Isla Mujeres: a literal slice of paradise tucked into the sparkling waters of the Mexican Caribbean. This tiny island gem stretches just 4.3 miles (7 kilometers) long and barely 1/2 mile (650 meters) wide, filled with swaying palm trees, white sand beaches, stunning coastal views and laid back island vibes.
Located a 20-minute ferry ride from the nearby mainland of Cancun, Isla Mujeres is a popular day trip and for good reason! The island is compact enough that you can cover quite a bit in a single day alone. However – we would encourage you to spend at least one night (if not a few nights, or longer!) to fully explore Isla, soak in island life, and appreciate everything this slice of paradise has to offer.
After living in the Riviera Maya for the past two years and hearing nothing but amazing things about Isla, Alberto & I finally made the (overdue) trip to check out this magical island ourselves!
Here, our tried & true guide to the best of the best on Isla Mujeres, from what to see & do to where to eat & drink (salud!) to the best hotels-with-a-VIEW.
P.S. Head over to our IG to see even more of this incredible island in our Isla Mujeres Highlight!
Editor’s Note: Travel is complicated right now. While there are many factors that will result in your decision of whether or not to travel, this decision is ultimately your responsibility. Travel rules, restrictions and entry/exit requirements are subject to change frequently. Please check with both your home country’s official advisories as well as those of your destination country prior to traveling for up-to-date information.
Disclosure: Information, prices and timetables listed below are accurate as of time of writing (April 2021), however are subject to change.
BUT FIRST – LET’S TALK COVID
Within the current climate of the Covid-19 pandemic, Isla Mujeres is now open and welcoming visitors. Hotels, restaurants, bars, shops and more businesses are open with Covid safety measures in place. These include but are not limited to: mandatory temperature checks and hand sanitizer and/or hand washing upon entry, capacity limitations, required mask wearing and social distancing. Indoor dining is allowed, although the vast majority of restaurants on the island are open-air and/or fully outdoor.
If you do choose to visit now, please be considerate of not only your health but the health of those around you. Practice social distancing. Wear a mask. Mask wearing is not only a courtesy but expected when walking anywhere indoors or outdoors (especially downtown). Support small businesses, street stalls and local vendors and tour guides. The pandemic has had a profound impact on the local economy which will greatly appreciate your support. If you choose to visit Isla Mujeres now, please visit conscientiously and responsibly.
Important note: all states in Mexico are currently operating on a stoplight system (red –> orange –> yellow –> green) which updates every other week. As of time of publishing (first week in April), the state of Quintana Roo – which includes Isla Mujeres – is in yellow. For up-to-date information on Covid-19 in Quintana Roo, please visit the state’s official health Facebook page here.
AND – TRAVEL INSURANCE
Whenever, and wherever, you might be traveling, travel insurance is always a good idea. We personally love SafetyWing for their transparent, easy to understand and thorough coverage starting at just $40.00 USD/month. Their two-tier coverage offers medical benefits in the event of an accident or illness while abroad, in addition to travel benefits such as compensation for delayed trips and lost luggage. Plus, all new SafetyWing policies automatically include COVID-19 coverage. Please note testing for COVID-19 is not covered unless deemed medically necessary by a physician. This means pre-flight tests do not count, nor do antibody tests. Find out everything you need to know about SafetyWing travel insurance, here!
ISLA MUJERES – A LITTLE BACKGROUND
Literally translating to “Island of Women,” Isla Mujeres is named after Ixchel: the Mayan Goddess of fertility, childbirth and medicine. Back in the day ancient Maya women would make pilgrimages here to worship Ixchel in the hopes of gaining her blessings. When the Spaniards arrived in 1517 they discovered numerous idols representing the Goddess and thus, the name Isla Mujeres. Even now you can visit what remains of Ixchel’s ancient temple, mostly (and sadly) ruined by Hurricane Gilbert in 1988. Perched right on the southern tip of the island known as Punta Sur, the temple is nonetheless a gorgeous sight surrounded by sweeping cliffside and dramatic, crashing waves. Keep reading for more on Punta Sur, and for history buffs – find much more on the island’s fascinating history (tales of pirates and unrequited love included!) here.
