A guide to Isla Mujeres
In this Isla Mujeres guide we share with you essential details like how to get to Isla Mujeres, where to stay and eat as well as some of the best activities to do on the island. Hope you enjoy our Isla Mujeres blog post.
Isla Mujeres Guide: First Impressions
Isla Mujeres, or ‘The Island of Women’ is a small island roughly 40 mins boat ride from Cancun. Even though the two destinations are neighbours they could not be more different. Where Cancun is the noisy, brash and over the top neighbour, Isla Mujeres is the more laid-back, serene and memorable neighbour. It’s the kind of neighbour we all want.
Isla Mujeres is less touristy than Cozumel and a little more active than Holbox. Within a few hours wandering around its northern point we were in love. The streets are filled with quaint colourful little houses. The locals are friendly and always helpful and the Caribbean sea is at its most vibrant.
Traveling to Isla Mujeres from Cancun
If you’re traveling to Isla Mujeres from Cancun you’re only a short boat ride away. There are several piers on Cancun where you can catch a boat to Isla Mujeres. Tickets from some piers (like Puerto Juarez) will be cheaper than from other piers.
- Puerto Juarez: located in Av. Jose Lopez Portillo MZ 84 M 5 L 6 Puerto Juárez, Cancun. It has departures every hour from 7:40 AM to 7:40 PM. 136$MXN round trip.
- Playa Tortugas: located in the hotel zone of Cancun, Blvd. Kukulcan. Km 6.5. It has only 8 departures per day, from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM every hour.
- Playa Caracol: located in the hotel zone of Cancun, Blvd. Kukulcan. Km 9.5. It has only 6 departures per day, from 9:00 AM to 4:45 PM every 1 hour 15 minutes.
- El Embarcadero: located in the hotel zone of Cancun, Blvd. Kukulcan Km 4. It has 6 departures per day, from 9:15 AM to 4:30 PM every 1 hour 15 minutes.
- Be advised that ferry tickets price may vary a little from each of the departure spots available.
What to do on Isla Mujeres
While the biggest draw to the island is the gorgeous Caribbean sea, there are a few more things to do on Isla Mujeres. We learnt this the hard way when the abnormally atrocious weather (damn you Polar Vortex!!) removed every desire we had to laze on a beach.
EXPLORE THE COAST ON A GOLF CART
We hired a cute little golf cart for a day and zipped along the south-eastern coast, taking shots of the craggy hills as the giant waves splashed into them. There are various other attractions along the route. From a small museum detailing the naval history of the island to some impressive houses along the east coast.
Your mission as you go round the coast is to spot the sea shell house. It’s an amazing structure that’s literally built in the shape of a sea shell. Here’s a little clue for you.
VISIT IXCHEL TEMPLE
At the southernmost (Punta Sur) tip of the island is a Mayan temple ruin. The ruin is severely ruined so don’t expect a mini Chichen Itza! It is however a great way to watch the crashing waves roll in. It costs M$30 to get into the sculpture park that leads to the walkways along the coast. This is also Mexico’s most easterly point so the dawn of the Mayan day began here.
VISIT THE WOMEN’S BEADING COOPERATIVE
Visit the Women’s beading Cooperative in the centre of the island and buy unique, beautifully made necklaces, bracelets and purses. This is a great initiative that was set up by the women so that they could support themselves and their children through the sale of beads. The cooperative started with 8 women and has now grown to over 57 women.
The cooperative now also offers beading classes which is a fantastic way of creating your own beautiful piece of jewellery and a fun way to spend a morning or afternoon. Check out their Facebook page for more information on this.
If you’re taking a taxi ask for “El Taller de Artesanias de Mujeres” en colonia La Gloria, cerca de la Iglesia Catolica (Sagrado Corazón) y Cruz Roja which means The Women Artisan’s store in colonia La Gloia, by the (Sacred Heart) Catholic Church & the Red Cross. And if you’re getting there with your golf cart, drive south on the western perimeter road (Rueda Medina) until the Mundaca pavilion, and turn east/left onto the divided boulevard (Avenue de las Peces) . Continue for three blocks, past the Catholic Church. The co op is on the left side of the boulevard, with the Red Cross behind it on a side street.
