While most tourists choose to fly to Cancun, each year many other adventure travelers decide to hit the wide open roads. If your heart is set on a road trip to Cancun – or if it just suits your budget better, you can always drive yourself there – and have the time of your life doing so.
Read on for the ultimate guide on driving to Cancun.
Is It Safe to Drive to Cancun from the US?
Yes, it is generally safe to drive to Cancun from the United States, as long as you do your homework and travel smart. Road conditions are fair, and most towns along the route are safe to drive through both day and night. That said, because you will be driving in a foreign country, it is important to take some extra precautions.
Here are some safety tips for driving from the US to Cancun:
- It is recommended that you arrive early at the US-Mexico border, after overnighting in the US. This will help you avoid driving at night or having to overnight in a border town. Ciudad Juarez is infamous for being dangerous after dark, and the towns next to the Rio Grande aren’t places you’d want to be in. Always plan your trip to get to a town before dark.
- Stick to the toll roads. Although expensive, toll roads are in excellent condition and provide a better option than the pot-holed single lane roads lined with queues of crawling trucks. On the other hand, if you really want to stop, see and taste Mexican culture, you are better off taking the slower free roads instead.
- Watch out for Mexico’s ubiquitous speed bumps that seemingly come before and after every bridge, crossing and town in the country. Because these bumps are often unmarked, it’s important to drive cautiously, especially at night. If you try to sail over them, they can rip out your suspension system. Also keep an eye out for potholes and animals on the road.
- Always have enough cash on hand. Although big Mexican towns usually have ATMs and accept credit cards, it is important to carry enough pesos as well as US dollars for emergencies. Most businesses in small towns only accept cash, don’t accept dollars or have outdated credit card machines that may reject your bank card.
How Far is Cancun from the American Border?
Located in the state of Texas, Brownsville is the American border town that is closest to Cancun. The distance from the American Border Patrol Checkpoint at Boca Chica Boulevard, Brownsville to Cancun is 2,300.3 km.
It takes about 28 hours to drive non-stop from the American border to Cancun using the Minatitlan – Cordoba/México 145D road.
How Long Would it Take to Drive to Cancun?
It would take about 28 hours to drive non-stop to Cancun from the American border.
Can You Drive to Cancun from Texas?
Yes, you can drive to Cancun from Texas.
The distance from Texas to Cancun is 3,036.9 km. It takes about 35 hours to drive non-stop from Texas to Cancun using the US-281 road. If you are traveling in a group and taking shifts to drive, it is possible to complete this entire trip by car without stopping.
However, because this is a really long drive, it’s not realistic to drive non-stop if traveling solo. For such a long road trip, you will need to stop along the way to rest, and perhaps stay overnight at a hotel. Moreover, for a proper road trip, you will want to stop along the way to check out interesting places and eat at delicious restaurants.
You can spread out your road trip from Texas to Cancun over a couple of days, with 5 days of driving with 4 overnights. Here is a sample itinerary for driving from Texas to Cancun:
- Day 1: Texas to San Antonio – 2.5 hours (Stay 1.5 hours) / San Antonio to Alamo – 3.5 hours
- Day 2: Alamo to Tampico – 8.5 hours
- Day 3: Tampico to Veracruz – 7.5 hours
- Day 4: Veracruz to Coatzacoalcos – 3.5 hours (Stay 1 hour) / Coatzacoalcos to Villahermosa – 3.5 hours
- Day 5: Villahermosa to Merida – 6.5 hours (Stay 1 hour) / Merida to Cancun – 3 hours
How Far is Cancun from the Texas Border?
The distance to Cancun from the Texas border is 2,404.7 km. It takes roughly 29 hours to drive non-stop to Cancun from the Texas border using the Minatitlan – Cordoba/México 145D road.
Can You Drive to Cancun from Los Angeles?
Yes, you can drive from Los Angeles to Cancun. Although it takes about 51 hours to drive non-stop from Los Angeles to Cancun, you can spread this road trip out over a couple of days, with 6 days of driving and 5 overnights.
