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Go from Tulum (Mexico) to Caye Caulker/San Pedro (Belize) by bus and boat

Traveling from Tulum (Mexico) to the islands of Caye Caulker and San Pedro (Belize) is quite easy and pleasant if you do your research. San Pedro and Caye Caulker are islands, so there is no way to avoid taking a boat or water taxi at some point. One option is to take a bus from Tulum to the border city of Chetumal and then take another bus from Chetumal to Belize City, followed by a water-taxi over to the islands. However, I do not suggest this route since it is a massive waste of time. Instead, consider taking the shorter more efficient route discussed below. I traveled from Tulum to Caye Caulker but the same information applies to travel to San Pedro. Trip cost breakdown: ~ First Class ADO bus from Tulum to Chetumal – $182 pesos ($15 USD) (TV, A/C, Wi-Fi, Washrooms) ~ Taxi from bus station in Chetumal to marina in Chetumal – $60 pesos ($5 USD) ~ Boat from Chetumal to Caye Caulker – $450 pesos ($37 USD) ~Total Cost: $692 pesos ($58 USD) ~Total time: 9 hours

San Pedro Water Xpress Jets

Bus from Tulum to Chetumal

Although it isn’t necessary, you can save time by purchasing both your bus and boat tickets from the ADO bus station in Tulum. I didn’t purchase my boat ticket in advance because I wanted to see if I could get it cheaper directly from the company in Chetumal. It turns out that the ADO sells the ticket for the same price as the boat company does, so there is no real advantage to waiting until you get to Chetumal. The ferry (San Pedro Water Jets Xpress) from Chetumal to San Pedro and Caye Caulker leaves at 3pm everyday, so unless you want to spend the night in Chetumal, you will need to catch a bus that leaves Tulum in the morning.

The first bus leaves Tulum at 8:20am and arrives in Chetumal (Quintana Roo state’s capital city) at 12:30pm. There is another bus that leaves later at 10:30am but it arrives in Chetumal at 2:30pm. The agent at the bus station suggested taking the 8:20 bus, since depending on traffic, the 10:30 bus sometimes arrives a bit late in Chetumal – not leaving much time to get to the ferry. No drinks or snacks are served on this bus, so walk with your own. The bus ride is pretty straight and uneventful with the exception of the many giant speed bumps that help to prevent passengers from falling too deeply into a state of slumber.

Taxi from the bus station in Chetumal to the marina

Once at the bus station in Chetumal (2 miles from the city centre), you will have to make your way to the marina to catch the boat [Note: if you purchase the bus and boat ticket form the ADO in Mexico, the taxi fare is not included]. . The marina is 15 minutes drive from the ADO bus station in Chetumal (taxis to the marina cost $60 pesos). In Mexico, taxis from inside a bus station are a bit more expensive than those taken from outside the station. I walked one block from the station and flagged down a taxi (paying $50 pesos). I know, the walk may not be worth saving $10 pesos but when on a long-term trip, every penny, or should I say every peso counts. The taxi will drop you off right at the front door of the boat company’s office. Porters will take your bags from the cab into the air-conditioned office where you will be required to show your passport and pay $16 pesos for a port tax (surprise fee). You will also be given two forms to fill out – one is to be presented to the Mexican immigration prior to boarding the boat and the second is for Belizean customs in San Pedro. Remember that since you are leaving Mexico, you will have to give in the immigration card that you received when you first entered Mexico.  You will also give the Mexican immigration your receipt from the port tax, your passport and your boat ticket.  About 20 minutes before departure a van of soldiers with guard dogs arrived at boat. We were asked to lay our luggage on the sidewalk as the dogs passed by to do an inspection.

Boat from Chetumal to San Pedro and Caye Caulker

The boat ride from Chetumal to San Pedro is about 2 hours long and can be quite bumpy at times when in open water. If you have a weak stomach, I suggest sitting at the back of the boat since the impact tends to be strongest at the front (also consider taking a motion sickness pill). The boat is equipped with a DVD player but focusing on a little screen while bumping over the waves can be quite challenging and downright sickening. The boat makes its first stop at the bigger island San Pedro, where most of the passengers get off. Even if you are continuing on to Caye Caulker, you are required to get off the boat and present your immigration form and passport to the Belizean customs. We arrived at 4:30pm and had an hour to walk around San Pedro before taking the second boat at 5:30pm to the smaller Caye Caulker – 25 minutes away.

