The Mexico Caribbean is a region I knew I wanted to visit one day, but I never put it at the top of my list. I always knew I’d get there eventually when the time was right. Now that I’ve spent two weeks in the region and 9 days traveling around, I want to share the tips you need for visiting the Mexico Caribbean.

My route so you have an idea of where I went. I landed into Cancun and immediately went to Playa del Carmen. From there I did a day trip to Cozumel where I got badly burnt snorkeling. Then it was on to Tulum followed by Chichén Iztá and Valladolid. I ended the trip back in Cancun with a day trip to Isla Mujeres. Now, onto these Mexico Caribbean tips!

Mexico Caribbean Tips

Getting Around 

Mexico Caribbean

Originally my thought was to rent a car for the region because I thought trying to figure out the buses would be too complicated. Thankfully that wasn’t the case though. There is the ADO bus that travels from the major cities in the area as well as smaller ones. This is how we went from the Cancun airport to Playa del Carmen to Tulum to Valladolid and back to Cancun. 

For buying tickets you have two options. You can buy them in person at the bus stations. Depending on the bus company, you may only buy it a couple hours before. This is mainly for the second class bus, like Oriente, in which you aren’t guaranteed a seat but it is cheaper than other companies. You can buy your ADO bus tickets online.

hand with a silver thumb ring holding pink bus ticket inside ADO bus with blue and red seats
ADO bus ticket bought at station
Playa del Carmen

Uber is available in certain parts of the Mexico Caribbean, but not in Playa del Carmen. There are taxis available, but you’ll need to pay in cash and the rates start at $150 MXN Pesos, so just under $10 USD.

Playa del Carmen is very walkable. Unless you need to go from one end to the other or move around during the middle of the day when it’s hot, walking won’t take too long!


Tulum was a bit different than I was expecting in that there’s the town part and the beach part. They’re connected by a long road that will eventually be filled with hotels and resorts. For now it’s just a road with a sidewalk that people walk or mainly bike on.

Renting a bike is the best way to get around! It’s about $10 a day depending on where you rent from. It’ll definitely be cheaper to get a bike in town than by the beach. Make sure it has a bell and a light or reflector especially if you’ll be riding around at night. We rode at night and only then realized our bikes did not have those. For this reason I recommend that you do not rent from Kelly Bike Rental in downtown Tulum. The bikes weren’t in the greatest condition and didn’t have any of the safety measures mentioned.

Prices compared to rest of Mexico 

Mexico is known for being economical, but let me give you some Mexico Caribbean tips and say that this region is not cheap. Out of the 6 cities I went to, Tulum and Cancun are definitely the most expensive. Definitely plan to budget more for these two.

Using cash will help you avoid an additional fee. Many restaurants and tour companies will tell you there is a 4% fee, but sometimes this can vary from 3-5%. Keep this in mind when creating your budget and how you’re planning to pay during your trip.


This one surprised me because I’m used to tipping mainly in the United States. In many other places it isn’t as common nor a situation you come across. As my days went on in the Mexico Caribbean, I saw that tipping at restaurants was something expected. I had receipts come with any range of 10% to 22% of the bill. 

Another situation I also came across was how tipping is more expected if paying with a credit card vs paying with cash. At a coffee shop, a friend paid with cash and was not asked at all about a tip. Seeing as I was paying with a card, the terminal automatically pops up the tip add on.

Exchanging Money

As mentioned, you avoid paying a fee by paying with cash instead of with a credit card. If you bring dollars or euros and need to exchange it once in the region, I suggest Banco Azteca. They give a decent exchange rate compared to the true one. At the time I went the exact conversion was 17.12 MXN to 1 USD, Banco Azteca gave 16 MXN to 1 USD. You may find a better exchange at another place, but you’ll have to search more. With Banco Azteca you know it’ll be the same at any bank across the country. 

Compare Prices

Learn from my mistakes, don’t get a tour in the first place. Usually it’s whatever you pass first leaving the ferry or arriving via bus. It tends to be the most expensive. Walk around a bit and ask other companies and get an idea of what the price should be and what’s included.

