The country of Mexico can be an exciting place with luscious beaches and resorts that are ideal for the family and even newly married couples.
This is the historical site, excursions, and amusement parks you can find while in the city of Cancun.
Another city, Tulum, can offer you something a little different if you stay out of the high tourist areas, which may break your immersion. Getting there, though, will take some planning, as you have many options.
Read on to find out the best ways to travel from Cancun to Tulum, how you can make this easier and less expensive, and where you can stay and do in Tulum.
Cancun: An Overview
This Caribbean gem has a grand beach to the east, one of its most prominent tourist attractions. You can do activities such as snorkeling, a catamaran cruise, seeing the aquarium, and even trying out some volleyball.
Further inland, you can find aqua parks, gardens, and restaurants, and if you’re willing to go further west, you can go on a guided tour of Chichén Itzá, a landmark in the ancient Mayan ruins and is an excellent look into an ancient past.
Tulum: An Overview
Located southwest of the island of Cozumel, this town is also situated on the Caribbean coastline of Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula. There is also an easy-to-find public beach, with some of the Mayan ruins on display as you go north.
As well as these, you also have art museums, nature and culture tours, reserves, and many other caverns and parks to explore.
As well as Cancun, you can get guided tours suitable for groups and even small families during your stay.
Ways To Travel To Tulum
Now you have an idea of what to expect from the two areas, there is the question of how to get from one to the other, as you can get a direct flight to Cancun airport, then make a transfer over to the town.
This is around 73 miles between them, and it can take up to two and a half hours to travel between them, depending on the time of day you decide to make the trip.
It can be especially busy around November to April, so here you can plan around this inconvenience.
With this out of the way, you need to plan some form of transportation, which we look at below.
1. Private Transporation
Probably the most convenient option, It comes in many forms, one of these being Colectivo, a combination of shuttle transportation or mini-vans that are made to go from Cancun airport to Tulum.
You have a range of transportation to suit your needs so you can make it even more comfortable for yourself, but take note that the cost of these can vary on the number of people you have and if you want to go one way or a round trip.
Before you plan any transportation, check the site to see if your transport offers the service of taking you to your chosen hotel in Tulum. This could be arranged as low as $110 for up to eight passengers.
2. Car Hire
This can be another convenient and easy way to customize your trip, as you can use services such as rentalcars.com to find the right car for you.
You can conveniently pick up and drop it off at a determined location and can even change where you return it quite quickly.
While this can be a great option where you might be able to get there quicker, you have to consider the costs of the rental and the insurance that you might want to take out in case there are any damages and hidden costs that are provided as a type of deposit.
Consider the type of vehicle you rent and what the fuel policy is like, so you can have more control over your mileage if you decide to save money and have a limit on how far you go with any of the providers in the region.
3. Coach Or Bus Service
This can be an ideal way to get in some sights and use amenities such as reclining seats, TVs, and a nearby toilet facility.
Even though this can take up to 2 hours and 45 minutes, you get a highly-rated ride that is simple enough to book and turn up to use.
If you aren’t too comfortable with driving back in the US, driving here can be similar as you find comparable driving laws, except for the miles per hour to kilometer change.
This is why a first-class, standard, or economy-class bus or coach can be fuss-free.
The cost of this can range from $11- $22, and for the quicker services, you won’t have far to travel at all, so you can get your holiday off to a good start and enjoy some of the views from the Caribbean as you pass them by.
4. Taxi Service
Compared to private transportation or car rental, this might be the most efficient and direct way to get from Cancun when you arrive and go straight to Tulum, as in your itinerary.
This convenience comes at a premium, as this service can cost as much as $120.
You can find other taxi services as you go further into Cancun. Still, even though you can make a cheaper arrangement, there might be issues around reliability if you’re hoping to use this service for a return or stop during your travels.
Also, bear in mind that even though you can find taxi services at Cancun airport, these can be around $30 more expensive, as it’s likely that their business is focused on unprepared tourists who need a taxi service last minute.
5. As Part Of An Excursion
This might not be a direct path, but this way, you can have a service that stops off along the path for you to get off the transportation and see some of the sights.
