic is bad – and again, it does depend on exactly where you’re staying. 

You should also be aware that a lot of renovation and improvement projects are happening around the airport, which can make travel times even longer. So basically, be prepared for it to take a while to get to your hotel.

Related Read: If you’re staying in Cancun, you might enjoy visiting Tulum, too! You can head right from the Cancun Airport to Tulum or plan a trip later to check out the best things to do in Tulum.

2. Are there free shuttles from Cancun Airport to the Hotel Zone?

Driving out of Cancun Airport towards the hotel zone in Cancun, Mexico
Driving out of Cancun Airport toward the Hotel Zone

No, sadly not.

Cancun has used the airport to make money off of tourists. As such, they’ve put a lot of regulations in place to ensure that they generate a healthy profit. 

However, this isn’t a totally bad thing. Travel from the airport to the Hotel Zone used to be more risky. But now, every driver must have a license, and all of the rides are tracked through log books. You can rest assured that you won’t be ferried to your hotel by someone sketchy.

3. What are the options for getting from Cancun Airport to the Hotel Zone?

Bailey picks up a rental car in Cancun Airport
Bailey picks up a rental car at Cancun Airport

Private shuttle

I think that getting a private shuttle is the best option for getting from Cancun Airport to the Hotel Zone (and back again at the end of your trip). 

In my opinion, one of the biggest advantages of booking a private shuttle is that you won’t end up waiting ages in the tiny, crowded airport for a bus, taxi, or shared shuttle. Instead, you’ll just roll off of the plane, find your driver (who’ll be holding a sign), and then head to your hotel. Plus, the driver will track your flight, so there’s no need to worry if you’re delayed. 

Booking a private shuttle is probably the most stress-free way to get to the Hotel Zone. The only con to taking a private shuttle is that it’s not the cheapest option available. They also require a minimum of two people to book. However, I still think it’s good value for money given all of the benefits. 

This private shuttle costs $41 USD per person for roundtrip transportation from Cancun Airport. This works out to $20.50 USD each way. However, you get great service, and it’s the fastest way to get from the airport to your hotel. Your shuttle will also come equipped with sodas and bottled water so you can rehydrate after that long flight.

Plus, since you book in advance, you know you’re not going to be surprised with a huge bill at the end. Taxi drivers love to swindle you, surprising you with a giant bill once you reach your destination. So, taking a shuttle could actually save you some money. 

If you want zero hassle and stress upon arrival, I’d recommend reserving a private shuttle online here.

Shared shuttle

This shared shuttle is a great option for those on a budget. At just $11.50 USD for a one-way trip or $23 USD roundtrip, it’s a cost-effective way of getting from the Cancun Airport to the Hotel Zone. And you’ll be dropped right at your hotel. 

The shared shuttle also saves you from the hassle of booking a taxi or waiting for a bus. What I love is you can avoid the risk of being ripped off. You also won’t have to worry about haggling over prices – which I hate!

The downside to this option vs. the private shuttle is that you may have to wait for other passengers. However, this particular company guarantees that you’ll leave the airport within 30 minutes of meeting your driver. The shuttles are also limited to 10 people, which is a fairly small number for shared transit. It’ll still prove faster than most other modes of transport. 

Shuttles run daily from 8 am to 6 pm, making it super easy to book. The drivers are really friendly, too. After a long trip, it’s nice to be greeted with such hospitality!

Overall, I think this is a fantastic option if you’re visiting Cancun on a budget. So if that sounds like you, don’t hesitate to book your shared shuttle online here!

Private luxury vehicle

If you’re not concerned about budget and want to arrive in style, then this private luxury transfer is the way to go. Honestly, if you’re traveling in a group, it may not even prove much more expensive than a private shuttle!

With this private vehicle, you won’t have to endure the long lines for taxis or buses. And they call it “luxury” for a reason. You’ll be welcomed on board with warm face towels and complimentary alcoholic drinks. There’s even WiFi on board!

If you ask us, a private luxury vehicle is the perfect way to kick off your Cancun holiday.

This private luxury transfer from Cancun Airport to the Hotel Zone costs $97 USD per group, and you can have up to 6 passengers. So if you’re traveling as a group of 6, it’s only $16.16 USD per person.

If you want to travel in style, book your private vehicle online in advance!

ADO Bus in Cancun
ADO Bus in Cancun. Photo credit: Veebass Depositphotos

ADO Bus

The ADO bus is the cheapest way to get from Cancun Airport to the Hotel Zone. But in my experience, it’s not the best. 

