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By shuttle or private transfer service
Although there are many methods to reach a resort near Tulum from the Cancun International Airport, including taxis and the actual resort shuttles, using a private airport transfer service really deserves consideration. You can find several professional companies such as:
Having a private, air-conditioned car can be far more relaxing and time-saving, and removes any issues of "negotiating" the price with a regular taxi. You know up-front what the price will be, and there will be no stops between the airport and where you are going (unless you want/need to stop somewhere) like you are likely to face with the resort shuttles. As you know, Tulum is quite a long drive from Cancun International, so check out the private transfer services before your trip.
Shuttles can be booked in advance, through your hotel or on the transfer service´s website, or you can wait until arrival and book one directly at the airport terminal. There are several booths set up. It is a good Idea to book your transfers before, as it will be cheaper than at the airport.
By rental car
To drive to Tulum from the Cancún airport, take the highway south until you reach the crossroads leading to the Tulum hotel zone. You will see a sign for Boca Paila and also a plaza on the right side with a large San Francisco Supermarket. At the stoplight, turn left, heading toward the sea.
Once you reach the end of the road, you will be at the coastal highway, where you can turn left or right (be sure to check with your hotel before you arrive so you know which way to turn). For general orientation, the archaeological zone is to the left, and Sian Ka´an is to the right. From Cancún it is about an hour and a half drive by car.
If you prefer a more economical method of traveling south from the airport to Tulum, you can take a bus to Playa del Carmen directly from the Cancún International Airport! The Riviera bus line leaves the airport for Playa about every hour, daily from morning to evening (about $6.50 usd. per person, 45 minutes). From Playa del Carmen, you can take either a first- or second-class bus to the Tulum pueblo (about $3.50 usd. per person, two or more hours). First class buses are faster than second class ones, as they do not make as many stops along the highway. Alongside the Tulum pueblo bus station you will find a taxi stop, where you can take a cab directly to the hotels (about $4.50 per car, maximum four passengers per vehicle, about ten minutes).
If you are arriving on a late flight
If you are arriving on a late flight, the easiest option is to take a shuttle or a transfer, as the ride is much shorter (one and a half hours, as opposed to more than three if you miss the last Riviera bus and have to go the long route). If you are not able to take the Riviera bus directly to Playa del Carmen, you will have to take a combi (van) from the Cancún airport to the Cancún city bus terminal (about $8 usd. per person, one hour). From the bus station, you can take a first- or second-class bus directly to Tulum pueblo (about $7.50 usd. per person).