THE PRACTICAL STUFF
How do I get to Isla Mujeres?
A quick, easy and (literally) breezy ride on the Ultramar Ferry from Cancun. There are four departure points going from Cancun –> Isla Mujeres. The main ferry terminal is Puerto Juarez, although there are also three departure terminals right in Cancun’s Hotel Zone: Playa Tortugas, El Embarcadero, Playa Caracol. The cost is $380 MXN roundtrip (approx $18 USD) from Puerto Juarez, OR $21.00 USD from the Hotel Zone terminals. Because of the price difference (albeit nominal), it really only makes sense to take the ferry from any of the three Hotel Zone locations if, in fact, you are already staying in the Hotel Zone.
TIP: If you happen to be a resident and can show Quintana Roo ID, you qualify for the local rate which is only $155.00 MXN (approx $7.50 USD). Please note this applies to the Puerto Juarez terminal only.
The first ferry departs from Puerto Juarez daily at 6:30am, then on the hour every hour from 7am – 10pm. For the return trip you will go to the only Ultramar terminal on the island, where ferries depart on the hour every hour from 7am – 11pm.
Please note that ferries from the three Hotel Zone locations are much more limited in terms of departures and returns. Please consult Ultramar’s Routes & Timetables for exact schedules.
The ferries themselves are modern, clean and comfortable. You can choose to sit indoors with A/C, or soak in the ocean breeze on the open-air top deck. Bathrooms are available on-board and there is plenty of room to store luggage.
How do I get around Isla Mujeres?
Once on the island, you have a few options to get yourself around:
Golf Cart: This is the most popular method of transport, and our personal pick. You can feel the ocean breeze in your hair, take in incredible, unobstructed views and well – they’re fun! Most golf carts fit up to four adults, although some shops offer XL carts which fit up to six. You’ll find a number of golf cart rentals right as you exit the ferry, although we went a bit further and rented from – and recommend – Castilla Golf Cart Rentals on Avenida Guerrero. They charge $800 MXN (approx $40 USD) to rent from 9am-5pm, or $1200 MXN (approx $60 USD) for 24 hours. We rented for 3 days and paid $3600 MXN (approx $180 USD), so head’s up they don’t seem to give discounts for multi-day rentals. (Rent for a week or longer and this might be a different story.) While we didn’t rent from this shop, Rentadora Joaquín is closer to the ferry (just 1 block away) and appears to be a good option as well. Rates are slightly higher vs. Castilla which you can check here. NOTE: you will need a valid driver’s license to rent a cart. You will leave this at the shop during your rental and pick it up upon drop-off.
Moped/Scooter: This is another great and popular option especially if you’re traveling solo or as a couple. We didn’t personally rent a moped during our visit, however the aforementioned Rentadora Joaquín appears to rent them for $550 MXN per day (approx $27 USD) according to their website.
Bicycle: This option is certainly possible given Isla Mujeres is small, although don’t be fooled. Cycling a few miles in midday heat becomes a lot longer, and harder, than you might think. (We learned this firsthand when we brought our bikes to Cozumel!) Even so – we did spot quite a few people cycling around the island so it can be done! We didn’t rent from these guys personally but Rasta Bikes seems to be the go-to spot for bicycle rentals on Isla, running around $8 USD per day.
Taxi: We took taxis three out of the six days we were on Isla and found them plentiful, cheap and easy to get (especially downtown). Rides are typically $50 MXN (around $2.50 USD) to get around most places on the island, going up to $120 MXN (approx $6 USD) to get from downtown to Punta Sur – basically end to end. Taxi fares are always paid in cash and best if you have small bills. TIP: If you like your driver, feel free to ask for his cell number so you can call or text ahead for future rides. Creating a list of go-to taxi driver numbers will especially come in handy if you’re staying outside of downtown, where it’ll be easier to arrange a pickup vs. flagging one down.
