When to rent a car while on a Cancun vacation

During our latest Cancun vacation, we decided everyone in the family was old enough to ‘brave’ swimming with whale sharks. However, it turned out our $90 (one-way) taxi ride from our Riviera Maya hotel to the Cancun resort zone to find these gentle beasts was the only scary part of our experience. Note: always, and I mean always, negotiate cab fare before getting in the vehicle.

Playa del Carmen


We should have known better (and magically, the return fare became half the price when we questioned it), but it wasn’t the only time during our week-long trip we wished we had our own car. Don’t get me wrong: we love staying south of the city on the Riviera Maya, happy to be along a quiet stretch of coastline. But with that lovely isolation comes difficulty with transportation. Here’s when to rent a car in Riviera Maya (and when it might not be necessary).

Consider a car rental if:

1. You’re not staying directly inside a Riviera Maya town (such as Playa del Carmen). Perhaps you’re staying at an all-inclusive resort along the ocean, miles from the next, but still want to explore Riviera Maya attractions outside resort grounds.

2. You know you’ll be zipping up and down the coastline often. Maybe you’ll be visiting Mayan ruins such as Tulum or want to visit a private beach club. Note: beach clubs are a hidden treat along the Riviera Maya…for a low fee (usually the cost of a meal on-site), whole families can enjoy pristine beaches with hammocks, snorkel gear, and even boogie boards. And they’re almost always crowd-free (unless there’s a wedding). Check out our experience at Blue Venado.

blue venado beach club

3. You have an excursion or night out planned in Cancun. The ride back up the coast can take as long as 45 minutes, and as we learned, the meter runs mercilessly!

You probably don’t need a car if:

1. You have booked a Mayan ruins tour or eco-tour with a private tour company. Most, including the eco tour company we reviewed, Alltourative, have their own vans or tour buses, which will pick you up at your resort. This can save time, and we found our tour guide to be very helpful and knowledgeable. Don’t want to be on a bus tour with the masses? Book a smaller excursion for only your family.

2. You plan to visit Playa del Carmen, or another attraction directly on the public bus line. Rivera Maya does have public buses which run between the resort communities and major towns. (Taxis are not very expensive between points of interest with Riviera Maya, either.) The major eco-parks, such as Xcaret, have bus stations right out front.


If you fall into the ‘don’t need a car’ category, ask the concierge or front desk staff at your resort for the best airport transportation solutions. Often, a private van or shared shuttle service will be more economical than a taxi. If you do opt to rent a car, enjoy the freedom you’ll have to explore the Yucatan!

As I disclose whenever applicable, this post was written in partnership with Alamo rental car.


About the author

Pit Stops for Kids AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly at a number of travel publications, and contributes to OutdoorsNW magazine as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.




  1. The collectivos between Cancun and Tulum are pretty frequent and cheap, but I would agree that if you’re spending a lot of time in the region visiting parks, beaches, ruins, cenotes and all kinds of other treats, it would be much more convenient if you have a car rented. I would especially recommend car rental if you have a family, as there is often not much room on the collectivos, especially if you hop on them part way along the route. There’s not a lot of space for backpacks, buggies and other gear either! The buses have more space but are less frequent, more expensive and stop at fewer places. I like your point about negotiating prices with taxis before you get in. They are notoriously bad for overcharging. If you know a bit of Spanish it goes a long way too!

  2. This!—> always, and I mean always, negotiate cab fare before getting in the vehicle. YES! Also, this post makes me miss you, my friend. I can just hear you saying these sage words of advice and laughing. I hope our travel paths cross soon!

  3. Maybe if you chose affordable rentals in Cancun you can save un some money. Here
    it says there are some places that don´t consume your entire budget.

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