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Tulum International Airport - The Jungle Airport

Welcome to the Jungle: A Firsthand Look at the New Tulum Airport (TQO)

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Tulum is definitely having its moment in the sun … and I wouldn't expect clouds to roll in any time soon. This once-laid-back beach town has exploded in popularity thanks to its mix of beautiful beaches, ancient Mayan ruins, delicious food, and vibrant nightlife. Simply put: It's the warm weather getaway with a little something for everyone. 

If this beachside paradise has been on your travel shortlist, I've got good news for you: Getting there just got a whole lot easier.

Tulum's Felipe Carrillo Puerto International Airport (TQO) officially opened to travelers in December, just over a year after construction first began – a truly staggering feat. At that time, only Aeromexico and Viva Aerobus were flying to Tulum from a handful of Mexican cities – but that all changed last month when American Airlines was the first international carrier to touchdown at the new airport. Delta and United are also in on the fun with nonstop flights to Tulum from seven U.S. airports total as of publication. 

Why is this significant? Getting to this tourist hotspot typically meant flying into Cancún International Airport (CUN) and then making the nearly two-hour drive down the Riviera Maya. With the new airport up and running, you can now be on the beach in less than half that amount of time. 

Read on for everything you need to know and a first-hand look at Tulum's brand-new airport. 

 

What Airlines Fly to Tulum?

In addition to the usual domestic Mexican airlines, several U.S. airlines now fly nonstop to Tulum (TQO) as of March 2024. 

  • Delta was the first to put Tulum on the map, with daily nonstop service from its Atlanta (ATL) hub
  • American Airlines is already going even further, flying to Tulum twice a day from its hubs in Charlotte (CLT) and Miami (MIA) – and twice a day from Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW)
  • United Airlines operates nonstop service from Chicago-O'Hare (ORD), Houston-Intercontinental (IAH), and Newark (EWR), adding summer flights to and from Los Angeles (LAX) in late May
  • JetBlue will add nonstops to Tulum from New York City (JFK) this summer
  • For Canadians, Air Canada plans to start once- or twice-a-week flights from both Toronto (YYZ) and Montreal (YUL)
  • Discover Airlines – an offshoot of German flag carrier, Lufthansa – plans to start seasonal nonstop service to Tulum from Frankfurt (FRA) in December
  • Copa Airlines is also planning to begin service from Panama City (PTY) in June
  • Tulum Airport (TQO) is also served domestically by Aeromexico and low-cost-carrier Viva Aerobus from a handful of Mexican cities 

Below you can see all the currently announced nonstop flights to Tulum, although not all are operating yet. 

 

Map of nonstop flights from Tulum (TQO)
Map courtesy of FlightConnections

 

Spirit had initially planned two nonstop routes but the ultra-low-cost-carrier has since indefinitely shelved those flights.

If these routes are successful, I'd expect frequencies to increase over time and more budget carriers to begin flying to Tulum, too. With Frontier already flying to a couple of cities in Mexico, I could easily see them being next in line to announce Tulum routes. Still, it will likely take some time for travelers to realize there's a more convenient option than going to the tried-and-true Cancún International Airport (CUN). 

 

What to Expect Landside

Arriving at Felipe Carrillo Puerto International Airport it's quite obvious that things are brand new. Everything is fresh, from the concrete parking lot to the shiny marble floors inside. 

Pulling up, you'll see a sign for the new airport and a huge Mexican flag. Behind that, there's a little garden area with walkways and benches for anyone with extra time to kill. You'll also see a statue of the airport's namesake: Felipe Carrillo Puerto, a Mexican revolutionary and the former governor of the Yucatán state. 

 

Tulum Airport outside

Felipe Carrillo Puerto International Airport

 

Tulum Airport only has one terminal and the ground level serves both arriving and departing passengers. There are five doors: Two designated for departures, two for arrivals, and one for shuttle services and bus pickup and drop-off. 

 

Tulum Airport departures sign

Felipe Carrillo Puerto International Airport

Tulum Airport door 5 for shuttle buses

 

There's also a covered surface-level parking lot for travelers to leave a vehicle while on vacation, but based on the amount of spots (or lack thereof) it's clear that this airport is designed to serve tourists arriving and departing without a vehicle. 

 

Ground Floor

After setting foot inside, you'll see all the makings of a typical airport with the arrivals board, retail shops, rental car offices, and other transportation services. But one thing you won't see is baggage claim – both domestic and international arrivals collect baggage in a secured space before exiting to the main arrivals area. 

 

Tulum Airport arrivals level

Tulum Airport arrivals level

 

While the ground floor arrivals area is quite large with lots of space and natural light, it's clear that there's still plenty of construction work ongoing at the new airport. The food court still had exposed framing and looked a ways off from welcoming permanent tenants. 