Bus: This is the cheapest option for getting around the island. Tourists pay $38 pesos (approx $2 USD) per person per ride, or you can purchase an all-day pass for $175 pesos (approx $9 USD) per person. If you’re a resident of the state of Quintana Roo and can show ID, you qualify for the local rate of $10 pesos per ride. You pay as you board (best to have exact change!) and exit through the rear door. All buses have A/C, and note seats in the front are reserved for seniors, disabled persons and pregnant women. Downtown you’ll find the bus stop just south of the ferry terminal, located across the street by a parking lot. Outside of downtown, you can literally wave the bus down anywhere you see it.
Car: While cars used to be banned from the island this is no longer the case. You can indeed drive a car on Isla Mujeres, although you’ll need to bring it from the mainland via a car ferry. As far as we know there are no places to rent actual cars on the island, but we really wouldn’t recommend it anyway. A golf cart, moped or even bike is way more fun, and taxis are easy and affordable!
How is wifi/cell reception on Isla Mujeres?
Both exist, but are spotty – all throughout the island and regardless of where you stay. We came with low expectations and were pleasantly surprised to have decent and consistent cell connection throughout our 6-day visit (both myself on a U.S. SIM card and Alberto on a Mexico SIM card). You’ll find that most restaurants, bars, beach clubs and of course hotels offer free wifi, although don’t be surprised if the connection isn’t the strongest or doesn’t always work. This said – we found wifi plenty sufficient for basic emails and web browsing, but I wouldn’t count on large uploads or downloads.
How is the cash/credit card/ATM situation on Isla Mujeres?
While there are businesses that accept credit cards on Isla Mujeres, most are cash-only. Both USD and Mexican pesos are accepted, although it’s always better to pay in pesos. (If you choose to pay with USD you will always end up paying more due to the exchange rates offered by businesses.) We’re happy to report there are plenty of ATMS on the island, including an HSBC right next to the ferry terminal. There are a few places to exchange currency as well.
ATM TIP: When withdrawing pesos from any ATM, a screen will pop up towards the end asking if you want to “accept the conversion rate.” Always hit DECLINE. ATMs exist to make money, and without fail will always give you a WORSE exchange rate than your bank will. Depending on how much you’re taking out, you could be losing anywhere from $10 – $100+ USD by accepting the ATM’s exchange rate – so don’t do it!
Given Isla Mujeres is so small, it won’t take you long at all to get your bearings. You can literally zip around the entire island in a golf cart in under 2 hours. You’ll arrive (via ferry) on the north end of Isla, which is actually the downtown (called Centro). Here is where the majority of restaurants, bars, shops and hotels are, in addition to Playa Norte – considered the most beautiful stretch of beach on the island. On the opposite end is Punta Sur (South Point), a beautiful coastal preserve which we’ll talk more about in a bit. In the middle you’ll find local neighborhoods like La Gloria, while the surrounding coastlines are dotted with hotels, beach clubs and some pretty epic private residences. Head to the wild and rocky east coast for stunning cliffside views and crashing waves (NOT for swimming) or the west coast for calm (swimmable!) lagoon-like water and epic sunsets. Jutting off the west coast you’ll also find Sac Bajo peninsula, forming a bay home to the island’s marina and plenty of boat goals.
WHERE TO STAY // BEST HOTELS ON ISLA MUJERES
We stayed 1 night here and wish we could have stayed longer! Bahia Tolok is a new, 14-room boutique hotel located on the northwest coast of Isla Mujeres. The name translates to “Iguana Bay,” as the property is situated on Isla Mujeres Bay and “Tolok” is the Mayan word for iguana – the island’s prized icon. Rooms range from studios to 1-bedrooms to 2-bedrooms, some with kitchens (extended stay anyone?) and some with balconies and stunning sea views. Rooms are modern, stylish and incredibly comfortable, with plenty of island-inspired touches to get you in vacay mood. The entire property is beautiful and thoughtfully designed, counting a waterfall-accented swimming pool, private beachfront with in-water hammocks, and an on-site restaurant & bar. Plus, free use of kayaks, included breakfast and stunning sunsets.
