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Having lived in sunny Los Angeles for my four years of college, my first New York winter after graduating hit me hard. I constantly questioned how I survived endless cold, dark winter days growing up?? Anxious to escape the freezing temperatures, a flight to Mexico was booked! This was my first time going from Playa del Carmen to Tulum, and I quickly fell in love with both. I’ve been back plenty of times since, and can’t wait to share all of my best tips with you.
I’ll admit off the bat that Playa del Carmen, or Playa as it is commonly nicknamed, itself is a bit too touristy and commercialized for my liking. That being said, there are so many incredible beach spots that make the area a true gem and the perfect winter getaway. Not to mention, Playa serves up some of the best beachfront fish tacos and ceviche!
Getting from Playa del Carmen to Tulum
Getting around the Yucatan Peninsula is quite easy, and can be super cheap if you plan to travel by the local buses. There are also colectivos for the more adventurous type, that are even cheaper! I have traveled in this area quite a few times as a solo female traveler and have always felt super safe. If you’re looking to skip Playa del Carmen and go straight from Cancun Airport to Tulum, I’ve got a specific guide for that as well! There are tons of ways to safely and easily get from Playa del Carmen to Tulum, and I will breakdown each of these below.
Hop on a colectivo
Taking a colectivo is definitely the most popular way to get from Playa del Carmen to Tulum for locals. You’ll find plenty of budget travelers or backpackers on colectivos as well. You might be thinking, what the heck is a colectivo? They are essentially little minivans that shuttle passengers between destinations. They don’t run on a set schedule (although there is a vague schedule in place), and will leave as soon as they fill up. While they aren’t the most comfortable method of transportation, they are easy and part of the Mexico experience.
To get from Playa del Carmen to Tulum via colectivo you can expect to pay 45 MXN (~ $2USD). Simply head to Juarez and look for the minibuses! Make sure to let the driver know that you are going to Tulum. It helps if you speak a bit of conversational Spanish, but any driver will understand the word Tulum! You can either get dropped off in Tulum center, or somewhere along the way, like the ruins or a cenote. Just let the driver know if you want to get out!
Take the ADO bus from Playa del Carmen to Tulum
If taking a colectivo from Playa del Carmen to Tulum feels a bit too adventurous to you, but you’re still looking for a cheap option: take the ADO bus. I’ve taken the ADO bus many times and it is cheap, easy, and comfortable. They run on a set schedule, which is probably preferable for the planning types. The ADO bus is also a better option if you’re not visiting Tulum on a day trip, and have luggage with you. Because trust me, getting your luggage onto a crowded colectivo can be a struggle.
You can either book ahead of time on the ADO bus official website, or simply head to the bus station a book a ticket in person. You should expect to pay between $3-6 USD for a one-way ticket. While this is definitely more expensive than taking a colectivo, it is still super cheap!
Take a Taxi from Playa del Carmen to Tulum
Taking a taxi from Playa del Carmen to Tulum is definitely the most expensive option, but also probably the most comfortable for many. Most taxis in this area aren’t metered, so I would recommend having your hotel/hostel call and set the price ahead of time for you. Either way, make sure you are negotiating with your driver ahead of time, so there aren’t any surprise costs at the end.
Rent a car
Another easy way to get from Playa del Carmen to Tulum is by renting a car! Getting around Tulum requires either a car or bike, so this is a cheaper option if you plan on taking lots of taxis.
Where to Stay in Playa del Carmen
Soho Playa Hotel
Located right off of 5th ave, Soho Playa Hotel is a perfect choice for town and beach access in Playa. Rates average $120 USD/night at this hotel. It is located only a few minutes from the beach and offers a rooftop pool and bar. The bar offers great happy hour specials for $2 USD cocktail (that are actually delicious). Looking to visit during the off season or last minute? Rates drop as low as $90 USD/night for a double room. Additionally this hotel offers breakfast which is a travel must for me!
Check current rates for Soho Playa Hotel on Booking.com
Due to a flight mix up we were forced to extend our vacation in Mexico and book an extra night! As Soho Playa was booked up, we booked a room at Hotel Lunata for our last night. A beautifully decorated room, excellent location, and a lovely breakfast with fresh fruit – this hotel met all of our travel needs! Plus, it is super affordable!
Check current rates for Hotel Lunata on Booking.com
Where to Eat in Playa del Carmen and Tulum
Grand Coral Beach Club
This beautiful spot is located about a 45-60 minute walk down the beach from the main Playa del Carmen beaches. Although it is a bit of a trek, you will be able to escape the hordes of tourists that swarm the beach. This beach club offers a beachfront pool, as well as chairs and umbrellas right on the beach. As long as your order food/drinks you can spend the entire day! I recommend the grilled fish tacos.
I am usually all for eating local, but this Tulum spot stole my heart! I read a review describing it as Anthropologie on the beach, and I couldn’t agree more. This adorable beachfront posada offers the most delicious fresh Italian food, fresh juices, and a list of wines and cocktails. Although most entrees will set you back about $24 USD, eating lunch here will give you full day access to their beach beds, swings, and chairs. They also have an adorable swimsuit boutique where I admittedly purchased a lovely cream colored one piece. I’ve got a list of my top 7 restaurants in Tulum.
This is one of those local spots in Playa that tourists still flock to, inherently making it more touristy. That being said, the tacos are delicious and easy on the wallet. They also serve up a nice frozen margarita, my forever guilty pleasure!
Just down the beach from the main strip of Playa del Carmen beaches, this is the perfect spot to grab a beer and watch the sunset. Even better, the ceviche tostadas are incredible, and will hold you over until Playa’s late night dinner scene.
Dona Paula’s Restaurant
This is as local as it gets in Playa. Make sure to pay attention to the address because there is no sign to lead you up the steps to this local spot. You will feel like you’re eating a home cooked meal with taco combo plates (including soup, rice, beans, and a drink) costing $2 USD.
If you’re traveling in Mexico, here are some other posts that you should check out:
- Tulum on a Budget
- 7 Best Restaurants in Tulum, Mexico
- Guanajuato City Guide
- Mexico City Guide
- Best Restaurants in San Miguel de Allende
- How to get to Tulum from Cancun Airport