Getting from Cancun to Tulum and Tulum to Cancun (2021 Guide)

Getting from Cancun to Tulum and Tulum to Cancun (2021 Guide)

Tulum – a popular town in the state of Quintana Roo. Once a rustic, backpacker town on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, today, the town is popular with budget through to high-end travellers. But, with no airport of its own, travellers and holidaymakers need to make the 120 km journey south from Cancun to Tulum.

With no train network in the Yucatan peninsula, transport options to Tulum are limited to those on the road. Buses, colectivos, private transfers, taxis, shared shuttles and rental cars provide a wealth of options to suit all budgets, group sizes and travel preferences.

Perhaps, some might say, an overwhelming amount of options. Luckily, this complete guide shares all the transport options – including for who and when each is most suitable – so you’ll be able to make the best choice for you!

Bus from Cancun to Tulum
Departing: Cancun Airport | Downtown Cancun | Cancun Hotel Zone
Bus from Tulum to Cancun
Cancun-Tulum Colectivo
Departing: Cancun Airport | Downtown Cancun | Cancun Hotel Zone
Tulum-Cancun Colectivo
Private Transfers or Shuttles between Cancun & Tulum
Taxis between Cancun & Tulum
Car Rental in Cancun or Tulum

How to Get from Cancun to Tulum by Bus

If you’re staying in Mexico for an extended time, you’re about to meet your new best friend. Introducing, ADO buses. This is the bus company that will take you pretty much everywhere for competitive prices and with comfortable, spacious seats.

Unfortunately, the ADO website is terrible – in that, it has a lot of bugs, particularly if you have Chrome translating the page. Nevertheless, you can buy tickets and check bus times on the website or through their useful app. Just try deep breaths and refreshing the page when it doesn’t work the first time!

From Cancun Airport to Tulum

ADO buses run direct from all terminals of Cancun International Airport direct to Tulum Bus Station throughout the day. The cost is 300 Mexican Pesos one-way and this doesn’t change if you book on the day or in advance.

As there’s no difference in price, I’d recommend just buying a ticket when you’re at the airport from the ADO booths. The buses are actually 44-seater coaches, which are spacious and have plenty of room for luggage.

Follow signs for buses from within the terminal building. ADO buses are large and bright red, you can’t miss them once you’re in the right place. If you can’t find them, just ask someone for help – everyone is always willing in Mexico.

There are 8 Cancun Airport to Tulum direct buses per day, with the current (October 2021) schedule as follows:

  • Departs (Terminal 3) 10.10, (Terminal 4) 10.20, (Terminal 2) 10.30. Arrives Tulum: 12.40
  • Departs (T3) 11.25, (T4) 11.35, (T2) 11.45. Arrives Tulum: 13.55
  • Departs (T3) 12.40, (T4) 12.50, (T2) 13.00. Arrives Tulum: 15.10
  • Departs (T3) 13.20, (T4) 13.30, (T2) 13.40. Arrives Tulum: 15.55
  • Departs (T3) 14.20, (T4) 14.30, (T2) 14.40. Arrives Tulum: 16.50
  • Departs (T3) 16.25, (T4) 16.35, (T2) 16.45. Arrives Tulum: 18.55
  • Departs (T3) 18.15, (T4) 18.25, (T2) 18.35. Arrives Tulum: 20.45
  • Departs (T3) 20.15, (T4) 20.25, (T2) 20.35. Arrives Tulum: 22.45

If these times don’t work for you, another option is to take the ADO bus to Playa del Carmen (216 pesos) and change there for services to Tulum. The Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen bus leaves at least twice an hour between 8.15 am and 22.35pm, every day, taking 1 hour 10 minutes. The bus goes directly to Playa del Carmen bus station where you can change for another ADO bus to Tulum (52 to 98 pesos). The last bus from Playa del Carmen to Tulum is at 21.50.

Arriving Late into Cancun Airport?

If you arrive after the last bus to Tulum leaves, then you may want to consider one of the other transport options below. Alternatively, you could stay in Cancun or at Cancun Airport for the night (a hotel, not suggesting the chairs in the arrivals hall!), and then head to Tulum in the morning.