Here is a sample itinerary for driving from Los Angeles to Cancun:
- Day 1: Los Angeles to Phoenix – 6.5 hours
- Day 2: Phoenix to Basilica de Guadalupe – 9.5 hours
- Day 3: Basilica de Guadalupe to Fresnillo – 8.5 hours
- Day 4: Fresnillo to San Miguel de Allende – 4 hours
- Day 5: San Miguel de Allende to Catemaco – 8 hours
- Day 6: Catemaco to Merida – 8 hours
- Day 7: Merida to Cancun – 3 hours
How Far is LA from Cancun?
The distance from Cancun to Los Angeles is 4,522.1 km. It takes about 51 hours to drive non-stop from Cancun to Los Angeles via the I-10 W road.
How Many Hours is it from California to Cancun?
It is roughly 54 hours from California to Cancun by road.
How Far is California from Cancun?
The distance from Cancun to California is 4,872.8 km. It takes about 54 hours to drive from Cancun to California using the I-10 W road.
Can you Drive from California to Cancun?
Yes, you can drive from California to Cancun. While it takes around 54 hours to drive non-stop from California to Cancun, you can spread out this road trip over a few days, with 7 days of driving and 6 overnights.
Below is a sample itinerary for driving from California to Cancun:
- Day 1: Los Angeles to Phoenix – 6.5 hours
- Day 2: Phoenix to El Paso – 6 hours
- Day 3: El Paso to Austin – 8 hours
- Day 4: Austin to Tampico – 11 hours
- Day 5: Tampico to Veracruz – 7.5 hours
- Day 6: Veracruz to Merida – 13.5 hours
- Day 7: Merida to Cancun – 3 hours
Should I Drive to Cancun from the US?
This will depend on the time you have, as well as your travel style and vacation plans.
For some people, 28 hours on the road may seem like a nightmare. But for adventurous travelers, it is the ultimate road-trip! This is roughly how long it will take to get from the US border to Mexico’s most famous seaside paradise, Cancun. If you have the time and stamina for a long drive, you can enjoy lots of lovely little towns, amazing sights and exciting adventures along the way.
Moreover, if you’re traveling with family or are on a budget, driving to Cancun from the US will help you save on airfare. And best of all, because you have your own car, you won’t have to worry about airline baggage restrictions. You can take your favorite pillow, carry an ice-chest and won’t have to pay for a Mexican car rental.
What Documents Do I Need When Driving from the U.S. to Cancun?
Here is a list of documents you need to have when driving from the US to Cancun:
- Tourist Card: You can get this at the Mexican immigration desk at the border crossing. It costs about US $25.
- Mexican Liability Insurance: Insure your car with a Mexican policy before you drive it into Mexico. Your own U.S. policy won’t cover you in Mexico. If you get into an accident while driving without Mexican insurance, you could end up in a Mexican jail until liability is determined. You may purchase Mexican vehicle insurance online or at rental agencies in border towns.
- Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit: The Temporary Import Permit is a sticker you are required to place on your windshield to prevent Mexican police from impounding your car. You may obtain the permit online or from the customs office. To get the permit, you will need to provide proof that you’re the owner of the car and put up a refundable deposit.
- Photocopies: You’ll need a copy of all your documents, including those relating to your car. Near the immigration desk at the border is a photocopy station where you can have copies made of your passport, driver’s license, vehicle title, registration, insurance and anything else.
How Far is Cancun from Mexico City by Car?
The distance from Mexico City to Cancun is 1,617.7 km. It takes about 19.5 hours to drive non-stop from Mexico City to Cancun using the México 150D road. Nonetheless, you can spread this road trip out over several days, with 3 days of driving and 2 overnights.
Here is a sample itinerary for driving to Cancun from Mexico City:
- Day 1: Mexico City to Puebla – 2 hours (Stay 1 hour) / Puebla to Cordoba – 2 hours (Stay 1 hour) / Cordoba to Coatzacoalcos – 3.5 hours
- Day 2: Coatzacoalcos to Villahermosa – 2 hours (Stay 1 hour) / Villahermosa to Ciudad Del Carmen – 2 hours (Stay 1 hour) / Ciudad Del Carmen to Campeche – 2.5 hours
- Day 3: Campeche to Merida – 2 hours (Stay 1 hour) / Merida to Chichen Itza – 1.5 hours (Stay 1 Hour) /Chichen Itza to Cancun – 2.5 hours
How Long is the Drive from Mexico City to Cancun?