You can go for a half-day venture that has meals included for convenience.
You could also go on this service as part of a cruise package holiday that can circle the whole of the Caribbean to see the surrounding islands.
Even though this isn’t a direct path, it might be ideal for those who want a more all-around trip.
While it is more costly if you go through this service via the airport, you can arrange these tours at any time in your trip, so it is ideal for those new to the country who don’t have a full grasp of directions.
6. Helicopter Ride
While this can seem like the least affordable way to get to Tulum from Cancun, you get the premium of making your trip in less than 35 minutes.
This is also a great way to get a unique overhead view of the region which can be very rewarding.
While this service can range from $750 to $5,000, you get a first-rate service with hand luggage, and if you go with a group, you can sit back in comfort without having to use shared transportation.
This can seem impractical for some, but this is worth looking at if you have some allowance. If you skip out on this option, you can arrange other trips in the region, so there is a lot to weigh up here.
Are There Other Ways Of Transportation?
While it can be possible to make the trip by bike, it may be unwise as even though you can ride on some highways using the paved shoulder, you could take advantage of dirt roads parallel to the highway.
One of the concerns of this is the traffic, which can get very busy with fast-moving traffic, with some of the emergency lanes on both sides road sometimes benign used as a second driving lane in some circumstances.
If you’re thinking of going for several forms of travel during your stay, it can be a good idea to map out your route so you know where you should be if there are any issues with rentals or arranged services.
Amenities Along The Route
With all these options, it may be tempting to arrange a hotel in Tulum and go straight there, and while this is an efficient way to travel the country, there may be some areas and stops that might be worth the detour to see, which you can find some of these below.
Centro Maya Shopping Mall
Located in Playa del Carmen, this stop is only 44 miles away from Cancun, which can be found just along the highway, which can be a great place to experience some of the best the region has to offer.
Even though this is only to some’s taste, you can find superstores, cinemas, clothing stores, and restaurants that you will be familiar with if you want something to take out.
This could be the ideal location to get in any last-minute shopping for supplies or accessories.
Also located in Playa del Carmen, this can be seen as a place where tourism and local culture intertwine, as you have a seaside park with sculptures that reflect the local area in unique ways.
As well as local shops and cafes along the shorefront, you can find cultural shows that take place every afternoon.
You can witness Mayan and Jarana dancing, showing off each heritage’s rich culture, which is full of insight and excitement.
Cenotes Sac Actún
Listed as one of the top attractions in the Tulum area, you can find an underwater cave system where you can go diving, snorkeling, wildlife viewing, or just relaxing in these natural settings.
There are many of these cenotes in Mexico. For the purposes of convenience, this one is an hour away from the final stop of Tulum, so you can experience a swimming hole that is more inclusive than a beach, and you can be that bit closer to the local culture.
Punta Laguna Nature Reserve
If you are okay going on a detour from the main corridor that connects Cancun and Tulum, you can arrange a guided tour around this expansive jungle and nature path where you can see spider monkeys, toads, fire ants, and many species of birds.
Even though this is around $20 for a tour, you can find so much here, from partially excavated ruins to canoeing and zip-lining through the jungle.
You can venture off through the many paths and make your own discoveries, so that could be the highlight of your trip.
Places To Stay In Tulum
You can find well over 100 properties to stay in near the Tulum area, and some of these can be more expensive during high tourist seasons, with some even costing more the closer to the beaches you are.
Below we offer not just locations that are reasonable in price but have amenities that keep them competitive with others, so you can relax here if you find you want to take things easy.
This stay is just over a mile from Las Palmas beach and not that far from downtown, with a good choice of rooms to suit your party size and even comes with a la carte breakfast services should you want a natural dining experience.
You also have access to a TV, a rooftop pool, a wake-up service, a balcony, a mini-bar, and free WiFi, amongst many other services.
With this, you get organic-looking interiors that are a refreshing change of scene that feels personal to the individual.
This location is ideal for those who want beach views from their room, as you can have a suite with a terrace that overlooks the pier and clear waters, so you get that bit of extra luxury with many amenities included.
You also have outstanding service where you can arrange activities in the surrounding area.
