COLECTIVO VANS: EXPLORE THE RIVIERA MAYA LIKE A LOCAL
Once you’ve made the move and are living in Playa del Carmen, you’re going to want to get out and discover what lies beyond this big beach town. But what’s the best way to get around? ADO buses are cheap and comfortable, but they are limited to bigger towns and cities like Puerto Morelos, Tulum, Cancun and Merida. Hiring a taxi to take you around for day sounds convenient, but it can easily cost you upwards of $1000 pesos, not including a tip. (Trust me, I checked.)
For Playa locals dependent on public transportation, the answer can be found among the streets of Downtown Playa del Carmen, just a few blocks from the hustle and bustle of 5th Avenue: colectivo vans.
Right on 2nd Street between 15th and 20th Avenues, you’ll find colectivo vans lined up to take people from Playa del Carmen as far as Tulum, and everywhere in between.
How do they work? Colectivo vans leave every few minutes, as soon as all the seats fill up. The one-hour trip all the way to Downtown Tulum costs only $40 pesos per person, but you can also have the van drop you off anywhere you like along the main Riviera Maya highway.
Locals often use this form of transportation to take them to work at the big Riviera Maya resorts when they are running late, but it’s also a quick, easy and cheap way to reach some of the area’s best beaches and natural attractions. You can easily get to Xcaret or any of the resort entrances along the highway.
Some beautiful cenotes are also located along the colectivo route: ask the driver to drop you off at Cenote Azul or Cenote Jardin de Eden! To get a van back into town, just flag one down from the highway.
Colectivo vans also drop you off at the pedestrian bridge to Akumal Bay, and there is even a small parking lot right by the highway bridge with vans waiting to leave Akumal and take you back to Playa del Carmen.
The vans also give you an easy way to get to the Mayan ruins of Tulum, dropping you off just on the other side of the highway before heading into Downtown and offering vans leaving straight from the highway entrance. If you go all the way into Downtown, you’re just a 5-minute taxi ride away from Tulum’s stunning beaches.
If you’re going anywhere between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, colectivo vans will take you there quickly for $40 pesos or less. So what’s the downside? There are a few:
- Colectivo vans often have no seat belts, something to keep in mind especially when traveling with babies and children.
- The vans only drop you off on the main highway, which might mean a 5 – 10 minute walk to the beach.
- There is no room in the van for large suitcases.
- You will end up listening to whatever music the driver has selected… possibly a DJ remix of I Will Survive or a loop of Backstreet Boys greatest hits. (Ask me how I know.)
- Be very careful when standing or walking by the highway! If you need to hail a colectivo van from off the highway to get back to Playa del Carmen, try to find a spot where the van can easily pull over. If you need to cross the highway on foot, use the pedestrian bridges whenever possible (like the ones at Puerto Aventuras and Akumal). The Riviera Maya highway is not very friendly to pedestrians.
For Playa del Carmen locals in search of an inexpensive day trip, the colectivo vans are often the perfect answer. Whether you’re living in Playa or just visiting, this simple form of public transportation can take you to some of the region’s most stunning beaches and attractions.