 

Tulum Airport food court construction

 

Elsewhere, you could see signs for what type of establishments are coming, with both Subway and Domino's Pizza planning to set up shop. There were also signs for a Starbucks and a Pacifico restaurant on the ground floor.

 

Tulum Airport Subway restaurant under construction

Tulum Airport Dominos restaurant under construction

 

As of now, there are only a few options for arriving passengers waiting for transportation or those departing that haven't yet gone through security. There's a small restaurant with limited seating that serves a few hot items, packaged food, and beer, coffee, and soft drinks. Otherwise, there's a convenience store where you can grab a snack or drink and find a spot to sit elsewhere in the airport. 

 

Tulum Airport landside bar and restuarant

Tulum Airport landside convenience store

 

Throughout the airport, you'll see design touches that give a nod to the local environment. With plenty of greenery (natural and artificial), water, natural light, and wood tones, the new Tulum airport really leans heavily into its jungle routes. 

 
Tulum Airport staircase with nature decorations
 

Departing passengers will need to head upstairs to the check-in and security area by taking the escalator or staircase on either end of the terminal. There is also an elevator right in the center of the terminal that leads to the second-level ticketing area. 

 

Check-In and Ticketing Area at the Tulum Airport 

Upstairs you'll find more natural light, high ceilings with giant wooden beams, and the same spotless marble floors as downstairs. This is where the check-in and ticketing counters are located for each of the airlines serving Tulum's new airport. 

 

Tulum Airport departures level

 

In total there are 40 different check-in desks, divided up into four separate rows. Both American Airlines and Delta Air Lines have their own bank of ticket counters – and the same goes for Aeromexico and Viva Aerobus. It looked like, at least for the time being, United must be using one of the generic check-in desks with no sort of airline branding visible. 

 

Tulum Airport American Airlines Check-in counters

Tulum Airport Delta Check-in counters

 

The domestic check-in counters were on the northwest end of the building, coinciding with the domestic departure gates, while international airlines like Delta and American were located on the southeast end. The terminal isn't big enough for any of this to make a difference so don't worry about going up the “wrong” set of stairs as you'll only need to walk a little further to get where you're going. 

 

Tulum Airport Security

There are two separate security checkpoints, each with two lanes, depending on whether you're traveling on a domestic or international flight. It's worth noting for travelers heading back to the U.S., or other international destinations, that there isn't any extra border control or customs processing on departure. 

The airport was so quiet during my visit that the two security officers waiting to check identification and boarding passes were aimlessly scrolling their phones waiting for someone, anyone, to approach them. Safe to say, getting through security was a breeze and you don't need to budget extra time for this process … at least not yet. With the airport only serving international travelers for a few weeks, flights in and out of Tulum have been relatively empty. As more tourists become aware of the new airport and airlines scale up their operations, I'd expect that to change. 

 

Tulum Airport security checkpoint

 

After showing my passport and boarding pass to one of the security officers I was allowed to scan my ticket and enter the checkpoint through one of the automatic gates.

I was advised that laptops and large electronics needed to come out of my luggage before being screened and was also reminded that large liquids (like a water bottle) weren't allowed through security. I was asked to remove all items from my pockets and take off my belt and hat before proceeding through the metal detector. There's a small table on the other side of security where travelers can repack their belongings before making their way to the gate area. 

 

What's It Like Past Security?

After getting past security you'll see a nice digital departure board with boarding gates and departure times listed. This is also where you'll find Tulum Duty Free if you want to do any tax-free shopping. 

 

Tulum Airport Departures board

 

Both security checkpoints are right in the center of the terminal so you can either head left to the domestic gates or right to the international departures. Both sides have similar retail and dining options and other amenities.

The entire concourse is still a work in progress with several hardhat zones and walled-off spaces where construction work is ongoing. 

 

Felipe Carrillo Puerto International Airport

 

You'll find plenty of seating throughout the terminal, adorned in alternating shades of green. There are lots of plants throughout the airport, adding a touch of life, and the ceilings feature Mayan-inspired wood designs that provide a nice artistic touch to the space. Coupled with the flood of natural light, it's again evident why it's dubbed the jungle airport. 

 

Felipe Carrillo Puerto International Airport

Tulum Airport seating

 

The wall of floor-to-ceiling glass windows makes for some nice runway views. If you've got extra time to kill, one of these lounge chairs would be a great place to kick back and relax. 

 

Tulum Airport seating

Tulum Airport seating

 

With high ceilings and all the natural light, the whole airport feels spacious. This is partially due to the current lack of travelers but even during busy times, I don't envision the terminal ever feeling crowded. 

