Isla Mujeres is a tiny coral island and one of the treasures in Mexico. The island, once relatively unknown among tourists, was a sanctuary dedicated to Ixchel. It was the Mayan Goddess of fertility, love and medicine. During this time, the Temple devoted to Ixchel became a pilgrimage place to the Mayan women seeking a fruitful marriage.
In recent years, Isla Mujeres has also become a sanctuary for people seeking gorgeous beaches and a day away from the hustle and bustle of busy Cancun. Despite the increase in tourism, the island still has not lost its charm and tranquil atmosphere.
What is Isla Mujeres in Mexico known for?
Isla Mujeres is a little gem in the Caribbean known for endless sunshine, laid-back atmosphere and inexpensive food. This quaint island is undoubtedly a backpacker’s favourite spot. Isla Mujeres is also trendy with beachgoers who enjoy the less hectic holiday in Mexico.
Isla Mujeres is a small Caribbean island located off the coast of Cancun in Mexico. La Isla, as the locals call it, is only a short 25-minute ferry ride from Cancun.
This seven kilometres long and 650 metres wide island can be explored in a single day. For this reason, the Island of Women is an ideal beach gateway for a day`s excursion from Cancun.
How do you get to Isla Mujeres?
If you stay at one of the hotels at Cancun`s Zona Hotelera, take the city bus to the port. You catch a ferry to Isla Mujeres from different places in Cancun: Punta Sam (the only car ferry), Puerto Juárez or Gran Puerto.
Alternatively, you can take the Ultramar ferry to the island without having to leave the Hotel Zone. The Ultramar Ferry is quick, comfortable and also safe. This ferry departs from Embarcadero Pier at km 4, Playa Tortugas at km 7 and Playa Caracol at km 9.5. These options are a bit longer, run less frequently and cost more than Puerto Juarez or Gran Puerto.
If travelling with Ultramar, we recommend that you find a seat on the top deck to enjoy the gorgeous view of the Caribbean waters.
GOOD TO KNOW:
The ferry leaving from Puerto Juarez is the cheapest of all the Ultramar terminals, as Puerto Juarez is outside the tourist areas. To get to this ferry terminal, you can take the bus R1 towards Puerto Juarez. The round trip fare costs about 146 pesos. For more information about Ultramar ferry, click here.
You can also get to the island by catamaran or double-decker party boat.
Tip for the budget traveller:
Magaña Express offers the ride for 35 pesos from Puerto Juarez in Cancun. Also, the boats leave every half hour.
Once on the Island, the ferry will leave you in the heart of downtown, just a short walk from famous Playa Norte. Spend the day exploring the island, snorkel or swim in the azure waters, stroll along beautiful beaches, relax in the white sand. The choice is yours. We recommend exploring the island first, because once you see Playa Norte; it will be hard for you to explore the rest of the island.
Getting around Isla Mujeres
Walking is the best option for staying in downtown and Playa Norte. However, if you want to explore the rest of the island, you will need to rent a golf cart or a scooter. If you rent a golf cart, make sure you see the Southern point of the island. It is where you can also find a picturesque lighthouse or small Mayan ruins of Ixchel.
For $45 -55 you can rent a golf cart until 5 pm, or $ 15 hour for up to three hours.
10 of the best things to do in Isla Mujeres
There are many things to see and do in Isla Mujeres in Mexico. From exploring the Isla’s marine life and meeting up with whale sharks, relaxing on the beach, or snorkelling the crystal clear waters. Isla Mujeres offers many different day tours and trip you can attend. Of course, the only limit is your wallet.
Swimming with the whale sharks
Jump in the water with a tour guide and swim with whale sharks in the waters near Isla Mujeres. These incredible sea creatures are the largest fish in the world and can reach lengths of 12 metres (39 feet). However, do not worry; these massive sharks are feed on the tiniest creatures in the sea – plankton.
Snorkel peacefully above them in a group of two at a time and enjoy this unforgettable experience. You can book this once in a lifetime experience anywhere on the island. The transfer, lunch and drinks are also included in your price. It will cost you about USD 125.
Swimming with the whale sharks is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Isla Mujeres if you are an adventurous traveller.
GOOD TO KNOW:
Swimming with whale sharks in Isla Mujeres is a seasonal experience. These peaceful giants visit the water around Isla Mujeres during the summer. Therefore, it’s worth planning a trip to the island during a whale shark season (from June until mid-September).
