Getting from Playa del Carmen to Cancun: A traveler review

After enjoying the laid-back beach vibe of Playa del Carmen, you might be ready to head to Cancun where more beautiful beaches and nightlife await you (or dare I say it, your flight home?). Whether you opt for a bus or shuttle, public transportation options between Playa del Carmen and Cancun are plentiful. I’ll share how to get from Playa del Carmen to Cancun based on my ADO bus experience so you know what to expect. 

Distance between Playa del Carmen and Cancun

One of the first questions on your mind is likely, how far is Playa del Carmen from Cancun? 

Most people travel to one of three places in Cancun: downtown, the Hotel Zone, or the airport. 

The Hotel Zone and downtown Cancun are essentially the same distance from each other, at approximately 70 kilometers. If you take an ADO bus, the trip will take around 1 hour, 5 minutes. If you opt for the shuttle, the trip could take you under or over that, depending on your hotel’s location and that of your fellow shuttle goers.

The Cancun Airport is approximately 55 kilometers from Playa del Carmen. By bus, the travel time is essentially the same as downtown. By shuttle, the ride will take you around 50 minutes.

Transportation options

By now, you’ve likely gathered that there are two ways to travel from Playa del Carmen to Cancun by public transportation: taking the ADO bus or the shuttle.

Traveling from Playa del Carmen to Cancun by shuttle is an excellent choice if you’re staying in the Hotel Zone since it’ll drop you off at your door. Shuttles from Playa del Carmen to Cancun and the Cancun airport depart frequently. 

Another option is to take an ADO bus from Playa del Carmen to downtown Cancun or the Cancun airport. I chose ADO since I was carrying luggage and wanted more legroom. 

My ADO bus experience

In hindsight, legroom didn’t matter—because of COVID-19, ADO replaced many of their larger buses with their smaller ADO conecta shuttles. Nevertheless, I was impressed by how comfy the conecta was. It had air conditioning, large windows, a USB charging port, and assigned seating. 

The ADO conecta is designed with two seats on the driver’s side and one seat on the passenger side. As a solo traveler, having a single seat to myself was a treat! 

Since the ADO conecta bus from Playa del Carmen to Cancun is temporary, if your bus ends up being a larger ADO, you can expect onboard WiFi and a restroom. 

Keep in mind that unlike the shuttle, which can take you to various hotels in the Hotel Zone, the ADO bus only stops in downtown Cancun or the Cancun airport, depending on the route you book.

ADO bus station in Playa del Carmen

There are two ADO bus stations in Playa del Carmen—Turistica (on 5th Avenue) and Alterna (on 20th Avenue). The 5th Avenue station is located in the heart of Playa’s tourist district, so it’s a favorite among travelers. 

Playa del Carmen’s ADO bus station has snack shops, a restroom, and ATMs. There are a decent number of seats available in the open-air waiting room, and large screens will advise you of upcoming departures and bus platform numbers. 

The bus station has employees monitoring the gates to prevent mobs of people in the boarding area. I was impressed with how well organized the process went and equally pleased that my bus departed on time.

ADO bus station in Cancun

The bus station in downtown Cancun feels less cluttered than in Playa del Carmen. The ticketing area, which you’ll pass through when you get off your bus, is larger. There, you’ll have access to ATMs, restrooms, a convenience store, and taxis. 

Lots of taxis.

Be prepared to be bombarded by taxi drivers offering their services when you exit the Cancun ADO terminal. It’s a great opportunity if you need a taxi since it’s a safer option than flagging down a ride from the street. If you need to take a cab to get to your final destination in Cancun, make sure to ask for a pricing chart so you know they’re not overcharging you. 

ADO bus schedule from Playa del Carmen to Cancun

You’ll have lots of options for taking the bus from Playa del Carmen to Cancun. When booking your ticket, make sure to check which terminal in Playa del Carmen you’ll be departing from. You’ll most likely leave from the ADO Terminal Turistica since it’s in the heart of the tourist center.

Below is a timetable for taking the ADO bus to Cancun:

Departure from Playa del CarmenArrival in Cancun

Playa del Carmen vs. Cancun

Playa del Carmen and Cancun offer distinct experiences. Both destinations revolve around the beach and partying, but Cancun’s version has a vibe that makes every night feel like New Year’s Eve, whereas Playa del Carmen’s party scene is on a smaller scale.

Cancun is much larger than Playa del Carmen. If you want to get out and explore, you’ll need to hop on a bus or grab a taxi. On the other hand, you can easily walk to see Playa del Carmen’s main attractions. 

Cancun is waiting for you

From picking beaches to the ingredients in tacos, Mexico can throw a lot of choices at you. I hope this guide helped make your decision easier about what type of Playa del Carmen transportation to take to Cancun so that you can go back to waffling between the important stuff—like whether you prefer prickly pear cacti or pico de gallo toppings on your tacos.

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