This 12-room boutique hotel won accolades from Condé Nast Traveler upon opening in 2003, and is still going strong. Located right downtown on the northwest tip of the island, Hotel Secreto benefits both from being steps from the action (not to mention coveted Playa Norte) while remaining in its own secluded haven. Spacious, stylishly outfitted rooms all feature a junior suite layout, complete with private balconies boasting daybeds overlooking the pool, beachfront and ocean beyond. The stunning infinity pool sits atop a wooden sundeck lined with chic loungers, while an on-site spa and fitness center are also on offer. There is no on-site restaurant here however there is complimentary breakfast, in addition to a Lobby Bar.
Isla Mujeres Palace Couples Only All-Inclusive Resort
As far as AI stays go, you’re in great hands with Palace Resorts. We know this firsthand as we recently stayed on the mainland at The Grand at Moon Palace Cancun. On Isla Mujeres, the luxury hospitality group offers a stunning couples-only resort, located on the southwest coast of the island. We love that this property only has 62-rooms, offering the convenience of an all-inclusive with the intimate feel of a boutique hotel. We also love that all rooms include Palace Resorts’ signature in-room double whirlpool tub, CHI bath products, plush bathrobes and slippers, coffee machine, mini-bar and liquor cabinet – plus! All rooms boast a balcony with ocean and/or pool views. Six on-site dining & bar options range from Asian to Italian to Island cuisine, while an on-site spa awaits to pamper.
Icaco Island Village
For a true escape, head to Icaco Island Village on the northeast coast of Isla Mujeres. This boutique hotel is just a 5 minute drive from downtown, putting you close to the action while feeling miles away surrounded by nothing but sea breeze and palm trees. The chic, bohemian property counts just 6 rooms, all facing the ocean with balconies, hammocks, kitchenettes and stylish, rustic-chic decor. The beautiful (shared) rooftop further boasts a plunge pool, daybeds and a (BYO) bar & lounge area – complete with 360-degree ocean views. While there is no on-site restaurant or bar here, freshly made breakfast is included daily and served right to your room.
Located on Sac Bajo with views straight to Cancun, this oceanfront boutique hotel exudes island luxury. 123 rooms and suites offer garden or ocean views, all with private balconies and some with in-balcony bathtubs or plunge pools. Is there a better way to soak in the sunset? We think not. The aesthetic here is island minimalism, featuring streamlined wood furnishings, neutral hues and pops of turquoise and gold. On-site dining options include Café Izla and Numa Restaurant, while two swimming pools offer bar service. The (stunning!) rooftop pool is adults-only. IZLA Hotel further offers a fitness center and on-site spa, where you can treat yourself with a massage, facial, body treatment, mani/pedi and more.
We stayed in this Airbnb-meets-boutique hotel for four nights during our recent visit to Isla Mujeres, and it was the perfect home base! Six units total are comprised of 1 or 2-bedroom apartments, all stylishly furnished with thoughtful touches like locally made bath products, organic coffee from Chiapas, charming Mexican tilework and complimentary drinking water. Bathrooms are spacious with impressively strong (and hot!) water pressure, while all bedrooms are equipped with A/C. Head upstairs to the shared rooftop to be treated to stunning, 360-degree ocean views – which you can enjoy from loungers or shaded palapa beds. Located right in the middle of the island in a local neighborhood, Kay Apartments is a perfect choice for those looking to get off the beaten tourist path and enjoy authentic Isla life. TIP: For those planning an extended stay, Kay Apartments also offers monthly rentals.
Take a tour of Kay Apartments through our IG Reel, here!
Casa Caracol (The Seashell House)
If you’re looking for a unique stay on Isla Mujeres, this is it! Built in 1994 by architect Eduardo Ocampo, this private, gated property is located on the southeast coast of the island. The 2 bed/2 bath house is comprised of two adjoining “shells,” each offering a king bedroom and one of which boasting a balcony with ocean views. The house further offers a kitchen, built-in bar, BBQ and private pool, not to mention serious island vibes at every turn. Oh – and don’t be alarmed if you spot a few additional houseguests in the form of adorable geckos sharing the shells with you.
