If you're planning to visit Cancún and Tulum, why not take a scenic road trip and drive between them? Not only does this give you the freedom to explore at your own pace, but it also lets you see more of the beautiful Yucatan Peninsula. However, driving in a foreign country can be daunting, especially if you're not familiar with the roads. That's why we've put together this travel guide to help you successfully navigate the 120-kilometer stretch of highway from Cancun to Tulum.
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There is really only one way from the Cancún International Airport to Tulum, making the route super easy to follow. Highway 307, which takes around two hours without any stops, runs directly north to south along the Riviera Maya. The route passes right in front of the airport and drives right through downtown Tulum. The route even continues further south to Bacalar (our favorite town in Mexico!), which we highly recommend checking out.
While the drive is relatively short and direct, if you can afford the extra time for detours, we'd recommend adding a few stops to your route. Specifically Playa Del Carmen, Cenote Abierto, and Cenote Tula.
Rent a Car
If you're planning to drive from Cancún to Tulum, one of the first things you'll need to do is rent a car. Fortunately, there are plenty of car rental companies at the Cancun airport that offer reliable cars and good insurance coverage. Hertz, Avis, Alamo and other major international brands all have offices at the airport so it's easy to find what you need. Be sure to read through any rental agreement carefully before signing it and make sure you're aware of all additional fees or charges that may apply. Also be sure that your driver's license is valid in Mexico as some countries require an International Driver's Permit (IDP). If you hold a USA drivers licenses, you will not need an IDP for Mexico, your license will work fine.
We rented our car through Enterprise and had a great experience at the airport. Their customer service was topnotch and their rates were the same as both the local companies and the other American companies.
Once you've got everything sorted out with your car rental company, then it's time for the fun part: hitting the open road!
Drive safely and follow the road signs
Driving in Mexico is similar to Europe and North America, but with a few differences. For example, some drivers may not use their turn signal and may instead honk their horn to indicate a merge. Therefore, it's essential to stay alert, drive defensively, and follow the road signs. The speed limit on the highway is typically 100 km/h, but it can vary depending on the area. It's very important that you drive the speed limit while in Mexico! Police patrol the road between Cancún and Tulum looking for speeding tourists, so do not push the speed limit. While we didn't get a ticket, we've had multiple friends who have gotten tickets along the route.
Side note: Because speeding tickets are super common for tourists in Mexico, we'd highly recommend getting cash from an ATM while you're at the airport, just in case you get pulled over on the way to Tulum. Also, it's always good to keep your cash in a few different places. That way if a police officer is trying to get you to pay more than you should, you can show him/her that that's all you have in your wallet (even though it's really not). We never recommend trying to bribe officers. The unfortunate truth is that while many officers are incredible honest and kind, many target tourists for extra cash, so just be aware.
There are speed bumps all up and down highway 307 in Mexico. Trust us, they'll make you say a few choice words when you hit them going 40 mph because they blend in with the road. Always stay alert and watch for signs! The rental cars in Mexico are small and the speed bumps big... not a great combo!
Stop for food and drinks
If you land in Cancún tired from an early or long flight, there's a Starbucks on your right as soon as you hop onto Highway 307. We don't usually love Starbucks, but a predictable coffee shop was a welcomed site after our early flight!
There are plenty of small towns along the highway where you can stop for food and drinks. Try some of the local cuisine, such as tacos, empanadas, or ceviche. If you're feeling adventurous, pull off the highway and head to one of the cenotes or beaches for a quick swim or snorkeling.
Fuel stations along the way
There will be plenty of fuel stations along the route, specifically in Cancún as you leave the airport, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum. Our rule is to never let the fuel tank get below half full, that way you know you'll always have enough fuel to get to the next station without sweating it!
Stay safe and be prepared
Last but not least, it's essential to stay safe and be prepared. Make sure your rental car is in good condition, and you have a spare tire, a map or navigation system, and a charged cell phone. Also, make sure you have enough water, sunscreen, and insect repellent, as the sun can be intense, especially in the summer months.
We never had a problem with cell service along the route from the Cancún Airport to Tulum, so you should be safe. The road is in very good condition and is busy with fellow tourists and locals alike. Always be aware of your surroundings, but know that it's considered very safe to drive this route during the day. While it's likely fine to drive it at night, too, we never recommend driving in a foreign country at night, especially Mexico.
Driving from Cancun to Tulum is a great opportunity to discover the beauty of the Yucatan Peninsula. By following our travel guide, you can have a safe and enjoyable road trip between these two stunning destinations. Remember to plan your route, drive safely, be aware of toll fees, stop for food and drinks, and stay safe and be prepared. With these tips in mind, you can explore the wonders of Cancun and Tulum with confidence and ease.
Like this article? Checkout our other Mexico travel guides!
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We're Chris and Sara
A creative husband and wife duo from a small-town in Tennessee with passion for all things travel. Checkout the links below to join us on our past, present, and future adventures!