Is swimming with whale sharks in Isla Mujeres an ethical experience?
Whale sharks are not stressed, fed or harmed. You will watch them from a very safe distance. It is not an overwhelming experience for them; you keep a safe distance. For whale shark’s safety, only two people can meet up with them at once.
Always choose an eco-conscious tour company that respects the rules.
2. MUSA underwater museum
Isla Mujeres may be famous for swimming with whale sharks, but the island offers so much more. It’s a haven for everyone who loves to snorkel. Coral reefs near Isla Mujeres are threatened not only by climate change but also by many tourists.
MUSA is the largest underwater museum in the world created to encourage visitors to explore alternative areas near Isla Mujeres. This artificial reef, composed of many life-sized sculptures, helps to promote the growth of corals. The project takes the pressure off the nearby reef and helps the return of more marine life.
A visit to MUSA underwater sculpture park is undoubtedly one of the top attractions on Isla Mujeres in Mexico. Explore this unique museum and discover the art installations scattered offshore. Head for a snorkelling tour or scuba dive and uncover incredible sculptures, from cars to people, at the bottom of the ocean. Those who are not keen to snorkel can view the sculptures on a glass-bottom boat tour.
GOOD TO KNOW:
You can find some of the sculptures 3-4 metres (10-13 feet) deep. Others are at around 8 metres (26 feet) deep. The deeper locations are an excellent option for a shallow dive.
You can visit the MUSA Underwater art sculpture gallery from USD 45. It is not possible to view it on your own because the reef is scattered offshore.
3. Other snorkelling areas on Isla Mujeres
As you probably know, Isla Mujeres is a famous destination between water sports enthusiasts. Whether you choose to join one of the organized snorkelling tours or explore reefs on your own, Isla Mujeres has calm waters ideal for snorkelling and also diving. The island offers many snorkelling sites. However, some of them are better than others.
GOOD TO KNOW:
Popular places to snorkel on Isla Mujeres are Playa Garraffon, the Manchones Reef, Bahia Mujeres, MUSA and also El Farito. Last four locations require a boat transport.
A five-minute boat ride will bring you to one of the most popular snorkelling sites on Isla Mujeres – El Farito. It is an ideal spot for somebody who hasn’t done much snorkelling in the past. El Farito, located on the north of la Isla, has shallow waters which are ideal for beginners.
GOOD TO KNOW:
Many locals take tourists out for snorkelling to El Farito. Just head towards the ferry terminal (or the beach), and you will certainly find somebody looking for tourists. Besides, a reservation is not required, and all the equipment is included in the price. You will begin your snorkelling at the Lighthouse reef (El Farito), and you will see lots of colourful fish and many kinds of corals.
The three and half hour snorkel trip with lunch at Playa Tiburon cost us about $35 per person.
Garrafόn Natural Reef Park is undoubtedly a unique snorkel park located at the southern tip of Isla Mujeres. However, it`s important to note that, much of the corals at a park on the island is dead. It`s the result of hurricanes, boat anchors and also because of too many tourists. Therefore, we decided to skip this expensive day trip as we think it is not worth the price of admission. Besides, this world-famous park packed with fun activities such as zip-line and climbing wall offers unethical swimming with dolphins in captivity.
Be a responsible traveller and make a positive impact on the local economy. Hence, consider where you want to spend our money.
4. Turtle Farm
Make friends with baby sea turtles.
After a day of snorkelling, don’t forget to visit the Tortugranja turtle farm on Isla Mujeres. Here, you can get up close to all different sizes and kinds of these fascinating creatures. The turtle farm is one of the best things to see in Isla Mujeres in Mexico. The turtle sanctuary is a source of pride of the locals because it is protecting the endangered turtles. It is also a marine rehabilitation centre that looks after sick and injured turtles. What’s more, the farm is helping to build the turtle population back.
By visiting a non-profit Tortugranja Turtle Sanctuary, you will contribute to saving these endangered sea creatures. Here, the turtles are protected, and the new-borns are placed in tanks to later be released to the ocean. Without this sanctuary, only a small number of hatchlings would survive. It is because of the many natural predators, and also poachers.
The farm is only their home for a short time though, as the turtles are released into the wild. The Turtle Farm on Isla Mujeres is open every day from 9 am to 5 pm. The admission fee is 30 pesos or USD 3 per person.