Zoëtry Villa Rolandi All-Inclusive Resort
Located on Isla’s exclusive Sac Bajo peninsula, Zoëtry Villa Rolandi is taking all-inclusive stays to an entirely new level. This luxury retreat offers just 35 rooms, all with ocean views in addition to private terraces, Bvlgari bath products, a pillow menu, complimentary 24-hour laundry service and more. Two gourmet restaurants offer on-site fine dining and craft cocktails, or complement your room’s own top-shelf mini bar with 24-hour room service. The resort further offers two oceanfront pools (one of which is adults-only), a saltwater whirl pool, Thalasso Spa and fitness center. Even more to love? NO set check-in or check-out times, plus! Complimentary, roundtrip transfer service from Cancun to the resort via private yacht.
WHERE TO EAT // BEST RESTAURANTS ON ISLA MUJERES
This unassuming spot located in the middle of the island is popular with locals and tourists alike – and for good reason! Spread over two floors, expect lively yet laid-back vibes, friendly service and delicious island fare ranging from stuffed poblano peppers to jerk chicken tacos. Open daily from 7am – 3pm, this is a must-stop for breakfast or lunch (if not more than once)! Mango Café offers covered, open-air dining. Cash only.
This airy, laid-back cafe is a solid choice at any time of day, and particularly great for breakfast or lunch. Get the cochinita pibil (a delicious braised pork dish from nearby Yucatán state) while sipping a carajillo (espresso cocktail). Located downtown, this place is also laptop-friendly with free (decent!) wifi. Open daily 7am – 10pm, cash and credit cards accepted. Café Mogagua offers covered, open-air dining.
La Casa del Waffle
A waffle house on Isla Mujeres? Yes there is. Opened just a few months ago by a husband & wife duo in the local neighborhood of La Gloria, we stumbled upon this gem while staying around the corner at Kay Apartments. An impressive selection of waffles are on offer here, ranging from sweet to savory including our fave: the Diablo Waffle (spicy buffalo chicken with honey and pickles). Waffles aside, you can also expect breakfast staples like eggs, bacon, hashbrowns, even sausage-gravy smothered french fries. Come hungry and best to come with patience. Waffles are served on island time here, as it’s typically just General Manager Jacob and his kitchen colleague making, and serving, everything with love. Open daily from 8am – 4pm, cash only. La Casa del Waffle offers covered, open-air dining.
We didn’t have a chance to eat here but are including Acantilado (meaning “cliff”) on this list for one primary reason – VIEWS. They claim to have the best views on the island, and they really do located on Punta Sur. Soak in ocean views from just about every direction while nibbling on island fare ranging from ceviche and garlic shrimp to fish and chicken tacos, washed down by a cold beer or margarita. Open daily from 11am – 4pm, this is a no-brainer especially if you’re already headed to Punta Sur during that time. Acantilado offers covered, open-air dining as well as fully outdoor dining.
Find Acantilado: Maps
Our favorite meal on the island, reserve a table at Olivia for delicious Mediterranean cuisine in a relaxed, intimate and enchanting setting. Opened in 2007 from Israeli couple Lior and Yaron Zelzer, expect authentic flavors and dishes such as the Moroccan tapas spread, shepherd’s salad, moussaka and shishlik. The short ribs were to die for, and save room for dessert – preferably, the delicious baklava while sipping on a glass of arak. Open Monday – Saturday 5pm – 9:45pm, cash only. Olivia offers indoor as well as outdoor dining. TIP: Reservations are highly recommended, and be sure to request a table on the open-air, candlelit patio!
To cure your Italian food craving, head straight to Angelo on Miguel Hidalgo – the main pedestrian strip in downtown. This is exactly what we did and we weren’t disappointed. Everything we ate was delicious, from brick oven pizza to gnocchi to pasta with black mussels – washed down with perfectly prepared Negroni cocktails. Open from 4pm – 11:30pm daily, Angelo offers both indoor and outdoor dining. TIP: Grab an outdoor table for excellent people watching.