> > > RELATED POST: Just looking to travel between Cancun and Playa del Carmen? Then this 2021 transport guide to travelling between the two towns is for you!

From Central Cancun to Tulum

Getting from Downtown Cancun is pretty simple with ADO. It’s just one bus from Cancun Bus Station to Tulum Bus Station, with a journey time of around 2.5 to 3 hours. Buses currently run, with varying frequency, between 7.10am and 18.21pm. With one more bus at 00.30am – arriving into Tulum at 3am.

The cost of a one-way bus ticket between Cancun and Tulum is 198 pesos. Although, there are some slightly cheaper tickets available with ADO’s partner lines, which operate a second-class service. These services will have slightly less legroom and may not have amenities such as a toilet or TVs on-board.

From Cancun Hotel Zone to Tulum

If you’re in the hotel zone, you need to take a local bus to Downtown Cancun. From there, you can follow the directions above and get an ADO bus straight to Tulum.

Take the R1 bus from the hotel zone – bus stops are located along the main road, make sure you’re on the northbound side of the road. Tickets cost 12 pesos per person, simply pay the driver when you get on. Cash only, try to have the right change, they won’t have change for large notes.

Get off at the roundabout on Avenida Tulum, opposite the ADO Bus Station. If you go past the McDonald’s, you’ve gone too far – get off ASAP and walk back to the bus station.

You can also get a taxi from the hotel zone to Cancun’s ADO Bus Station. However, this is a more expensive option. Expect to pay around 200-250 pesos from the northern end of the hotel zone and even more the further south you are.

Onwards to Tulum’s Hotel Zone and Beachfront Area

All of the bus options above take you to Tulum Bus Station, which is located in Tulum town. If you are staying in Tulum’s Hotel Zone or beachfront area, you’ll need to take a taxi to your hotel, hostel, Airbnb etc. There isn’t uber, so you’ll need to find a taxi – which, should be easy as they’ll wait outside the bus station.

I cannot stress this enough, but, you NEED to agree on a price with the taxi driver before you get in. If you don’t, they’ll massively overcharge you when you get to your hotel and you won’t be able to say or do anything, as they’ve already driven you. If your Spanish skills are lacking, write the number you want to pay on your phone and show it to the taxi driver.

Expect to pay between 200 and 250 pesos for a taxi from Tulum to the hotel zone or beach area.

Large letters spelling out Cancun displayed in the downtown area, near where you get the colectivo to Tulum

Bus from Tulum to Cancun

Going from Tulum to Cancun by bus is largely the same as the route in reverse. You’ll first need to get to the ADO Bus Station in Tulum Town, where all the buses leave from. This will mean a taxi if you’re staying in Tulum’s Hotel Zone or the beachfront area.

Tulum to Cancun Airport by Bus

There are 7 services a day running directly between Tulum and Cancun Airport. The cost is 300 pesos per person and the buses stop at all terminals.

As of October 2021, this is the bus schedule between Tulum and Cancun Airport:

  • Departs Tulum: 04.00. Arrives Terminal 4: 05.45, T2: 05.55, Terminal 3: 06.05
  • Departs Tulum: 07.10. Arrives T4: 08.55, T2: 09.05, T3: 09.15
  • Departs Tulum: 09.00. Arrives T4: 10.45, T2: 10.55, T3: 11.05
  • Departs Tulum: 11.00. Arrives T4: 12.45, T2: 12.55, T3: 13.05
  • Departs Tulum: 11.55. Arrives T4: 13.40, T2: 13.50, T3: 14.00
  • Departs Tulum: 14.10. Arrives T4: 15.55, T2: 16.05, T3: 16.15
  • Departs Tulum: 15.15. Arrives T4: 17.00, T2: 17.10, T3: 17.20

An alternative option, if these times don’t work for you, is to first get to Playa del Carmen. From there, you can take a bus to Cancun Airport (216 pesos). The first bus leaves Playa del Carmen at 3am, then once an hour until 7am. After which, the buses are approximately every half an hour until the last bus at 20.25 – arriving at the airport (Terminal 2) at 21.35. Add 10 minutes onto the arrival time for Terminal 3 and minus 10 minutes for Terminal 4.