That’s not to say there aren’t some advantages. You can catch the bus from right outside any of the airport terminals, the buses are comfortable and have plenty of space for your luggage, and they’re really cheap at about $120 MXN ($7 USD). They also leave every 15 to 40 minutes from 8 am until midnight.

You can also book your seat in advance via the ADO website. But if your flight is delayed, you might be waiting for a very long time. 

Another thing to note is that the ADO bus does not go directly from Cancun Airport to the Hotel Zone. Instead, it takes you to the downtown terminal. From there, you’ll have to change to the R1 or the R2 bus that will take you to the Hotel Zone. 

These buses are cheap at around $10 MXN ($0.60 USD) each, and they depart roughly every 5 minutes, so you shouldn’t be waiting long. They stop every few blocks as you travel through the hotel zone, so you won’t have to walk far with your luggage. Just make sure you have exact change in pesos so you don’t overpay. 

Honestly, the ADO bus can be a great way to get around Cancun. However, I don’t think it’s a great choice for getting from the airport to the Hotel Zone. The journey will cost you about $7 USD in total, and you can get a shared shuttle directly to your hotel door for $15 USD.

Unless you’re on an extreme budget, I think the extra $8 USD is worth it. You’ll save yourself the hassle of changing buses and a potentially very long wait. 

Uber

Uber can be a good option to get from Cancun airport to the Hotel Zone, but it’s a bit risky. 

Uber is definitely cheaper than taking a taxi, and it removes the risk of being ripped off. Unfortunately, it can be really hard to get one. 

Uber does technically operate in Cancun. However, cars are often unavailable around Cancun because there’s a lot of beef between them and local taxi companies. as such, it’s not the most reliable choice. The app also won’t allow you to schedule a pickup from Cancun airport in advance.

If you want to call an Uber anyway, then you need to know where to go. Head to the pick-up zone by leaving the arrivals hall and turning left as soon as you walk through the door. Then, follow the path to the pick-up and drop-off area. It’s pretty easy to find, but airport staff will help you if you’re confused! 

You’ll also need to have mobile data to call an Uber because the free airport WiFi is absolutely terrible. 

If you need to buy a local SIM, don’t do it inside the arrivals terminal since they usually jack up prices. Instead, head to the Oxxo store outside. Unlike the SIM card booths inside the airport, this store is legit and won’t rip you off. You can get an unlimited data plan for about $12 USD!

Taxi

I definitely don’t recommend taking a taxi unless you want to get ripped off! 

When you arrive at Cancun airport you will be absolutely bombarded by taxi drivers, which to be honest is not the kind of behavior I want to encourage. What’s even worse is that they will charge you AT LEAST $80 USD for a ride to the Hotel Zone, which is an insane ripoff. 

Plus, you can’t even get straight in the car and go to your hotel! Nope, you have to book and wait, and while you’re waiting other drivers will continue to hassle you. The whole experience is really stressful, and it’s a huge waste of money.

Daniel drives along the highway in a rental car in Mexico
In our rental car!

Rent a car

Renting a car in Cancun is a fantastic option if you’re going to be traveling around the country, and if you use Discover Cars you can pick your vehicle up from the airport. 

We always use Discover Cars when renting a car, and they’re super reliable. Plus, you can compare prices and supplier ratings to make sure you’re getting a good deal (which you should!).

I recommend booking your rental car in advance. That way, when you land at the airport, you’ll just have to sort out the paperwork before you drive away. But if you don’t want to drive yourself from the airport to the Hotel Zone, you can always pick up a rental car later on in Cancun itself. Having a rental car is also great for planning your own day trip near Cancun.

Whether you want to pick up your rental car at the airport or in the city, you can browse options and check prices online here!

Hotel shuttle

If your hotel stay includes a free shuttle from the airport, then that’s a fantastic option! However, if you have to pay extra for a shuttle, we recommend booking a private one instead. Hotels almost always charge a premium for shuttle services, so you’re better off booking one separately.

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Lowest price guarantee – If you happen to find the same tour at a lower price elsewhere, Viator will refund you the price difference.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

4. What is the most convenient option?

Daniel sits in a Cancun Airport shuttle
The Cancun Airport shuttles are the best option!

This private shuttle is definitely the most convenient option for getting from the Cancun Airport to the Hotel Zone. There’s no doubt in my mind!

With a private shuttle, there’s no waiting involved. And after a long flight, the last thing I want to do is wait around! You can leave the airport and head straight to the comfort of your hotel.

Plus, there’ll be someone waiting for you with a sign. As such, you don’t have to worry about the mob of taxi drivers trying to con you (my least favorite part of visiting Cancun!). 

A rental car is convenient, too, but there are some things to know before renting a car in Mexico. For one, you have to spend a while filling out paperwork before you can drive away.