*Google Maps tells you that Angelo is on Av Juárez, however it’s not. The entrance is on the next street over, Miguel Hidalgo.
Opened from the same owner as Mango Café, it’s no surprise that Lola Valentina is equally excellent! Grab a table at this lively spot for Mexican-Island fare ranging from tacos, burgers and salads to steak, grilled octopus and stuffed chicken. Cocktail lovers will appreciate the inventive creations such as the Mezcal Kiss, which you can sip at a table or on a swing seat at the bar. Lola Valentina is located on the main pedestrian strip downtown and offers covered, open-air dining. Open daily 8am – 11pm.
When you’ve had your fill of the dining scene in busy downtown, head to Bahia Tolok for a romantic, waterfront dinner under the stars. On weekends only this boutique hotel converts their private beachfront into a fine dining restaurant, offering surf & turf fare in a magical setting complete with hanging twinkle lights and the wafting sounds of nostalgic Mexican trios. Bahia Tolok offers fully outdoor dining, cash and credit cards accepted. Reservations required.
WHAT TO SEE & DO // BEST BEACHES & BEACH CLUBS ON ISLA MUJERES
This is indisputably the best beach on Isla Mujeres. Pristine white sand, swaying palms and sparkling, turquoise water await at Playa Norte (North Beach). As the name suggests, you’ll find this slice of paradise on the northern tip of the island. Rightly so this is a popular beach – so expect some crowds. That said, we preferred the northeast side of Playa Norte which we found to be a bit more chilled out and slightly less crowded vs. the northwest side. You can spend the day here at one of the many beach clubs like Green Demon, sip a margarita in a swinging bar seat at Buho’s Beach Bar, relax with a beachfront massage, or you can carve out your own spot in the sand and enjoy DIY-style.
TIP: If you prefer your beach days at a beach club, plan to arrive on the earlier side (before 2pm) to snag a lounger or daybed. Once the late afternoon hits, Playa Norte fills up! Expect to pay either a flat fee for daybed/lounger use or a consumption minimum that goes towards food & drinks. Fees & minimums vary from beach club to beach club, so it’s a good idea to check around with a few before landing for the day.
Find Buho’s Beach Bar: Maps
Keep walking west from Playa Norte – all the way around the northwest tip – and you’ll eventually reach Playa Centro. This is another beautiful stretch of beach although the water here is a bit cloudier than at Playa Norte. Because of this you’ll typically find slightly fewer crowds, and slightly cheaper drinks. Perhaps the biggest benefit of Playa Centro? Since you’re facing directly west, you can expect epic sunsets.
For a more chilled out beach experience, head away from the hustle & bustle of downtown and onto the island’s idyllic west coast. The water here is calm, peaceful and lagoon-like, and although spotted with seagrass, still swimmable. Plus: stunning sunsets. Note there are no public access points to the beach on the west coast (that we know of), so you will need to visit a hotel, restaurant or beach club for access. This said, you have quite a few options.
For toes-in-the-sand we loved Capitán Dulché on the southeast coast. One of the few beach clubs on Isla Mujeres with NO cover charge or minimum, expect laid back vibes in a chic atmosphere. Plenty of loungers and daybeds are available between the sprawling beachfront and beautiful pool, not to mention a covered restaurant area with tables, giving the place a spacious feel that never felt crowded. Water is calm-as-glass, which you can jump into off the private dock. The service is friendly, prices affordable, food & drinks excellent – and did we mention pool goals? TIP: This place closes just after sunset, which we recommend you catch out on the dock.
Close to Capitán Dulché we also loved and recommend Parque de los Sueños (Park of Dreams). A $300.00 peso (approx $15 USD) per person consumption minimum grants access to lounge chairs, situated atop a deck directly facing the sea. There is no beach here, however it’s not needed! Branded as a “water park” vs. a beach club, included with your entry minimum is access to free kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, snorkel equipment, an in-water trampoline and volleyball net, rope swing for jumping out on the private dock, and a series of tiered swimming pools (one includes a waterslide for kids). We found the service to be friendly, prices reasonable and food excellent – go for the fish tacos or aguachile. Even better, stay for sunset while sipping on reduced-price margs during happy hour (5-7pm). TIP: This place goes by two names – Parque de los Sueños and Kin Há Restaurant. Either will come up on Google Maps, although to enter you’ll want to look for the Kin Há sign.