Tulum to Cancun Centro & Hotel Zone by Bus

Ten ADO services a day run from Tulum north to Cancun. The journey time is around 2 to 2.5 hours and tickets cost 198 pesos, per person one way.

Cancun Bus Station is in the heart of the centro district, within walking distance of most hotels in Downtown Cancun. If you need to get to the Hotel Zone in Cancun, you need to take the R1 bus – costing 12 pesos – from Avenida Tulum in front of Cancun Bus Station. Taxis to the hotel zone from Downtown Cancun will cost anywhere from 200 pesos upwards depending on how far along the strip you need to get to.

Tulum ruins overlooking the Caribbean Sea
Image provided by and used with permission of A World To Travel.

Getting from Cancun to Tulum by Colectivo

Colectivos are a popular and cheap form of transport in Mexico. These minibuses operate on set routes but generally don’t leave until the bus is full or almost full. As such, they don’t have a set schedule.

Colectivos, which are generally white, often have the destination written on the front or side windows. If not, you’ll just need to ask the driver. Saying where you want to go as a question will generally suffice.

From Cancun Airport

No colectivos run directly from Cancun International Airport. Rather, you have two options. Although, there is a caveat at the end!

The first – and the true backpacker style – is to walk from the airport to the roadside of Highway 307. Here, you’ll need to flag down a colectivo. Those that don’t stop likely don’t have any spare seats. You’ll need to first go to Playa del Carmen (40 pesos) and then get a second colectivo to Tulum (45 pesos).

Colectivos to Tulum leave from under Highway 307 in Playa del Carmen (search for ‘Colectivo station – Playa Del Carmen to Tulum’ on Google Maps). You’ll want to get dropped off here as well. Colectivos coming from Cancun will likely drive through the centre of Playa del Carmen first dropping people off.

The second option is to take the ADO bus to Playa del Carmen (216 pesos) and then walk to the colectivo base on Highway 307. The total cost of this bus plus colectivo route is 261 pesos, though. So, not much of a saving compared with getting the ADO bus straight to Tulum.

However… A colectivo is not a good option if you have luggage. These are minibuses – so the only space is inside, which are unsurprisingly packed full of people. Sometimes, there are more people than seats. If you’re just travelling with hand luggage or no luggage, then a colectivo is a great choice. If you have a large backpack or a suitcase of any size, then an ADO bus would be a much better option!

From Downtown Cancun

As there aren’t any colectivos running all the way from Cancun to Tulum, you’ll need to change in Playa del Carmen.

Colectivos run from opposite Cancun Bus Station to Playa del Carmen, charging 40 pesos per person. Next, take a second colectivo to Tulum from under Highway 307 at the junction with Calle 1 Sur. This second part of the journey will cost about 45 pesos. (See the section above on finding the colectivo stop in Playa del Carmen).

From Cancun’s Hotel Zone

There aren’t any colectivos directly from the hotel zone to either Cancun Centro, Playa del Carmen or Tulum. First, take the local R1 bus from the hotel zone to Downtown Cancun (12 pesos) – getting off near the main ADO bus station. Colectivos towards Tulum leave from opposite Cancun Bus Station.

From central Cancun, take a colectivo first to Playa del Carmen (40 pesos) and then a second colectivo onward to Tulum (45 pesos).

Onwards to Tulum’s Hotel Zone and Beachfront Area

The colectivos from Playa del Carmen will drive around Tulum town dropping people off. But, they won’t go as far as the beach or hotel zone. You’ll need to get a taxi the rest of the way if your hotel is in these areas.

There aren’t any Ubers, so flag down a taxi and negotiate a price before you get in. Look to pay in the region of 200 to 250 pesos.

Taking a Colectivo from Tulum to Cancun

Getting a colectivo to Cancun Centro from Tulum is simple. Take a colectivo from opposite the ADO Bus Station in Tulum to Playa del Carmen, then take a second colectivo all the way to Cancun. The total journey will cost you less than 100 pesos

And, to get to Cancun’s Hotel Zone, take the R1 local bus from Avenida Tulum once you arrive in Cancun – for an additional 12 pesos.

