A group tour to the ruins on your first trip is a nice way to get to know the Riviera Maya. But what if you want to explore on your own without a van or bus load of other people?
Few people research transportation options that are at your finger tips in the Riviera Maya. Most visitors either stay put or use local taxis to get from point A to Point B. As convenient as taxis are, and as easy it is to just stay put, using public transport to and fro is an easy and economical way to travel.
Are you getting that iconic vision of chicken buses in your head. They do not exist on the highways of the Riviera Maya. If they do, they are privately owned and not for hire.
Public transportation is either a collectivo (public van) or a bus, a luxury bus in most cases with movies on board, air conditioning and if you go super luxe, food and drink service on board without a super lux price. Just note that super luxe buses are for longer rides, to Merida, Palenque, Campeche. But local luxe buses are great!
Collectivos either run in the city or up and down the highway. They are small vans that hold 12 people. The city collectivos are 5 to 7 pesos per rider, are not air conditioned but fast. Depending on the city, you can either hail down the van or you need to look for a local bus stop at a major intersection. Bus stops are blue and white and say ‘Paraderos’. The colletivo or city bus will have their route written on their front windshield. It states the final stops at the end of the line and a few popular stops in between as well. This public transport is found on well traveled city streets.
To take the highway collectivos, you have a bit more flexibility and a lot less guessing. Each city has a main stop and start point for collectivos. In Playa this is one on 2nd and 15th for either collectivos heading north or south. In Tulum the final stop is just past the ADO station on Tulum Ave/Hwy 307. In Puerto Morelos the main stop is on Hwy 307 across from the Pemex gas station. You can wave down a highway bound collectivo along the 307 highway at any time. Prices vary depending on where you are going but the most expensive trip is 40 pesos per person. Little ones ride for free.
Highway collectivos run along the 307 only and every few minutes. They go from city to city dropping off and gathering travelers. There is no schedule, you just hail one when you need one. The wait is no longer than 5 to 10 minutes. They do not divert from the Highway at all but they will drop you off anywhere along the highway when you ask. It is an easy way to get from city from city and then make inner city decisions if you need to.
travel buses run on time, on schedule and do not wait. They are prompt, cold (air con) and a great way to travel. Buses and tickets need to be arranged at the local bus station. They only travel from bus station to bus station with no stops on the highway. Timing is predictable and it is best to line up early to get a great seat.
Travel bus tickets can be reserved ahead of time, most locations are further afield than collectivos, and you will have the joy of a great seat and a movie. The local bus company is called ADO, with some smaller local bus companies available but not recommended. Bus prices vary depending on where you are going, but here is a comparison to other modes of transport.
Collectivo – 40 pesos per person
Highway Bus – 66 pesos per person
Taxi – 450 pesos for up to four people
Prices from Playa to the Cancun Airport:
Highway Bus – 156 pesos (direct)
Taxi – 550 pesos for up to three people and luggage
Now if you are like us, getting off the main highway is what excites you. You can take a few buses and collectivos to get to a remote area, but you will miss some local attractions and have a very. very long day. You also are limited on your arrival and departure times. For example. Yes you can take the bus to Valladolid or the Coba Ruins, but the departure buses are a bit tough. In Coba the bus only leaves once a day for the coastal cities. There is also a transfer point in Tulum.
Rental cars let you explore, stop, start, go at your pace. It is a good way to get around and not that expensive. Insurance is a must but well worth it. A map would be helpful.
Which way do you travel around the Riviera Maya! Do you love the collectivos, the local buses or highway buses? Is a rental car a favored option? Let us know and share experiences.