Given Cancun’s beautiful beaches, pleasant weather and delicious food options, it is no wonder that its popularity has skyrocketed over recent years. This makes Cancun a bustling, exciting place to visit – but also means some people crave a little bit of downtime during their trip.
Many of those seeking a space that is a little less hectic head for Isla Mujeres, an island off the coast of Cancun which is becoming a popular tourist spot in its own right. Now, the island has its fair share of happenings – this is no sleepy little village – but life is certainly quieter and slower on the island.
It is possible to stay on the island, however many people prefer just to spend a day enjoying it before returning back to Cancun.
Isla Mujeres is easy to get to via the ferry from Cancun, which takes about twenty minutes. The journey is not long but it can be a little rough depending on the weather, so consider seasickness tablets if you are particularly prone to a queasy stomach.
The ferry departs from Puerto Juarez near Cancun, and runs every fifteen minutes from 5:00am to 9:00pm, and then every hour after that. A ticket is 80 pesos one way (about $5 USD).
Isla Mujeres is only 5 miles long, so if you don’t want to do too much exploring and prefer to base yourself in the main tourist area, you can explore on foot. There are also taxis which are very affordable if taken for short distances.
If you prefer a little more freedom you may like to hire a bicycle or moped (if you are an experienced rider) to get around. The most popular way, however, is via golf cart – not the cheapest option, but a fun and memorable way to explore!
What to Do
Part of the appeal of Isla Mujeres is that its pace is a little less frantic than downtown Cancun and its glitzy beaches – so don’t be afraid to simply relax. Most of the most popular beaches are located to the north of the island, and they get less popular the further south you go. The beaches south are still beautiful, but there are less amenities and you may need transport to get there.
For a fairly small island, divers are spoiled for choice with dive sites off of Isla Mujeres, such as the quirky Underwater Museum. From them, you can expect to see an array of animal species including – perhaps most famously – whale sharks and turtles. For those who don’t dive, there are many good snorkelling spots that are not too far from the shore, such as the Avalon Bridge.
To the south of the island lies Garrafon National Park, which is a great place to stop and visit. At the National Park you can enjoy lots of outdoor activities including snorkelling, kayaking and ziplining. There are also many natural relaxation sites such as hot pools and natural saunas which are sure to be a luxurious stop. Also near the south of the island, you will find the most iguanas!
The island is also home to a selection of Mayan sites, such as Ixchel Temple. Many of the Mayan sites – as opposed to places like Tulum or Chichen Itza - are quite quiet and therefore fun to visit and explore away from the crowds.
What to Eat
There’s lots of delicious food in the Cancun area and Isla Mujeres is certainly no exception. For those who like their local flavours, a stop in at colonias, the area in the center of the island where most of the locals live. Here you will find many more authentic restaurants serving simple but delicious Yucatan delights.
If you’re based more around the northern section of “Isla” - never fear! There are lots of good options around there too. Many of the resorts serve a wide variety of local and western dishes, and we highly recommend sampling some local flavours such as the sweet marquesitas.
In many ways, Isla Mujeres offers the best of both worlds – it has enough excitement and activities to keep you entertained, while there are still little pockets of quiet where you can escape the crowds and have some room to breathe.
Add in stunning beaches, tasty street food and interesting historical sites, and it is no wonder that a visit to Isla Mujeres (either overnight or for a day) features so highly on the wishlist of many visitors to Cancun.
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