However, taking a colectivo from Tulum to Cancun Airport is a far less ideal option, for several reasons. After taking a colectivo to Playa del Carmen, you need to take a second in the direction of Cancun – but you’ll need to be dropped off on the side of the highway, next to Cancun Airport.

Firstly, you’ll be on the opposite side of the road to the airport, meaning you and your luggage will have to somehow cross a very busy road or take a long detour. Secondly, if for any reason your driver doesn’t stop or want to drop you off on the side of the main road, you could end up miles from the airport. In which case, you’ll need another form of transportation (likely an expensive taxi) to get you to the airport. And, thirdly, colectivos are not luggage-friendly. If you have anything larger than hand luggage, you’ll struggle to fit it in the minibus and the driver may not allow you on.

The lagoon in Cancun hotel zone with a bright blue sky

Private Transfers or Shared Shuttles between Cancun Airport & Tulum

Airport-Run Services

There is official Cancun Airport transportation that offers private transfers and shared shuttles to Tulum. The service is available 24 hours a day and there are a variety of vehicles to suit groups of different sizes. Return services back to the airport from Tulum are also available.

You’ll be picked up from outside your arrival terminal and taken to outside your hotel. Shared shuttles will stop at other terminals and make additional drop-offs.

This is a more expensive option but is better suited to those arriving very early/late and those who want the convenience offered.

For a shared shuttle to Tulum, prices start at around 80 USD for one person and around 87 USD for two people travelling together. A luggage allowance of 1 full-size bag and 1 personal item applies.

Private transfers start at around 100 USD – but, these are the prices per vehicle, so become more economic for groups. For instance, a 10-person taxi costs around 114 USD, of 11.40 USD each. A 10-person taxi won’t actually fit 10 people, 10 suitcases and 10 small bags though, so make a judgement call wisely.

Private airport transfers and shared shuttles should be booked in advance on the official Cancun Airport website.

Hotel-Run Services

If you are staying in a luxury resort in Tulum – likely in the Hotel Zone or on the beachfront – then, your hotel may run a private or shared transfer service. You’ll see all across the Riviera Maya that the fancy hotels have their own branded coaches and minibuses. Enquire with your hotel regarding whether they offer this service.

Getting a Taxi to Tulum from Cancun

Taxis are readily available at Cancun’s airport, hotel zone and central district. These don’t need to be booked in advance, unlike the transfer and shuttle services.

Taxis to Tulum from both Cancun Airport and Cancun itself will cost in the region of 100 USD – or 2000 Mexican Pesos one-way. The maximum capacity of most taxis is the driver plus 4 passengers. But, the taxis are unlikely to have room for 4 passengers and 4 full-size pieces of luggage.

If you are a group of 4 or more people, I’d recommend asking your hotel in Cancun if they have recommendations for private transfer services. Since I’m assuming you don’t want to take the bus!

Renting a Car in Cancun

The final transport option for getting between Cancun and Tulum is to rent a car and drive yourself. There’s 118 km between the airport and Tulum, pretty much all along one road – Highway 307. While, the distance between Downtown Cancun and Tulum is slightly longer, at 131 km. The drive will take anywhere between 1.5 and 2.5 hours depending on traffic.

Various car rental companies operate in Cancun and at Cancun Airport. Including, big names such as Enterprise, Thrifty, Hertz and Europcar. And, while renting a car sounds simple enough, it can lead to more hassle than it’s worth.

Rental car companies often require large (several thousand) deposits and/or leaving your ID – such as driving licence or passport. Plus, they have a reputation to charge customers for damage that was already there. And, in Mexico, insurance requirements are particularly stringent. You’ll unlikely be able to use credit card insurance and will need to pay for their policy. All of this can make a cheap rental fee rocket to a price you didn’t expect.

As such, I’d only recommend hiring a car if you were planning on hiring one for some part of your trip anyway. It’s just not worth the hassle for one journey – particularly, given the options above are cheaper and as easy. And, the fact you’d be paying a one-way fee for not returning the car to the same branch.

Do you have any questions or want any more information? If so, drop a comment below and I’ll get back to you!

Information is correct as of October 2021 but is subject to change in future.

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