Cancun International Airport (CUN) is clean, modern, busy, and filled with shops and fast-food concessions. Nonstop international flights arrive constantly from Canada, Europe, Latin America and major gateways in the U.S., like Los Angeles, Houston, New York and Chicago. Mexicana and Aeromexico fly, as well as American Airlines, Continental, Delta, and United. Because so many airlines service Cancun, deals can often be found, just not around holidays or in peak season. You can arrange to be picked up at the airport via your hotel, through the airport website or any other number of private companies. If you don’t arrange in advance, you can pay a set fare at the airport taxi kiosk, generally a bit over $40 to the Hotel Zone. Once you’ve paid, you’ll be directed to the next taxi in line. There are also various shuttles that run between the airport and the Hotel Zone from as little as $4 per person in a shared van.
The ferry to Isla Mujeres leaves every 30 minutes from Puerto Juarez (the car ferry is slightly north at Punta Sam, and leaves less often). The ferry to Cozumel leaves from Playa del Carmen, an hour or less to the south, but you can catch a comfortable, air-conditioned bus from the Cancun bus terminal.
If you’re an independent traveler, you may want your own car, although it’s not absolutely necessary, because most attractions provide hotel pickup or have an office within the Hotel Zone. But if you want to get off the beaten track, you’ll find that all major U.S. car rental agencies have outlets at Cancun International Airport (Budget, Hertz, etc). It’s easy to find your way around this part of the Yucatan, as the signage is good. The highways are easy to drive, running north to south along the Riviera Maya and southwest to Chichen Itza and Merida.
There are taxis everywhere in Cancun—thousands of them. They wait outside hotels, nightclubs and shopping malls and ply the streets looking for customers. Taxis aren’t metered, and theoretically charge according to zones crossed. Settle on the fare before getting in: It’s safe to assume that the tip is included in the price, but if you feel the driver was especially helpful, throw in a few extra pesos. Most of the time your fare within the hotel zone will be around $10. Those prices mysteriously go up late at night, when you most want a taxi. Fare from the Hotel Zone into El Centro is around $12. The taxis are completely safe; it’s not like Mexico City, where you have to be careful what kind of taxi you take.
The buses are very convenient and cost under $1 for a one-way fare. Bus stops are marked by metal signs bearing the illustration of a bus. Once aboard, be vigilant about your stop—if no one’s waiting to get on at the stop you want, the driver will just sail by, and you’ll have to get off at the next stop and walk back. You can hop a bus in the Hotel Zone for El Centro, or from the Hotel Zone to Puerto Juarez, where the ferry leaves for Isla Mujeres.