This blog may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy for more info.
Playa del Carmen is one of the best places to visit on Mexico’s Riviera Maya. It’s got beautiful scenery, plenty of culture, and a ton of things to do. So naturally, once you touch down at Cancun Airport, you’ll want to get to Playa del Carmen and let the fun begin ASAP.
Unfortunately, Cancun Airport is a super chaotic place where lots of tourists are harassed by taxi drivers. People can often wait around hours for a ride to their hotel and then get ripped off to boot.
But you can bypass all of this chaos if you know what to do! That’s why you definitely need to read this guide before you touch down at Cancun Airport. I mean, who wants to be waiting in a cramped and busy arrivals terminal when you could be lying on the beach?
So keep on reading to discover everything you need to know about getting from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen. We’ll teach you exactly what to avoid and how to get to your hotel in the fastest, cheapest, and most convenient way.
Don’t have time to read the full article? The easiest and fastest way to get from the Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen is with this private shuttle. The shuttle will be waiting for you at the airport when you arrive and take you straight to your hotel, without having to worry about other guests!
1. How far is Cancun Airport from Playa Del Carmen?
Cancun International Airport is 55 kilometers (34 miles) from Playa del Carmen, and it takes about an hour to drive between the two. It can sometimes be less if traffic conditions are favorable. Or unfortunately, more during rush hour or when there is roadwork going on.
Of course, the exact time and distance depend on where you’re staying in Playa del Carmen, but most of the hotels are pretty close together so there’s not too much variation.
Related Read: If you’re also visiting Cancun, check out our guide on the best Cancun resorts. We’ve included a variety of options, from cheap to luxury, to suit your needs.
2. Are there free shuttles from Cancun Airport to Playa Del Carmen?
No, there are not. When you arrive at Cancun Airport, you’ll see that making money is the name of the game here – from the excessive taxi prices to the $8 USD bottles of water (yes, really).
There are a ton of regulations in place that mean that free shuttles aren’t possible. On the plus side, though, these regulations do protect the tourists’ safety (even if they’re not great for your wallet).
Every driver has to have a license, and all taxis and shuttles are tracked via a logbook. So although you have to pay for Cancun Airport shuttles, you’ll have peace of mind!
3. What are the options for getting from Cancun Airport to Playa Del Carmen?
I think that this private shuttle is the best way to get from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen. When you book a private shuttle, you’ll meet your driver at arrivals and head directly to your hotel – no need to wait around for other passengers.
Plus, this private shuttle operates 24/7 so there’s no need to worry if you arrive late. And since it’s just your party in the shuttle, the drivers will track your flight in case it’s delayed. No need to stress or communicate anything once you board that flight!
This private shuttle costs $92 USD per group for a one-way trip or $183 USD roundtrip. It accommodates up to 8 people, so it’s a great option for groups. However, it’s still going to be much cheaper than a taxi if you’re traveling alone or with just one or two others.
So for comfy, safe, and efficient transport to Playa del Carmen, book your private shuttle online here!
If you’re on a budget, then booking a seat on a shared shuttle with other travelers can save you some money. However, you might have to wait for other people in your group to arrive at the airport, and personally, I like to get out of Cancun Airport as fast as possible!
The other downside to shared shuttles is that they don’t tend to operate 24/7 like private ones do. So, it’s only an option if you’re arriving between 8 am and 6 pm.
Still, this shared shuttle is still much cheaper than taking a taxi and faster than taking the bus.
The shared shuttle I recommend costs $27.50 USD per person each way, but the price gets cheaper when you book for a big group. For example, if you book for 5 people, it costs $22.50 USD each way, or it’s just $14.60 USD for a group of 8. It’s a decent option for groups of friends traveling on a budget!
If you want the return trip back to the airport, make sure to choose the roundtrip option when booking. You can’t book a hotel-to-airport transfer separately. Also, there is a limit of one piece of luggage per person – so it’s best if you’re packing light.
For those on a budget, you can take advantage of this deal by booking here!
The ADO bus is a public bus that can take you from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen. It’s got air conditioning, comfy seats, and lots of space for your luggage, and it’s perfectly safe during the day (although I don’t recommend you catch it at night).
Buses leave right outside each of the airport terminals, so you don’t have to trek from one to the other in order to catch a ride. If you’re going to Playa del Carmen, you can catch a bus once every 20 minutes from 8 am until midnight.
Once you’re on board, it takes 1.5 hours to reach the tourist center of Playa del Carmen, where you’ll probably be staying. The ride costs $240 MXN each way, which is roughly $14 USD. So this is definitely a cheap option, particularly if you’re traveling alone and have no one to split the price of a shuttle with.
