Isla Mujeres, Mexico. The Island of Women.
Updated: Jun 25, 2019
Isla Mujeres (named by the Spanish as the Island of Women) was sacred to the Mayan goddess of childbirth and medicine, Ixchel. Once the Spanish arrived on the island with pointy helmets and sharp swords, had a little look-see around, they aptly noted all the depictions of women goddesses and called the island, Isla Mujeres. Sitting just 13 miles off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula (Cancun), Isla Mujeres is a fun little slice of the tropics basking in the Caribbean. Ferry service is readily available from Cancun, with departures and arrivals on the half hour with several ports north and south of the city. Ultramar is your ferry of choice for fast and convenient service. The trip, depending on your departure point, is about 30-40 minutes. The ferry price from Puerto Juarez as of this writing is $5.50 USD one way.
Upon landing and exiting the ferry terminal, you'll be cheerily greeted by commotion of all types. Taxis, golf carts and pedestrian traffic all seem to converge at the ferry terminal. Here you will make a couple of prescient choices. One, if you're staying on the island, grab a cab to get you to your destination and although nothing is really that far away, if you have luggage it just seems like mile after hot mile (the Mexican sun spares no one). Two, if you are day tripping and really want to see Isla Mujeres, make your way over to the golf cart or moped rental shops (just across the street). We've done the golf cart rental several times, it really is the best way to see the island. Lastly, if you are traveling by foot, turn left out of the ferry terminal onto Av Rueda Medina and walk the main strip into town which ends at Playa Norte (aka the beach). Depending on your time of arrival, it will seem as if all of Isla Mujeres is partying right here on the northern part of the island. Walking the main strip is like body surfing through merchants, locals and other tourists. It can be a little daunting and dizzying initially, but eventually you'll find your "shore legs" and become steady as there are bars, restaurants and shops to occupy your mind, wallet and time. Walking further north will lead you to Playa Norte, an expansive beach with great views and beach related activities as well as nice beach clubs. Playa Norte feels like a Caribbean baptism in the local flavor of Mexico as it has a rhythm and a beat to shake your hips and rest your mind to.
The best way to truly see all of Isla Mujeres is to rent a golf cart. The island just over 4 miles long and 1/2 mile wide, so yes you can see it all if you choose to. Head south via Av Rueda Medina. The road will run along the beach for a bit before turning slightly inland, just remember you're never far way from the shore as Isla is a narrow island. There are several stops that can be made along the way. Tortugranja (on Carretera Sac Bajo) is a small marine zoo featuring turtles and other sea life and is a popular golf cart stop with cheap admission. You can spend an easy 30-45 minutes here, afterwards pilot your golf cart further south for Punta Sur. Besides being beautiful, it is the Isla's most southern point with a walking park, shops and Acantilado, a nice restaurant that sits literally at land's end.
Once leaving Punta Sur, pilot your golf cart to the east side (to the right) of the island for a different perspective of Isla Mujeres, where the Caribbean rushes up against the sea walls. It is quiet here and that was fine by me. Take a moment to stand cliff side and take in nature as the Caribbean rewards you with a gentle but salted ocean kiss. Need another break on your way back to north part of the island? Stop in to Polo Mango's Cafe. Eclectic Mexican menu with some pretty good eats that won't break the budget. Here we met Oscar, he was the host for our meal when we dined. Great guy, funny too.
Once you're back in town and out of the golf cart, there is still much to do, it just depends on your taste for life. From snorkeling, ziplining, sailing, fishing, water parks and diving, Isla offers much to a visitor. One of our favorite places, which is ironically called the MUSA Cancun Underwater Museum (located just off the coast of Isla Mujeres), is surreal. We hired a boat right on Av. Rueda Medina (there are many tours to be had from Av. Rueda Medina, this was just one of them). We boated out to the site, dropped anchor, donned our gear (flippers and goggles) and dove in. 30 meters below what you'll see is a vast collection of stone art. You can free drive, scuba or snorkel from on high, but it is all there to take in no matter how you choose to see it.
If you're visiting the Rivera Maya, you by all means must take a trip to Isla Mujeres, as it is uniquely it's own thing and that is the very joy of Isla.