Once you’ve tried all of these, you can be welcomed by a diverse menu that contains Mediterranean, steakhouse, vegetarian, vegan, and seafood cuisine.
If you prefer resorts, this one is worth looking at as it goes beyond what you’d expect from a usual hotel, and it’s all down to the design.
Here you can find lodgings that have a rustic and romantic feel, making them perfect for couples or newlyweds.
You have pool-side views surrounded by tropical fauna for an intimate setting, with yoga classes, couples massages, a bar and lounge, and to top it all off, you get access to a private beach if you want an escape from the tourist-heavy areas.
Mayan Monkey Tulum
This one is a bit different as it’s not like your usual stay, but instead, this villa has open spaces and is located near the center of town for those who want to explore other areas.
It also has close links to the Tulum National Park, public beaches, and Mayan ruins, and it has various restaurants within a 20-minute walk.
This makes it a convenient stop if you want somewhere that has links to transport, amenities, and landmarks of note.
Considered a gem in the area, this one is situated right in the center of town, but closer to the suburbs, so you can experience the serenity and natural beauty however you like.
Even though there are many attractions nearby, this hotel has plenty of amenities.
These include two outdoor pools, cooked-to-order breakfast, complimentary toiletries and hairdryers, and daily housekeeping, and are even pet-friendly if you’re wondering whether to bring your furry companion with you.
Things To Do In Tulum
When you reach your hotel in Tulum, there are still many things for you to go and explore, or you can sit back and enjoy the amenities nearby, as you can find local markets and many restaurants that give you some signature flavors of Mexican culture.
If you need a helping hand figuring out where to start, we have a few attractions below that are worth a visit during your stay there.
Playa Las Palmas Beach
Alongside the Tulum national park, you’ll find this public beach with an intimate feel to it, so here you have a completely exposed area with clear and shallow water that stretches out to the Caribbean sea.
So you have a slice of paradise in this area.
While it can be hot all year round in Tulum, with the hottest average of 82ºF, this doesn’t mean you should relax when it comes to preparations when going out in the sun, as areas like these have hardly any shade.
We go north of this beach and focus on a popular tourist attraction, which might sound daunting, but when you reach the top of the tower, the view alone will make the whole experience worth it for singles or in groups.
As well as this, you can find complimentary dining and drinks as you spin to get a 360º view, where you can see more Mayan ruins and wilderness that seems to go on forever.
You can book this through your hotel and arrive here to finish the day in splendor.
Tulum Craft Center
If you want to dive into the local culture, you can explore this shopping district, where you can find some pretty souvenirs or try some authentic tacos or carnitas with a nice margarita or a beer for a refreshing stop.
Here you can find hats, hammocks, blankets, cover-ups, hand-crafted goods, and some familiar chains nearby that can offer you something different if you’re a bit reluctant to tuck into some unique dishes.
Extreme Control Adventure Tulum
This is an excellent attraction for those who want to explore some of the nearby cenotes and want a detailed tour, as you can arrange that here and rent out paddle boards or snorkeling equipment for when you explore these freshwater areas next.
You can also be taught how to use any equipment you borrow, with friendly teachers who can give you some pointers to specific spots. The nearby beach also has a kite surfing school if you want a more extreme adventure.
Here is an art exhibit that unravels some of the mystical elements of Mayan cosmology, with different sensory rooms that give you a view like none other.
Here you can explore rooms labeled sanctuary, ascension, spirit, and Maya.
A lot of passion comes through these exhibits, with detailed photos and video rooms that immerse you in the artist’s mindset.
This can be enjoyable with interactive rooms, even if you don’t find your tastes align with the ones displayed here.
Some Travel Advice
With your itinerary sorted out and your transport arranged as you roam the town, there might be other considerations that you need to make, which may end up costing you more if overlooked.
These can also determine how much enjoyment you get from your trip overall.
That is why we have provided tips for you to think over before or during your trip to make it as unforgettable and stress-free as possible.
Plan Your Route Ahead Of Time
If you’re on a budget, finalizing your travel plans can save you from paying more for unexpected costs such as accommodation or taxi fare.