But with this private shuttle, you can get out of the airport as soon as possible – and trust me, when you arrive at Cancun Airport, you’ll understand why that’s such a fantastic thing!

5. What is the cheapest option to get from Cancun Airport to the Hotel Zone?

Driving out of Cancun Airport
Driving out of Cancun Airport

The ADO bus is the cheapest way to get to the Hotel Zone (although let me be clear: cheapest doesn’t mean best).

Still, if you’re on a budget, you can’t deny that the ADO bus really does help keep costs to a minimum.

The first bus from the airport to the downtown bus terminal costs $120 MXN ($7 USD) and then the second bus from downtown to the Hotel Zone costs around $10 MXN ($0.60 USD), so the whole journey will cost you less than $8 USD in total. 

Related Read: If you’re on a budget, beaches are a great way to enjoy Cancun without breaking the bank! You can read about the best beaches in Cancun here.

6. What are the best shuttles from Cancun Airport to the Hotel Zone?

Cancun airport shuttle at night time in Cancun
Our late-night shuttle! It felt so good to have it pre-booked and waiting for us!

Private shuttle

This private shuttle makes everything super smooth. You’ll be greeted by a staff member holding a sign bearing your name. Trust me, there’s no confusion about where you need to go, and you can leave the airport straight away. Plus, you’ll breeze past all the chaos and the taxi drivers bombarding other tourists. 

Also, it’s a return shuttle so it covers your trip back to the airport at the end of your vacation. For $41 USD, I think this is a great deal! It’s definitely worth it to avoid waiting hours in the crowded and chaotic Cancun Airport.

I like the fact that you get complimentary cold drinks on board because I’m always so thirsty after a flight! It’s also nice to have a private experience rather than getting onto a crowded bus. But you do need two people minimum to book the private shuttle, so it might not be ideal for solo travelers.

If you want to avoid some airport stress, I recommend booking this private shuttle ahead of time online!

Luxury SUV Transport

If you’re looking for a more luxurious option, this VIP transfer is for you! It will let you rock up to your hotel in style. I love that they include free alcoholic drinks because honestly, who really cares if there’s traffic on the roads when you’re sipping on an ice-cold Mexican beer inside a luxury vehicle?

This transfer costs $97 USD per group for a one-way journey and can fit up to 6 passengers. So if you’re traveling with a group, it might even be cheaper! I think it’s a great option for groups of friends on a fun trip to Mexico. In fact, the free drinks mean that it’s perfect for bachelor or bachelorette parties! 

For a luxurious journey to the Hotel Zone, book your VIP transfer online here!

Private shuttle with Unit Travel

Unit Travel offers shuttles for groups of up to 7 people. Prices start around $58 USD and depend on your date and the number of passengers. Overall, this private shuttle is a super convenient and cost-effective way of getting from the airport to the Hotel Zone, especially for groups and families. 

Plus, if you need a ride back to the Cancun airport at the end of your trip, you can save money by booking a round trip with prices starting at $88 USD.

And to make things even better, you’ll get complimentary beers and soft drinks during the ride. So for a budget-friendly transport option, secure your shuttle online here!

Stretch Limo Private Transfer

If you want to arrive in Cancun like a true VIP, this private limo service is the way to go. 

You can only book for 2 people, so I think that this is the perfect option for honeymooners! 

The service costs $85 USD per couple, and it includes WiFi, chilled water and beers, and refreshing facial towels. It’s an excellent way to kick off a romantic Cancun vacation (because trust me, nothing will kill romance faster than a long wait in the airport). 

To book the ultimate luxury transfer, secure your private limo online here!

Related Read: When visiting Cancun, you’ll want to check out some of the nearby islands, including my personal favorite, Isla Mujeres. Learn all about how to take a Cancun catamaran to Isla Mujeres!

7. What is the safest option to get from Cancun Airport to the Hotel Zone?

Travelers head to their shuttles at Cancun Airport in Mexico
Cancun airport can be really busy so have your shuttle booked! Photo credit: Pxhidalgo Depositphotos

A private or luxury shuttle is definitely the safest option. These Cancun Airport shuttles are operated by authorized and reputable tour companies, and everything is closely monitored in accordance with the strict Cancun airport regulations. Plus, you pay a fixed price in advance so you’re also safe from being ripped off! 

So if safety is your primary concern, don’t hesitate to book this private shuttle online. And if you want safety and luxury, book this VIP shuttle here.

8. What is the most dangerous way to get from Cancun Airport to the Hotel Zone?

Taking a taxi is definitely the riskiest mode of transport between the airport and the Hotel Zone, although these days things are much safer than they used to be. 

