Our first “sighting” of Playa del Carmen, Mexico, was from our cruise ship balcony while docked on the island of Cozumel. We noticed many passengers chose to take the ferry to the mainland since there was more to see and do than on the island.
With idyllic sandy beaches, warm sunshine, multiple Mayan ruins, and a plethora of eco-adventure activities, Playa del Carmen (PDC) couldn’t be a single cruise ship port day for us. Playa del Carmen is definitely a town where one day is not enough.
A plan for an extensive exploration of Playa del Carmen quickly went on our travel wish-list, and a couple of winters ago, we finally checked it off the list! We spent a fabulous week exploring the town, Riviera Maya (the Mayan Riviera), and the surrounding areas, all using public transportation.
Go Local and use Public Transport in Playa del Carmen
Table of Contents
- Travelling within Downtown Playa del Carmen
- Travelling outside Downtown Playa del Carmen
- Airport Transportation to Playa del Carmen from Cancun Airport
- How to get to Chichén Itzá using Public Transportation from Playa del Carmen
- Taxis in Playa del Carmen
- Colectivos in Playa del Carmen
- Ferry Service from Playa del Carmen
Note: These are some of Playa del Carmen’s convenient public transportation options, but you can research others that may better fit into your adventure.
Our travel preference to keep costs in Mexico low is to utilize the various public transportation options. We typically do this whenever we travel, if possible.
We are always happy to ride the bus with locals and share a glimpse of their daily activities, and often ask fellow passengers for advice on fabulous places to eat, where to shop, and where to relax.
PRO TRAVEL TIP: As usual, use a reasonable amount of precaution and common sense for your safety while riding any form of public transportation. Taxis are always the best option if you are out late into the evening.
Travelling within Downtown Playa del Carmen
Although taxis are readily available, downtown PDC is very pedestrian-friendly for walking and biking. The streets are designed for pedestrian-only traffic and have designated bike lanes. No need to worry about any bus schedules here; just make sure to bring comfortable walking shoes!
Travelling outside Downtown Playa del Carmen
For trips outside of the downtown core of Playa del Carmen, you have an option to use buses and Colectivos (shared minivans). Both are good transportation options for day trips such as visiting the famous Chichen Itza or Tulum ruins, Xcaret Park, Xel-Ha Park, Akumal, Cancun or any other nearby resort properties.
We generally found the PDC public transportation affordable, convenient, well organized, efficient, and safe for all our daily adventures.
Below are some of the various PDC public transportation choices for visitors in the Playa del Carmen, Cancun or Tulum areas of Mexico.
Note: There are additional public bus routes, which we did not use, as they appeared to travel into more local neighbourhoods.
Airport Transportation to Playa del Carmen from Cancun Airport
While Playa del Carmen has an airport, it is for regional flights only. Instead, the closest international airport is the Cancun International Airport (CUN).
Tourists and locals most commonly use the ADO (Ah-Day-Oh) bus for travel from the Cancun airport to PDC. The ADO bus operates every 30 minutes, from the Cancun airport Terminal 3 to the central PDC Tourist ADO bus terminal (located at 5th Ave. and Juarez Street).
The ADO public buses are modern, with air conditioning, clean washrooms, comfortable seats, entertainment, and WIFI. If your airplane lands at a different terminal, free airport shuttles are available to transfer passengers between terminals.
To find the ADO bus stop at Terminal 3, you’ll have to exit the terminal and pass through the hallway of timeshare salespeople, private shuttles, tours salespeople and taxi drivers. Once outside the Terminal 3 exit (located on the right-hand side past the beverage stand), you’ll see a small, bright red ADO ticket cart managed by employees with matching red shirts.
The 45-minute ride to downtown PDC is about 230pesos ($12 US) one way, while a shared shuttle or private taxi will cost about 500-1200 pesos ($25-60 US) one way. Therefore, if you are travelling as a family or a large group, it may be more cost-effective and convenient to book a private service instead.
We also used the ADO bus to visit the Chichén Itzá ruins.
How to get to Chichén Itzá using Public Transportation from Playa del Carmen
One of the most popular tours/day trip excursion and a must-see while in the area is a visit to the Chichen Itza ruins. One of the most popular tours/day trip excursions and a must-see while in the area is a visit to the Chichén Itzá ruins, one of the seven wonders of the modern world. Many tourists prefer to book from one of the many tour group excursions sold from carts throughout the tourist zone on 5th Avenue or online. Here are some excellent tours if you prefer pre-booking online.
For those who prefer to do things on their own (like us!), daily ADO bus rides are available from downtown Playa del Carmen bus terminal to the Chichén Itzá ruins with multiple departure and arrival times.
Private tours with guides will cost around 3000 pesos ($150 US) and take about 2.5 hours of driving. It’s essential to consider your priorities and weigh the pros and cons between touring on your own or joining a private guided tour for Chichén Itzá.
PRO TRAVEL TIP: If making an independent trip to Chichén Itzá, try to buy your ADO Bus tickets a few days early. We purchased our ADO tickets three days in advance and got a 25% discount for pre-purchasing; in the end, it cost 550 pesos ($28 US) per person for a roundtrip.
