Getting from Bacalar to Playa del Carmen: A traveler review

It doesn’t get much better than basking on Bacalar’s lakeshore before heading to Playa del Carmen to lounge on Caribbean sand. However, figuring out how to get to Playa can feel like quite the task, especially if you’re trying to secure transportation at the last minute.

You might be wondering—Is there a bus from Bacalar to Playa del Carmen? Is taking a car to Playa del Carmen a better option?

Go ahead and hang your feet off a dock in Bacalar as you read this; I’ll teach you the most important things to know about how to get from Bacalar to Playa del Carmen.

How far is Bacalar from Playa del Carmen?

The distance from Bacalar to Playa del Carmen is about 280 kilometers. However, the drive is easy since you stay on Federal Highway 307 from start to finish.

So, when you’re looking at how to travel from Bacalar to Playa del Carmen, it’s hard to get lost if you decide to rent a car.

Analyzing your options for arriving in Playa del Carmen

The best way to get from Bacalar to Playa del Carmen depends on your time and budget. Below are three of the most popular options:

  • Taking a car from Bacalar to Playa del Carmen
  • Taking a minivan from Bacalar to Playa del Carmen
  • Taking a bus from Bacalar to Playa del Carmen

If you’re short on time, taking a car or minivan is undoubtedly the better choice since these are private transfers. So, you can choose your departure times and make a beeline to Playa, arriving in about 3 – 3.5 hours.

On the other hand, taking an ADO bus to Playa del Carmen will save you money without too big of a time sacrifice; the ride takes around four hours. However, departure times are limited, so you’ll need to plan accordingly.

Everything you need to know about the ADO bus

If you decide to forgo taking a car or minivan from Bacalar to Playa del Carmen, the ADO bus is your best bet. I took this bus myself, so I’ll share my experience here so that you know what to expect.

For starters, you’re probably wondering—how long is it from Bacalar to Playa del Carmen by bus? The bus ride is supposed to take four hours, including a brief stop in Tulum. My bus arrived almost exactly on time, which was impressive given the traffic that can build up around Playa.

Preparing for the Bacalar bus station

I’ve taken many ADO buses in Mexico, so the ADO Bacalar bus station surprised me; it’s more of a waiting room with a single ticket booth rather than a station where the buses park. Nevertheless, the waiting room was mercifully air-conditioned, so who am I to judge?

One thing to be careful of, though, is that the ADO buses pull off on the side of the highway to let you on. Since the ADO announcements are only in Spanish and don’t take into account any bus delays that there may be, it can get confusing whether the bus (or buses) parked along the highway are yours.

To make a less-than-ideal situation even more confusing, most buses traveling from Bacalar to Playa del Carmen continue to Cancun. Therefore, the digital screen at the front of your ADO bus will likely read “Cancun” instead of “Playa del Carmen.”

Long story short? If you’re unsure which bus to get on, show the driver your ticket; they’re used to helping confused tourists at the Bacalar bus stop.

ADO bus features

There’s nothing like landing in a comfy ADO seat with a personal air conditioner after figuring out which bus is yours on the side of the highway. And, if this is your first time riding with ADO, you’ll no doubt be impressed by how well maintained and clean their buses are.

Some highlight features include:

  • A personal charging port
  • An onboard restroom
  • Partially reclining seats
  • A movie playing (that everyone can hear)
  • Large windows with curtains

If you’ve read some Bacalar to Playa del Carmen bus reviews, you’ve likely heard that the highway has quite a few potholes. However, I didn’t find them unbearable, and they’ll soon be partly resolved thanks to a $6.7 billion highway investment launched by Mexico’s tourism board.

Bacalar to Playa del Carmen bus schedule

Purchasing your bus tickets to Playa del Carmen in advance is an excellent idea since seats can sell out. There are six buses per day that run from Bacalar to Playa del Carmen as follows:

Departure from BacalarArrival in Playa del Carmen
00:0004:00
08:2012:20
11:2015:20
12:2016:20
14:2018:20
19:2023:20

Upon your arrival, you’ll get off at the ADO Playa del Carmen Alterna bus station, which is located three blocks from Playa’s famous pedestrian 5th Avenue.  

Bacalar to Playa del Carmen bus prices

Now that you know the ADO bus schedule from Bacalar to Playa del Carmen, you’re likely wondering about ticket prices. A one-way ticket from Bacalar to Playa costs about $30. If you happen to be returning to Bacalar, it’s best to book a round trip ride, as you’ll receive a small discount.  

The day trip dilemma

You might be tempted to take a day trip from Bacalar to Playa del Carmen. If so, let’s start with this—how long is the drive from Bacalar to Playa del Carmen?

If you don’t make any stops and there isn’t traffic, you can make the one-way journey in about three hours. Taking a minivan to Playa del Carmen is an excellent day trip option if you’re traveling with a group since it’s a private ride, and you can split the cost with several people. Otherwise, if you’re traveling alone or with a few others, renting a car in Bacalar and driving to Playa is another option.

That said, Playa del Carmen is often a better place to base yourself for day trips rather than Bacalar. As beautiful as Bacalar is, it’s a small town. So, consider booking a one-way ticket to Playa after spending time in Bacalar and exploring more of the Yucatan’s beautiful destinations from there.

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