WHALE SHARK TOURS
If you’re lucky enough to be on Isla Mujeres between mid-May and September you’ll be able to go and swim with the hundreds of whale sharks that gather in the waters near the island. We would recommend you go with an official tour guide (usually found in dive shops) as they are more likely to follow the set standards that ensure the safety and well being of the whale sharks. If you own a wetsuit we would suggest you take it along with you as it will make swimming easier than if you have to wear the life jackets you get given on the tour.
Apart from diving, swimming and seeing the few sites, there is not that much to do here and that’s exactly why you should come. Let that heart of yours slow to a more gentle beat. Take 2 hours to have lunch as opposed to sitting in front of your computer, eating a coffee shop sandwich. Start and finish a book you have always wanted to read. Isla Mujeres lets you do that.
The island has some great spots for snorkelling, such as the lagoon next to the Avalon hotel on Playa Norte and the southern area of the island. You may come across Garafon park advertised for snorkelling. We wouldn’t recommend this park as it keeps dolphins in captivity and there are many reasons why we don’t indulge in this cruel sport. You can read our reasons why we don’t swim with dolphins in captivity here. Instead consider going next to Garafon park where you can snorkel in a less crowded environment for a much cheaper price.
AVOID THE ‘TURTLE SANCTUARY’
One thing to avoid is the so-called Turtle Sanctuary. We highly urge you NOT TO VISIT the Turtle Farm. The tanks were too small for the turtles and were in poor condition. The staff at the sanctuary were encouraging tourists to handle the turtles despite signs asking visitors to avoid touching these creatures. Lifting a baby turtle is highly stressful for the animal and you can pass on diseases that actually kill it. We were also disappointed that there were more signs asking for tips than there was information about the conservation of these beautiful creatures
Getting around Isla Mujeres
You can get around the island by hiring a golf car. It’s great fun and a fantastic way to see the south of the island (most hotels are in the north). We hired one just for a day which we recommend doing as you will get to see all the sights the island has to offer.
The island is pretty small so if you stay in a central place you will be able to get to the beaches and restaurants on foot. Taxis are pretty cheap and the drivers are a fun, informative bunch.
Where to eat on Isla Mujeres
For tasty cheap food, head to the Mercado Municipal. It’s where the locals mainly eat.
For great, great breakfasts you have to try Barlito at least once. They have the world’s best toasted sandwiches and a cinnamon bun that you will kill for.
We spent my birthday at a restaurant called Limon. It’s slightly more high-end but the food and the setting were amazing. It’s well worth the splurge.
Head to Playa Norte for some grilled fish or the signature island dish Tik-n-chik where the whole fish is marinated in achiote before it is grilled.
Another must visit is Pita Amore. It was the best Pita I have ever tasted. The place itself is more like a shack which adds to the whole experience. They have a bring your own policy.
Make sure you have a tequila or 3 at Nash’s Tapas bar. Nash is a great character who arrived on Isla Mujeres on his boat, which he still lives on and decided to open up a small bar and restaurant when he liked the look of Isla Mujeres. He is also the only place on the island that caters for vegans.
Where to stay on Isla Mujeres
Hotels on the beach tend to be somewhat overpriced for what they offer but they do have amazing views. If you stay in the north the beaches are within walking distance so you don’t necessarily need to stay right on the beach.
BUDGET: Marina Paraiso Hotel Basic but clean rooms. The best ones are facing the pool. Good restaurant and great location.
MID-RANGE: Hotel La Joya Quiet, calm location with charming rooms and a beautiful sea view. There’s a little private beach . Good to know – There are quite a few steps here.
LUXURY: Casa de Los Suenos. A small boutique hotel with 10 well designed suites, each with its own balcony and great sea views. Nice little touches like a pot of coffee waiting for you outside the room in the morning.
If you are heading to Mexico you should check out these posts too before you go:
Paradise Found – 9 reasons to visit Tulum, Mexico – We loved Tulum and so did Janet by the sounds of it. Read this post to see why you will love it too.
A guide to Merida – Merida was a big surprise for us. We had no idea what it was like before visiting but we soon fell in love with the colonial architecture, the food scene and the locals.
Things to do in Playa del Carmen – Read why we think you should avoid Cancun at all costs and head to Playa del Carmen instead.
Have you been to Isla Mujeres? What did you enjoy the most there? Let us know in the comments below.
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