In hospital and medical office waiting rooms, they often have large screens projecting scenes of serene, impeccable beaches with the soothing rhythmic sounds of waves washing up to shore. These scenes must have been filmed in Isla Mujeres. Isla Mujeres is the perfect island for a weekend getaway or even a day trip. Its located off the shores of Cancun and is accessed by ferries that run every 30 minutes from either Puerto Juarez for those staying outside of the Cancun hotel zone, or from a few points along the peninsula of the hotel zone. The cost of the recommended Ultramar ferry is 160 Mexican pesos one way or 300 Mexican pesos round trip, although there are other companies with comparable prices.
The magic of the Isla experience begins with the ferry ride. The ferry is completely open with a small indoor area to buy refreshments or cocktails, and the top deck always has a small group or solo act of live music; generally traditional Mexican cumbia, salsa or folk music. In the 25 minutes it takes to cross from Cancun to Isla, you will be serenaded with the sounds of Mexico while watching in amazement as the Caribbean turns from one unimaginable hue of blue to another. I recommend crossing at sunset for the most colorful views.
The island of Isla Mujeres is only 7 km long; the northern end (playa norte) is where the hotel zone and town center are located, the southern end (punta sur) is composed of a fairly high cliff with a sculpture garden overlooking the ocean. In between, there is a small neighborhood for local inhabitants. Since the island is so small, a really fun 2-3 hour activity is renting bikes or go-carts to wander around the circumference of the island, stopping along the way for breath-taking views and photo shoots.
The beach that comprises the northern tip (Playa Norte) of the island is the epitome of paradise; perfectly powdery white sand, lush coconut and palm trees, and water as crystal clear as a bath tub and knee-deep for about half a kilometer out. It takes about 10 minutes to walk from one end of the beach to the other, and it is all open to the public, so feel free to plop down a towel or beach mat anywhere you please. The Green Demon beach club is located on the eastern side of playa norte and has live music and cocktails every day of the week along with plush beach beds for rent. If you are looking for more indulgence, the boutique hotel Na Balam offers different pamper packages at their luxurious spa.
Because of the uncanny visibility of its waters, Isla has some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving in the Mexican Caribbean. Scuba and snorkel tours will not only reveal plenty of colorful flora and fauna, but will also take you to an underwater sculpture garden called Musa where you can swim amongst sunken Volkswagen bugs and sculptures of seamen and mermaids.
All bars, restaurants, and hotels are within walking distance on this little island so if bar hopping and party-going is a priority, Isla Mujeres is the safest and most convenient island for you.
The well-known hostel, Poc-Na hosts weekly beach parties with live music, a cheap entrance fee, and reasonably priced cocktails and beer. The hostel itself is directly on the beach with an open-air stage, a palapa style bar and lazy hammocks hanging from the many palm trees around the property. This is definitely the spot to check out for younger backpackers looking for the best after-party once the bars have all closed.
Among the many restaurants and bars around the center of town, two favorites are Mezcaleria Tres Mentiras and Soul Sisters. Mezcaleria Tres Mentiras offers delicious cocktails and an assortment of artisanal Mezcal along with scrumptious traditional Mexican dishes such as tacos, burritos, fajitas, and freshly grilled fish. Soul Sisters is owned by an African woman and serves unique cocktails, African food, and is known for its live music and dancing.
Isla Mujeres may be a small island, but its outdoor activities, unique venues, and dazzling beauty know no bounds. This island is sure to captivate so don’t be surprised if a day trip turns into a weekend or even week-long trip!
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