Location: Sac Bajo
GOOD TO KNOW:
If you are lucky enough to be on Isla Mujeres between August and October, you can be a part in the liberation of the turtles held all over the island. Be part of release ceremonies where thousands of baby turtles are released back to the sea.
However, if you are on the island between May and July, you may witness giant turtles laying eggs on the protected beaches around Isla Mujeres.
5. Playa Norte
The powdery white sands and shallow waters of Playa Norte.
Most visitors to Isla come to feel the soft sun-soaked sand between their toes. Only a 10-minute walk from the ferry terminal will bring you to Playa Norte. Soak up the sun on a beautiful stretch of white sandy beach. Playa Norte (North Beach) with calm, turquoise waters is an excellent place to spend the day on Isla Mujeres. However, bear in mind that this beautiful beach, located just a few minutes’ walks from the downtown, can get very busy. Playa Norte attracts hundreds of beach lovers every day, both locals and tourists alike.
The beach lined with resorts, beach-side bars and restaurants has warm and shallow waters. It is an ideal place for swimming and also taking a nap in the shade. You might be surprised, but Playa Norte – the island’s most beautiful beach, has been named one of the best beaches in the Caribbean. Therefore, Playa Norte is a top attraction on Isla Mujeres.
GOOD TO KNOW:
The Yucatan peninsula has a problem with seaweed. However, the beaches on Isla Mujeres and seaweed free.
6. Watch the sunset
There are a lot of amazing things to do in Isla Mujeres, and enjoying the sunset is undoubtedly one of these. Both Playa Sol and Playa Norte have got the best location to watch the spectacular sunset. However, Playa Norte tends to get crowded, especially during peak season.
GOOD TO KNOW:
For a calmer experience, head to the neighbouring beach of Playa Norte – Playa Sol. This tropical beach with swaying palm trees, white sand and lapping turquoise waters is famous with locals too. Moreover, in high season bands play reggae, salsa and other danceable music here.
7. Explore the centrum on Isla Mujeres
Walking around the town
When you’re not bathing in the warm waters, pay a visit to the island’s centrum. Isla Mujeres centre is small enough to see everything and large enough to enjoy spending time exploring. As you stroll through the centre, music surrounds you. Besides, some of the best action occurs on Avenue Hidalgo. This beautiful pedestrian-only street in the downtown area stretches for several blocks in either direction. The downtown of Isla has very laid-back vibes and, therefore, it is hard to leave this part of the island.
Avenida Hidalgo is where you can find shops selling souvenirs, tour operators, hostels, and markets. It is a shopping area which comes alive at night. There are also many restaurants and bars in the area. Make sure you leave a few hours to walk around to get a flavour of the island. Do not forget to stop in downtown to enjoy a drink and listen to live music.
8. Kings Pool (Piscina del Rey)
If exploring unique places is high up on your travel wish list, then consider visiting Kings Pool. Relaxing in the natural swimming pool is one of the unique things to do in Isla Mujeres. Swim in the warm turquoise waters in the cove between the reefs. This tiny lagoon filled with calm salt water is ideal for everyone who is looking for something different.
GOOD TO KNOW:
You can access Piscina del Rey through a bridge next to Playa Norte. Kings Pool located on the property of Mia Reef Isla Mujeres hotel.
9. Punta Sur
Another must-see place during your stay in Isla Mujeres is Punta Sur. You can reach the southern tip of the island in about 25 minutes from downtown by golf cart. Once you make your way down to Punta Sur, enjoy beautiful views of the rocky coastal cliffs. Don’t forget to explore sculpture gardens, a lighthouse and the remains of a Maya temple Ixchel.
Visit Punta Sur in the late afternoon to see the sunset.
Just a short boat ride from Isla Mujeres will bring you to unspoilt Isla Contoy. This small uninhabited island is a protected national park. Isla Contoy is famous for shallow waters, pristine white sandy beaches and hiking trails. What’s more, the island is an important nesting place of sea birds in the Mexican Caribbean. Frigatebirds, turtles, pelicans, cormorants and other species call this island home.
Isla Contoy is a place where eco-tourism is regulated and, therefore, only a few tour companies organize day trips here. Those who would like to visit this protected national park need to plan accordingly. Only 200 people can see the island every day. For that reason, a day trip to Isla Contoy is a unique thing to do in Isla Mujeres.
Have you been to Isla Mujeres? Let us know in the comment section below.
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