Despite the frequency of the buses, I highly recommend that you book your seat in advance. Ticket lines at the airport are really long, and you’ll probably have to wait for a few hours.
You can book directly via the ADO website. It’s only in Spanish, but it’s pretty easy to navigate and understand.
It is sometimes (big emphasis on the word sometimes) possible to catch an Uber from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen, but this is not a reliable mode of transport.
There’s a tense relationship between Uber drivers and taxi drivers in Cancun, and there have even been several attempts to ban Uber in the area. It’s still operating for now, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to catch a ride from the airport.
If you do want to try, turn left as soon as you leave the arrivals hall and follow the path to the pickup area. Bear in mind that you will need data to use the app because the airport WiFi is so bad that it may as well not exist! If you need to get a SIM card, do it at the Oxxo store outside the terminal (rather than inside) to get a fair price.
However, overall, I really don’t think taking an Uber from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen is a good option. The ride takes at least 45 minutes but can be over an hour, so it will be really expensive. A private shuttle is cheaper and way easier to organize!
If you take a taxi from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen, you WILL get ripped off. I really don’t recommend this.
The taxi drivers take advantage of tired tourists that don’t know any better. They charge insane prices to take you from the airport to your hotel and will usually short-change you at the end of the ride. Plus, they hassle you constantly.
Once you enter the arrivals terminal, what feels like hundreds of taxi drivers will shout at you, aggressively trying to get your business. Even after agreeing to ride with one of them, you’ll still have to book it and wait for a long time. And while you’re waiting, lots of other drivers will keep harassing you. It’s enough to drive anyone crazy!
Taking a Cancun Airport shuttle offers a much smoother experience. And you don’t have to wait to leave the airport if you book a private one. Even taking a shared one will cut down the waiting time. Plus, it will prove MUCH cheaper, and you can organize it in advance for peace of mind.
In summary, I wouldn’t rely on taxis or Uber at the airport. This is one of those situations where planning ahead will save you a huge headache (and some money!). Believe me, the Cancun Airport is a pretty overwhelming place when you don’t have a plan!
Rent a car
Renting a car is a great way to explore the Riviera Maya (and beyond). If you’re planning on doing this, you can pick your vehicle up from the airport and drive yourself to Playa del Carmen. Renting a car in Cancun from the airport is easy enough to do!
One of the biggest benefits is that they give you peace of mind. You can compare the prices of several different rental companies. As such, it’s much easier to make sure that you’re renting from a reputable company that won’t rip you off!
Insurance in Mexico can also be a bit complicated, but you can arrange the highest level of coverage through Discover Cars. They offer super reasonable prices so you can enjoy your trip worry-free! And with all the insane speed bumps and potholes in Mexico, trust us, you definitely want full coverage.
To check prices and car rental options for your trip, visit Discover Cars online here!
Note: If you don’t want to have to drive the distance from Cancun to Playa del Carmen, you can also just take a shuttle and then rent a car in Playa del Carmen to get around and enjoy shorter day trips.
I recommend checking if your hotel in Playa del Carmen offers a free airport shuttle before you arrive. If they do, then fantastic, go ahead and arrange it!
But if you have to pay extra for a hotel shuttle, I’d recommend arranging one independently instead. Hotels generally charge way too much to pick their guests up from the airport. You’re better off booking a shuttle on Viator because you’ll get the same service for a much cheaper price.
Related Read: If you’re looking to explore the surrounding area, read about the best day trips from Playa Del Carmen!
4. What is the most convenient option?
A private shuttle is definitely the most convenient option because you don’t need to wait around in the airport. There will be someone waiting for you with a sign, and then you follow them to the shuttle and go straight to your hotel.
Renting a car is also convenient and cost-effective. However, you’ll have to hang around in the airport for a bit to sign the paperwork.
When you book a private shuttle, you grab your bags, and then you’re good to go. I definitely prefer this option – especially after a long flight. I just want to get to my hotel and take a nap!
5. What is the cheapest option to get from Cancun Airport to Playa Del Carmen?
The ADO bus is the cheapest way to get from the airport to your hotel. It costs about $14 USD for a one-way ride, and I like that you can book in advance.
With that being said, if you’re traveling in a big group then sharing a private shuttle could prove even cheaper than the ADO bus. For example, this private shuttle costs $92 USD each way. So if you’re traveling in a group of 7 or 8, it works out even cheaper!
For convenience AND a great price, you can book this private shuttle here.
Related Read: If you’re on a budget, enjoy some free beach time. You can read about the best beaches in the Yucatan Peninsula here.
