Mexico is a popular destination for North Americans because it is easy to get to and it offers breathtaking tropical beaches, a vibrant culture and a fabled historic past. Cancun is one of the most preferred destinations in Mexico; here you will find all the modern amenities and luxuries of a first class vacation oasis coupled with a plethora of recreational activities and historic archeological sites like Chichen Itza. One thing Cancun doesn't offer is a harbor that is deep enough for cruise ships to dock, but that doesn't mean cruisers are out of luck.
Getting to Cancun from a Cruise Ship
The major port of call closest to Cancun, and one of Mexico's busiest cruise ship stops, is Cozumel. Found at the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, Cozumel is popular with top cruise lines like Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Holland America, Regent Seven Seas, and Royal Caribbean. It is best to check itineraries to see what cruises offer more than one night in Cozumel.
To get from Cozumel to Cancun, you will need to follow a land-and-sea route.
There are three piers that cruise ships pull into and one local ferry pier that passengers can take to Playa del Carmen in order to get to Cancun. If your cruise ship comes into the Puerta Maya or International Pier, take one of the waiting taxis to the ferry terminal. The ride will take about seven minutes, depending on traffic. Cruise passengers arriving at the Punta Langosta Pier can take a five-minute walk to the passenger ferry terminal.
- Punta Langosta Pier is located in the center of San Miguel's downtown area.
- TMM International Pier is about 5 miles south of San Miguel's downtown area.
- Puerta Maya Pier is just south of the International Pier.
- Carnival Cruise Line's private pier is one-half mile south of the International Pier.
- The San Miguel Passenger Ferry Pier (adjacent to the Punta Langosta Pier) is where you will board the ferry to Playa del Carmen in order to go to Cancun.
An easy and inexpensive way to visit Cancun from Cozumel is to take the Ultramar Ferry Service or Mexico Water Jets to Playa del Carmen. Consider buying a one-way ticket to keep your options open. Ferry companies do not honor each other's tickets and they are not interchangeable. Ultramar and Mexico Water Jets have continuous departures from Cozumel to Playa del Carmen. Depending on the weather, the ferry ride takes about forty-five minutes each way.
Arriving in Playa del Carman
In Playa del Carman, the ferry terminal is located downtown a block and a half from the main square and Plaza Playacar.
On Land to Cancun from Playa del Carmen
Other than renting a car, there are two basic ways to get from Playa del Carmen to Cancun.
- The most economical way is to take the ADO Bus located on 5th Ave. and Jurze. This bus has air-conditioning and luggage can be stored under the bus and in overheads. The ADO Bus runs about every thirty minutes and the cost is approximately 146 pesos or U.S. $4. The bus ride to Cancun is about an hour.
- There are taxis by the ABO Bus Station in Playa del Carmen. Make your deal before getting into a taxi, because they are not metered. Taxis are set by a rate chart, so make sure you check that. If you pay in U.S. dollars, you could be paying up to 30% more.
Discover Cancun on a Cruise
If you have time on your cruise, don't miss Cancun. It is easy to get to, but make sure you have a layover for a night. Cancun is a multi-faceted destination that oozes beaches, culture, nightlife and dining. The intimate route needed to get there is inexpensive and adventurous, it will get you off the beaten path and, best of all, it will introduce you to the wonders of Mexico, by land and by sea.