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Why These Destinations South Of Cancun Are About To Explode In Popularity

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The vast majority of travelers who visit the Mexican Caribbean choose either Cancun or Playa del Carmen as their base.

And there’s no points for guessing why; both are super close to the Cancun International Airport, and after hours of flying the last thing most travelers want to do is embark on another trek.

Tulum, just south of Playa del Carmen by 1 hour, is probably the most popular destination outside of the two vacation juggernauts.

But that could all very well be about to change thanks to the Tren Maya (Mayan train network).

Why These Destinations South Of Cancun Are About To Explode In Popularity

Tren Maya In Plain English

The new Tren Maya public transport network is one of the most ambitious public transport undertakings anywhere in the Americas in recent memory.

For a long time, this corner of Mexico has been seen as sparsely populated and almost completely geared towards tourism.

Its history is undeniably impressive, once upon a time being the center of the Mayan Empire, but today it has, outside of the tourism hotspots, been underdeveloped.

The new train network will connect the south of Mexico in ways travelers before could only dream of. Many beautiful towns, cities, and historically significant sites will now be as easy as the journey from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen.

cancun train maya

The Benefit For Travelers

As just mentioned, this new public transport system will open up the south of Mexico in a way never seen before.

From the airport, travelers can now easily reach both the classic destinations of Cancun and Playa del Carmen in style and comfort, but more importantly, it opens up the more relaxed and traditionally less touristic destinations further south.

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Bacalar - aerial view

Tulum, Bacalar, Chetumal, Xul-Ha, and by extension Mahahual all now become serious contenders for travelers’ customs where a vacation is concerned.

These underappreciated but superbly magical destinations have long been reserved for travelers willing to tough out the long bus journeys on the single-lane highways of the South.

But, from December 2023, just in time for the hugely popular winter season in the Mexican Caribbean, travelers will be able to reach these hidden gems easier than traveling from the Bronx to Brooklyn.

Maya Train route map displaying main stops

A Vacation Of Diversity

It can’t be overstated just how much this new train network will transform the options available for travelers.

Currently, travelers not staying in the northern 2 cities of Cancun and Playa del Carmen have to undertake a journey more time-consuming than getting from Anchorage, Alaska, to Cancun by air.


But come Christmas, a traveler staying in the chill bohemian towns mentioned before can just as easily spend a day at a Playa del Carmen beach hut sipping cocktails as they can visiting the wonder of the world that is Chichen Itza.

On top of that, further afield destinations like the stunning city of Merida (rated the safest in Latin America, and in fact one of the safest in the world) become an easy reality.

A colonial building lit up in green in the city of Merida

Time In Perspective

One of the most popular routes traveled by visitors that will soon reap the benefits of the Tren Maya is Cancun to Merida.

Previously, with a car rental and open roads, this journey would take 4 hours.

With the Tren Maya, this journey is cut all the way down to just 1 hour & 30 minutes. Repeat visitors to Cancun will know that sometimes the journey from the airport to the hotel zone can take that with heavy traffic.

Traveling at 100mph, with only key towns and cultural stops being included in the route, helps to keep these times down and ensure the service is as attractive as possible.


Is It Safe?

Perhaps one of the biggest factors for travelers not wanting to leave their resort/destination is the optics of security in Mexico.

The media does a stellar job of reporting the worst of any area, no matter what country is talked about, but there are understandable concerns when it comes to Mexico.

For travelers who are considering making the most of the Tren Maya, the network will be under the watchful and highly respected care of the Guardia Nacional (National Guard).

National guard ceremony in Mexico with cars

They are Mexico’s gendarmerie force, a type of law enforcement that is run with military discipline and a commitment to duty.

Within Mexico, they are without a doubt the most trusted form of law enforcement, so much so that they even head up Mexico’s airport security these days.

With this branch of security forces protecting each and every carriage of the Tren Maya, the worry about security for this game-changing project becomes extremely small.

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tonia Wolfe mueller

Monday 11th of September 2023

Too bad it's going to be cost prohibitive to tourists!!!