6. What are the best shuttles from Cancun Airport to Playa Del Carmen?
Playa del Carmen Private Transportation From-To Cancun Airport
I love this private shuttle because it just makes everything so easy. It was stress-free from the initial booking to the drive itself. The shuttle company is always waiting for you on time and will track your flight in case of delays.
Since it’s a private option, there’s no dilly-daddling at the airport. You’ll be whisked away to your Playa del Carmen accommodations immediately.
The company charges a flat rate of $92 USD per shuttle each way, and it can fit up to 8 passengers. So if you all split it, you’re only paying $11.50 each! You can take it any time day or night. But if you’re arriving after dark, I’d definitely recommend taking one of the private options on this list.
This is one of our favorite options for convenience and price. So if you’re looking for both, I suggest booking this private shuttle online.
Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen/Ferry/Pto Aventuras 1-8
This private shuttle is very similar to the previous one, but actually even cheaper. It costs $82 USD for one way or $156 USD for a roundtrip. You’re also allowed to have up to 8 people, so that could work out to just roughly $10 USD per person one-way.
The company’s staff will also be waiting for you with a sign upon arrival. You can just follow them out the door and head to your hotel.
If you want to make a stop by the grocery store on the way, they charge an additional $25 USD per hour. This can be a good call if you’re staying somewhere with a kitchen or want to load up on heavy beverages. And if you’re traveling with family, a car seat can be provided for an extra $12 USD.
This private shuttle is an awesome deal – which is why it sells out! So to take advantage of these low prices, you can check availability and book it online here.
7. What is the safest option to get from Cancun Airport to Playa Del Carmen?
If you’re concerned about safety in Mexico, you’re not alone. However, we’ve always felt safe provided we take the right precautions – and that starts with our transportation from the airport.
A private shuttle is definitely the safest way to get from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen. They’re run by authorized tour companies with fixed prices rather than taxi drivers who can (and do) inflate their prices as much as they want to.
Plus, a private shuttle will drop you off at your hotel. So if you’re arriving at night, you don’t need to worry about walking around in the dark with all of your valuables. And you travel with just your own group, so there’s no need to worry about sharing a vehicle with shady characters.
Related Read: If you’re staying in Cancun before your trip to Playa del Carmen, here are the best options to get from the Cancun Airport to the Cancun Hotel Zone!
8. What is the most dangerous way to get from Cancun Airport to Playa Del Carmen?
A taxi is the most dangerous way to travel from the airport to your hotel (although they are still quite safe as they’re closely monitored). I wouldn’t say that taking a taxi from the airport is a big risk in terms of your personal safety.
However, you WILL almost certainly get ripped off, which is not a great way to start your vacation! This private shuttle is a much better option because it’s safer and cheaper.
9. Tips for getting from Cancun Airport to Playa Del Carmen
Tips are expected
Be prepared to tip! Your driver will expect around a 10% tip at the end of the ride, so make sure to have some smaller notes on you. It doesn’t have to be pesos – US and Canadian dollars will also be gladly accepted.
Book in advance
Cancun Airport is super hectic and trust me, you do NOT want to arrive there without an escape plan. Whether you decide to take the bus or a shuttle, make sure that you book it in advance. You don’t want to get overwhelmed by all of the taxi drivers competing for your attention. That chaos can make even the most tolerant people crack!
We always book a private shuttle so that we have someone waiting for us at the arrivals terminal. Then, they’ll take us straight to the vehicle and away from the chaos.
Avoid the bus late at night
The bus is safe during the day, but it’s best to avoid it late at night. The ADO bus runs from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen until midnight, but I don’t recommend this if your flight gets in late. There will be fewer tourists on the bus at night, and this tends to be prime time for pickpockets and thieves.
Plus, the bus won’t drop you off right outside your hotel. And trust us, you don’t really want to be walking around Playa del Carmen with your luggage at night, figuring out where to go.
Never book with an unauthorized taxi
Airport taxis are closely monitored these days. But sometimes, some unauthorized ones sneak through, and these are even worse than the regular kind! They entice tourists with lower prices than the ridiculous official rates, only to shortchange or even rob them later on.
When you take an unauthorized taxi, there’s no logbook record of your ride. So, if something bad does happen, there won’t be very much you can do about it.
If you do take a taxi (although, as I’ve said many times, I strongly recommend that you don’t), at least make sure the driver is wearing a Cancun Airport Taxi uniform. Also, look for an ID badge on their person and on the windshield of their car.
But honestly, you can avoid all of this by just booking a shuttle instead!