P.S. There is another, similar, water park nearby called Garrafon Natural Reef Park. We would encourage you to reconsider visiting this place as not only is it much more expensive at around $90.00+ per person for entry, they promote swimming with captive dolphins which we do not support.
Head up the west coast and onto the Sac Bajo peninsula, and you’ll find Zama Beach Club. This place boasts a beautiful beachfront, a series of swimming pools, covered restaurant and lagoon-like water, complete with in-water hammocks and a framed swing begging for a photo op. Be ready for cover fees of $100 pesos (approx $5 USD) to use a lounge chair or $500 pesos (approx $25 USD) for a large couch. (Flat fees only, these do not go towards consumption.) Note there is NO cover fee to sit at a table, which are available on the beachfront, in the pool area and the covered restaurant area. Prices here are slightly higher vs. others on the west coast, although the portions are generous and craft cocktails inventive.
WHAT TO SEE & DO // BEST ACTIVITIES ON ISLA MUJERES
Rent a Golf Cart
Basic transportation needs aside, golf carts are FUN and a great way to see the island! Set aside a few hours to simply tour the entire island, circling the coast and stopping wherever you may feel inclined. You can rent them from a number of shops downtown (try Castilla Golf Cart Rentals or Rentadora Joaquín) or oftentimes your hotel can set you up with one.
Shop ‘til you Drop
Our top shopping pick on the island? Head to the local neighborhood of La Gloria to find the community-driven Isla Mujeres Women’s Beading Co-op. This collective of 50+ local women artisans was formed nearly 20 years ago in support of each other and their families. The group lovingly creates one-of-a-kind, hand beaded jewelry, handbags and more, ranging from intricate, Mayan-inspired patterns to fun tropical prints. 80% of the purchase price of each piece goes directly to the woman who made it, while the remaining 20% goes towards materials and shop upkeep. Not only are the pieces here beautiful, unique and carefully hand-crafted, but you can rest assured your purchase is directly benefiting the local community.
Of course, you can also stock up on island style and souvenirs on the main pedestrian strip of Miguel Hidalgo. You’ll find numerous vendors here willing to barter on everything from hats and handbags to jewelry and knick-knacks, shoes and shirts to flowy beach cover-ups and of course – tequila. Cheers!
Enjoy a Sunset Cruise
You can catch stunning sunsets anywhere on the island’s west coast, but how about elevating the experience with a beautiful sunset cruise? Sunset Grill offers private cruises for two for $250.00 (add + $60.00 for additional guests), including hors d’oeuvres, wine & beer. As the name suggests this is a restaurant as well (a beautiful, waterfront restaurant at that!) open for dinner nightly with the exception of Tuesdays.
Island Hop: Visit Uninhabited Isla Contoy
Why limit your visit to just one island? From Isla Mujeres you can also visit the uninhabited, ecological reserve of Isla Contoy. Located about 30 km (18.5 miles) north of Isla Mujeres, this protected paradise filled with natural beauty and biodiversity was declared a National Marine Park by the Mexican Conservation Authority in 1998. You can visit the island on a full-day sail with tour operators like Isla Mujeres Trips, including snorkeling at Ixlaché Reef, both a guided tour of and free time on the island, plus food & beverages. FUN FACT: Ixlaché Reef marks the beginning of the Great Mesoamerican Reef, which happens to be the 2nd largest reef system in the world.