Tulum Ruins Tips

I highly recommend visiting the Tulum ruins during your stay in Tulum. It’s located a bit outside of downtown, but it’s not far enough to get there via bike. If you ride a bike you are able to go all the way to the entrance on it without paying for parking.

Tulum ruins on the edge of a cliff overlooking the water, Mexico Caribbean Tips
Tulum Ruins, February 2024

There are two fees you’ll have to pay when you go which you pay separately. First is the federal tax which is 60.35 MXN pesos ($3.55) and they give you a bracelet. Second, the entrance fee is 150 MXN pesos ($8.80) and they give you a paper. If you want to take videos you have to pay an additional 50 MXN pesos ($2.95).

The guards you need to pass by will check you’ve paid the federal tax and will also make sure you don’t have any plastics or food. If you have any, even bottled water, you’ll need to throw it out. Non disposable bottles are okay.

Right before these guards there will be people selling you tours. I didn’t opt to go on any of them. There was one in particular I didn’t like, a boat tour that had a tactic of feeding the turtles so that they would come to the area. 

Isla Mujeres

If you are staying in Cancun but not the Zona Hotelera (Hotel Zone), you can still take a ferry to Isla Mujeres. Apparently it’s more expensive from the Hotel Zone. I took the Ultramar from Puerto Juárez to Isla Mujeres. It’s still a bit pricey in my opinion compared to blog posts I read stating other prices. Those may have been outdated though. 

I paid 540 MXN pesos ($33.50) for a round trip ticket. It’s cheaper if you’re a resident of Quintana Roo (the department that Cancun is located in). On the ferry they play live music which is nice to hear. As it is a 15 minute ride, it doesn’t take long to get to the other side. They will ask for tips close to the arrival.

Renting a golf cart is a must to get around Isla Mujeres! Once you get off the ferry you’ll be approached by multiple tour guides asking you if you want to do a tour, rent a golf cart, etc. I suggest walking past them and going towards Go Mar II where you can rent a four person golf cart for 1,200 MXN pesos ($70.50) for the day from 9am to 6pm. Since the day starts at 9am, you’ll end up paying that regardless of the time you arrive so arrive early if you can. This way you can take advantage of the day and get the most for your money.

Underrated City

The most underrated city I visited during this trip was Valladolid. This is the biggest city near Chichen Itza, a New World Wonder. Yet I still felt it was overlooked and originally we weren’t planning to stay long. To be fully transparent, my friend and sister also were confused why I had suggested we stay there two nights. 

But this city has lots of culture and is beautiful. It should not be missed. The main square has traditional dancing every three days. We stumbled upon it without realizing that happened there. 

Traditional Dancing in Valladolid during sunset with a bird flying in the background
Traditional Dancing in Valladolid, February 2024

There is a cenote right in the center of the city which is viewable from a restaurant with the same name, Zaci. The entrance fee is 60 MXN pesos ($3.50) and only payable in cash. We walked by there on a Sunday and there was about a two hour wait. Definitely plan to arrive early when it opens or go on a weekday.


The sun is hot in this region so this is one of the important Mexico Caribbean tips. Even if you never wear sunblock at home or anywhere else, please wear it here. My sister burned the first day in Playa del Carmen and then I burned a few days later when we went to Cozumel.

With that in mind, sunblock does not start taking effect until at least 30 minutes after you put it on! So don’t wait until you get to the pool or beach to put it on, especially if you’ll go immediately into the water. It wouldn’t have stuck on your body and instead will end up in the water. Most sunblock kills the coral reef, which is why I wasn’t able to reapply during the boat tour in Cozumel. I totally understand because it’s not good for the environment, but then I spent the next few days completely shielding myself from the sun and then peeling. Had I applied before leaving my hostel and then again on the ferry then I should have been much better than I was.

More on Mexico and Latin America

I hope you have enjoyed these Mexico Caribbean tips! It was a beautiful region and I know if given another opportunity I would definitely return again. Stay tuned for more posts on Mexico and the Mexican Caribbean Coast.

Latin America Posts:

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Viaja more y live más,

Latina Traveler

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