Activities to do While in Playa del Carmen
Once you arrive, there are so many awesome things to do in Playa del Carmen! Whether you want a relaxing vacation or an action-packed one, you’ll have options. To give you an idea, I’ve highlighted some of my favorites below:
- Visit the best beaches – A trip to Playa del Carmen isn’t complete without a beach day (or two)! Playa del Carmen has some of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico and great snorkeling spots. Mamaitas Beach will give you a taste of the local scene and a fun day in the sun. Another popular spot is Calle 10, which is lined with beach clubs that have pools, private restaurants, and bars!
- Day trip to Tulum – Tulum is just an hour away, making it the ideal day trip destination. While here, you can visit Paradise Beach (my favorite beach in Mexico), some stunning cenotes (such as Dos Ojos), or the Tulum Ruins! By booking this tour from Playa del Carmen, you’ll get to see the best sights in town and swim with turtles!
- Have dinner at Alux Cave Restaurant – Alux Cave Restaurant is actually located inside a cave for a unique dining experience! They serve traditional Mexican dishes with a modern spin and have a wonderful selection of wines. There are so many good restaurants in Playa del Carmen, but this one might be the best!
- Go on a food tour – If you’re a foodie at heart, this walking street food tour is a must! It’s a great way to learn about different Mexican cuisines, from tacos and tamales to elote. Plus, I love that it visits more the locals’ favorite eateries rather than the touristy spots – you really get a window into the culture!
- Swim with whale sharks – The Yucatan Peninsula is one of the few places in the world where you can swim with whale sharks, which are actually not sharks but the biggest fish in the world. You have to take a boat for this activity, which is why I recommend booking this full-day whale shark tour.
- Visit Chichen Itza – Chichen Itza is the most famous Mayan Ruins in Mexico and one of the Seven Wonders of the World. And luckily, there are many tours from Playa del Carmen. With this full-day tour, you’ll see Chichen Itza, Valladolid, and a cenote all in one!
Where to Stay in Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen is full of fantastic accommodations and restaurants. But with so many options, it can be overwhelming! Having traveled here a few times, I’ve discovered some of my top places to stay. So to help you out, I’ve created a list below (including options for all budget ranges).
Luxury – $$$
For the luxurious travelers, El Taj Oceanfront and Beachside Condo Hotel has a great central location that is still secluded from the hustle and bustle. The hotel sits on the ocean, has an infinity pool and hot tub, and is in the heart of town. They offer a variety of rooms, including one, two, and three-bedroom apartments!
You can also request a private chef to serve you in the comfort of your suite. It will be hard to leave such a serene place! And with prices starting at $122 USD, it’s a great deal for what you get! If you want luxury, book your stay at this top hotel here!
Moderate Budget – $$
As far as mid-range accommodations go, I love the Soho Playa Hotel. It has a great location, a pool, a free breakfast, a restaurant, and a sleek and modern design. This place is a hidden gem for the price it’s offering. Rooms at this gorgeous hotel start at $77 USD a night. For classy accommodations at an affordable price, book your stay at Soho Playa Hotel here!
If you’re looking for something moderately priced but with a little more luxury, go for The Palm at Playa. It has a great heritage cuisine restaurant, a front desk surrounded by a tropical jungle, and a rooftop terrace with a swimming pool and bar. Plus, it’s just a couple minutes’ walk to the beach and town. When you book ahead, you can snag rooms at The Palm at Playa for as low as $88 USD per night.
Low Budget – $
For budget travelers, Che Playa Hostel and Bar is one of the best options. The hostel is conveniently located in the heart of downtown and has a rooftop bar and pool, a social vibe, clean facilities, and accommodating staff. You don’t always get those perks at hostels, but this one is a great find. The rooms are affordable (starting at $15 USD for a dorm bed) and can be booked at Hostelworld or Booking.com.
Don’t get Caught without Travel Insurance!
We never travel without travel insurance! We’ve had a few instances during our travels when one of us has ended up in the hospital, and travel insurance has saved us thousands of dollars over the years!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance, we both have policies with them whenever we travel.
They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!)The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!) While most travel insurance companies left people stranded, SafetyWing fully reimbursed us for our last-minute, pricey flights!
Also, because it is so affordable, there really is no excuse not to take out a policy. Check prices and get a quote online here with SafetyWing (you can even take out a policy if you’re already traveling!)
Thanks for reading!
If you’re arriving at Cancun Airport, having a plan is key! You can get to Playa del Carmen all the ways we mentioned, but our preferred method is definitely a private shuttle. Whatever you decide, we hope our guide has helped you find the best transport for you – and that you have an amazing trip!
To read more, check out our other articles about Mexico. This country has so much to offer, and we love sharing what we’ve learned. So below, I’ve linked to some articles that might be useful!