 

Dining at the Tulum Airport 

I wouldn't recommend arriving at Tulum Airport on an empty stomach – at least not for now. 

There are two food courts on either side of security – but aside from a few convenience stores with snack items, there isn't much to eat…yet, anyways. 

 

Tulum Airport food court

Tulum Airport shopping

 

Still, there are plenty of signs of what's to come – and U.S. travelers will find plenty of familiar choices. I saw banners for Starbucks, Burger King, Carl's Jr., Le Pain Quotidien (a bakery chain), Firehouse Subs, Popeyes, and Applebee's. With so many restaurant chains planning to set up shop at Tulum's new airport, you won't need to worry about arriving hungry for long. 

 

Burger King Logo

Tulum Airport Applebee's (under construction)

 

But for now, there are only a few options for real food. On both ends of the terminal, you'll find a temporary GOmart setup selling a limited menu of hot items and cold drinks. They don't have any table service but you shouldn't have any issue grabbing food at one of these stands and finding an open table in the mostly yet-to-be-opened food court. 

 

Tulum Airport temporary snack shop

 

Shopping

If you've got time to kill and prefer a little retail therapy, you'll have several choices. Tulum Duty Free is one of the few spaces in the airport that looked completely finished. Here you can find all the tax-free staples like tobacco products, perfume, liquor, and makeup. If you're hoping to bring a taste of Mexico home with you this would be a great place to pick something up, just be sure to declare your purchase upon returning to the U.S. 

 

Tulum Airport Duty Free

Tulum Airport duty free store

 

Aside from the massive duty-free store, you'll find a handful of mini-marts sprinkled throughout the terminal selling the usual souvenir t-shirts, shot glasses, and refrigerator magnets. These stores also sold snack items and some drinks so if you just want a light bite to eat or a drink to take on the plane with you, you can find it here. 

 

Tulum Airport grab and go store

 

For now, there aren't any big retail stores at the Tulum airport selling clothing, electronics, or other goods. And while there were plenty of signs for coming restaurants, I didn't see anything that indicated a big-name retailer was on its way in. Many airports worldwide look like glorified malls but I wouldn't anticipate that being the case in Tulum. 

 

Other Amenities

Aside from dining and shopping, there are a few other options for killing time besides waiting at your gate. 

Just to the left (around the corner) from the security checkpoints you'll find the staircase and elevator that leads up to the airside mezzanine. This area was roped off as crews work to finish construction but once complete it will be an awesome spot to watch planes take off and land. If you're heading home to a cold climate, it could also be your last chance to soak up some of Mexico's warm weather. 

 

Tulum Airport mezzanine level stairs

 

If you're traveling with kids, there are two play areas on either end of the terminal with padded rubber flooring, slides, and other playground equipment. This looks like a great place to burn off some energy before the long flight home. 

 

Tulum Airport children's playground

 

Power banks were scattered throughout the terminal for anyone needing to charge up their devices before their flight, though none were near seating. Despite the Wi-Fi signs displayed throughout the airport, I couldn't find an open Wi-Fi network during my visit. I'm assuming this can be chalked up to some growing pains but you might need to rely on your mobile data if you're traveling soon. 

 

Tulum Airport sign for chapel and breast feeding room

 

The airport also features two breastfeeding rooms for traveling families and a non-denominational chapel. Finally, there were two medical service centers throughout the terminal for anyone needing medical treatment – though, they didn't appear to be staffed or fully operational yet. 

 

Lounges at the Tulum Airport 

Travelers with an ultra-premium credit card in their wallets are likely wondering whether or not there's a lounge at the new airport. The answer is, not yet – but one's coming. 

 
Tulum Airport future lounge
 

Signs throughout the airport indicated that the new lounge will be called The Grand Lounge Elite Salas Club. Several lounges go by this name at the international airport in Mexico City (MEX) and they're all a part of the Priority Pass lounge network. While there's no telling exactly when this location will open, it's safe to assume it too will be open to Priority Pass members. 

 

Boarding and Gate Area

The airport has eight boarding gates in total. They're numbered D1 through D4 and each gate is further divided into A and B gates. D1 and D2 gates primarily serve domestic flights while gates D3 and D4 are reserved for international flights. 

 

Felipe Carrillo Puerto International Airport

 

Each gate features a large TV monitor behind the desk with all the necessary flight information listed. The automatic gates are equipped with a camera for facial recognition and are set to open after passengers scan their boarding passes. For my flight, facial recognition wasn't in use and the gate agents checked everyone's passport before they were allowed to scan a boarding pass and proceed to the jet bridge. When in use, this would be a slick feature. 