Just Keep Swimming: Snorkeling, Scuba Diving and Swimming with Whale Sharks
For a unique in-water experience you can explore MUSA, Mexico’s unique Museo Subacuático de Arte (Underwater Museum). MUSA is a non-profit, underwater contemporary art museum designed to conserve and promote the vibrant coral reefs found throughout the region. Created in 2009, today you can view over 500 sculptures permanently affixed to the seabed – all consciously designed to encourage reef growth by acting as a habitat for marine life to colonize. Visit now and you’ll see quite a bit of algae and coral growth on the sculptures, creating a beautiful and mesmerizing, if not eerie, sight. Satire included, the sculptures are meant to be conversation starters. One such sight is called “The Banker,” a series of men in business suits with heads buried in the sand., Another, “Inertia,” portrays a lethargic man sitting on a couch (plate of food in lap) seemingly glued to the TV. Other sculptures embody themes such as “The Dream Collector, “Resurrection” and “Inheritance.”
There are 3 locations where you can view these sculptures: Manchones Reef off the southwest tip of Isla Mujeres, Punta Sam off the coast of Cancun, and Punta Nizuc off the southeast tip of Cancun’s Hotel Zone. At a depth of 8-10 meters (26-33 feet), Manchones is recommended for scuba diving, while both Punta San and Punta Nizuc come in at a depth of 3.5 meters (11.5) feet and are recommended for snorkeling or glass bottom boat tours.
There are a number of outfits that will take you to view MUSA via snorkeling, scuba diving and/or glass bottom boat, including MUSA itself in addition to tour operators like Squalo Adventures or Isla Mujeres Trips.
During the season from May – September you can also embark on the incredible adventure of swimming with whale sharks. Both Isla Mujeres Trips and Squalo Adventures offer the experience, running around $125.00 USD per person.
Find & follow:
Catch Sunrise on the East Coast
Enjoy an epic sunrise anywhere on the east coast, whether from your own hotel room-with-a-view or via the winding bike & walking paths that snake around the rocky, wild coastline. You’ll be glad you set your alarm clock – watching the sun slowly appear over the ocean’s horizon is worth the early wake-up call!
Visit a Turtle Sanctuary
Located at the beginning of Sac Bajo you’ll find Tortugranja: a turtle sanctuary that safeguards breeding grounds as well as saves endangered nests, then incubates and raises the baby turtles. These tortugitas (little turtles) are cared for and fed for about 6 years before they’re released into the ocean. A small entry fee of $30 pesos (which doubles to $3.00 if paying USD) grants access to a series of indoor and outdoor tanks, housing different species of baby and adult turtles such as green, loggerhead and hawksbill. You can’t touch or hold the turtles, but for an additional $30 pesos you can purchase a bag of food and feed them. It’s a nice, quick stop to appreciate these grand and gentle creatures, where you likely won’t need to spend more than 30 minutes max. TIP: Visit from August through October and you’ll witness local children releasing the turtles into the ocean. If you’re lucky enough, you might even be able to assist!
Visit Punta Sur
Translating to “South Point” this is the southernmost tip of magical Isla Mujeres, and it’s a beauty! Here are 5 things to know about visiting Punta Sur:
1) Punta Sur is a coastal preserve featuring stunning cliffside views, scenic pathways, a lighthouse and the ancient ruins of the Temple of Ixchel: the Mayan Goddess of fertility, childbirth and medicine (to whom the entire island of Isla Mujeres is dedicated!). You could easily spend an hour here or more wandering around, soaking in the views, and taking photos.
2) The pathways wind down to the water, although they get slippery! Best to wear sneakers (NOT flip-flops) if planning to wander the paths down the cliffside.
3) This place is a photographer’s paradise although be warned that if bringing your drone, it does get VERY windy! Fly with caution.
4) Punta Sur is open 7 days a week, 7am – 5pm. There is a small admission fee of $30.00 pesos OR $3.00 USD. (The price, albeit nominal, doubles if paying in USD so better to pay in pesos if you can).
5) We highly recommend coming early morning for the best experience, and not in the middle of the day. We attempted going midday on a weekday and found the place packed. Aborted mission and returned at 8am on a Sunday and found the entire site nearly empty.
Find Punta Sur: Maps
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All photos in this post courtesy of your favorite pair of @travelinglamas.
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