There's a good reason traffic is so bad in Cancun right now

Meagan Drillinger

It took me one hour to go 12 miles in Cancun. 

About a month ago I was visiting a new all-inclusive resort, just 12 miles south of the Cancun Airport. The day of departure I left with, what I thought, was ample time to make it to the airport and security. Instead, I ended up racing to my gate just in time. 

My story is not unique in Cancun these days. In fact, my story isn’t even remotely bad, considering that over the holiday season, it wasn’t uncommon to see passengers abandoning their transfer vans and running down the road to the airport. That’s because — ironically — in order to keep infrastructure up to speed to accommodate the ever-growing tourist population in Cancun, the government is involved in four major highway construction projects at once, creating a traffic nightmare for both travelers and residents.

This year marks Cancun’s 53rd birthday. It is a city that was designed for tourism; however, this level of tourism was likely never anticipated. It is estimated that the state of Quintana Roo will welcome 20.5 million visitors this year, which is a 4.5% increase from 2022. Cancun is Mexico’s second-busiest airport, and it is showing no signs of becoming less so. Highway 307, the four-lane major artery that runs down the length of Quintana Roo to all of the resorts and beach towns, cannot handle the number of visitors. Those who live in downtown Cancun and work in the Hotel Zone and beyond are dealing with three-hour daily commutes.

Something has to change. And it is. But in the meantime, the solution is making the situation worse.

The massive construction projects in Cancun include a new bridge, the rehabilitation of Luis Donaldo Colosio Boulevard, the renovation of Chac Mool Avenue and improvements to the Cancun Airport Road Distributor, according to Cancun Airport.

Luis Donaldo Colosio Boulevard is the stretch of Highway 307 that runs directly past the airport. This project consists of rebuilding the road surfaces with hydraulic concrete. It also includes the construction of two pedestrian bridges, traffic lights and the addition of returns.

The Cancun Airport Road Distributor, the road that leads to the different terminals, is also under construction to help improve accessibility to the terminals. Work there is expected to be completed in October.

One of the largest projects Cancun residents are most excited about is the construction of the Nichupte Vehicular Bridge, a 5.5-mile bridge that will cross over Nichupte Lagoon connecting downtown to the heart of the Hotel Zone, bypassing Avenida Kukulkan. Currently, if a person wants to get from downtown Cancun to the Hotel Zone, they need to drive past the airport or go through the entire Hotel Zone. The bridge would bypass both of these congested arteries, creating a new path for tourists and residents. This project has been ongoing since 2022 but is expected to be completed in December.

These projects represent a nearly $400 million investment. 

Until the work is completed, Cancun Airport is recommending flyers take the following travel times into consideration:

• Estimate 45 minutes travel time to the airport from the Hotel Zone, downtown, Isla Mujeres and Puerto Morelos.
• Estimate a 60-minute trip from Playa Mujeres, Costa Mujeres and Maroma Beach.
• Estimate a 75-minute trip from Playa del Carmen.
• Estimate a 90-minute trip from Xcaret or Puerto Aventuras. 
• Estimate up to two hours from Akumal and Tulum.

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