 

Tulum Airport E-Gates

 

For arriving passengers, a ramp adjacent to each gate will take you directly down to the ground level and baggage claim. This means there shouldn't ever be a mass of people crowding the gate area while people are still trying to get off the plane.

 

Ramp taking arriving passengers downstairs to customs

 

This works the same for domestic and international arrivals, with international passengers needing to clear customs before collecting their belongings. 

 

Getting To and From the Airport

Let's get one thing clear: Just because it's called the Tulum Airport, don't expect to walk off the plane and put your toes in the sand. It's the third major airport in the region, after Cancún and Cozumel (CZM) – and while it's the closest to Tulum by far, it's still a solid 40-minute drive to town and the main hotel zone.

 

tulum airport map 

 

If you're heading further north to a hotel like Conrad Tulum or the beach town of Akumal, be prepared for a longer hour(ish) car ride. The yet-to-be-finished Maya Train should help facilitate quicker travel to Tulum proper and even the Playa del Carmen area but for now, travelers will need to budget a little extra time getting to and from the airport. 

While taking a taxi will be the quickest choice for getting around, it's not the only one. Here's a look at the current transportation options to and from the Tulum airport. 

 

Taxi

Let's start with the easy one. Several taxi providers operate out of the new Tulum airport and charge similar (relatively expensive) prices.

 

Taxi booths at Tulum Airport

 

If you're heading to central Tulum, you can expect to pay approximately $60 for the cab ride from the airport. Resorts further north of Tulum will cost you closer to $100 and you can expect to pay $120 or more if you're going all the way up to Playa del Carmen.  

Depending on traffic, I'd budget approximately 45 minutes for travel between the airport and central Tulum. My taxi driver treated the newly paved stretch of road from the highway to the airport like it was the Autobahn so your experience may vary. 

 

Rental Car

Multiple rental car agencies are already open for business at the new Tulum airport, with Hertz being the most well-known brand. Europcar and Mex Rent a Car were the other options I saw that are currently open for business. 

 

Hertz car rental at Tulum Airport

 

In an example search, I found that economy rentals start at around $33 per day. Renting a car might be cheaper than taking a taxi or shuttle, but you'll likely be on the hook for additional parking charges at your resort so keep that in mind. Be sure to do the math before committing to a rental. 

Related reading: Our Complete Guide to Hertz President's Circle Status

 

Shuttle Bus

For those looking to skip the high-priced taxi, several shuttle operators will take you to Tulum and beyond for slightly cheaper. 

I inquired with a service called ADO Bus about how much it would cost for the ride to Tulum and was told it would be $20 each way. They drop off in a central Tulum location close to the hotel zone. But for most travelers, taking the bus would likely mean also paying for a short taxi ride. 

 

ADO Shuttle Bus booth at Tulum Airport

 

In addition to ADO Bus, a company called Jungle Shuttle offered private or shared shuttle services to Tulum and surrounding resort areas. I did not get a price for this service but based on what I'm seeing online, it appears more in line with what a taxi would cost. 

 

Maya Train

Eventually, the most efficient and cost-effective option will be to take the Maya Train. I had a chance to ride the new train from Cancún International Airport (CUN) down to Playa del Carmen and found it was a very comfortable – but not yet efficient – mode of transportation. 

A station is currently being built to connect the Tulum Airport to Tulum, Playa del Carmen, and beyond. The catch with the train is that most of the stations are outside the main city center so just like taking a shuttle bus, you'll likely need a short taxi ride to get you to your final destination. 

 

Two Mayan Trains at the platform

 

On my way into the airport, I caught a glimpse of the new station and while crews were diligently working on it, things still appeared a ways off. Train officials have stated that the entire track is scheduled to be operational by the end of June but I find that hard to believe. If the station is open by then, it will likely be a similar, half-finished experience to what I witnessed at the Cancún airport.

Read more: What's It Like Riding Mexico's Maya Train?

 

Bottom Line

With Felipe Carrillo Puerto International Airport (TQO) officially opening to international travelers last month, there's a new, faster way to get to Tulum. 

The new airport is beautiful, and will no doubt make for an easier journey for travelers headed to the area's archeological sites or all-inclusive resorts, but there are still some kinks to work out. With limited dining options, inoperable Wi-Fi, and expensive ground transportation, don't automatically assume the new airport is the best just because it's closest. 

 

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

2 Responses

  • This airport seems kind of like a bust to me. No amenities, offensively overpriced transportation, an unnecessarily inconvenient location. It’s seems like a political stunt by AMLO to impress voters who will never use it, and take advantage of foreigners who will not do enough research before booking.

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