How to get from Cancun to Tulum (from NYC)
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If you want to vacation in the Yucatan Peninsula’s bohemian paradise but aren’t sure about getting there, have no fear! I’ll explain exactly how to get to Tulum. On my trip there, I went from NYC to Cancun then Cancun to Tulum, and although it seems a little off the beaten path, it’s easier than you think.
Tulum has a unique atmosphere, unlike anywhere I’ve been. It’s located Quintana Roo in Mexico and is filled with plenty of history, gorgeous blue water, adventure, and nature. You’re in for an epic trip, so don’t let getting to Tulum scare you off!
What’s the best way to get to Tulum from New York?
Well, unless you’re planning on having a week long road trip down into Mexico, the best way to get there is to fly. Cancun airport is the most convenient airport to fly into. You will then choose your ground transportation to continue your journey.
Cozumel Airport is actually closer than Cancun, but it’s an island off the coast of Playa Del Carmen and will involve taking a ferry. This may be the more scenic route, but takes a bit more coordinating as well.
NYC to Cancun International Airport
There are 3 major airports in/close to New York City with flights going to Mexico. Sometimes these airports can be a nightmare, so just stay on your toes. JFK and Laguardia are both usually under construction, which can make your life more difficult. Stay alert, and pay attention to signage and you should be all good.
NYC Airports that have flights to Cancun
Since you will be taking an international flight, arrive to the airport at least 2 hours before your departure time. Give yourself plenty of time to check in, get through security and get to your gate. New York City airports all have multiple terminals and can sometimes get backed up.
Keep in mind that the below travel times are estimates:
- JFK Airport – Takes about 1 hour to get to get to from Penn station.
- Laguardia Airport– Takes about 45 minutes to get to from Grand Central or Penn Station on public transportation.
- Newark Airport– This airport is just over the river in NJ. It takes about 40 minutes to get to from Penn Station on public transportation .
Some of the Airlines that Fly to Cancun from New York:
There are a good number of daily flights to Cancun from New York and other destinations in the U.S. due to the location’s popularity with Americans and value for money. Here are some of the airlines that do NYC to Cancun flights.
- Frontier (budget)
- Jet Blue
- Alaska Airlines
- Sprit (budget)
How much does the flight cost?
A roundtrip flight to Cancun from New York can be as low as $150 and as high as $450. It’s a very popular airport to fly to from NYC so there a ton of flight options and special offers come and go frequently. You shouldn’t be paying on the higher end of the scale unless it’s last minute or a super busy time, like a particular Mexican or U.S. holiday.
The time of the year and when you buy the ticket will also contribute to the flight price so make sure you have your eye our for deals. That being said, October and and November are usually the least expensive months to fly to Cancun.
When should you go to Tulum?
I went to Tulum in October and we had decent weather, cheap flights with very very little crowds – even on Colombus day weekend! That being said, here is a quick guideline of the seasons.
- December -April is peak season with March being the busiest so avoid March if you don’t like crowds .
- May-Septmber is rainy season.
- October- Early December is cooler and less crowded with good deals. A perfect time to travel to Tulum!
How far is Cancun from Tulum?
Cancun Airport is about 80 miles or 120 km away from Tulum. It takes around 90 minutes to 2 hours to drive between the two. Both Tulum and Cancun are located in the Yucatan Peninsula in the state of Quintana Roo. Playa Del Carmen and Cozumel are destinations you will pass along the way.
Cancun Airport to Tulum
Once you’ve landed at Cancun Airport you’ll have multiple options to get you the rest of the way to Tulum. The Airport is about 75 miles from the Tulum and takes two hours to drive there. Luckily, there’s an option for every budget level and even the most expensive is still pretty affordable!
- Bus (ADO)
- Private Car Hire
- Tulum Shuttle
- Car Rental
- Hotel Shuttle
From the airport you can take an ADO Bus to Tulum or take an ADO bus to playa del Carmen and switch there. There is an ADO bus kiosk as you exit the airport and they will answer any questions you have. The cost of this ride is 80-150 pesos ($3-$6) depending on the season and is the cheapest option.
Private Driver Car Service
You can either prebook your car service or look for one when you get there. To solidify a better deal, I recommend booking ahead online.
If you don’t book ahead, you’ll exit the airport and find plenty of stands to get quotes from and book your ride. Always agree on the fare before beginning your journey.
I paid around $75 one way for a standard vehicle, which isn’t too bad considering you can share with up to 9 people in your group. Keep in mind, this was in October, part of the low season.
Some private car hire options are:
- Luxury car
If you don’t mind sharing with strangers and want one of the cheaper options, taking the shuttle is a great option. The negative is that the shuttle won’t leave until it’s filled up and that you will have to make multiple stops along the way.
On the plus side, you will get dropped directly at your hotel.
Renting a car to get around the Yucatan Peninsula is a cost efficient and convenient option. It’s up to you whether you’re comfortable driving in another country, but I’ve heard generally positive driving experience stories about this part of Mexico. The roads are supposed to be in really good shape!
Renting a Car makes day trips around the Yucatan Peninsula and getting between Tulum Beach and Pueblo simple.
If you are more of the adventurous type, and would like to do a lot of site seeing you’ll want to seriously consider it.
Car Rental Tips
Like a lot of places, the car company they will make you get car insurance if you don’t have it through your credit card. Be prepared with proof of insurance if you have it.
Some obvious tips for driving would be to avoid driving at night, never leave your valuables in the car and obey the rules like wearing your seatbelt. Make sure to have all the proper documents with you as may come across a police check point.
Taxi or Uber
Haggle the price and agree before you get in the car! I’ve heard that Uber is still not available in this area of Mexico.
Check with your hotel to see if they offer shuttle services and prebook your spot with them. Additional costs will usually incur.
Downtown Cancun to Tulum
The options from Downtown Cancun to Tulum are pretty much the same as Cancun Airport, with the addition of the Colectivo bus. Colectivos are buses that locals use . They don’t have much space for luggage. It’s recommend that you speak some Spanish to use these buses since it isn’t a touristy transportation option.
- Bus (ADO)
- Private Car Hire
- Tulum Shuttle
- Car Rental
- Hotel Shuttle
How many days do you need in Tulum?
The great thing about Tulum is you have the choice to lounge at the beach or get super adventurous and be constantly exploring. I’d say you need at least three days in Tulum to experience a bit of both, but you’d have no problem keeping busy if you’re there for a week or more.
Should I stay in Tulum or Cancun?
It depends. Maybe you’d rather avoid the whole trip down the coast and stay in Cancun? Or maybe you want to take a walk on the wilder side in Tulum? Decide which is better for you!
Cancun is very touristy, but it’s closest to the airport, Chitzen-itza and has thousands of hotel rooms to choose from. Tulum has a hippy vibe, laid back feel, boutique hotels and dozens of Instagram Spots. Tulum has it’s own ruins and plenty of cenotes to visit. To me, Cancun is definitely the more family friendly option where is Tulum is a bit more hedonistic.
I can definitely see a time and a place for both of these Mexican destinations so it may just depend on the occasion!