The drive from Mexico City to Cancun takes roughly 19.5 hours.
That said, there are certain routes you can take to minimize travel time. For instance, the “Puebla – Villahermosa – Palenque – Campeche – Merida – Cancun” route can cut your driving time down to 17 hours, by keeping you in the coastal lowlands of Mexico as much as possible. On the other hand, traveling extensively through Mexico’s mountainous regions will add a lot more time to your journey.
Is It Safe to Drive from Mexico City to Cancun?
Yes, it is generally safe to drive from Mexico City to Cancun, as long as you use your common sense. The roads are pretty good, and many towns along the route are safe to be in both day and night.
However, because you will be driving in an unfamiliar place, it is important to take some extra precautions.
Where Should I Stop When Driving From Mexico City to Cancun?
Driving to Cancun from Mexico City allows you to explore a number of interesting towns along the way, where you can spend as little as an hour or up to several days. These include:
- Cordoba, Veracruz: Just 3.5 hours from Mexico City, Cordoba offers mountain vistas and a colonial ambiance that make for the perfect mid-day pit-stop. Visitors can stroll around its plaza and admire the breathtaking architecture; see archeological artifacts at Museo de la Ciudad; and learn about the processing and cultivation of local coffee at Museo Del Cafe.
- Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz: This will be your very first glimpse at the ocean – and oh, what a marvelous sight! Sample some local cuisine at a seaside restaurant; walk along and explore Paseo de las Escolleras; or take a walk along the malecón with its ocean vistas and many restaurants, bars and shops. If you decide to stay the night, there are a few good hotels in town.
- La Venta Archeological Site: Located on the road between Villahermosa and Coatzacoalas, the massive Olmec heads at the archeological site of La Venta are a must-see. The site was one of the most significant Olmec Indian cities at the prime of their civilization, between 900 – 400AD. Visitors can admire the ‘great pyramid’ and get up close views of their famous rock sculptures.
- Villahermosa, Tabasco: A bustling metropolis, Villahermosa is the capital of Tabasco. The big city offers a great nightlife scene, and a lot to explore. Nestled amid nature, the city offers the perfect base for hiking, swimming and exploration. Travelers can also take a stroll along the riverfront to loosen up their stiff legs after so much driving.
- Isla Del Carmen: Spend a day of relaxation on Isla Del Carmen, along the Gulf of Mexico. Take a tour around the Laguna, a natural reserve that is home to lots of marine animals. Lounge at some of Isla Del Carmen’s nice beaches or roam around the downtown of Ciudad de Carmen. For even more isolated island beaches, consider also taking a boat trip to Isla Aguada.
- Campeche: Built to protect Mexico from pirates, the walled city of Campeche is a beautiful colonial gem. It’s a great spot to stay overnight or just spend the day, and try the delicious local restaurants and many small eateries at Portales de San Martin. Take a walk around the malecon, explore the Ednzá ruins nearby and stroll through some of the original bastions of the city.
- Parque Natural Petenes: As you are leaving town, consider stopping at the Parque Natural Petenes. Spanning 300,000 ha of wetlands, this park boasts an amazing diversity of aquatic bird species along with other wildlife, including flamingos, pelicans, monkeys and jaguars. Visitors can enjoy boating, kayaking, sport-fishing and bird-watching.
- Merida: Boasting a rich and quite fascinating history as Mexico’s pre-Hispanic cultural center, the town of Merida is a sublime spot with a lot of gorgeous architecture and great food. Stroll past brightly-painted homes in the city center, visit the Museum of Modern Art to see collections by Yucatecan artists and try some delicious Yucatecan cuisine.
- Chichen Itza: No drive through the Yucatan is complete without stopping at Chichen Itza. One of the country’s most important pre-Colombian Mayan sites, this ancient archeological site is nestled amid the wildlife-filled jungles of the Yucatan peninsula, giving it a rather exotic flavor. Don’t miss out on the El Castillo pyramid and the Mayan ball court.