Kids play with an intelligent coatimundi in San Pedro

Tip: Remember to set your watch back an hour once you arrive in Belize. When you arrive at the port in Caye Caulker, many golf-cart taxis will be waiting to take you to your hotel. If you are traveling light, everything is within a 5-10 minute walk, so a taxi isn’t necessary.

Customs in San Pedro, Belize

If you have any questions about getting to San Pedro or Caye Caulker, just leave a comment. 

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  1. Nice summary of the details!

  2. Great post… were doing this tomorrow based on your advice!

  3. JonC – I am happy that the post helps. Let me know how it goes. Maybe you will have so suggestions to improve the trip.

  4. Nice trip esp.for me who is seeking for nice and cool place. Thanks for the advice!

  5. Its a very nice and good info and details, thanks so much.
    I would like to know if there is another way to arrive early to caye caulker so i can enjoy all morning and day, because im in tulum, and i would like to take a night bus from here, and then move to where?????? do u think ist better if a go from chetumal to belize city and then i can take a early taxi water in the morning to caye caulker????? thanks so much.

    • Esther. As far as I know, the Chetumal bus to Belize would be your only alternative to the 3pm boat (unless they have added new times since I made the trip). I can’t remember how much time the bus to Belize City takes but for some reason I decided not to do it. In my opinion Belize city is a real slum, so I didn’t want to spend anytime there. The good thing about the Tulum to Chetumal bus is that you get to take in a fair deal of good scenery. Good luck on your Journey ~ Joel

  6. Hello, I would like to know is there is a boat from Chetumal to San Pedro or Caye Caulker directly friday afternoon

    • When I took the boat it went directly from Chetumal to San Perdo then on to Caye Caulker. As far as I know, this boat leaves every afternoon from Chetumal. One way of checking is to go to the ADO bus terminal to check the schedule. They would have up to date info.

  7. Thanks Joel.
    We were looking for this exact info for next week on our honeymoon.
    Your info is the best.

  8. Just wanted to update everyone, we just got back. Departure and Entry fees. You will maybe pay a departure fee leaving Mexico $25.00 usd. Make sure you get a receipt, don’t leave without it, we just came back and we are not sure if this was real or not, she wouldn’t give us a receipt and we were in a hurry. Then leaving Belize you will pay a $10.00 marina port fee each and then another $370.00 ?? Belizean to leave like $17.00 usd. Then when you enter back into Mexico you will again pay $25.00 usd. We understood from immigration at the airport if you are not out of Mexico for more than 3 days these fees from Mexico side should be waived. We didn’t know to ask. If anyone has additional information I would be grateful to know about it.

    • Thanks so much for this update Andrea. It has been a while since I did this post so all updates are greatly appreciated. And yes, if anyone has more info it would be great.

  9. Joel,

    Do you feel it is safe leaving Tulum and going to Caye Caulkner as a woman traveling alone?


    • Thank you, great description!

  10. I will be travelling from Tulum to Placencia and would like to know what the best method is – I really just need to make sure I can get there on the same day because I have been told there are buses from Tulum to Belize but then the last ferry to leave Belize is at 2:30pm or something and I’m concerned I won’t make it on time. Any help with regards to this will be much appreciated. Thanks in advance.

  11. For those with more time seeking another local experience, I would suggest a different route through Corozal and an overnight stay at the Sea Breeze Inn, beofre taking the Thunderbolt water taxi to San Pedro > Belize Express to Caye Caulker. We ended up staying 3 nights and really enjoyed it.

  12. Thanks for the help! I’m planning on doing the exact same route in a few days and was wondering about the water taxi times. I looked at the websites and as far as I could tell, they leave Chetumal at 3:00pm everyday and leave Caye Caulker at 7:00am everyday, is this right. I’ll basically be doing the same route in reverse to get back to Tulum.

  13. Thanks for the info Joel. Do you know if it is possible for water taxi from Chetumal to make a stop to drop a passenger in Sarteneja upon request?

  14. Hi !
    is there any other islands around ore nearbyBelize that you can recommend visiting? We are thinking about visiting the Mayan sights Tikal and reaching there by island to island and are planing our route from Tulum.
    We allso been checking out the map and the islands of Honduras like Utila and this island far apart from each other from Belize? I’m so thankful for any tips ! Regards Tanja. you for

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