Getting from Playa del Carmen to Tulum: A traveler review

If you’ve chatted with travelers in Playa del Carmen, Tulum will inevitably come up in conversation. People tend to have strong feelings about their experience in this Yucatán town, but one thing is certain—traveling from Playa del Carmen to Tulum is fast and easy. I traveled to Tulum by taking the ADO bus and will cover my experience here, along with sharing insight about when it’s best to take the Tulum shuttle.   

First things first: How far is Tulum from Playa del Carmen?

Tulum is roughly 65 kilometers (40 miles) from Playa del Carmen. However, since Tulum’s attractions are spread so far apart, it’s split into three parts: The ruins, the town center, and the beachside hotel zone.

When you’re traveling from Playa del Carmen to Tulum, you’ll first encounter the entrance to the ruins. From there, a few kilometers further down the road will take you into Tulum’s busy city center. You can arrive at either of these two destinations by bus. However, there aren’t any public transportation options to get to Tulum’s hotel zone so you’ll need to bike or take a taxi.

How to get to Tulum from Playa del Carmen

You have two public transportation options for traveling between Playa del Carmen and Tulum—taking an ADO bus or a shuttle. If you’re taking a day trip to Tulum from Playa del Carmen, the shuttle is an excellent choice since it will get you to Tulum slightly quicker (around 50 minutes versus 1 hour 10 minutes). If you’re traveling with luggage or would like more legroom, then taking the ADO bus to Tulum is a better option.

The ADO bus station in Playa del Carmen sits on the trendy pedestrian 5th Avenue. Compared to Tulum, Playa del Carmen’s bus station is larger, contains some shops, a car rental facility, and more seating. There’s also a restroom that charges a small fee, which is typical for the area.

You can purchase your ticket at the bus station, but tickets to Tulum often sell out, so I recommend purchasing your ticket in advance. I saw a handful of antsy travelers who didn’t plan in advance needing to wait for a later bus time.

Arriving in Tulum

The ADO bus terminal in Tulum is located in the center of town. It’s a tiny facility with just a few bus slots, a small restroom, and a single convenience store. But let’s face it—you’re not visiting Tulum to hang out at the bus station, so it serves its purpose.

If you’re taking a shuttle, it’ll also park in the center of town. That said, both the ADO bus and shuttle will typically make a stop at the entrance to the Tulum ruins before heading into town if you request so when getting on the bus.

Once you’ve arrived at either the ADO bus station or shuttle stop in Tulum, there are lots of nearby restaurants, ATMs, taxis, and bike shops (make sure to bring an ID to leave for the duration of your bike rental). 

ADO bus features

Because I traveled during COVID, ADO was using their smaller Conecta shuttle for many routes between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. My ADO Conecta van was comfortable; it had air conditioning, large windows, and assigned seats, although less legroom than their regular buses. Unlike the other shuttles to Tulum, the Conecta had a decent size area for storing luggage. 

That said, if you take a regular size ADO bus to Tulum, you can expect the following features:

  • Restroom onboard
  • Reclining seats
  • Television

Below is an example of a regular size ADO bus:

Bus views

If you’ve peeked at a map of the route from Playa del Carmen to Tulum, you might be excited about ocean views—I know I was! 

Unfortunately, the road sits far enough back from the coast, where your only views will be of a highway, some stores, and signs pointing to beach towns. So, there’s no need to worry about securing a seat on the “better” side of the bus.

Bus schedule from Playa del Carmen to Tulum

The ADO buses have a handful of departures per day from Playa del Carmen to Tulum. Similarly, you’ll have a few different times to choose from when taking the ADO bus from Tulum to Playa del Carmen. If you’re traveling with luggage, it’s best to secure your ticket early since it’ll be a more comfortable experience for you to take the bus. 

An advantage of taking the shuttle as your Tulum transportation is that you’ll get more flexibility with departure times—the shuttles run every couple of hours throughout the day and night.

Tulum vs. Playa del Carmen

You know you want to spend time in Tulum and Playa del Carmen. But you might be wondering—which is better?

If you’re on a budget and/or enjoy a big nightlife scene, Playa del Carmen is the way to go. If you prefer a quieter, more nature-oriented environment, Tulum is the better choice.

Ready to pack your bags?

Tulum is a must-visit on any beach-hopping Quintana Roo trip. Thankfully, figuring out how to get to Tulum from Playa del Carmen is a breeze with the help of well-located bus and shuttle stations. Whether you’re planning on taking a day trip to Tulum or settling in for weeks, I hope this guide helped you decide how you want to arrive there. 

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