Unfortunately, although the taxis are closely monitored, the airport’s rules and regulations don’t stop drivers from ripping you off. And why wait for hours and pay upwards of $80 USD for a taxi ride when you could get a private limo transfer for the same price?

Related Read: It’s natural to be concerned about safety when traveling. If you want to learn ways to stay safe, read our safety guide for traveling in Cancun.

9. Tips for getting from Cancun Airport to the Hotel Zone

Group of shuttle works hold oup signs with peoples names outside Cancun Airport, Mexico
Look for your names! Photo credit: Pxhidalgo Depositphotos

Tips are expected

Tourists are expected to tip in Cancun, so make sure you have some small bills on you. They can be in Mexican pesos, USD, or CAD – the drivers don’t mind! A good rule of thumb is to tip around 10%.

Book in advance

I really can’t stress this enough! Make a plan of attack before you travel to Cancun. 

The airport is honestly so hectic, and it’s really stressful if you don’t know what you’re doing. You get hassled so much, and it can be super overwhelming (especially when you’re tired after a long flight!). 

Whether you’re taking the ADO bus or a private shuttle, make sure to book it in advance so you know where to go and can ignore the hoards of taxi drivers bombarding tourists.  

Avoid the bus late at night

The ADO bus is safe during the day, but I would avoid taking it late at night. Using public transport is always riskier at night, and since the bus doesn’t drop you right outside of your hotel, you’ll also have to walk after dark with your luggage. It’s definitely better to spend a little more and ensure your safety. 

Never book with an unauthorized taxi

The official airport taxis are bad enough, but the unauthorized taxi companies are even worse. They’re not monitored by the airport safety regulations, which makes catching a ride with them very risky. Even though they may offer you a better price than the official taxi companies, I wouldn’t trust them.

I don’t recommend taking a taxi from the airport to the Hotel Zone at all. But, if you do, make sure that your driver is wearing a Cancun Airport Taxi badge and uniform and has a permit displayed on their windshield. If they don’t, there’s no way you should get in that car. 

Other Activities to do While You’re in Cancun

Bailey and Daniel look at a Sting Ray at the MUSA dive site in Cancun
A stingray at MUSA!
Bailey looks out the window of the Cancun Scenic Tower in Cancun, Mexico
The view of Cancun from above is amazing!

Once you arrive at your hotel, you can start enjoying all the fun things to do in Cancun. I’ve been coming here since I was a kid and I never get tired of visiting. So if you’re looking for some activities, check out some of my favorites below!

  • Cancun Scenic Tower – As if Cancun wasn’t scenic enough, there’s another way to enjoy the views here! The Cancun Scenic Tower gives you amazing views of the Caribbean! The entire viewing deck lifts up, so you won’t even need to climb any stairs to get this view.

Related Read: For some amazing underwater life, head over to Isla Mujeres to go scuba diving while in the area!

Where to Stay in Cancun

Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun
Photo credit: Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun

If you’re heading to Cancun, then you’ll need a place to stay! Below are some of the best hotels (for every budget) in the Cancun Hotel Zone.

For budget travelers, the Selina Cancun Laguna Hotel Zone is a great choice. It doesn’t have the greatest reviews, but I really enjoyed my stay and for the price and fun atmosphere, you can’t go wrong! You can book this hostel on Hostelword or Booking.com.

If you prefer something a little nicer, I love the JW Marriott Cancun Resort. It’s not all-inclusive, which I enjoy because there are so many delicious restaurants in Cancun! The hotel is located right on the beach and has a huge pool. Rooms are typically $300-$500 USD depending on the time of year.

Of course, we all love a luxury all-inclusive stay, and for that, I always book either the Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun or the Le Blanc Spa Resort Cancun Adults Only. Both are not cheap but are equally as luxurious with fantastic oceanfront locations, delicious food, quality alcohol, and more.

More of a luxury traveler? Learn about the absolute best resorts in Cancun!

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie on their Bacalar boat tour in Mexico
Thanks for reading!

Cancun is one of our favorite places to visit, and we love staying in the Hotel Zone. However, getting from the Cancun airport to the Hotel Zone can be stressful – but it doesn’t have to be! By following our tips and planning ahead, you can have a relaxing journey to your accommodation. And we really hope you do!

If you found this guide useful, read our other blogs about Mexico here. We write about everything from the best tours and hotels to the top activities in each location. To help you out, I’ve linked to some articles below. Thanks for reading!

10 BEST Tours in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

12 Things to KNOW Before Booking a Bacalar Boat Tour

23 Amazing Things to do in Puerto Escondido

12 BEST Tours in Tulum, Mexico