In November, a group of 4 of us are staying on Cozumel. Instead of taking a tour from our resort to visit ruins, we are interested in handling it ourselves. We want to rent a car from Playa del Carmen and drive to visit Coba and Tulum and anything else interesting for the day. Any advice on a rental car company? Tips or things to look out for? How long we should imagine for this type of day trip? And as always, any suggestions about the area are MUCH appreciated. We don't want to be stuck on a tour bus following the tour timeline!
Great idea! This is exactly what I did the 1st time I visited Playa del Carmen. Rented a car in town and did all the ruins, including the 3 hour drive to Chichén Itzá and overnight stay. Definitely the best way to see the Yucatán Peninsula. Great highways, safe roads, and freedom! I don't have a specific car company to recommend, I think I used Orbitz or some other online service or maybe the hotel, but obviously don't buy the insurance as your credit card will cover it. I'd also advice taking pictures with your phone, both before and after, as I've heard some companies will try to claim damage after the fact when you're probably not checking your statement. I'd also plan on getting a small 4x4, but not required. Also rent for a couple days to give yourself some additional leverage and freedom.
In terms of timing, I'd give yourselves a full day to see and explore Tulum and the surrounding areas. Tulum itself only takes an hour or 2, depending on how detailed you want to get. There's also a beach below the ruins you should be able to hang out at and pretend you're truly living the Mayan holiday escape lifestyle. If you're into snorkeling, Xel Ha is not bad and along the way. There's a few more good snorkeling spots which aren't as touristy. Overall, we did a ruins visit and snorkel expedition day trip from Playa del Carmen. Then an overnight in Chichén Itzá.
Bottomline: Skip the tour buses and rent a car for freedom and adventure!
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I would say rent it from the airport because it's was such a headache for my boyfriend and I when we tried to rent from Fox rentals in Playa del carmen. But yes, renting a car is a much better idea than overpriced tours offered by the resort. Just watch out for people on scooters... they're everywhere.
When you go into Playa del Carmen, there are street vendors and official car rental places. Usually you can expect to spend about a good hour trying to get everything sorted out. Most often times they'll make you pay some insurance or pay a ridiculous deposit. Just pay them the insurance.
Tulum and Chichen Itza are both really great. If you only have time for one, I'd say go to Tulum. Also, when you go to Tulum, they offer walking tour ticket + snorkeling for i think $40 if I remember correctly (just walking ticket = $8). TOTALLY worth it. When you go snorkeling, they take you on the boat and show you Tulum from the seaside, really really beautiful. And the snorkeling in that area is great.
If you go to Chichen Itza, there's a really famous cenote (it's like a giant well that you can go swimming and cliff diving in). There are plenty of cenotes in the area, which are all highly recommended, but the one beside Chichen Itza is the most famous one I believe.
Lastly, when you go, avoid all the tourists and the blazing heat by going early in the morning. You'll have the place more to yourself.
Playa del Carmen is also a fun place to go at night, but Cozumel I think is my favorite place on earth... but for personal reasons. I've spent about 2-3 months in this area when I was 16 and 18. I went to Playa del Carmen back this past month with my boyfriend.
Check out my blog for more photos and details.
Also, fun places to go to in Cozumel at night: Senor frogs and Carlos & Charlies.
**if you plan to go snorkeling a lot, it might be more economical to buy your own gear (they're usually around $30 at Costco) because I think rental is about $10 a day.
Avoid all the hassles of renting (high cost, Policia, etc.) and go with a transport company. You tell them where you want to go and they'll drive and wait. Fee arranged ahead of time. We've used the service through http://www.playa.info/playa-del-carmen-info-private-transportation-reservation.html but there are others.
Hi there Sarah,
We spent over a year in Playa del Carmen and before we bought a car we rented from Executive Car rental on Fifth Avenue (between 14th and 16th street) and found them well priced, honest and reliable.
We also rented from a company called 'Price' which has two offices in town, one on 30th street just off Fifth Avenue. It is actually better to book in person to request a good deal and clarify the cost with insurance.
I wrote a free guide to area if you are interested: http://www.sarahsomewhere.com/guide-to-playa-del-carmen-mexico
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America Car Rental off the middle of Quinta Avenida in Playa will be your best bet - cheapest, most reliable, and they also have automatic drive readily available. Book online in advance to ensure you have a reservation. They are also located at CUN so you can pick up from there and drive the whole way down, or take the ADO to Playa and avoid the increased prices at the airport ;-)