The entrance fee for the ruins is around 500 pesos ($26 US) per person.
The bus leaves at 8 am daily from the main ADO Bus Station and arrives in Chichén Itzá around noon. The 3.5-hour ride takes you through several picturesque small towns providing a sense of local life beyond the tourist zones as the bus stops to pick up additional passengers.
Return departure from the Chichén Itzá to Playa del Carmen is at 4:30 pm Chichén Itzá time.
Note: We discovered there is a 1-hour time difference in this area which gives you an additional hour at the ruins. However, make sure you ask the bus driver to confirm the local departure time.
Taxis in Playa del Carmen
There are taxis to be found everywhere in the tourist areas of Playa del Carmen, and they typically operate 24/7. In PDC, taxis are white with a turquoise stripe along the side and generally consist of small sedans or larger minivans. However, taxis in Cancun have a green stripe, while those in Tulum have a red one, to identify their home base. Priced according to fixed zones of travel, taxi rates should be confirmed before your ride as there are no meters inside the vehicles. The hotel staff suggested that most fares are calculated at 20 pesos ($1 US) per minute. Still, I suggest you confirm the rate at your hotel and negotiate for the best price.
Looking for some all-inclusive hotels and wondering where to stay that’s close to the Playa del Carmen public transportation bus system? Read our article here about where we stayed while in the city.
Colectivos in Playa del Carmen
In Playa del Carmen, Colectivos (single L in Mexico) are small white minivans with air conditioning and 12-15 people seating. Colectivos provide economical shared transportation for locals and tourists along the Hwy 307 corridor, covering areas from Playa del Carmen to Tulum and Cancun. Many of the resorts, attractions and Mayan ruins are along this highway, making Colectivos a convenient way of moving throughout the cities.
PRO TRAVEL TIP: Colectivos leave once the vans are full. They don’t operate on a schedule.
We immensely enjoyed riding the Colectivos; many locals were friendly and helpful when we weren’t sure where we were going. But remember, you’re in Mexico, and English is their second language. We’ve found that you can’t go wrong with a friendly, polite “Por favor” (please), “Gracias” (thank you) and “Bon Diya” (good day)!!!
PRO TRAVEL TIP: The route is painted clearly on the front of each van, but it never hurts to ask for confirmation of the destination and the price before you hop inside.
The main Playa del Carmen Colectivo bus terminal is near Calle 2 Norte between Avenue 15 & 20th. There are also designated areas for the Tulum ruins route (40 pesos ($2US) one way) and the Cancun route (45 pesos ($2.25 US) one way).
PRO TRAVEL TIP: One of our favourite restaurants is located nearby. Read our article where to eat in Playa del Carmen.
- The fare is based on the distance travelled to your final destination, so it’s best if you ask for the cost before you board, telling the driver where you would like them to stop.
- I also recommend that you have exact change to make it easy on the driver but don’t worry if you have no coins – they’ll have change available. You’ll pay your fare once you reach your final destination.
If you prefer a guided tour of Playa del Carmen and Tulum, here are some things you may wish to consider:
PRO TRAVEL TIP: Make sure to ask the driver as you exit your Colectivo, where the pick-up stop for your return journey is. It may not necessarily be in the same spot, which can save you a lot of hassle later on.
Should you be walking to the Colectivo stop and see one coming along the road, you can wave at it as it approaches. If it is safe to pull over and stop, the driver will stop and pick you up. Drivers can pick up anywhere along the route, but they will only stop and let passengers off at designated stops.
Ferry Service from Playa del Carmen
The ferry terminal is in downtown Playa del Carmen at the base of Juarez Street.
Three ferry service companies provide roundtrip rides between downtown Playa del Carmen and Cozumel Island, operating seven days each week from 9 am – 9 pm. You can find ticket booths throughout the downtown area, and a one-way ticket is 200 pesos ($10 US) for the 45-minute trip. The ride can get very bumpy as it sails into open water, where the waves can be pretty choppy.
In Cozumel, we like to visit Playa Paradise beach snorkelling along its famous coral reefs and spend the day shopping at the colourful stores near Cozumel Ferry Terminal.
For passengers landing at the Cozumel airport and planning to stay on the mainland in Playa del Carmen, a short taxi ride and ferry service is the most convenient way to visit Playa del Carmen on the mainland.
Note: The cost of the taxi from Cozumel airport to the ferry is around 120 pesos ($6 US).
These are some of the convenient public transportation options in Playa del Carmen, but you can research others that may fit into your adventure.
We had a great time in Playa del Carmen and enjoyed using the various public transportation options to get us to our destination.
We have always loved the freedom of visiting and touring at our own pace and are always looking for dependable, affordable, safe, and reliable public transportation wherever we travel.
Visitors can use public buses, taxis, shared vans and ferry services to discover Playa del Carmen’s well-preserved historical sites, adventure parks, and cultural neighbourhoods.