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The Riviera Maya is one of the most beautiful and well-known places in the Americas. This obviously makes it a top destination for travelers of all ages and ends of the world. With it’s coastline on the Caribbean, it is definitely a place that is synonymous with beautiful images of white sands, turquoise waters, cocktails, bright sun and a lot of relaxation. The moment you arrive at these places you find a great mix of vibrant culture.
Getting to the Riviera Maya
The Riviera Maya is located on the Yucatan Peninsula in southeastern Mexico on the shores of the Caribbean Sea. Depending on the place you’re coming from, there are several ways to get there.
To get to the Riviera Maya, be it Playa del Carmen, Cancún, Tulum, Cozumel and all other surrounding cities, there are mainly two airports of entry:
- Cancún International Airport: It is a modern airport with all services. It is around 20 minutes from the city of Cancún, at the edge of the Hotel Zone; an hour away from Playa del Carmen and two hours to Tulum. Once you leave the airport, to transfer to any city, the most convenient option is to either take a taxi or the ADO bus, as well as hiring a private service.
- Cozumel International Airport: This airport is smaller and less convenient if the destination is not Cozumel. However, you can find more competitive prices at times, depending on the place of origin. Once you get to Cozumel, it is 45 minutes by ferry to Playa del Carmen. From there you can travel north towards Cancún or south towards Tulum.
The options to fly to both airports varies. You can find competitive prices for every budget and several times each day to fly in and out.
To get to the Riviera Maya you can arrive initially to Cancún. From there you make your way to the rest of the cities that make up this region. From Cancún International Airport, take Highway 307 south. The approximate distance to Puerto Morelos is 26 km (25 minutes). Playa del Carmen is around 55 km (1 hour). Akumal is roughly 92 km (1 hour, 20 minutes). Tulum is about 118 km (2 hours).
If you want to take a bus from the Cancún airport, it will be a cheaper but slower option. The buses depart approximately every half hour and are available from the ADO bus line. Schedules can be seen on the ADO website, and you can event get your tickets from the website beforehand.
For more information, see our article “Traveling by Bus in the Riviera Maya“.
For the budget traveler, or those who desire the more local experience, colectivos travel up and down Highway 307. The main routes are between Cancún and Playa del Carmen and between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. However, colectivos do not arrive and depart directly at the Cancún airport. You would require a taxi or other transportation to reach them.
Several companies offer private shuttles to get you to and from anywhere within the Riviera Maya. Though more expensive, the shuttles are only for you and your group. They often provide several conveniences such as a cold towel upon arrival, free water, WiFi, and other beverages (beer, wine, soda) at and extra minimal cost. After your arrival, they will often make a stop at a grocery or convenience store, if you wish, so you may can stock up on some initial supplies for your stay.
Distances between the main cities in the Riviera Maya are not far from each other. A car or a taxi will be just right to get to the next city if you can’t find a bus or a more convenient and faster transfer is required.
Ferries travel along the stretch of water between Playa del Carmen and the island of Cozumel. Departing from Cozumel you can take a ride and you will arrive to Playa del Carmen in about 45 minutes and vice versa.
Currently, two companies cover this route, Ultramar and Winjet (formerly Mexico Waterjets). Both offer interior seating with air conditioning and outdoor deck seating. Ferries run 365 days a year, weather permitting. The ride takes about 45 minutes and depart every hour from early morning until late night. Visit the company websites for current timetables and fares.
Tickets can be purchased online or in person just before the departure or earlier. The space in the boats is sufficient for the demand of passengers, so there is no need to worry about space availability. You can buy round trip or one-way, and discounts are available for local residents with proper ID.
If traveling to the Riviera Maya by cruise ship, all cruise ships currently dock in Cozumel. Once you disembark from your cruise ship, it is 45 minutes by ferry to Playa del Carmen from which you can travel north towards Cancún or south towards Tulum. Note that there currently are plans for cruise ships to also dock in Puerto Morelos in the near future.
How to travel locally
When it comes to the Caribbean, you will realize people are in absolutely no rush whatsoever. That will give you enough time to walk around, ride a bike or take a taxi with a view.
Unless you are travelling from city to city, distances within the cities are small. Except for Cancún maybe, you will find distances are time-friendly.
Playa del Carmen is a relatively small city. From most accommodations within the city, getting around can be done on foot or by bicycles that are rented or loaned by the accommodation. The streets are numbered and well organized, based on the Juarez Avenue and the Federal Highway, which make it very easy to locate points of interest. The main tourist street, Avenida Quintana (5th Avenue), although long, can be walked from one end to the other without a problem.
By car there are several public transport routes that mainly use 30th Ave. and Juarez. There is also a great offer of taxis circulating around the city at any time.
The Riviera Maya has a great offer of taxis available at any time that will be price-friendly. The prices are set based on zones, but you might try to bargain a little – they may bring the price down. You can also find several leading companies for car rentals.
There is a well-known bus company all over Mexico called ADO. In the Riviera Maya, they have their main central stations in Cancún, two in Playa del Carmen (one on 5th Avenue and one on Calle 12), and one in Tulum.
Their buses go to all the most visited destinations in and around the Riviera Maya: Chichén Itzá, Mérida, Tulum, Playa del Carmen, Chiquilá, Bacalar, Coba and back and forth from Playa del Carmen and Cancún. They are quite comfortable and economical, as well as safe. They have on-board toilets and some of them even have device charging USB ports.
For any destination, you can check schedules and prices on the ADO website, as well as purchase tickets online. The site is safe and the purchasing portal is reliable.
Other useful information
Whether you are coming for a holiday or planning to settle in the Riviera Maya, here is some information you may find useful and noteworthy.
The main indirect tax of Mexico is the Value Added Tax (locally known as IVA), which generally applies to all imports, goods, and services unless specifically exempted by a particular law. The 16% tax is imposed by the federal government of Mexico. By law, all prices posted in Mexico include all taxes and fees.
Contrary to what is often portrayed in the media, living and visiting the Riviera Maya is quite safe. As with any international destination with a touristic focus, you should beware of pickpockets and petty theft, as well as overpriced articles by local vendors. Avoid criminal activities, especially drugs and drug dealers, keep your valuables secured, and be aware of your surroundings as you would at home or elsewhere, and you will be as safe, or safer, than most anywhere else.
In most places in the Riviera Maya you can pay with Mexican currency (Mexican peso), U.S. dollars and euros.
In mostly every city, there are currency exchanges (cambios) or banks that can make currency conversion more convenient than at local restaurants, stores, and other establishments. This is recommended, since the exchange rate at most establishments is often much lower. For more details on currency exchange, see our article ‘Dollars or Pesos: Which Currency and Payment Methods Should You Use in Mexico?‘.
Do you have any more questions? Don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments below. We will make every effort to get the information for you.