In general, the closer to Tulum you stay, the cheaper it can be for you while exploring.
If you find that you’re taking a coach or bus service and can prebook, this is something that you want to arrange before you’re there, as some services run on a schedule, and you may have to add time to the timings if there is a delay in your flight.
If you can, you should avoid using taxi services outside of the airport as there may be a tourist premium, meaning you could be paying tens of dollars more than if you were to arrange a shuttle or bus service.
Safety In Mexico
While there are some safety concerns in Mexico with an uptick in crime in certain areas, in general, tourism spots should be fine as long as you’re aware of your surroundings and belongings, as a common crime in these areas is pickpocketing.
That is why you should try not to stand out and be sure where you’re going so you don’t mark yourself as a potential victim. You can go further by not placing any belongings in your back pocket or exposed areas.
Arrange Your Trip For The Low Seasons
If you’re one for a good deal, if you arrange your trip around late august to early December, you should avoid heavy crowds, and you may find hotels, travel, and amenities are slightly cheaper.
This means you won’t have to queue up as much for attractions such as Tulum tower, and you can explore the town and surrounding sites at your own pace, as you may find more readily available around this time.
If you go on your trip around May, this can be the hottest month, so it can get uncomfortably hot when you go further inland, so take advantage of any facilities that allow you to cool down, and be sure to take breaks during the day to avoid heat exhaustion.
The temperature lowers during the evening, so you shouldn’t be surprised to see people wearing jackets.
Even though it can be cooler after sunset, it can still be quite humid and sticky, so for the best coverage, you can introduce layers into your wardrobe.
This might be overlooked, but if you need to go to a hospital in Tulum, you should expect to be charged as you would in the US, and often you will only be able to leave if you pay the fee first.
This is useful as you can find quotes on various items, including travel, healthcare, belongings, cancellations, or even if your airline provider cancels a flight for whatever reason.
Check any policy documents to see what is covered under your plan.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is It Worth Getting A Transfer?
In simple terms, the bus service in Mexico is known to be very reliable and is often the cost-effective way to see more of the country in comfort. They can also be found at the four terminals at the airport.
As this service runs every two hours or so, it can be convenient if you land after a delay so that you can get a bus to Playa del Carmen, and here the bus times are more frequent.
You can stop off here and switch to a Tulum bus if you specify you’re going to the town.
How Can I Save Money In Tulum?
If you’ve arranged the flight and your stay yet find you’re light on funds, there are a few ways you can save a bit more, and the first one can be changing the sim card in your cell phone.
If you switch to an international chip, you’ll find the roaming costs aren’t as much.
It also pays to be less picky about where you stay, as you might be able to find places on services like Airbnb if you only need a short stay, and also, it might be worth looking at nearby hostels near the town center for something more affordable.
Can I Save Money On Car Rentals?
You can, and it all depends on the model you go with, the fuel economy, and any added extras which might be counted as a package, and this you want to arrange it as soon as you can so it is cheaper, and you could find some promotions as a bonus.
If you’re figuring out where to start, car rental comparison sites can be used to get the best deals, which can compare the prices of over 200 car rental companies.
Here you can find average prices for a specific model and choices on vehicle types so you can find something that fits into your budget and needs as you may find you use it more or less than you were expecting.
Is It Safe To Drive In Mexico?
Like any trip abroad, there are concerns about road safety, which is why it’s essential to stick to the limit, especially if you’re traveling from Cancun to Tulum, as there are police checkpoints along this main road.
If possible, you should also drive during the day and ensure your vehicle is filled up to at least half a tank, as it might be hard to find gasoline in some of the more isolated towns, as there is nothing worse than being lost or stuck in a different country.
If you pay attention to road signs as you would back home, you’ll see there are opportunities to make a u-turn in case you miss your exit.
With all this in mind, you can choose the travel option that makes sense to you, and instead of going for the first price you find, be sure to check the surrounding towns and cities, as ones from the airport can be exceptionally higher than what you can find in Cancun, for instance.
It’s also worth looking at package deals and tours that can give you more than what you may find trying to navigate the region on your own, so you can get a much more immersive experience that can add to your enjoyment.
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