Touring The Top Sites Along The Mayan Coast by Public Transportation from Cancun
Cancun attracts travelers in search of sunny beach relaxation year-round. It is one of the most popular beach destinations for vacationers looking from gorgeous beaches, soft white sand, and miles of upscale hotel properties. But once you’ve played in the water and tanned in the sun, it’s time to go exploring. Just a short distance away are more wonderful beach towns and famous Mayan ruins. So let’s take a look at some of the top places to visit from your hotel in Cancun.
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Located just a few miles off the coast of Cancun, Isla Mujeres is tranquil and laid-back compared with the hustle and bustle of Cancun. There’s no better way to spend the day than to hop on a local ferry for a 30-minute ride over to this charming island. Once on Isla Mujeres, spend some time at the lovely beaches or meander among the local artisan shops. If you arrive between June to September, consider the once-in-a-lifetime experience of swimming with migrating whale sharks! Other sites include a lighthouse, snorkeling or diving on coral reefs, a Mayan temple, and a sea turtle farm/sanctuary. One of the most popular attractions located just offshore between Isla Mujeres and Cancun is the underwater sculpture garden museum (MUSA) that can be toured by diving, snorkeling, or glass-bottom boat.
Fast ferries run from three terminals (all located close to each other) from central Cancun to Isla Mujeres every half hour. The cost is approx $5.50 per person.
Playa del Carmen
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Travel over to the Riviera Maya to its most popular coastal town – Playa del Carmen. Once a sleepy fishing village, Playa is now the fastest-growing community on the Yucatan Peninsula. The town is dotted with newly constructed luxury residential condo developments stretching along its beaches. The town itself is a shopper’s paradise with hundreds of shops along the pedestrian-only La Quinta Avenida and 5th Avenue. Don’t forget it’s expected that you will barter – never accept the first price offered! There is no shortage of restaurants, bars, discos, and street vendors in Playa del Carmen.
There are several bus companies that travel between Cancun and Playa del Carmen. The standard buses run between $5 and $12 and a mini-van transit is $23. The trip is approx a 1-hour drive.
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One of the major appeals of visiting Playa del Carmen is to catch the ferry over to the popular island of Cozumel. While Cozumel is the largest island in Mexico, it has a laid-back charm and is famous for its expansive coral reefs. This island is a must-visit for anyone who is a diving or snorkeling enthusiast. Visit the Chankanaab Eco Park to explore underwater caverns, and swim with dolphins, manatees, and sea turtles.
There are two ferry companies that do the run from downtown Playa to Cozumel. They run every hour from early morning until 11:00 pm. The trip takes from 20 minutes to 40 minutes depending on the type of boat you select. The ticket price ranges from $7 to $10.25 per person.
Traveling further down the Mayan coast, it’s a one-hour journey from Playa del Carmen to Tulum and 2 hours from Cancun. Tulum is an important archaeological zone with breathtaking Mayan ruins that are easily accessible. The well-preserved Mayan ‘castle’ temple in Tulum stands dramatically above a stunning white-sand beach. This fortress and trading center was one of the last walled city temples built by the Mayan culture. It was inhabited from approx 1,200 AD to the 16th century when diseases brought by Spanish explorers decimated the Mayan culture. Explore further at the Parque Nacional Tulum and enjoy a refreshing swim in one of the dramatic cenotes (sandstone sinkhole).
The one-hour bus trip from Playa del Carmen to Tulum takes about 1 hour and is available on standard buses and shuttle buses. Ticket price range from $4 for the bus to $35 for a minivan shuttle.
If you have the time and are passionate about ancient history and the Mayan culture, a visit to the grand pyramid temple at Chichen Itza is a must. Since it was named one of the ‘new’ 7 Wonders of the World in 2007, Chichen Itza is a very popular attraction. The ancient city and magnificent step pyramid was built in approx 600 AD and remained in use until the 1200s. Old Chichen and new Chichen (Itza) contain an amazing 26 Mayan ruins, but the El Casillo pyramid is the most iconic site. It’s good to visit as early in the day as possible to avoid the large crowds and often blistering heat of the day!
The 2.5-hour journey from Cancun to Chichen Itza on the ADO Bus costs about $25 per adult.
So when you’re on vacation in Cancun and you get the itch to go exploring, there are lots of affordable options available to you.