The ingredient, which is paramount to a successful expedition, is transportation. You have five possibilities:
Regardless of how you access the Peninsula, via Cancun or through Tobasco you have to get around and many of the Eco destinations are remote. Selecting your mode of transportation is crucial. Below is some helpful information to help you plan your transportation requirements.
Renting a vehicle to go Eco exploring is different than renting a car or scooter to drive from Playa del Carmen to Tulum and back. Some of the roads that lead in to the places you wish to travel are not paved and are treacherous. If you are not in a four-wheel drive truck you could damage your vehicle and if it is a rental then you may be paying a rather high deductible as well as a towing fee if this is necessary.
Some small rental agencies will ask you where you are going and will not give you a car if you plan on taking it across state lines or to some place where the roads are extremely bad.
If you are trekking across the Peninsula you may also have to rely on private gestations in some situations.
The Mexican bus system goes everywhere. To get to many places you may however have to transfer buses repeatedly then scale down to using local systems, which are vans. In the off season local buses run less frequently and some times there is a long wait for a bus that is not full. These bus schedules change and it is almost impossible for us to report to you what they all are and our best advice is to ask the local residents of the place where you plan to stay as soon as you arrive as to what the bus schedule is for connecting highways and routes.
In some destinations like Xpuhil on highway 186 you have to wait for the bus to arrive before you can purchase a ticket, even for first class buses. Also sometimes the bus can be as much as 1 hour early so it is a good idea to hang around the bus station for your bus instead of showing up 10 minutes before departure. In some situations you may have to wait 12 hours or more for the next bus to your destination if you miss one.
Quite often you can rent a taxi to drive you to a ruin site, cenote, cave or any location for that matter. The driver will wait for you as long as you wish while you conduct your exploration. He will then drive you back. You can negotiate a price for this before you depart so there are no surprises and you pay the driver when you return so you do not have to worry about returning from a 6 hour hike only to find yourself alone in the middle of nowhere.
An advantage of taking a taxi is you may get lucky and encounter one of the local characters who can provide you with lots of useful information about the area, if you can communicate. Taxi drivers have their finger on the pulse and can answer many questions if they understand what you are asking them.
Hitching a ride is possible however it is not done in the same manner. Near tourist zones, drivers do not pick up hitchhikers unless the driver knows the person standing at the side of the road. In rural areas in the country you would find things to be like any farm community and it is possible to hitch a ride by just standing on the side of the road.
The best thing to do is have arrangements made for a ride by somebody going your way and offer to pay some pesos for the ride. This is not that easy a thing to do everywhere.
Much of the Yucatan Peninsula is flat and the roads paved. Every small pueblo will have a mechanic with some bike parts or the tools for you to make an emergency repair if needed. If anything major occurs and you do not have a spare part then you will not find it there.
It can get hot but fortunately there are towns everywhere and small farming communities with cantinas. Traffic in the interior is low and if you are not on a major route for an archaeology ruin site then you will not have to deal with tour buses.
It depends on where you are going and what your budget is. If you are in Merida and wish to visit Uxmal and surrounding area then renting a car is a relatively safe venture as the roads are in good condition, there are gas stations along the way, some signs and the traffic is not bad. If you are planning on driving around Majahual exploring Chinchorro Reefs or heading up to Sian Ka’an then you may want to take the bus or arrange a transfer with a tour company.
For going long distance like Cancun to Campeche or Cancun to Chetumal then taking first class bus is inexpensive, reliable and fast.
Ultimately if you can afford it, the best way to go is to have a guide who has his or her own transportation. This way you can drive all over the place with your new friend and learn more about Mexico then you ever expected. If not, use a combination of first class buses and colectivos.
GPS or compass
Water bag or canteen
Water shoes/kayak shoes
Swiss army knife
First aid kit
Warm clothing [for evenings or especially if you are going to the Chiapas] Raincoat or large piece of plastic
Mosquito net [you might need it] Small pot, plate, knife and fork